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SH Spotlight Difference in early 1930's recording techniques. Isham Jones & his Orchestra BRUNSWICK vs. VICTOR

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Steve Hoffman, Jan 3, 2018.

  1. Neil Young...and people broke his balls over it, too. Not these particular recording techniques or the gear, but a 1947 Voice-o-Graph for recording direct to vinyl.

    There's also a few companies out there who offer modern gear for recording straight to vinyl.

    So, I mean, we can make our own "vintage" recordings, only it will cost a pretty penny from my understanding.
  2. Mr. Explorer

    Mr. Explorer Trumpet Man/Dapper Dan

    Nashville, TN, USA
    There’s also Jack White with his telephone booth thing.

    Although it’s more of a purposeful embrace of lo-fi, whereas the recordings in Steve’s OPs were bleeding edge and still sound relatively great today.
  3. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

  4. action pact

    action pact Music Omnivore

  5. Jskoda

    Jskoda Forum Resident

    Washington, DC
    This reminds me--I was in Barnes & Noble the other day, and in the magazine section there was something called "The Top 100 Recordings You Need to Have," and I picked it up out of curiosity to see what it said.

    The entries were organized by decade. The earliest category was "50s/60s," and this had 10 entries. The next was "70s," and this had more than 40 entries!

    I put the magazine back right then.
    thrivingonariff likes this.
  6. WayOutWardell

    WayOutWardell Forum Resident

    Somebody made a wax cylinder recording of a 1979 Tiny Tim song. As I understand it, TT had a huge collection of cylinders.

    This thread is just fascinating to me - I really love learning how things like this were accomplished back then.

    Sidebar: there's a book about early jazz bands that mentions two big ballrooms here in Chicago (the Trianon and the Aragon), and how the owners solved the problem of how to provide continuous music when the band went on break - build two stages and hire two bands! The Trianon had two separate stages, and the Aragon had one bandstand behind the other.
    And very soon after the Aragon opened, another problem became apparent. The ceiling (which is completely smooth and curved to give the illusion of being outdoors) caused an echo that confused the dancers, and those who were farther from the stage had a hard time figuring out which beat to dance to!
  7. The date of this recording is actually January 23, 1945. The sounds are British Lancaster and Halifax bombers, as well as German anti-aircraft cannons. I thought 1944 might be a bit too early. After all, the allies didn't really push into the Rhineland until after Christmas 1944.
  8. onlyacanvasky

    onlyacanvasky Has anybody seen my cup of tea?

    I’ve just been listening to this now and it’s another example of what went on in classic 1920s recordings.

    On December 2, 1927, Ted Lewis and his (not small) Band convened in Columbia’s New York studio to have another go at two tracks they musn’t have been able to get quite right two weeks earlier. Finally, after six takes across two sessions of each tune they got something they were happy with and they were able to wrap up.

    Listen to the sound of this particularly good transfer. Everyone is clearly audible and sounds great, nobody is lost, but the dynamic is controlled. Even when most of the band drops out and it’s just Ted with minimal backing, the recording doesn’t get significantly softer. And when the tuba brings them all back in, he doesn’t blast all over the recording, he just sits in his sort of “sonic place” - like everything in this record. Same as the trumpets right near the end, they’re well heard, and obviously playjng but they don’t overpower anything. You’d swear today there were compressors taking care of everything but it was highly skilled musicians and engineers working hard to control things. Maybe that’s why it took 6 takes to get it right. A lot of Ted Lewis’ recordings had this sort of “tight” controlled sound, as opposed to groups that sometimes sounded a little loose. Perhaps it was the way Lewis wanted to lead his band, perhaps it was the way Columbia wanted to record. Either way, I find it fascinating to listen to the way technicians and musicians worked together 90 years ago.
  9. onlyacanvasky

    onlyacanvasky Has anybody seen my cup of tea?

    Another great Ted Lewis recording was this one of Milenberg Joys, recorded on June 22, 1925.

    His regular Tuba player lay down the tuba and picked up his string bass mere months after the introduction of electrical recording and made a record that still leaps out of speakers today. I’m lucky enough to have a minty 78 of this and the bass just jumps out at you.

    The Lewis band recorded plenty of proper jazz that day in 1925 and it’s a shame it hasn’t received more attention.
  10. Lownotes

    Lownotes Forum Resident

    Denver, CO
    Cool stuff.

    Overdubbing must've been brutal.
  11. Luke The Drifter

    Luke The Drifter Forum Resident

    United States
    So here is a question that I have not found an answer to. When recordings from the 1920's have a lot of "static", was that the way it was actually recorded? Or have they not been preserved well. I have the Carter Family box set, and the 20s and early 30s recordings have a LOT of noise. Was that how they actually sounded, or have the recordings not been preserved well enough?
    Mr. Explorer likes this.
  12. onlyacanvasky

    onlyacanvasky Has anybody seen my cup of tea?

    There can be any number of reasons, the main one will be the disc that has been used to remaster from. Relatively few metal pressing parts still exist. When they do, music can either be transferred from the metal parts or they can be used to press modern plastic records with silent surfaces. To hear what sort of results can be achieved when metal parts exist, have a listen to this. It has been transferred from a metal mother, playable just like a normal record.

    This is what a 1928 recording sounds like free of any noise from a shellac or vinyl recording.
    There’s still a little groove hiss inherent in the recording from the original wax disc, and it can be very very difficult to remove without destroying the “spirit” or “air” around the recording. This didn’t decrease until people figured out how to record into lacquer. In this case it is minimal and you just have to listen through it.

    Typically, mid 20s - early 30s Columbia pressings have quieter surfaces than Victors of the same period due to different methods of record pressing - Columbia and any of their companies like Okeh, Harmony etc. had a smoother surface and in good shape their discs sound excellent 90 years on.

    Having said that, it’s not all doom and gloom for Victor. Sometimes Victor discs would be reissued on Bluebird in the 30s on better surfaces, from the same metal pieces - or maybe in Australia or something, where disc surfaces where also generally quiet. Or sometimes you get lucky and get a quiet Victor disc, pressed on a day when their pressing formulation was quieter.

    (A digression: this is the 78 RPM collector’s dilemma - average condition original or beautiful repress on a quieter surface sourced from the same metal? For a long time I tolerated a US Brunswick of There’ll Be Some Changes Made by the Chicago Rhythm Kings until I found this, which cost me less than postage from the US to me here in Australia. It’s sourced from the same metal as the original Brunswick, it’s flat out mint and it sounds perfect)

    Now back to the Carter Family - they were on Victor at that time IIRC, and you’d hope whoever compiled the box found the best possible source for each track, and reduced noise to a point where it was less intrusive but the life and air of the recording was not destroyed. Maybe some recordings just didn’t have a better source. You can’t remove it all, and that’s the job of the skilled restorationist - to make a compromise between noise levels and keeping the music alive. (Well you can remove all the noise but it sounds, in this correspondant’s humble opinion, bloody terrible.) I’ve recently been marvelling at Steve Lasker’s work on Jelly Roll Morton’s 1939 piano and vocal recordings. His sources were metal pressing pieces, shellac records, and I believe in one case a cassette transfer. They are just excellent. Superb. Any superlative you can think of.

    So as a short answer, yes some (but not a lot) of the noise is inherent in the recording, like tape hiss, and some is also because the masters were not just not well preserved, they were not preserved at all, and shellac records is all we have to use as sources.
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2018
    Robert C, Mr. Explorer, JohnO and 4 others like this.
  13. qwerty

    qwerty A resident of the SH_Forums.

    Similarly, in 1940 harpsichordist Wanda Landowska recorded Scarletti sonatas in Paris three months before the fall of France, also recording the sound of anit-aircraft guns in the background of her K490. A great historical piece.

    Listen at about the 2min mark of this recording:
    action pact likes this.
  14. onlyacanvasky

    onlyacanvasky Has anybody seen my cup of tea?

    Les Paul would have a lot to say on the subject.
  15. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    I have these and a bunch more, my collector buddy said this stuff wasn't jazz so he sold me his originals for a buck each in 1976.

    Just a note, these sound great but: This is NOT the typical sound of a 1920s electric Columbia. The dance band stuff was usually recorded in a much more ambient room and had a lovely 3k boost to make the record jump out. Try a Whiteman Potato Head from 1927 on.. Very different sound. Find "Because My Baby Don't Mean Maybe Now" with Bix, Tram, Bing, etc. The best (if you like that sort of thing..)
    Mr. Explorer and onlyacanvasky like this.
  16. Luke The Drifter

    Luke The Drifter Forum Resident

    United States
    Great information! Thank you sir.
    Mr. Explorer likes this.
  17. Luke The Drifter

    Luke The Drifter Forum Resident

    United States
    I would like some input on the following versions of Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow, recorded by the Carter Family on August 1, 1927, and released on Victor. I have the first version, which has a lot of noise. The second version is one that appears on other collections.

    I assume the second version has been digitally cleaned up.

    Questions: Which one do collectors of this era of music find preferable? What are your opinions on the two very different versions of this same song?

    Version 1:

    Version 2:

    The Carter Family- Bury me under the Weeping Willow Tree.
    Mr. Explorer likes this.
  18. onlyacanvasky

    onlyacanvasky Has anybody seen my cup of tea?

    The second one has been digitally cleaned up quite a lot, and I really don't like it. It sounds slushy to my ears, illustrating that you can't round off the sharp edges of the crackle without rounding off some of the intended edges of the music too, and a lot of the air is gone too.

    It may have been possible to reduce the levels of crackle from those of the first a little less without having such an effect on the music, but the producers of the set have decided not to.

    Although it's not quite as bad as this version.

    So as you probably have guessed, I would definitely prefer the first of the two which is strangely nearly identical to the version I have on the Bear Family box. But when I turn 180º in my chair I see about 300 78 RPM discs so perhaps I'm biased :)
  19. onlyacanvasky

    onlyacanvasky Has anybody seen my cup of tea?

    Just another quick one, there's a lot of "lesser of the evils" when seeking out 78 RPM transfers.
    For example, Fiddlin' John Carson (with a melody that the Carters borrowed, and probably Carson and a lot of others did too.)
    You have this:

    or this
    Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane (78rpm Version)

    Neither is what I'd call a "good transfer" but I certainly prefer the first of the two - while it's cracklier and a bit more honking, it's farily obvious that it has been made without digital NR and is a more honest representation of the disc. The second version has been digitally NRed and EQed a lot and sounds totally unnatural to me.

    (PS there's gotta be a good laminated pressing of this out there SOMEWHERE! Can it be located and transferred well for reissue?)
    (PPS yes it is possible to make a "good transfer" of an acoustic disc like this!)
  20. yasujiro

    yasujiro Forum Resident

  21. onlyacanvasky

    onlyacanvasky Has anybody seen my cup of tea?

    Here’s a good transfer from a British Columbia of Because My Baby… - a nice laminated surface, although the US and Australian surfaces from this time are just as nice :D
  22. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Thanks. Hear the ambience? Could hear it on my cell phone. Bix sounds further back in the room than Henry Busse. Bix’s Two short solos are from a future age compared to the rest of the record. Young Bing Crosby is great. Love this record.
    onlyacanvasky and Mr. Explorer like this.
  23. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host Thread Starter

    Hey, all good music on this thread, some 90 years old. Give it a try but don't play the song in my OP. It sticks in your brain. Can't lose it right now, damn it.
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  24. qwerty

    qwerty A resident of the SH_Forums.

    I've been going through my 78's recently, updating my catalogue.

    Was devastated to find one of my Original Dixieland Jazz Band's and a Shirley Thoms' disks in pieces, despite being very careful with them. And I don't see many of them (in good condition at affordable prices) over here. Frustrating, as I've got many disks that I would not have been too upset if they were broken.

    (BTW, Shirley Thoms is an Australian country yodeller).
  25. Perisphere

    Perisphere Forum Resident

    It seems to me that Brunswick got much of their technical act together not long before 1926 was out. Those King Oliver sides from Brunswick 3773 ('Wa wa wa' for one) were from May 1926, but here's how good they could finally record by 8 December 1926 on an early Red Nichols session--'That's no bargain', a Nichols original, issued on Brunswick 3407.

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