Katy Lied: GREAT Album, FLAWED recording. Pick your poison!!

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by SteelyNJ, Jul 8, 2018.

  1. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    I think @Yost is simply referring to the statement Denny Dias made in the article claiming that the Citizen version was the first released version that didn't sound bad.
    "The sound of the digital CD version on Citizen is better than any vinyl by far. It's interesting that after all these years there is finally a released version that sounds good."
     
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  2. ostrichfarm

    ostrichfarm Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    I think I prefer Bad Sneakers #2 and Doctor Wu #1, though I go back and forth. Bad Sneakers #4 and Doctor Wu #3 are too aggressively bright, while Doctor Wu #4 is too dark and Bad Sneakers #3 seems bass-heavy. Bad Sneakers #1 and Doctor Wu #2 are OK.
     
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  3. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    For those who say the album sounds "just fine" or that they never noticed oddities with the quality of the recording, I point you to a few comments and references I found by Googling...

    You can’t have a discussion about Steely Dan’s Katy Lied without also touching on the infamous dbx debacle, obliquely referred to in Becker and Fagen’s 1999 liner notes, but explained with some gory details by Dias. The mysterious dulling of the sound during the mixing process so frustrated everyone — even reducing the ‘immortal’ engineer Roger Nichols to a mere, dumbfounded mortal — that the task of remixing and mastering fell to Dias by default, because no one else wanted to do it. To the great credit of Dias and Becker (who stepped in late into the process), the album was salvaged sufficiently enough for release. The 1999 CD remaster is a further improvement in audio fidelity, even if marginally so.

    That shortcoming, real or perceived, doesn’t rise to the level of being a distraction. Maybe it would be had the music itself had been mediocre, but there are way too many accomplished traits found in every song that skillfully reconciled rock, jazz and blues into a radio friendly format. It’s high time that Steely Dan’s Katy Lied gets the same kind of exaltations usually reserved for Pretzel Logic and Aja.

    Band leaders Becker and Fagen were unhappy with the album's sound quality because of an equipment malfunction with the then-new dbx noise reduction system. The group has claimed that the damage was mostly repaired after consulting with the engineers at dbx, but Fagen and Becker still refused to listen to the completed album.

    • From a 2011 Roger Nichols (longtime Dan chief recording engineer) biography:
    His ears and technical know-how proved invaluable in the Dan's pursuit for the audio Holy Grail as they eschewed concerts for longer spells in the studio. He engineered Pretzel Logic (1974), rescuing the future US Top 5 single "Rikki Don't Lose That Number", whose master tape had been affected by a drop of mustard; Katy Lied (1975), spotting that a faulty DBX noise reduction system had compromised the sonics; and The Royal Scam (1976), which featured "Haitian Divorce", their biggest UK hit.

    "Katy Lied" was recorded in 1974, and Steely Dan went to great lengths to ensure that it was a state-of-the-art recording. The success of "Pretzel Logic" had given Donald Fagen and Walter Becker more leeway with recording, and they used it to not only equip themselves with more recording hardware, but they also purchased a brand new Bosendorfer grand piano for the recording.
    However, when it came to mixdown time, trouble struck. The decision had been made to use DBx noise reduction, and this caused all manner of problems, chronicled here by Denny Dias. Eventually the LP was successfully mastered, but relics of the compromises forced in the mixdown can be heard in the overall sound. Despite the tremendous basic sound quality, both in terms of depth and warmth, the most notable defect is clipping and phasing of the cymbals, notable on "Your Gold Teeth II". However, I still find the sound quality of the LP to be tremendous, and the remastered LP on "Citizen Steely Dan" sounds wonderful.
     
  4. Yost

    Yost Always Wondered How Other People Did This

    I agree with the above. :righton:
    But I do like Dr. Wu #4 for it’s piano sound, although the snare sounds underwhelming.

    What’s interesting is that the 4 Dr. Wu samples show more variation in sound than the Bad Sneakers samples. Which is kind of strange.

    Also interesting how the Hoffman mastered CD sounds nice, but not nicer than the best vinyl version. :help:
     
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  5. The Elephant Man

    The Elephant Man Forum Resident

    The sound of the LP never bothered me. Every Steely Dan album had a 'sound'. 'Can't Buy A Thrill' and
    'Pretzel Logic' had very clean and crisp sound. 'Countdown' had a very dense sound and the Quad mix-
    which is what I listened to exclusively until the CD hit the shelves- was almost murky.
    I felt that added to the mystique of the album. 'Katy Lied' was exactly (I always thought) what
    W & D wanted. It's a great album no matter which way you slice it.
     
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  6. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    As I said at the outset, I've always thought that the overall sound of this album was a little "off," for lack of a better word. It never occurred to me to try to think about it in terms of Walter & Donald's perspective but I suppose it should be no surprise that by most accounts they were displeased with the outcome sonically.

    And yes, it is a GREAT album no matter which way you slice it...unless audio perfection happens to be one of the slices!
     
  7. The Elephant Man

    The Elephant Man Forum Resident

    It never sounded 'off' to me. But of course, I think that audio perfection can be over-rated and boring.
    Give me imperfection anytime. The album is fantastic on all fronts.
    :--)
     
  8. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    Well, take that damn thing off your head; it's covering your ears!! :D
     
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  9. ohnothimagen

    ohnothimagen I don't suffer fools or trolls gladly...

    Same here. I mean, Katy Lied, in spite of the DBX debacle doesn't sound that bad...lord knows there's worse sounding records than that one. Sometimes Becker, Fagen and Gary Katz could be a little to perfectionist for their own good IMO.
     
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  10. Plan9

    Plan9 Mastering Engineer

    Location:
    Toulouse, France
    Hey, we also agree on the Sgt. Pepper remix... :tiphat:

    The original DBX stereo master seems to have been kept and used for some reissues, yes.
     
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  11. California Couple

    California Couple dislike us on facebook

    Location:
    Newport Beach
    I think if the DBX story never became public knowledge then no one would have ever complained about the sound.
     
  12. marcb

    marcb Senior Member

    Location:
    DC area
    Baloney. Maybe it’s not “complaining” per se, but as I and others have already stated in this thread, it always sounded a little “not right” to me. Lots of records do. This is one of them.
     
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  13. Atmospheric

    Atmospheric Forum Resident

    Location:
    Newberg, OR USA
    So I'm a digital-only listener. But I've owned Katy Lied at least five times, going all the way back to the original release vinyl LP. It is my favorite SD record. I'd always assumed that the warmth was intentional. KL is the most straight ahead jazz of any SD record. I assumed that the warm murky sound was a nod in that direction.

    For digital versions, I've been listening to the 1998 MCD Europe versions for the early records (CBAT through KL), the original mid-80s MCD versions for RS through Gaucho). I've generally been quite happy with them. I did give some later remastered versions a try (I forget which ones), but I found them too compressed. My touchstone for evaluating DR on SD releases is Haitian Divorce. Too much compression and the bass gets pushed too far up in the mix and it clashes with the vocals.

    This thread caused my to seek out Citizen Steely Dan. I think I like this one best of all across the board. In particular, KL is greatly improved. It sounds more like Pretzel Logic to my ears now, or more properly an extension of the direction SD was headed post PL. Overall, the DR is somewhat more compressed. Often a db or two. I wish that weren't so, but the tracks sound very musical. The KL soundstage is vastly improved. I still think I hear some weird artifacts on cymbals in the left channel, primarily high hat and crash. BTW, why is the high hat in the left channel? A conventional kit would have the high hat on the drummer's left, but audience right (for right handed drummers). I know there's no requirement to pan the high hat that direction. It's something I'd never noticed before.
     
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  14. mpayan

    mpayan Forum Resident

    Whether one didnt gripe about it before knowing about the DBX issue is beside the point imo.

    Ill admit that I had the mfsl before I ever came to this forum. Enjoyed it. Great music and such a every note perfect album. Thats what I noticed (and still do). I wasnt really thinking about sound quality that much back then. I came here and my philosophy changed. I then tried to find the best sounding pressing, whether lp or cd. After understanding what to listen for on recordings as far as mastering it became apparent that Katie Lied was definitely more smallish/tinnier sounding than other Steely Dan albums.

    Knowing about and being educated about the importance of sound quality can be a double edged sword. On one hand you find pressings that open up and enhance many albums enjoyment. On the other hand you start becoming more aware of the shortcomings of more lo-fi, poor masterings etc. And yes one has to be careful not to let that consume the musical experience.

    This idea that "Well you audiophiles are so busy analyzing and searching for the best that you have lost the enjoyment of the music!" may be true for some. But most here I have witness to care for music and sound quality hand in hand.

    My knowledge of what happened with Katie Lied doesnt affect my enjoyment of the music. I either like the creation or not. By realizing there is zero I can do about it, that there are no pressings of this album that the DBX issue is all the sudden gone, I accept that and simply enjoy the great music.

    There are many albums I enjoy that I dont have the best ever sounding version of. I still enjoy the music. Do I still search? Sure. Its fun to me. A treasure hunt. A hobby. But my world isnt crushed if i do not have that holy grail.

    Listening to "Peel Slowly And See" VU as I type. Lo fi as it gets. Would a first pressing mono lp sound better? Sure, probably so. But to what degree? The mix is what it is. I dont have to have that increment of better sq in this case. It is what it is pretty much. Now if VU were my top of hill band? Maybe so.

    btw, I listen to Katie Lied more than I do Aja (an audiophile darling). Yet I enjoy Countdown more than either of those. The SHM-SACD being another audiophile darling. This across the board nonesense that audiophiles dont care about the music is certainly disproved in the later.

    So this: "You audiophiles are nothing more than analytical nuts. Who cares? Learn to enjoy the music!" ideology really is misguided in many cases.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
  15. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    I also find it to be a misguided assumption because we dont spend money and time searching for better fidelity of the album because we hate it, that makes no sense. The drive comes from how much we like the music to begin with.

    Or who knows, maybe some really hate an album to bits but price be damned they will get it to at least sound good somehow!
     
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  16. allbrosca

    allbrosca Dancing Madly Backwards

    Location:
    Toronto
    I was working at a record store in downtown Toronto at the time of its release, and like many ABC products, deep discounted cut-outs came out not long after release. I picked one up and thought it sounded like crap and always thought it was probably a counterfeit knock off. I guess not.
     
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  17. mpayan

    mpayan Forum Resident

    Well, yeah, I mean according to that idea I am wanting to find the -a/-a RL of Back in Black not to listen to it or rock out even harder and here more realistic drums, but because I just like to possess it. Or have it as a stamp collection.

    Have I done that? Well, yes I have. When I first got into jazz I did that with the MM and APs. I started getting that collectors bug. But one has to realize that trap (know thyself), put the brakes on, put some effort into educating by listening to and figure out what albums you like. Then reel it back.

    But to take the stance of "I am just not an audiophile, dont care and therefore stamp my foot at you crazy audiophiles" is, imo, missing a big part of what this forum is about.


    Sorry gues I am going OT a bit.
     
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  18. Leonthepro

    Leonthepro Skeptically Optimistic Autodidact Debater

    Location:
    Uppsala Sweden
    Sealed MM jazz classics :yikes: What I wouldnt give for a few of those ;^)
     
  19. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    Just found this revealing reference to the DBX recording flaws by Katy Lied drummer Jeff Porcaro (who died in 1992). From a 2014 blog:

    Jeff was quoted in an interview by Modern Drummer Magazine: "'Your Gold Teeth II' is a song with lots of bars of 3/8. 6/8. amd 9/8. And it's bebop! I could swing the cymbal beat and fake it, but that always bothered me. After recording it, Fagen gave me a Charles Mingus record with Dannie Richmond on drums. It had a tune that was full of 6/8 and 9/8 bars. I listened to that for a couple of days, and we tried it again and it worked. What a cool thing! The ride cymbal on that, and on the whole record, is an old K Zildjian my dad gave me. Unfortunately, all the cymbals are clipped and phased on the album because the DBX didn't work. That was real heart-breaking for those guys"

    The blog continues with more such references:

    Usually a record is produced and the finished product is good enough. For Donald and Walter, this was never the case. The finished product had to be as close to sonic perfection as humanly possible. The caliber of professional musicians they have used over the years reads like a who's who of the Jazz Musician's Hall of Fame. Their recording engineer Roger Nichols used state of the art recording gear and monitoring equipment. Forget Dolby, they were experimenting with DBX compression way before it became mainstream and were into exotic stereo equipment and speakers for the sole purpose of hearing the most accurate reproductions of their work. Walter was a big fan a Dahlquist Electrostatic Speakers. They also spend a lot of money (much to the the ABC Record Executives and Accountant's dismay) acquiring high end esoteric stereo gear so that they could monitor the tracks in the studio. Roger Nichols who was their chief engineer on all of the SD albums, was also a stereo fanatic and ran a company on the side building studios and sound rooms for commercial accounts and private individuals. They were so into the cutting edge of electronic stereo gear and even ahead of the curve by choosing to use DBX compression equipment to record Katy Lied, that they got themselves into serious trouble when recording the master tapes with the DBX gear. It almost destroyed the Katy Lied recordings due to some electronic gremlins that to this day were never resolved by the DBX Factory headquartered in New England.
     
  20. DPM

    DPM Forum Resident

    Location:
    Nevada, USA
    One has to wonder how much of a role the steam generator malfunction played in the various technical difficulties that afflicted the Katy Lied sessions. Moisture in the wrong places can be merciless.
     
  21. ostrichfarm

    ostrichfarm Forum Resident

    Location:
    New York
    Never noticed a problem with the LP, but I've mostly listened to the CD anyway, and my turntable setup is light-years away from audiophile standards (crap turntable, decent cartridge, good stylus, very good vintage-ish amp, ancient speakers with very little response below 60Hz or above 10k).

    (One solution to getting less joy from music because you're aware of the technical shortcomings of the recording process? Listen on crappier equipment. :D I'm sort of kidding, but having worked with everything from ultra-high-end equipment to the bottom of the barrel, I still can take pleasure in listening to FM broadcasts or cassettes on a cheap clock radio, because I hear different things and my imagination has to work overtime, just as it did when I was a kid who only had trash equipment. Sometimes the filtering effects of low-fidelity equipment fit in perfectly with a particular time, place, situation or occasion, especially if you're not engaged in intensely focused, solo listening.)
     
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  22. Combination

    Combination Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans
    I wonder if the Katy Lied hardship inspired our beloved cheery duo to proclaim in 1977:

    "Throw out the hardware - let's do it right." :whistle:
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2018
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  23. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    Very well thought-out and expressed!!
     
  24. SteelyNJ

    SteelyNJ Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    New Jersey, USA
    BTW, @Leonthepro has graciously offered to compile and post the responses to and rankings of the various Katy Lied sample clips that I posted earlier in this thread. I have provided him with the "key" which reveals the source for each of the 8 audio files. If you wish to participate, go back to the first post in this thread. If the ZIPped files are no longer accessible or you prefer links for each individual FLAC file, try here.
     
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  25. marcb

    marcb Senior Member

    Location:
    DC area
    FWIW, the issue is with the original tapes (the multis IMO). It’s not confined just to vinyl versions.
     
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