SH Spotlight By request: How I mixed Nat King Cole multi-tracks into stereo for SACD & 45 RPM LP.

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Sep 20, 2012.

  1. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    They are out there, yes. Sound quality varies though, can be frustrating.
     
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Well if I started another one I'd probably be run out of town. YOU could start one though...
     
  3. Steve, this is YOUR website...that's the last thing any of us would wanna do!!!:laugh:
     
  4. coleman

    coleman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Florida
    Why not simply change the title of this thread to reflect all seven releases and keep on going? Something like 'By request: How I mixed Nat King Cole's AP SACD releases into stereo for DSD & LP' should do.
     
  5. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Done, but I don't really know what else to write about it!
     
  6. coleman

    coleman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Florida
    Think hard. It'll come to ya. :agree:
     
  7. wcarroll

    wcarroll Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baton Rouge, LA
    For a project like this where you remix from the 3-track work parts, are you supplied with the tapes for the whole session? Or do you get just the takes that were selected for the original masters?

    How was working on "After Midnight" compared to the other titles since it is mono only? Was it easier or did it just have its own unique set of challenges?

    ("After Midnight" is my second favorite of the series and the first AP 45 vinyl that I purchased. Don't know how to describe the sound other than awesome!)
     
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  8. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    How about the "extra fun" on JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS, you know...stuff like:

    •Some songs have Nat AND the piano on the center track
    •Some songs have accent mics; some don't
    •Some are more in phase than others
    •There's a missing tuba mic on most of one song


    All the juicy stuff that must make remixing a relaxing occupation. :laugh:

    Matt
     
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  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I am supplied with whatever I need. I'm not really interested in 15 takes of one song. I just need the approved song, UNLESS I'm looking for bonus tracks or a neat alternate take like for a few of the Nat's. Usually the three-track masters are compiled in some way, master takes extracted and preserved on a reel, especially if the music was recorded for the "open Reel" series of ZD's that came out in 1957. All that remains is the approved takes. Any alternates that still exist are simply because the producer ordered that they be preserved. Can't save everything, nor should they.

    Remember, the only reason Capitol even recorded anything in stereo at all is because of the Audiophile Hi-Fi open reel tape market. Stereo LP's were not happening yet and Capitol only taped something in stereo if they thought it would make a good (and dammed expensive) open reel tape. That's why Sinatra's JOLLY CHRISTMAS was NOT taped in stereo in 1957 and LOVE IS THE THING from 1956 was. See? It wasn't until 1958 that the order came down to record EVERYTHING in three-channel stereo, albums, singles, everything.

    ------ -------- --------- ---------- ------------

    AFTER MIDNIGHT was an afterthought in the AP SACD series, mainly because it was in mono and the objective was to do NAT COLE in surround sound, or three-channel SACD sound. Chad thought long and hard about AFTER MIDNIGHT. We agreed that it was one of the best albums of the 1950's and mono be dammed. So, he decided to do it for both SACD and vinyl including the Alan Dell discovered bonus tracks left off of the album in 1956.

    The problem with AFTER MIDNIGHT was simply one of too many tapes to go through. It was the last Nat project I did for AP and I was pretty tired by that point. Poor guy at Capitol and I again pondered the vault listings and we realized that we would have to pull everything out to find what we needed: The session reels that contained the original first generation master takes. I won't bore you with how long that took or how dedicated we both were (the Capitol guy and I) in finding the correct tapes but we did, including all the bonus tracks in first generation plus the alternate take I used. Just think about the fact that there was like 45 "masters" of ROUTE 66 on the list and since each one was marked "master", the only way to tell which was which was to pull the boxes and have a look. 45 boxes for JUST ONE SONG and there were 17 songs to go!

    The bandwidth of the original full-track monaural tapes of AFTER MIDNIGNT was simply amazing (as you can hear on the SACD or 45 RPM) and basically I think it's the best sounding Nat King Cole out there. Even has a soundstage (and that ain't easy in mono!) I play this SACD all the time, at least once a week. It's the one I'm most happy with. Wonderful album.
     
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  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Yeah, that was a really tough one, hardest of all the stuff I mixed. It's Nat's second album recorded in stereo and LOVE IS THE THING was a lot easier, just a bunch of strings and some rhythm instruments. JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS was a big band with tuba and Xylophone, etc. Very difficult to capture with just two microphones. I guess they did four songs a session and each of the sessions had a DIFFERENT set up so the phasing, accent mics, etc. all varied which made mixing them really difficult because I had to have three basic setups instead of just one. Most of the songs had 1/2 of the instruments out of phase at all times. The songs that had "spot" mics on them usually had the spots in phase and the rest of the band out of phase. Filpping the phase just threw out different instruments and the bass usually vanished totally.

    On top of that hassle, Nat's voice was completely uncompressed. I mean, a jump of like 20 DB in just ONE PHRASE so I had to use our trusty tubed Teletronix LA2A on his vocal channel just to get him to be in the same room with the instruments.

    I had mixed this once at Capitol, Studio B for Sam Passamano's vinyl label a few years before and was sort of ready for it again. But it's funny, this is the album that made me ask Chad Kassem to PLEASE include the mono mixes. They were properly spot miked, balanced and sounded just like a 1957 master should. The stereo mixes I did sound open, more dynamic, etc. but it's so good to have the monos on there as well to get an idea of what they were going for back in the day.

    It's a great album and I'm glad I got to put the bonus tracks on there (one song left off the album is there in both stereo and mono on the SACD) plus the alternate take I uncovered of one song (thanks to producer Lee Gillette's markings on the tape box to "HOLD INDEF."

    I'm also glad we got to use the uncensored cover again..
     
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  11. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    I thought that Mx. was the abbreviation for "matrix." I.e., those are the identifying numbers of the master recordings (irrespective of particular takes, which are usually specified as a hyphenated numerical suffix).
     
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  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Exactly right.
     
  13. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    You were also able to complete the Nat Cole / Gordon Jenkins trilogy with the downer but great Where Did Everyone Go? Each of the three were from different "eras" in the early stereo period. Love Is The Thing was among the earliest stereo Capitol did and pre-dates the commercial stereo LP. The Very Thought of You comes around the time stereo was on the commercial radar and Capitol was putting the miles on the 3-track Ampex (Ampexes? Ampexi?) for stereo but setups still seem to have differed substantially. By Where Did Everyone Go? I think you found that there was no longer a dedicated mono recording, the mono instead being mixed from the 3-tracks. With Where?, it was the first time the two bonus tracks were included with the album in their original form with matching mix and mastering, making the release all the more special.

    Your mix of Where Did Everyone Go? reveals a sound much more pure and natural and more like the earlier two than the heavily reverb'd and EQ'd original LPs. It greatly benefits from the difference to my ears, but that prompts a couple questions. How did the changes affect what you did in the mixing and mastering processes? With the first two there was an original stereo reel to reel and mono to include in devising the target sound so to speak, but what did you have in mind when working on the last one? Did you attempt to make the sound more consistent between the three or approach each as a unique entity?
     
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  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Chris,

    WHERE DID EVERYONE GO? was the first album we tackled as it was the first to appear in our studio in complete three track form including the bonus tracks left off the album. We had some invited guests there that day including three people from Capitol/EMI. The IRONIC thing is that by the time all of the Nat Cole SACD/Vinyl projects were finished, the three people from Capitol were NO LONGER EVEN WORKING THERE. Wacky stuff.

    At any rate, WHERE DID EVERYONE GO? was engineered by, hmmm, can't remember. Hugh? Well, the three tracks were of course dry as a bone but the "conversion" had happened between the mono and stereo rooms so the three track was indeed the ONLY tape, no dedicated mono. Every version was derived from these tapes so there was no need to include the mono versions on the SACD. The orchestra was firmly in it's hole as was the lead vocal. In other words, levels did not vary widely between songs. Once "in the pocket", it stayed firm for all the songs.

    As for my technique on this album, I wanted all three Gorden Jenkins albums to sound alike, tone-wise, up to a point. Those with really great playback systems realize that LOVE IS THE THING (1956) and THE VERY THOUGHT OF YOU (1958) sound nothing like each other. That's OK, they are both unique. I had already mixed the other two in the 1990's for the DCC Gold series so I knew what they sounded like and I just made sure that this one also sounded similar, not exact. It meant reducing the EQ on the orchestra, making it less strident and the same for the vocal track. More of that 1950's, less stressed sound.

    It worked, I think.
     
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  15. jtaylor

    jtaylor Forum Resident

    Location:
    RVA
    Hugh Davies did this? I thought it was another Pete Abbott album.
     
  16. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Pete, Hugh, Fred. Can't remember everything.
     
  17. jtaylor

    jtaylor Forum Resident

    Location:
    RVA
    Pretty damned close most of the time.
     
  18. jtaylor

    jtaylor Forum Resident

    Location:
    RVA
    Huh, I thought Pete did both.
     
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Maybe Hugh did JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS? I know he did one of them or maybe it was the mono version or something.
     
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  20. jtaylor

    jtaylor Forum Resident

    Location:
    RVA
    I think this is another of those "only four people in the world care" type discussions...

    Steve,

    I seem to recall reading a few years ago, well before the AP series was underway, that the mono JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS left you cold (I think that's how you described it then). I know you've also mentioned you've had something of conversion regarding mono vis a vis 3-track; does that also apply to JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS, do you feel differently about the mono now that you've been able to master it to your specifications?
     
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  21. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    John Krauss did that one.
     
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  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    Oh, yes. The reason? Well, when I got hold of the actual mono session masters (not the badly EQ'd cutting master) I could hear into the mix in that good way. The midrangey, shrill sound was gone and the real music came through..
     
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  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    I got a PM to ask who the recording engineer was on Nat's "ST. LOUIS BLUES", recorded at the Capitol New York Studio.

    The old 1958 tape box just said "Brittan". scrawled in. We don't know who that is and the thing that makes it even more confusing is that there was a recording engineer for the mono, a different recording engineer for the stereo and an engineer who assembled the songs on the reel. That's who this person could be or he could have engineered the "binaural" version as well.

    Anyone know this Capitol engineer?
     
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  24. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    Hm. I have a note here on one William E. Brittan. What I have is that he worked at Radio Recorders there in Hollywood starting in 1944; he worked at Capitol from 1952 - 1958; he then worked for Columbia, including New York sessions up to 1972; he has a son Gregory Brittan; he passed away January 1998.

    From that it seems possible he was in NY for Capitol then and got a job at Columbia later in the year. Too bad we don't know who did what on St Louis Blues 'cause that's a fine recording both mono and stereo.
     
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  25. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host Thread Starter

    BB. That's him. Many thanks, Chris. You're a well of information. Now I can confirm, he was the stereo engineer on St. Louis Blues. Signed elsewhere as BB (Bill Brittan). One of the best sounding Nat albums.

    Great info!
     
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