Joe Jackson "Big World" - direct to two tracks

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Downsampled, Sep 20, 2008.

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  1. Downsampled

    Downsampled Formerly PlusMinus Thread Starter

    I think there are assorted comments about this album scattered around the forum archives, but I couldn't find any major discussion about this album.

    As many know, this album is somewhat novel for being recorded live, mixed straight to (digital) two tracks. To those in the know: Does this really result in no post-production? Just how "pure" is what I'm hearing on the CD?

    What does everyone think of the sound of this? It has a very '80s digital hardness to it IMO, but it does have a clean, punchy sound. I like it, generally speaking, but that's in the context of all the other '80s recordings I'm used to listening to. And just how novel is this method of recording for a pop album? Any other notable examples?

    I have the original 3-side LP in my vinyl collection -- but I don't have turntable right now and have never compared it to the CD. Has anyone else? Is the sound of the LP any better than the CD?
  2. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Marysville, WA
    Another album recorded direct-to-digital-2-track was WOLF TRACKS by Steppenwolf, released on Nautilus around 1982 or 83. Can't say I care for that one, and haven't heard the Jackson recording.

  3. peterC

    peterC Aussie Addict

    From memory, not having played the LP in many years, the LP sounds better.
  4. Philo

    Philo Active Member

    Springfield, VA
    This is great music. At the time it sounded very clean.

    In retrospect, it would have been better if they recorded an analogue safety copy which could now be converted at higher resolution.

  5. CardinalFang

    CardinalFang New Member

    The RL LP is pretty nice! All my records are in storage right now, so I can't confirm... wasn't this a DMM pressing?
  6. Downsampled

    Downsampled Formerly PlusMinus Thread Starter

    You just made me go and dig out the LP. RL it is! I must have bought it the week it came out. I'll look forward to hearing it again one of these days...
  7. dartira

    dartira Forum Resident

    IIRC this album was recorded live, but I wouldn't call it pure. It's more like a live mix: they still used a console and added eq, compression, reverb etc.

    I think the novelty thing had more to do with there being an audience who were asked to keep quiet until the tape was stopped.
    So you had the energy of a live concert without the noise but with the possibility to do re-takes.
  8. They performed the album at club gigs for a couple of weeks until the engineers knew how to get the sounds they wanted to have on the final recording and how to get that right during a live mix. The final album comes from 3 nights (with the exception of "Man in the street" which comes from the pre-show rehearsals), so they had the chance to choose the best of the 3 versions available.

    I think the CD sounds a bit too bright, just like Blaze of glory and Laughter and lust. I haven't heard the vinyl.
  9. dartira

    dartira Forum Resident

    :righton: thanks
  10. His Masters Vice

    His Masters Vice W.C. Fields Forever

    Sydney, Australia
    I wonder what resolution it was recorded at? I don't have the CD in front of me, and I can't find any information online about the recording of the album.
  11. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    If I can recall, this was recorded on a 3M Digital system. They sampled at 50 khz. Body & Soul was also recorded on one, but using 4 track recording.
  12. jdmack

    jdmack Active Member

    Silver Spring, MD
    I just dug out my May 1986 issue of Downbeat, in which David Kershenbaum is interviewed about recording "Big World." This article states that the show was performed twice a day for three days, so they actually had six versions of each song to choose from.

    The recording was made using a Sony 1630 PCM processor, so I presume it is a 16 bit 48K recording.

    The songs *were* recorded to multitrack tapes during the warm-up gigs, and the engineer practiced mixing these tapes to two-track in order to prepare for recording the real thing.

    J. D.
  13. cincyjim

    cincyjim Well-Known Member

    Cincinnati, Ohio
    I was managing a record store when Big World was released, and there were several customers who tried to return the vinyl, claiming it was defective because their turntable wouldn't play side 4, not realizing that it was a 3-sided album and side 4 was grooveless :)
  14. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    East TN
    Sony PCM 1630 it is! This system could do 16 bit/48 khz sampling rate. Body and Soul was recorded on 3M Digital at 50 Khz. The Sony PCM 1600 series used U-Matic or Betamax recorders for audio storage.
  15. Downsampled

    Downsampled Formerly PlusMinus Thread Starter

    The Big World Sessions laser disc is fun to watch to see the performance and the recording process. (I always get frustrated listening to the audience clap too soon after the song ends!) It also has some different takes than what ended up on the album.

    Here are a couple screen shots of the mixing board, etc...

    Attached Files:

  16. Grant

    Grant A Musical Free-Spirit

    Great album! They made the audience stay quiet until every last note was played.
  17. nosticker

    nosticker Forum Resident

    Ringwood, NJ
    Joe's had some bizarre ideas over the years. This one is notable, and as one member of Joe's band told me, it was "the worst of both worlds", referring to studio and live recording. No takes with applause were even considered, and from what I was told, the best take of "Home Town" had to be thrown out because someone applauded. My understanding is that Body and Soul was originally supposed to be done this way, but there was an issue with the drums leaking into the piano mics.

    I do love the album ever since I got it in '86, and some of my fave JJ songs are on there.

    I suspect that some editing did occur, at least on the video. Listen to "Right and Wrong". It's as if it starts as one take and ends as another. So which one is the real one?

    As I write, I am very much enjoying JJ's latest, RAIN. It's up there with his best, IMO.

  18. DEG

    DEG Well-Known Member

    Lawrenceville Ga.
    I have no idea about all that but it is indeed a very good album and sounds very good to me. Wish other artists would do the same...

  19. jdmack

    jdmack Active Member

    Silver Spring, MD
    I'm hunting through my old magazines for all I'm worth, because I *know* I had another article about this album somewhere. In it, I remember the writer mentioning that Joe got very angry at someone for being noisy, and then sat down at the piano and played the keeper performance of "40 Years." The anger in Joe's voice on that song is real and stemmed from his anger at the audience member.

    Relevant to this topic, I can remember where I was the first time I heard "Right and Wrong." I was on Interstate 64, just outside Charlottesville, Virginia, in April of 1986. I was less than a month away from graduating college, and I had been home to Richmond to buy my first car. I was driving back to school when this song came on the radio, and I loved it immediately. I bought the album as soon as it was in the store.

    J. D.
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  20. Downsampled

    Downsampled Formerly PlusMinus Thread Starter

    I didn't know the sessions were acrimonious -- not that I'm really surprised. The video, as I mentioned, has some different takes and you can hear people clapping at the end of a couple songs. It just kills me hearing this (I think, "Dude! Don't clap!") and so I can just imagine how frustrating it would be to nail a take and have someone mess it up. OTOH, if you're in the audience and have just heard a fantastic performance, I can imagine it would be hard to resist clapping.

    IIRC, on the laser disc sleeve it describes which songs on the video were the album takes, but I've always doubted the description. There's at least one supposed album take that sounds different.
  21. It was a great night-I was there. They were impatient with people clapping.
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  22. Downsampled

    Downsampled Formerly PlusMinus Thread Starter

    Wow, I'm jealous. Lucky you! :)
  23. DJMurphy

    DJMurphy Well-Known Member

    Chicago, USA
    The LP does indeed have the edge; it's not a huge one, but there is better bass response, the sound is more rounded. The CD, for as good as it is, is all treble, no bass. The musical content within? I'm gonna go on a limb and call it equivalent to his finest. I love that album.

    I'm gonna blog about that one of these days; I already have done the requisite scans of all four labels, a quick photo of the legendary fourth side, and have found the info on the cassette sequence. Silly us; we thought that by 1986, resequencing LPs for ease-of-format-time-restrictions had been eliminated with the sunset of the 8-track. BAH!

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    oh I was there on the second of the three nights and "impatient" is an understatement. They handed out sheets of paper with all the "do's and don'ts" and then reiterated it all from the stage. Joe was really kinda cold and nasty when he again reitereated what he didnt want any of us to do, basically we were allowed to breathe and listen, which i was fine with, i'm not a "clapper" anyway....still he was getting really tweaked as more than once an audience member did something they didnt want on the recording...some people make noise to hear themselves on the live record, why else are people so moronic at concerts.

    on a side note, the warnings NOT to tape the shows was loud and clear and i was with someone who had wired himself up to do just this. As they were his tickets I didn't have much to say, but he's in no way a bootlegger for profit, he was just a fan who wanted a tape for his own ears, and for future trades...

    anyway...i don't know how they figured him out, the show hadn't even started yet, but man, about a six people came at him from both aisles and our row and the ones in front and behind us and basically all but arrested was quite hilarious cause I was telling him he was crazy to try to tape this show...

    amazingly they let him stay, took his equipment and told him he'd have to explain to Joe why he was "stealing" his music....probably the first time that concept of taping artists music would be considered "stealing". after the show they gave him his equipment back sans tape and batteries and sent him on his way....:laugh:

    I love about half of that album and the other half is not that interesting to me, it hit me that way live and on record. woulda made an amazing single album IMO...
  25. spice9

    spice9 Forum Resident

    New York, NY
    Great story... I don't understand why they had people there at all. What was the point of that?
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