Sinatra / Capitol Sound Quality: "A Swingin' Affair" - 1957

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by MLutthans, Jan 1, 2010.

  1. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    It's still a work in progress, but I've got some samples posted here.

    More to come, and Happy New Year!

    (PS - if anybody has any foreign pressings, especially the Alan Dell British version from 1984, please drop me a line. Thanks!)

    Matt
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
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  2. Ryan

    Ryan That would be telling

    Location:
    New England
    I think the Walsh CD of this is good.

    I want a gray label LP though. One of the few I have no gray label for.
     
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  3. Greg1954

    Greg1954 New Member

    Location:
    .
    I think the Walsh CD isn't bad.

    But a grey label LP renders all that brassy brass in a little more softer musical fashion. By comparison The Wash can sound hard, flat and occasionally kind of grating. ASA is definitely one that could benefit from a tubed tape machine playback for CD.
     
  4. DJ WILBUR

    DJ WILBUR The Cappuccino Kid

    again, thanks for your hard work on constucting these invaluable sample pages.

    I'm too mocus to focus now, but will listen to all of this tomorrow....too much night and not enough day for me today...:laugh:
     
  5. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    CD comparisons (and LP and CD winners) have been posted at the link above.

    Those are my opinions....let's hear yours!

    Matt
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2014
  6. bgiliberti

    bgiliberti Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    I own the Walsh 91, Norberg, and the Capitol Box, and have listened to them on my home playback system at length. Walsh 91 has the characteristic Walsh single disc style, which I have come to recognize as a basically unfutzed with transfer marred by cold, almost cheap sounding playback equipment, for which I don't fault Larry, and neutral, but unsympathetic eq choices, for which I do. The Capitol Box version has the characteristic sound of that set, a more "deluxe" sound and eq, but points off for the modest but noticeable analog noise reduction, which I feel was unnecessary. I have only heard the British set on my computer speakers, where it had an appealing mid-range presence, but seemed a bit tweaked. Overall, I don't think any of the CD choices do the music justice. I can live the the Walsh 91 until something really good comes along, whereas the Norberg would make me give up this album entirely if that's all I could get.
     
  7. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Unfutzed with? Maybe on some titles, but on the mono stuff, I don't view Walsh's work that way at all. SE/SFYL, WEE SMALL HOURS, and CLOSE TO YOU all have fake reverb added -- a LOT in the case of CLOSE TO YOU. JOLLY CHRISTMAS and SONGS FOR SWINGIN' LOVERS are less futzed with, and A SWINGIN' AFFAIR has little futzing, as far as I can tell. I do agree that some of his (Walsh's) EQ choices are not the best. For instance, on A SWINGIN' AFFAIR, the bass is a hair on the lean side, IMO.

    Are you referring to the 3-CD set or the 21-CD set? I assume the 3-CD, in which case I agree.

    I'm pretty happy with the Walsh. Not perfect, but pretty good overall. I think he picked up a few things from working with Mr. Furmanek prior to doing this title. As I and others have mentioned before regarding some of these Capitol titles, a little tube hardware in the chain may be needed to really make them "sing."

    ....and yeah, that Norberg is pretty horrid.

    Matt
     
  8. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    The real problem with the '91 Walsh disc is its playback. Not only the electronics themselves, but the alignment. It's done in stereo and pretty out of whack to my ears. If you try summing straight to mono, the sound degrades. If you pick a channel, neither really sounds right. The disc is not bad as is, but if you have some patience, try loading the songs into a sound editor that allows you to vary the % of one channel vs. the other. By doing this, you're in a sense getting a chance to retransfer/align things and can get very good results. Years ago, I made a "master" for myself of this album from the Walsh disc where I left it in stereo and the channel balance as is, just messing with a touch of Eq, but I was never really that satisfied with it. I took another serious crack at this album/disc last November for "Night and Day" only, and found that by getting the L vs. R balance optimized, then summing to mono, really does a lot in getting it to sound better, then minor Eq. I also prefer bringing up the level some first. When I have enough time and clear enough head, I'll go back though the album...

    Even as is, be happy a disc like this was issued at all. It's pretty honest, and is one of the better Sinatra/Capitol discs mastering wise, even considering its faults.

    I think it's the best uptempo Sinatra album of all. SWINGIN' LOVERS! has "I've Got You Under My Skin" and is obviously great, but as an overall album, this is even stronger in my opinion. Love it!
     
  9. bgiliberti

    bgiliberti Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    @Matt: Point taken on the early mono. The only one I have besides this one is WSH, which has the added reverb you refer to. Later on, yes, I was referring to the 3 disc set, not the 21.
     
  10. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    chicago, il
    Thanks as always for your wonderful efforts, Matt. Can you (or anyone else here) say a little more about the MFSL vinyl Swingin' Affair? It kind of got lost in the middle of your analysis. How does it compare with the other LPs that you consider superior? Thanks.
     
  11. bgiliberti

    bgiliberti Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    Martin: It's my favorite "uptempo" album as well, but I think the reason is that it's not really that uptempo compared to the others. The range of moods is wider, and even seemingly uptempo songs like "I guess I'll Have To Change My Plans," have an undercurrent of melancholy. The psychological complexity of Sinatra's artistry is just astonishing here, and must have been more challenging for him to nuance than the classic lonely guy concept albums, which are more uniformly wistful.
     
  12. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    On this album, MFSL clearly used "wrong" tapes, i.e., the ones that had reverb added in the early 60s. Regardless, the resulting LP pressing is very dynamic (the difference between the quiet beginning of the trombone solo to the loudest part of that passage measured, IIRC, about 35db while the Furmanek CD was only a decibel or so wider), but the tone is a little cold and there's all that reverb to contend with. It gives the whole thing a bit of an icy feeling to my ears, and it loses the intimacy of the dry pressings, IMO. The vinyl itself, of course, is of superb quality, in terms of manufacturing.

    Matt
     
  13. bgiliberti

    bgiliberti Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    Confused....Are you referring to the 3 disc Capitol set? There is no Furmanek CD of Swingin Affair, is there?
     
  14. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    chicago, il

    Thanks Matt. I didn't realize this LP had the same problems as the MFSL SFSL. A pity. I like it in certain respects better than the Walsh CD but can see now why I wasn't fully enjoying it.
     
  15. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Sorry, I was referring to the handful of Furmankek/Walsh tracks that are in THE CAPITOL YEARS set.

    Matt
     
  16. Greg1954

    Greg1954 New Member

    Location:
    .
    I think this album is one of the best recorded of the Capitol Years, especially in the way they captured his voice. I don't know what it is, but The Voice really stands out all on it's own, rather than just residing more in the overall landscape.

    In the hands of the right mastering engineer, this album's sonic potential could possibly be brought out in a startling new way.
     
  17. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey

    Agree. I hear a torchy aspect to lots of Frank's work, even on songs/albums not specifically so (for lack of a better phrase). A significant factor into why they're such powerful records, emotionally. Look at how happy he looks next to Ava in John's avatar above. Think of having that same person, who you love in such a deep way, not there at all or not having the relationship working as you planned. That hurts, a lot. He put it all out there in the music, without guard or fear.

    Also true, it's not a strictly uptempo album. I just used that term to differentiate it from the ballad albums. Many of Frank's non-ballad albums have some mid-tempo or slower tracks. Even COME DANCE WITH ME had a slow, romantic ballad at the end.
     
  18. Raylinds

    Raylinds Martinis, music and glowing tubes

    One of my favorites, as well. I love Frank's uptempo stuff as much as I like his ballads. He could really swing!
     
  19. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Hmm..... I won't say that I hate A SWINGIN' AFFAIR, but it's way down my list. There are lots of great individual moments here, but taken as a whole, I find the album to be repetitive and tedious. Why? Reason one: It plays like a planned sequel to SONGS FOR SWINGIN' LOVERS, IMO, from an artist who was rarely content with merely doing sequels, and two, the approach to the songs is 'peat and repeat, as they say.

    1. I Wish I Were in Love Again (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    2. I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    3. Nice Work If You Can Get It (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    4. Stars Fell on Alabama (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    5. I Won't Dance (mellow first half, NO key change, "driving" second half)

    6. Lonesome Road (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    7. At Long Last Love (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    8. You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    9. I Got It Bad and That Ain't Good (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    10. From this Moment On (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    11. Oh! Look at Me Now (mellow first half, key change, "driving" second half)

    That's 11 out of 15 songs that follow the same pattern, with zero instrumental solos in the lot. If THE LADY IS A TRAMP had not been pulled from the line-up and replaced with NO ONE EVER TELLS YOU, it would have been 12 out of 15, or 80% that do the exact same thing. Don't get me wrong: there are wonderful moments on this album, but it's one that I can't just sit and listen to straight through. Sorry to be a party pooper!

    Speaking of sequels: I think NIGHT AND DAY is an astoundingly good performance, but to my ears it's I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN part two -- right down to the crescendo-ing trombone break and the bubbly bass part -- and was probably calculated to be exactly that. The whole album strikes me as little more than milking a good concept, DESPITE the high performance skills that are evident here in spades.

    I'll go hide under my chair now...

    Matt
     
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  20. bgiliberti

    bgiliberti Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    Intriguing comment...Do you mean your list of concept albums generally, or just uptempo? I like all of the classic ballad albums better than any of the uptempo ones, so as far as that goes, it's down on my list, too. But among uptempo, I'd call it a close call with SFSL, and way ahead of Come Fly, Come Dance, and Come Swing, all of which seem a little slick to me. As far as SFYL/SE, I love them, but they have too much residue of the more orthodox, Columbia style Sinatra to suit me. Obviously, there are cases to be made for all of these great albums -- just a matter of personal choice.
     
  21. MLutthans

    MLutthans That's my spaghetti, Chewbacca! Staff Thread Starter

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    I'm not exactly sure what I meant myself! I absolutely love some of the individual tracks on A SWINGIN' AFFAIR, but by the 4th or 5th song, I'm thinking, "Here we go again!" I guess I think of it this way:

    There are my "top tier" Capitol albums, i.e., IN THE WEE SMALL HOURS, SFSL, CLOSE TO YOU, WHERE ARE YOU, JOLLY CHRISTMAS, WHERE ARE YOU, ONLY THE LONELY, COME FLY WITH ME, NO ONE CARES

    Mid-tier: COME DANCE WITH ME, POINT OF NO RETURN, SONGS FOR YOUNG LOVERS, SWING EASY, NICE AND EASY

    Lowest on the mid-tier list: COME SWING WITH ME and A SWINGIN' AFFAIR.

    No low-tier until Reprise, I guess, and I also would say that, off the top of my head, I can't think of a Reprise uptempo album better than A Swingin' Affair, so....I guess A SWINGIN' AFFAIR is Frank's 5th- or 6th-best uptempo album, behind most of the Capitols and SING AND DANCE on Columbia. Just my own feeling, of course; to each his own!

    Matt
     
  22. sgb

    sgb Forum Resident

    Location:
    Baton Rouge
    As a mere dilettante when it comes to Sinatra albums, I have nothing to add here except my thanks for the various sound samples and the various commentaries that are quite thought-provoking.
     
  23. Greg1954

    Greg1954 New Member

    Location:
    .
    ASA would probably be on the top of the bottom third of the Capitol albums for me. I agree that it can get tedious, and Riddle's arrangements for it are (at times) more canned fruit than fresh.

    There's top drawer songs and performances here like 'I Won't Dance' 'I Got Plenty O Nuttin' & 'Night And Day.':thumbsup:
    Mixed with tedious things like 'Stars Fell On Alabama' 'Lonesome Road' & If I Had You.' :yawn:

    'I Got It Bad And That Ain't Good' is weighed down by the arrangement, in another time perhaps Riddle could have given it some zing,
    but not this time.
     
  24. bgiliberti

    bgiliberti Forum Resident

    Location:
    Washington DC USA
    ???? :confused: Love that one....
     
  25. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    chicago, il
    Matt, there is NO bigger fan of your work here or greater admirer of your opinions than I (your comparison pages are not only informative and incisive but absolutely beautiful!). But I do think you're being unfair to a masterpiece here. The achievement of ASA rivals that of SFSL, even if it may not ultimately surpass it.

    Yes, ASA is modeled structurally after SFSL, as its signature song, "N&D," is modeled after "Skin" (another prominent Porter composition). But, as you yourself concede, "N&D" is its own singular moment. For one, it showcases Sinatra the "belter" at the end to startling effect, whereas "Skin" maintains and certainly concludes on a more subtle, subdued note. There are other major differences between the tracks as well.

    As for most of the ASA songs being characterized by a repetitive "mellow first half, key change, 'driving second half' pattern": this is basically true musically but it doesn't take account of what FS is doing in each of those songs vocally, lyrically and phrase-wise.

    Take what he does in the second approach to the lyrics of "Alabama"--he doesn't just sing the lyrics, he aurally acts them out: from staccato on "My-heart-beat-just-like-a-ham-mer" to suddenly elongated on "arrrrrrrrrms woouuuuund aroouund yoouuu tight." Literally, like a hammer and then a lassoo! In my opinion, there's no other lyrical/musical moment like that anywhere else in the Capitol catalogue, even on SFSW.

    Also, "I Wish I were in Love Again" is not really comprised of a first and second part. Rather, because of the steadily increasing wryness and urgency of FS's delivery the song builds steadily through several phases (the one key-change notwithstanding) that culminates is a fairly desperate, highly dramatic climax. There is A LOT of interesting variation going on as the song progresses.

    Also, as Martin suggests, ASA displays a wider range of emotion than did SFSL: "Got it Bad" and "Lonesome Road" are simply much darker than, say, "We'll be together Again." Indeed, "Memories of You" was presumably cut from Swingin Lovers precisely because FS was not yet confident enough to put emotionally brooding numbers on his uptempo albums. But he did so quite courageously and effectively on ASA--and thank God he did!

    Sinatra, Riddle and Capitol were certainly following the SFSL formula on ASA (they definitely hoped to score another uptempo success comparable to "Skin" with all the new Porter numbers they included on the LP). But this doesn't mean that in execution FS wasn't able to transcend the confinements of formula and in certain respects match the mighty accomplishment that was SFSL.

    Just my two cents....
     
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