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Sinatra's Capitol albums

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by guy incognito, Jan 15, 2002.

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  1. guy incognito

    guy incognito Senior Member Thread Starter

    Could somebody be good enough to suggest the best-sounding CD source for Frank Sinatra's Capitol albums from the '50s? I've seen various conflicting statements about the relative sonic benefits of the original 1987 remasters by Kevin Reeves, the 1992 Concepts box, the 1999 "Artist of the Century" remasters by Bob Norberg, and the 2001 reissue of the Concepts box. To make things even more confusing, British EMI issued its own Sinatra Capitol box a couple years back and, depending on who you listen to, the sound on that set either blows all American CD releases out of the water or sounds vastly inferior to them.

    Also, do the 1992 and 2001 Concepts boxes utilize the '87 and '99 masters, respectively, or were brand new mastering jobs done expressly for the boxes?

    Finally, what chance is there of Steve mastering his own DCC versions of some of these albums? (I'd particularly love to hear his celebrated "breath of life" applied to Songs For Swingin' Lovers.) For that matter, would it be beyond the realm of possibility for DCC to issue a special Hoffman-mastered, 24k gold edition of the entire Concepts box? I mean, I know it would be expensive to produce, but I suspect many Sinatra fans also happen to be audiophiles, and if the opportunity arose for them to acquire the definitive, "end-of-the-trail" collection of his most significant artistic achievements in pristine sound quality, I have to believe a lot of them would jump at it. Perhaps something like that could be issued as a special, limited-edition package. Any thoughts, Steve? (hopeful ;) )
  2. feinstein

    feinstein Member

    Detroit, MI
    First of all, you must be clear on one point:

    The 1998-99 "Entertainer of the Century" remasters are NOT the same as the masters done by Bob Norberg for the 2000 Capitol "Concepts" box set. They are totally and absolutely different remastering jobs.

    That said, here's my humble opinion on what's the best thing out there.....

    I am a Sinatra fanatic and have always valued the sound on the MoFi LP box set and the one CD that they put out.

    I have the old "Concepts" box, the new "Concepts" box, the "Entertainer of the Century" discs, the British LP set from the 80's, the old original-pressing grey label Capitol LP's from the 50's, and the 21 CD British collection from 1998. I also have a pretty complete collection of Sinatra bootlegs.

    It turns out that the Norberg "Concepts" box set from 2000 is the most true-to-the-original-grey-label-LP-pressings out there. Whether you "like" the sound of the original 1950's pressings with their lack of reverb is a matter of opinion. But, for the first time since the early 60's, it seems that Norberg went back to the original tapes without the added reverb and mastered the "Concepts" CD's. This makes the CD's in some cases sound less "bloomy" and less "rich" than what you may be used to hearing. However, when I compare the work on the 2000 "Concepts" box versus the grey-label mono Capitols, they are VERY similar in sound (and I'm listening on a fairly decent Marantz tube system with a Sony SCD-1 SACD player and Linn table). Every other issue on CD has an overly rich reverb added to the sound.

    Thus, depending on your taste, you may like the more rich sound of the MoFi's and the British CD box due to the added reverb. Since these reverb'd masters are what I had grown up with, I actually had initially preferred them over the less "rich" sound on "Concepts".

    However, after extensive listening to the old grey label mono LP's which I had sitting neglected in my basement for years, it seems that the contest is won by a combination of the 2000 "Concepts" box set and the 4 CD "Singles" collection in terms of getting closest to the grey-label original issue LP's.

    As far a noise reduction goes, there was an ugly altercation on the DCC Forum about this subject. However, I can't find any evidence of noise reduction being used on the MONO Concepts CD's. The stereo CD's, I really can't tell because the stereo issue of the LP's from the late 50's was pretty bad to begin with. I have written a E-mail to Norberg on this issue and will hopefully be able to reply to the group in the near future on this issue.
  3. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Thanks, Fredrick.
  4. feinstein

    feinstein Member

    Detroit, MI
    By the way, if you have a turntable, you're really best off searching for the grey-label Capitols or even the 45 RPM issues on EP's of the "Concept" albums. I see almost all of them cheaply at used record stores in pristine condition.

    The engineers at Capitol really knew what they were doing when they recorded Frank!

    Do not under any circumstances buy rainbow Capitol reissues from the early 60's. First of all, they cut the length of the original albums and they plastered the mono ones with reverb.

    What I'd really love to see is for Mr Hoffman to re-do the horrid early Reprise discs (Ring-a-Ding-Ding especially). These have NEVER been released correctly, on LP or CD and suffer from horrid post-production processing. I have heard mono and stereo bootlegs from these sessions that prove that they were extremely well-recorded.

    Steve has stated that the 3 tracks and 35 MM elements for these recordings still exist. What a dream that would be!!!!
  5. guy incognito

    guy incognito Senior Member Thread Starter

    Thanks for the info, feinstein.

    No, I don't have a turntable. But I do tend to favor "dry" (non-reverbed) versions of those recordings over "rich" ones. And if the 2000 Concepts box really does sport different mastering from the 1999 "Entertainer of the Century" CDs, I suppose I can consider that a safe investment. (One point on which I've found very little disagreement is that the latter sound terrible.)

    What about Songs For Swingin' Lovers (on the 2000 box, I mean)? I read some absolutely scathing reviews of the "EOTC" reissue on amazon.com, saying the band was incredibly muffled and that the wong tapes may even have been utilized. Did Norberg rectify that for the new Concepts box?

    As for the Reprise material, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Steve work his magic on those titles as well (at least up through September Of My Years, after which--IMO, anyhow--Mr. Sinatra's artistry went into precipitous decline). But I still think the Capitol era was the absolute pinnacle of Frank's recording career.
  6. Cousin It

    Cousin It Senior Member

    Sydney, Australia
    Is it true that the Songs For Swingin' Lovers masters have seen better days ???
  7. Sckott

    Sckott Hand Tighten Only.

    South Plymouth, Ma
    The Stones have nothing on Frank. Big expensive mystery from hell, and a nightmare for a single-artist collector.
  8. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    Cos' It,

    The (real) master tape of Sinatra's "Songs For Swingin' Lovers" is fine, having been disassembled back in 1962 and stored in the "safety" section of the vault, while a new 1962 EQ dub with extra echo and midrangey EQ was substituted as master and used to cut every version of the album since '62, including the MFSL LP.

    BUT, the late Pete Welding of Capitol unearthed the actual tapes from the safety section and used them to make the original Capitol CD in the 1980's. Problem is, he (or the mastering engineer) chose to add fake stereo echo to the CD master. Bummer.

    I'm sure Bob N. used the correct tapes when making his version. Since I have not heard his attempts, I can't really comment.

    Interesting story though.
  9. feinstein

    feinstein Member

    Detroit, MI
    The "Concepts" Songs for Swingin' Lovers is quite different from the '98 "Entertainer of the Century" disc which was extremely "cramped" sounding with no separation of the instrument sections in the orchestra. Sinatra seemed to be "flat" with the orchestra instead of standing out in front of it. They tried to richen up the sound or the '98 issue with some ill-placed reverb, but it really stank.

    After listening to the MSFL LP or CD versus the grey-label Capitol LP's, it amazes me how "dry" the album was originally recorded. I grew up with the MFSL from the Capitol early '60's incarnation, so it took me a while to get used to the non-reverb'd original version found on "Concepts". However, I did listen to the grey-label U.S. and British Capitol releases from the 1950's of this album and sure enough, Norberg's "dry" remaster sounds very much like them!

    I guess that I've learned that once you're used to something and are comfortable with it (as I was with the '60's vintage reverb'd version), it hurts to have it changed and so I find myself returning time and again to the MSFL version, even though I realize that it's not authentic.

    BTW Steve, the MSFL version came out after Pete Welding's Capitol version and it had the same phony boosts and echo, so I wonder if they used Welding's mastering even though they seemed to have equalized it differently????
  10. feinstein

    feinstein Member

    Detroit, MI
    By the way Guy, I see that you live in Detroit. I live in Oak Park. If you'd like to hear the various insundry versions of "Swingin' Lovers" (I have about 12 different masterings including the MSFL CDs and LP, American and British grey-label Capitols, the two "Concepts" versions (both Welding and Norberg mastered) and the British digital remaster on CD and LP) write me some E-mail. I'll be glad to let you come over and take a listen.

  11. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host


    MFSL just goofed. The tape box really looks like the real thing, with scribbles all over it and everything, and some cutting notes---
    except they all have a date 7 years later than the actual recording.

    MFSL just accepted it as the real deal, WITHOUT comparing the tape to an original pressing.. :(
  12. Norberg mastering a bit dry . . .

    I tripped over a copy of Songs For Swinging Lovers (Norberg, 20bit, mono) a month or so back. I had heard the material previously but sonic memory being what it usually is, I cannot compare now-to-then.

    It sounds unnaturally dry to these ears (especially compared to a black label stereo "Sings Only For The Lonely"). I found that I wanted to hear the disk more before_I_actually_heard_it than I do now (laughing).

    If there is a sufficiently rabid Sinatra fan who wanted to buy this off me, even thru the mail, I'd think nothing of parting with it.

    I even wonder if "frequency notch" copy protection was applied to it as something sounds disjointed in the upper mid-to-treble.

    It is drier still than the recent Rhino "Forever Changes", which i still enjoy.
    Aside: Steve H., there is a great blurb with Bob Irwin on how the wrong approach was used at Rhino on that remastering in the Feb. Stereophile.
    It was a hoot to read.
  13. Steve Hoffman

    Steve Hoffman Your host Your Host

    thomoz, can you retype a little of it here?
  14. feinstein

    feinstein Member

    Detroit, MI
    Thom wrote:

    I tripped over a copy of Songs For Swinging Lovers (Norberg, 20bit, mono) a month or so back. I had heard the material previously but sonic memory being what it usually is, I cannot compare now-to-then.

    I reply:

    Thom, are you sure that you have a Norberg remaster on the "Entertainer of the Century" series???

    I have a copy of the "Entertainer of the Century" 20 bit remaster of "Songs for Swingin Lovers" in front of me and nowhere on it is there a credit to Norberg or anyone else.

    The 24 bit "Concepts" remaster is different from the "Entertainer of the Century" remaster as evidenced by comparisons that I've made in CoolEdit between the two discs that I have.

    Is it possible that after "Concepts", they began releasing the "Concepts" remasters under the guise of the "Entertainer of the Century" releases????!!!!!
  15. Matt

    Matt New Member


    On my copy of Songs For Swingin' Lovers (the Entertaner of the Century, 1998, etc., etc. edition), Norberg's mastering credit is in the booklet, on one of the black & white pages that lists all the songs with Frank on the bottom right in his trademark hat with his arm up. The fine print says Bob Norberg there.

    BTW, one lazy thing about the stand alone editions is that very little if any was changed from the original booklets used in the last issues. Misprints abound (for example, "Only the Lonely" is in mono, but since the last CD issue was mostly in stereo with only a few tracks in mono denoted with a special symbol, this information carries over).
  16. indy mike

    indy mike Forum Pest

    Steve - here's the blurb from the February 2002 Stereophile issue with the Bob Irwin/Mikey Fremer interview concerning Forever Changes:

    MF (no, not the bad word, stands for Mikey F.!!!!): You're having trouble with Love's Forever Changes tape [these issues have since been resolved.]
    BI: That's probably one of the most involved two-tracks I've ever worked on.
    MF: I have a first gold-label Elektra pressing. A friend brought over a later butterfly-label pressing, and it had been remastered to sound totally different. It sounds to me like what Bill Inglot was using for the Rhino CD: much heavier bass, and some tracks on the original, like "Alone Again, Or," have purposefully low levels to begin with and then ever increasing volume. On the butterfly label and on the recent CD, those level changes have been obliterated.
    BI: You have to be so aware of those nuances on a record like that, and I'll tell you right now, there's 500 of them on that record, just with that two-track master. Things are moving, EQ is changing, compression is changing - everything is changing.

    Steve, you know I'm a peck and poke typist, but I luv ya, man so here tis!!! I almost gagged when I hit the part where Bill I. is mentioned and bass is heavy on the Rhino reissue - this I gotta hear! I'm surprised the mono mix wasn't used (here I go with the stereo/mono thing again, sorry...) :p
  17. feinstein

    feinstein Member

    Detroit, MI
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