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. benjaminhuf

    benjaminhuf Forum Resident

    Wonderful stories and technical details. Thanks so much. I love these releases. As many have said, it's like you're in the room there as it's happening. The stuff about the master tapes getting all jumbled up as they are taken to Iron mtn. makes me a little sad.

    Anyway, is there any chance that more NKC will get released via SACD?
  2. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Not by this team, sad to say. Too expensive and very difficult to do.

    Don't be sad by my Iron Mountain story. In the old days they would have just chucked the stuff in the trash for the most part. Everything on the shelves was PRESERVED at Iron Mountain. That's a good thing. It's just damn hard to find originals of anything other than LP/album masters..

    By the way, the best trick I had when working on AFTER MIDNIGHT was personally playing Nat's Steinway piano still in Capitol Studio A. It sounds EXACTLY like it does on the AFTER MIDNIGHT session tapes. With a slight reverse tweaking on a few songs I made sure that it was constant throughout the entire album and bonus tracks.

    How's that for accurate mastering?
  3. Ere

    Ere Forum Resident

    Silver Spring MD
    No, I was confused - not sure why I thought that outtake was on AFTER MIDNIGHT.

    Yes, partially. For your AFTER MIDNIGHT work, did you listen to any other sources besides the master to guide your mastering choices? and did you make any adjustments or tweaking or was it a straight capture?

    (Sorry for the confusion: I gather on LOVE you listened to the mono tape to help decide how much echo to apply to the stereo remix. On AFTER MIDNIGHT, did you do comparison listening to other sources and did you do much tweaking in transferring from the masters to the DSD and vinyl?)
  4. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Well, regarding AFTER MIDNIGHT, every digital version IMO sucks, with Noise Reduction and other weird stuff happening that spoils the intimacy of the music so I didn't use any digital releases to judge anything..

    The old Capitol LP cuttings I like (from 1957 to about 1961) are just basically the master tape with a bit of compression (enhances the echo unintentionally but keeps the level up over the noise floor) so I didn't use any of them.

    The best thing I could do for AFTER MIDNIGHT was unearth the session masters in full-track mono. That I did, took a few weeks though. However, as I mentioned in an above post:

    That was actually the most help, getting to hear that same piano in person from both the keyboard and from the side. Too bad all mastering couldn't be like that. Wish I could have Janis Joplin with me this week...
    Ere and vonwegen like this.
  5. Ere

    Ere Forum Resident

    Silver Spring MD
    Thanks, I'll give those 45s a spin tonight.
  6. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Pay attention to the piano. Has the typical Steinway sound with an authoritative low end, overall complex overtones with a nice midrange, tiny upper mid suckout and then a sweet "top" finish. Just how it sounds in person, still the same after all these years. Stuff like that really floats my boat..
    vonwegen likes this.
  7. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Lodi, New Jersey

    Sounds like a description of a wine. :)
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    I was thinking that when I was typing it..
  9. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Last comment about the old days at Capitol and the Nat King Cole albums. The "producer" was also called the "A&R Guy" back then (that meant he was in charge of artists and their repertoire). Lee Gillette was Nat's producer for most of his career. He sat up in the booth and listened carefully to the recording process, stopping the session if he felt there was something wrong. He stopped the songs a LOT.

    For example, during the LOVE IS THE THING sessions, the song "I Thought About Marie", he stopped the session 15 times in 8 takes. Harp was too loud, drummer playing on the wrong beat (written wrong in the manuscript), string lines too obscure, weak, too strong, etc. He overrode both the conductor and arranger because he was hearing it as it would sound, with all studio processing being added live as recording was taking place (in mono). Lee really was a wonderful producer and his great voice and sardonic manner of speaking really tickled Nat a lot. You can hear this on the AP SACD and 45 RPM vinyl we did at the end of the AFTER MIDNIGHT bonus tracks or on the 45 RPM vinyl version of "I Thought About Marie" where he and Nat exchange a few words. I kept those in because I wanted to preserve Lee's voice and because there is not enough understanding what the old A&R guys did in the studio. A hands-on producer in those days had to do everything to insure the album or single was as perfect as possible, usually with a live take, no overdubs. It meant they had to read music, be able to read a chart and be able to make snap decisions that could not be undone later in mixing because there WAS no remixing. He had to be right, on the spot. And he had to do it without pissing anybody off. Egos are fragile.

    Most of the session reels and "outs" have been dumped over the years (thousands of outtake reels) but a few have survived intact (usually because there was a song on the reel marked "HOLD"). The reels show that the one person in charge was the producer. He always had the final word. Even on a Frank Sinatra session.

    A great bunch of A&R guys at the record companies in those days.

    Photo below: Producer Lee Gillette with Ray Anthony listening to a 78 RPM test pressing of Ray's smash "Theme From DRAGNET".

    Attached Files:

  10. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    More to comment about after I start working on WELCOME TO THE CLUB.
  11. howlinrock

    howlinrock Forum Resident In Memoriam

    SF Bay Area
    I'm looking forward to your comments and the results.
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

  13. Maxwell999

    Maxwell999 Active Member

    Nice! I enjoy reading all those technical details
  14. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Glad to hear it!
  15. Bill Mac

    Bill Mac Forum Resident

    So. ME USA

    Were all of the Nat King Cole SACDs remixed from three channel tapes to stereo? Thanks :).

  16. rxcory

    rxcory Forum Resident

    Portland, Oregon
    Please correct me if I'm wrong, but all except for:

    - After Midnight, the mono album with exceptional sound quality,

    - two tracks on Love Is The Thing for which stereo tapes don't exist, "Maybe It's Because I Love You Too Much" and "Love Letters,"

    - three from The Nat King Cole Story, "Orange Colored Sky" (dubs made directly to two-track), "Ay, Cosita Linda" (two-track, recorded in Brazil) and "Oh Mary, Don't You Weep" (two-track, recorded at the First Church of Deliverance in Chicago)
    Steve Hoffman likes this.
  17. Bill Mac

    Bill Mac Forum Resident

    So. ME USA

    Thanks for that information :).

  18. Pendulous Threads

    Pendulous Threads Well-Known Member

    I really enjoyed reading this. I am finally able to understand much of the language of mastering/mixing, making these articles even more fun to read obviously. Amazing how it all comes together and what techniques are used to produce the incredible sounds we all enjoy. I appreciate this very much Mr. Hoffman.
  19. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Always glad to share.
  20. Great thread. Such wonderful information.
    bozburn likes this.
  21. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    A member wanted this reopened, glad to do so, it shouldn't have been closed in the first place.
    ex_mixer, Turmatic and therockman like this.
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your Host Your Host Thread Starter

    Bump for the memory of the great Capitol producer/A&R man Lee Gillette.
    jtaylor, rxcory and therockman like this.
  23. I am playing Love Is The Thing right now on SACD.

    Thanks Steve.
    MMM, Steve Hoffman and art like this.
  24. art

    art Forum Resident

    so good. all of them.
  25. rxcory

    rxcory Forum Resident

    Portland, Oregon
    All of these still receive heavy play at my house. Nat's voice has been a favorite of mine since I was a child listening to him on the oldies station on my pocket transistor radio. These APO and AF releases are the crown jewels of my music collection. Now instead of a voice from a crackly bygone era Nat is a living presence in my living room. Best of all, everyone in the family loves it when I put on a Nat King Cole record - even the kids! I can't thank Steve and Kevin (and Chad, and Marshall) enough for making these happen.
    jtaylor likes this.

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