SH Spotlight DCCs Cream "Wheels of Fire" 24kt Gold question/Steve's "Adventures In Mastering"

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by proufo, Jun 7, 2003.

  1. proufo

    proufo Active Member Thread Starter

    Bogotá, Colombia
    DCCs Wheels of Fire

    Rules and regulations who needs them.... (CSNY)

    Tell me more, tell me more! (Grease)

    Thanks in advance (moi mème)

    GerryO likes this.
  2. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    Thanks Pablo!
    Yea! Yea! Yea!...We wanna know...again....:laugh: ;)
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    What's the question. :confused:
  4. proufo

    proufo Active Member Thread Starter

    Bogotá, Colombia
    Why it was a specially difficult project?
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Well, it was the first DCC gold disc I worked on. I picked the title myself and there was a lot of pressure to get it to sound good. Also, it had to be a double disc and was going to cost $50.00 right out of the gate. Ouch.

    I'll skip over the artwork adventures, how we found the original foil vendor and day-glow ink vendors so we could exactly duplicate the first Atco LP pressing. That took months. Also, I'll skip over PolyGram's righteous indignation when we reproduced the ATCO in the album cover. Wow, were they mad! They were also mad when they found out that our buddy at PolyGram Bill Levenson sent us "extras" to use on the disc like the edit outtake pieces of "Passing The Time" and "Anyone For Tennis".

    When I first got the tapes, I was not thrilled. We got many reels including the master mixes, retrieved by Bill Inglot from Atlantic where they had sat since 1968, even though they lost rights in the 1970's. They sounded ok, but muddy and the safety reels and the overseas copies sounded shrill and thin. Someone tried to compensate for the muddiness by just jacking up the upper midrange and top end. Urrgh.

    I listened to all copies of the original LP, the original ATCO, the recut ATCO, the Record Club versions, the Polydor UK versions, etc. Also the current PolyGram CD version. I sure didn't like the way ANY of them sounded.

    I guess I had forgotten how much I wasn't thrilled about Tom Dowd's mixes and how there seemed to be no bass but just mud down there. Some of the mixes were the dreaded CSG and some were plain stereo. But, it was too late to turn back so I went into the studio (Location Recording Service in Burbank) and started listening to the tapes on the big ol' vintage studio monitors they had in Studio B. I guess I wanted to hear what Tom Dowd heard when he mixed everything and why he did what he did (soon to be repeated for "Hotel California" and other strange sounding master mixes for DCC's Gold Disc projects). After a week of scratching my head, I realized that my best chance to get this to sound improved over other versions was to NOT try and fix the top end and NOT try to "mask" everything (like console noise, pops and pot crackle) and just concentrate on the midrange and the bass.

    I needed a LOT of extra EQ to make my ideas about how to fix the bass work, so we patched in three Sontec Paramterics in a row and I set to work. I tried a lot of stuff and finally got the low end the way I liked it; you could hear Ginger's bass drum now and less mud in Jack's six string bass.

    I lived with this a month and then tried to do something (anything) to fix the "practice pad" of Ginger Baker's snare drum sound. I wasted a week on this before I decided to SCREW IT and just focus in on the vocal sound. If I could get that to sound "lifelike", I could live with the crappy snare sound. So, I discovered some of my (soon to be used all of the time) tricks to enhance the vocals so they would at least sound like real people. Tubes came in to play here for the first time on one of my projects. Kevin Gray turned me on to the use of tubes and I always try and thank him for that, even though it raises the temperature by at least 10 degrees in the room.

    When I got everything fixed to my satisfaction, I scheduled a real MASTERING date and we lined up all of the gear and I gave it a shot in real time using the actual master tapes instead of the tape copy I made to save wear and tear. Too many mastering moves for one pair of hands so I drafted Kevin Gray and even my ex-girlfriend Robin to "do stuff" during the songs. Six hands working the mastering console was pretty trippy. Too bad I didn't take any photos.

    At any rate, I was finally happy with everything and even though it's not a great recording to begin with, I think the DCC version sounds the best that it can. I love the album so I forgive the sonic weaknesses.

    When the DCC version was issued, both Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce loved it (phew!) I was worried that I would get a lot of letters complaining about the noisy Atlantic mixing console and hissy mic pre's because I left all of the non-musical "sounds" of the recordings intact, but I was mistaken. No one complained.

    I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I can still listen to the DCC version of "Wheels Of Fire" without thinking that something needs changing or fixing; in other words, with pleasure.

    This project is where I first worked with vacuum tubes on a master and where I learned many of my so called "tricks" for bringing life to rather dead sounding tapes WITHOUT harming dynamic range, etc. I've used many of these techniques ever since!

    After mastering this I tackled CREAM'S "Fresh Cream" but that is another adventure...
    MDW, jeffd7030, GerryO and 4 others like this.
  6. Thanks Steve - excellent reading.
  7. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    Now forever explained in crisp, clear, dynamic dialog! Thanks Steve, I saved that in my "Hoffmaneered" files...
  8. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    Anyone have an EXTRA DCC Cream-"Wheels Of Fire" to trade?:)
    GerryO likes this.
  9. proufo

    proufo Active Member Thread Starter

    Bogotá, Colombia
    Many, many thanks Steve, you are a generous man.

    This goes to my wish list. My German Polydor Lp sounds as expected, given the productions values of the era (no complaints). I'd love to hear what can be done with tons of TLC, deep respect for the work, and tech wisdom.
  10. proufo

    proufo Active Member Thread Starter

    Bogotá, Colombia
    There are four at ebay right now.
  11. Lownotes

    Lownotes Well-Known Member

    Denver, CO
    Thanks for the recollections Steve.
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host


    Notice I didn't spill any of my actual techniques, heh.
  13. peterC

    peterC Aussie Addict

    Unless all this talk jacks up the price it can usually be picked up on ebay, used, for between $25 and $35.
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Remember, there are two different versions; one with some hidden bonus tracks (made in USA) and the original Japanese press, no hidden bonus tracks.

    An alternate mix of "Sittin' On Top Of The World" and "Passing The Time", correct? Was there one more? Heck, I can't remember!
  15. ascot

    ascot Forum Resident

    I could read these stories all night. Thanks for sharing with us, Steve! :)
  16. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    Thanks Pablo...I'm looking to trade, I'll check 'em out!:thumbsup:
  17. dbryant

    dbryant Active Member

    Cambridge MA
    Steve -
    On one hand it seems obvious why you would listen to all the different versions of an album you could get your hands on, even after you've heard the master—to get some differing perspectives, familiarize yourself with what different listeners might be "used to" already, maybe even see if somebody else had a good idea. But are there other reasons you could elaborate on as to why you use this method of research? And could you give a specific example where a particular pressing influenced your work in a specific way? You don't have to name names...
  18. Beatle Terr

    Beatle Terr Super Senior SH Forum Member Musician & Guitarist

    Steve all I can say is you have an got to have an amazing set of ears cuz boy do I remember the hours and hours of wood-shedding trying to learn what was going on during each song on the original LP as you described it on Atco.

    Having my own band between the ages of 15 and 16 and trying my best to get the other players to get them to play some of those lines in the bass and the drums while I struggled to keep them in the know of where the downbeat was. I finally gave up the power trio and said I gotta have either another guy playing rhythm guitar keeping it together or another guy who could play the solo's and we could switch depending on who knew the solo's better.

    Improvising was still new to us all in the same sense that these guys could play so we had to figure the stuff out note for note. The studio material from Creams first 2 LP's were much easier to make out but we in fact were forced when playing this stuff live to sound like this Live LP. It was all very new and exciting to us at the time.

    So I can just imagine what I'd hear now off this LP that would make me just fall out with your explanation of what you did to this material. Thanks for sharing that.

    WHAT MY POLITICS ARE"! (sorry I just zoned back into time for a sec there):)
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    There is usually old mastering notes in tape boxes anyway, but sometimes I need to hear what the old timers did so I can see what they were aiming for. I HATE to rewrite history (which is why I resist remixing) but I need to hear what the World has heard and loved over the years so I don't go off on a tangent.

    One quick example:

    The DOORS "Strange Days". The master tape sounds NOTHING like the actual Elektra LP which was cut from the "ledo" creation or a tape copy that was futzed with by someone at Elektra. Now, the "ledo" is NOT the master tape, but it is what every single version of that LP was made from, all over the world, down through the years including the CD's. Therefore, it IS actually the master, see? Now, the real master is actually only a work part, since it was "changed" to make the LP's. I wanted to make sure I kept part of the essence of the original Doors' on vinyl intact while using the actual work part master. That is where the original LP comes in handy.
  20. dbryant

    dbryant Active Member

    Cambridge MA
    Very interesting. Thanks, Mr. H!
  21. oxenholme

    oxenholme High Quality Posts™ a speciality

    On the Bear Family "Still In Style" CD (The Crickets) you are credited for the 3 track mix and the mastering to Bob Jones.

    What made you decide to do a remix here?
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    Not a remix. A first time stereo mix.
  23. Michael

    Michael I LOVE WIDE S-T-E-R-E-O!

    Steve, On the 2nd Amerian WOF pressing, Did you go back to the original foil and day glow paint source for the Artwork as the first pressing?
  24. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host

    The paper is the SAME. We printed up a lot of it and the inserts in day glow. All the WHEELS OF FIRE GOLD CD'S were made using this one time printing. All that changed was the manufactuing of the actual discs.
  25. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey
    Thanks for the story Steve. Interesting info, as always.

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