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Sinatra / Capitol Sound Quality and General Discussion: Come Fly with Me (recorded 1957)*

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by MLutthans, Nov 11, 2009.

  1. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    Those Amazon UK CDs are a real bargain. Not only are the UK prices low to begin with, but US buyers save the 20% VAT which is included in Amazon's posted prices. And buying multiple discs together saves a lot on shipping for the additional items.

    Only caveat: They don't usually shrink-wrap CDs, and the packaging is flimsy. I've come to expect scratched or cracked jewel cases.
     
  2. bferr1

    bferr1 Forum Resident

    Location:
    MA
    So I actually did something smart for a change? Whaddya know!
     
  3. MLutthans

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

    Location:
    Marysville, WA




    A quick primer on why this album cannot be remixed to mono from the 3-track tapes, and forgive me if I'm preaching to the choir here!

    Capitol's stereo technique really evolved over about a 2-year period. In the very early period, 1956-Fall of 1958 (as far as I can tell), most stereo recordings onto 3-track tape involved two mics on the orchestra and a mic on the vocalist (split off the mono set-up). The two orchestra mics were not close to the players. Rather, they were probably in the 15-20' high range (maybe a hair lower for string-y things like Gordon Jenkins), and several feet apart. (My guess? The distance -- height AND lateral spacing -- varied somewhat, depending on the group and the material to be recorded. Lateral spacing would have ranged from maybe 5' apart to "cutting the orchestra in thirds.")

    A lot of people in this forum can relate to the idea of "there's nothing more beautiful than a 2-mic stereo orchestral recording," and some of those early stereo recordings turned out GREAT, but they cannot be mixed down to mono from the three track with satisfactory results. The vocal channel -- which is close-miked -- will come out just fine, the but orchestra will sound icky. Why? There is common parlance that confuses our thinking on this stuff, and that is: "There was a mic for the left half of the orchestra and a mic for the right half of the orchestra." WRONG! There was a left mic that recorded THE ORCHESTRA (as a whole) but SLIGHTLY FAVORED the left side, and there was a right mic that recorded THE ORCHESTRA but slightly favored the right. Try this: Put on your trusted copy of COME FLY WITH ME (or click here for a sample or go to iTunes for the same musical passage) and play track 7, "Let's Get Away from It All." Now, only listen to one channel. I don't care which channel you choose, you'll still hear the brass and the saxes and the bells and the bass and the drums, etc., although they will be in slightly different proportions depending on which channel you use. Every instrument is in each mic to some degree, and the amount to which a given player or section is dominant on one side or the other depends on WHERE that player is positioned vis a vis the mics, how loudly the player is playing (louder playing will also cause more reflections to be picked up by the mics, confusing the issue even more), how the piece is orchestrated, and even where in the frequency range the player is noodling and how those frequencies interact with the room surfaces and the mic(s).

    Now comes the fun part. Let's say the first alto sax player is 17 feet from the left mic and 30 feet from the right mic. Clearly, in stereo, he would "pull left" in stereo playback because he is closer to the left mic. That sax player is putting out a wave that looks roughly like this on a scope: Screen shot 2012-11-27 at 12.04.29 PM.png OK, fine. Consider, though, that the wave may reach that left mic and be at the peak position (the highest part of the curve) at any given instant, while at that same instant, the wave is at the bottom of the wave's valley when it reaches that right mic that is 30 feet away. Think of it as a math equation. If the left mic gets it at "+4" and the right mic gets it at "-4", +4 + -4 = 0. Of course, you would never have a situation where the sax player's sound perceptibly 100% disappears from the soundscape, but when you consider that the + and - relationship for that one wave as it reaches each mic is constantly going up and down that +/- range (hundreds of times a second), you can see that the relationship between those two mics where that ONE wave is concerned is essentially random. (Throw in the fact that the player is constantly changing volume, changing pitch -- which alters the length and shape of the wave -- and even turning his/her head or making other slight changes in physical position, and you see that it really is an example of "chaos" where the mic-to-wave relationship is concerned.) In other words, that ONE SAX PLAYER'S SOUND is constantly adding and subtracting against itself in those two mics, but it's not an effect that most people find bothersome when listening to a stereo recording of this type IN STEREO, because they will tend to perceive the instrument as coming from one speaker, even though it is coming out of two (to a degree). The Haas effect is to blame for this. (Haas in a broad-brushed nutshell: Haas found that humans localize sound sources in the direction of the first arriving sound despite the presence of a single reflection from a different direction. A single auditory event is perceived. -- from Wikipedia. In other words, even though the stereo recording contains two recordings of that single sax player, we perceive it as one, on the left, during stereo playback, because the sound wave reaches the left mic first in this example.) So....play COME FLY WITH ME in stereo and (technical defects and aesthetic choices aside) "all is well."

    Here's what happens when you try to mix it in to mono, though. Stay focused on that one wave from that one sax player on that one note. If at one instant he is at +3 left and +2 right, during that instant (less than a hundredth of a second), his note will sound LOUDER than it really is, because the wave is reaching both mics on the + side of the waveform. Blink your eyes and now the wave might be reaching the mics at -1 and +4, then -4 and -4 (not greatly dropped in volume in mono), and so on and so on, constantly fluctuating. Now: When he changes pitches, those relationships all change. When he changes volume (and the contour of the wave changes), those relationships change again. NOW: Consider that EVERY player in the group is producing this same phenomenon to some degree. (All else being equal, the players closest to the middle will actually produce the most problems, as their waves are being picked up almost evenly between the two mics, whereas that sax player on the left may have 70% of his volume picked up by the left and 30% on the right, so the right has less "impact" on the left when summed to mono.) The result, when summed to mono: Unpredictable chaos! The result is constantly fluctuating comb filtering: BeforeAbs.gif Peaks and valleys just all over the place, and not in a "steady state," either, but with rolling fluctuations (to a degree). The perceived effect? Not "oh, my word, there's comb filtering! Run for the hills!" Rather, the sound will have a dull, uneven quality, like it's veiled in spots and peaky in others. Not good. It may have "swishies," too. Now, jump ahead to 1960 or later at Capitol: All the stereo mics are close (by comparison to 1957). In other words, 97% of that sax player's energy may be picked up by a mic going to the stereo left channel. Only 3% of that sax player's acoustic energy is being picked up by mics on the right channel. That 3% is going to have very, very little audible impact on the 97% on the left. If you remixed THOSE channels to mono? No problemo! Different situation altogether. Apples and oranges. It's all about the proportions/ratios. Only three Sinatra albums used that early style of stereo miking where they can't be remixed to mono from the 3-track: Where Are You, Come Fly with Me, and Sings for Only the Lonely. End of rambling explanation. :)
     
  4. MLutthans

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

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    ...and those three albums had SEPARATE full-track mono recordings, of course, which used several, closer mics, all mixed to one track, live. No way to remix.
     
  5. Ere

    Ere Senior Member

    Location:
    Silver Spring MD
    If I understand, the echo was dialed in live during the mono recording and printed right on the tape. No way to lessen or increase it now (at least no way that doesn't sound wonky).
     
  6. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    You *are* preaching to the choir, Matt, but nice sermon. :righton:

    And that is why we are fortunate to have the recent/new MFSL remasters of SINGS FOR ONLY THE LONELY, WHERE ARE YOU?, and (presumably) COME FLY WITH ME all in mono.
     
  7. Arkoffs

    Arkoffs Northside bulldog

    Location:
    north
    Thanks for that explanation, Matt. Makes it easy for a relatively non-technical listener to understand exactly what's going on.
     
  8. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Matt, understand that. The mono is a totally standalone recording. So, can't be re-mixed from 3 track tape. Still, a dream. But love this album and it's conjuring of a time when air travel was a really special event with a romantic lust for adventure.
     
  9. paulmock

    paulmock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    When I got my box set years ago from amazon UK, several of the jewel cases were cracked. I complained and they sent me 20 new jewel cases packaged well-enough to survive the journey to California!
     
  10. paulmock

    paulmock Forum Resident

    Location:
    Hollywood, CA
    Yes! For once he dropped his "techy" hat and talked just like one of us "regular" guys. :evil: Thanks, Matt...that was a REALLY great and simple explanation.
     
  11. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    chicago, il
    Yes, Matt explained it really well on his "Come Fly" page(s). But, no, I didn't realize it couldn't be gotten round, even theoretically.
     
  12. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Mastering Engineer Your Host

    Well, 1957 was the "year of Hi-Fi" and that meant REVERB. Too much added to everything. The 1956 Capitol stuff was just right, by '57 they were dumping way too much chamber on everything. And, as you now know, echo was printed live to tape during recording the mono sessions at the tower.. So, it is what it is...
     
  13. McLover

    McLover Forum Resident

    Location:
    East TN
    Indeed, it is what it is. I love it, warts and all. After all, it is Frank Sinatra.
     
  14. MLutthans

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

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Yes, I would enjoy this album if it were recorded on tin foil. I've had many newbie Sinatra fans start with "Come Fly with Me," and they've all been converts thereafter. Maybe his most universally accessible LP: Not too schmaltzy, not too hyper-swingy.

    Matt
     
    McLover and Bob Belvedere like this.
  15. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    If MFSL is doing the mono, we'll see what they can do in terms of EQ, gear choices etc to hopefully get its sound to fall into place as it were. The mono of Nat's Just One of Those Things seemed pretty bleh only to prove more pleasant on Steve's AP SACD. If they can do as much, that'd make me happy.

    It just might be the best intro. Frank's approach to both swing and ballad singing are on display in a very clear, accessible (and endearing) way.

    For all that, I have no idea now what songs or album of his that "hooked" me on him. Do you remember what first grabbed you?
     
  16. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    chicago, il
    Indeed. I don't think we should discount the dose of freshness that working with Billy May brought to Sinatra's singing.

    May had been leapfrogged by Riddle as the best arranger in the business because of the latter's work with Sinatra. (An opportunity that was originally supposed to have been May's at Capitol!!) Billy really puts his best foot forward on these charts. The beautiful strings on the ballads ("Paris" and "New York"), and the outre, big exotic swingers that were May's trademarks ("Capri" and "Mandalay"). But he also arranges a few numbers in a restrained, sophisticated manner characteristic of Riddle (the title track, "Travlin'" and "Let's Get Away").

    FS clearly relishes every note and responds in kind.
     
    apileocole likes this.
  17. Bob F

    Bob F Senior Member

    It might be a better topic for a different thread, but yes, I remember it well: SWING EASY! and SONGS FOR YOUNG LOVERS (the combo LP). An epiphany for me, I even remember where and when it was that I first played the LP.
     
  18. MLutthans

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

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Regarding the bit I bolded in your quote: This is really the only full-on Sinatra/May album at Capitol, maybe the only one period. (I don't know much about Swing Along with Me at Reprise.) Come Dance with Me was 5/12ths [edit: see correction be MMM below] Heinie Beau arrangements, Come Swing with Me was 3/4ths non-May-arranged. At Reprise, Francis A. & Albert K. was a weird hybrid that, although (as far as I know) technically May-arranged, found May very much shoehorned into the Ellington footprint. I guess the first LP in Trilogy is all-May....or is it? Any ghost-arranging going on there? Anyway, Come Fly with Me is the only one that really has that "Billy May sound." The others are pretty lame by comparison, arrangement-wise.

    It strikes me as funny that the first recording tackled for the project was the way, way, way off-the-wall and uninhibited "On the Road to Mandalay." I've always wondered how much Sinatra's little heart danced with anticipation the first time he sang that song (one of his favorites from an earlier era) done THAT way! "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore" comes to mind.

    Matt
     
  19. rangerjohn

    rangerjohn Forum Resident

    Location:
    chicago, il

    Excellent points, Matt.

    "Mandalay" is like "Monterey" on acid! (and I mean that in the BEST way.) Indeed, Frank must have thought himself in Wonderland.

    But I certainly hope that there's no ghost-arranging on "Swing Along" and "Past-Trilogy"! I really enjoy both and think of them as thoroughly May-Sinatra.
     
  20. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    True, but glad to hear it anyway. :) Now it occurs to me that I first heard Sinatra sing (as in, was listening intently and grabbed by it) was on the TV. From a movie (Anchors Aweigh?) - it's a big, way overlong mediocre movie with an ironically rather short scene where Frank is on the stage at the empty Hollywood Bowl and he affectingly sings I Fall In Love Too Easily with a comparatively subdued background. It was great, just perfect.

    Back on topic, someone here spoke of the romance of flight back then and that's a great point about this album. I get a bit of that every time. The Road to Mandalay and London By Night (mostly owed to his performance) are my favs but the whole album is a gem.
     
    McLover likes this.
  21. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    I thought it was 3 songs to Beau, and the rest May? New info somewhere? I don't want to detour this thread too much, so maybe this should go elsewhere?

    I actually took a little time to completely warm to this album as a whole. Not that I didn't like it, but I preferred COME DANCE WITH ME! to it for years. I gradually came to like it more and more, and eventually I came to put this one on top of the Sinatra/May heap, but it took a while to think of it that way.
     
  22. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    Yes, that's Anchors Aweigh. I think it's a good movie, but agree it goes on a little too long - probably by at least 15-20 minutes.
     
  23. MLutthans

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

    Location:
    Marysville, WA
    Regarding COME DANCE WITH ME:
    I stand corrected; it's only 3 songs that were arranged on that LP by Heinie Beau.
     
  24. apileocole

    apileocole Lush Life Gort

    At least. But I'd probably appreciate it more today.
     
  25. MMM

    MMM Forum Hall Of Fame

    Location:
    Lodi, New Jersey
    Thanks Matt. I thought it was something like COME SWING, where new info came out that showed more ghost arranged tracks than commonly believed previously.
     

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