"Tales from Topographic Oceans" Being Remixed by Steve Wilson

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by rstamberg, Nov 24, 2015.

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  1. I think there is a difference between editing and manipulating. Cutting and splicing tape doesn't change what went down onto the tape, can we agree?

    However, if I load all the individual tracks into a digital editing program, then one can do any number of things to those tracks. Add effects that were were not originally recorded. One could quantize or change where drum hits or bass notes landed "across a given time frame".

    For instance, I could say "Chris, your F# note was a hair late against Alan's kick drum right here, would you like me to fix it? Actually it's late 24 times across this section. I can fix it all easily and tighten it up. Because I am going to bring you up in the mix a bit (I'm sure you'll like that!) it might be best we just clean this up for you?"

    Reply: "Sure, go ahead, no problem"

    "Got it buddy"

    But now we are doing something that absolutely didn't happen. Cutting tape and re arranging or taking a best take is still something that happened in the tape world. There is a difference. A big difference.

    Like the painting, I could manipulate the colors, to modernize them. Make them "pop". I could say, "These colors simply were not available to the artist at this time in the 16th century. Surely the artist would have loved to have these available back then. What do you say?"

    Just some food for thought.. not trying to create a big argument or ruffle anyone's fish scales.
  2. Endymion

    Endymion Forum Resident

    We have the same problem in today's cinema. Almost every movie today is digitally color graded, almost always in a way that those colors can't exist naturally. All colors are made cooler than in reality except for skin tones, these are made to look warmer. The result is that all recent movies look artificial like a computer game.
  3. mannylunch

    mannylunch Active Member

    I come into this discussion late, and I admit to the crime of NOT having read all 15 pages of rejoinders on the topic of SW's 5.1 transfer of TFTO. Suffice it to say that I got into Yes in the early '70s, and each successive album from Yes Album onwards was a bigger and bigger knockout for me, and this was not altered by TFTO, nor Relayer (tho' it took me a little while to come to terms with GFTO - only just until I saw it live several times in '77).

    I've been waiting for a good CD edition [never mind 5.1] since the CD age started ~30 years ago. First we had the Joe Gastwirt transfer early '90s, then the Japanese weighed in with an even better one in 2001, and then Rhino came along with yet another transfer in 2003. Considering that all three editions accompanied similar treatment of the early catalog thrice, we can see that it is not necessarily the fault of those doing the transfers, since the other titles came off rather well in comparison, though TFTO is plagued by high levels of background hiss, among other problems . The problem is the complexity of how Topographic was recorded - to wit, it was mixed down from 128 tracks.

    For those of you who have early CD releases from the first decade of the technology, you will remember the three-letter box that usually appeared on the back of the cover, either AAD, or ADD, or DDD. (The final letter was always D, indicating it was transferred to Digital from the final mix master tape). For the purposes of informational transparency [and supposedly for excusing sound artifacts] the labels wanted you to know what the source of the recording was. AAD meant Analog recording + Analog mixing (+transferred to Digital). ADD meant Analog recording BUT the individual tracks were transferred to DIGITAL BEFORE being mixed.

    When anyone comes along and creates a multichannel media recording from an album that originally had its initial tracks recorded in Analog [tape] (true of virtually all pre-1980s), they must transfer the original tracks PRE-mixdown individually, and then attempt to replicate, or at least do justice to, the original sound of the recording WITH A NEW MIX DONE DIGITALLY. When you have 128 tracks of information, and no computer guide track of how the mixing board was handled manually from moment to moment for all those tracks [technology not available in the '70s], replicating the mix exactly is not only a virtual impossibility, but if you are to proceed at all, extremely work intensive [costly], and especially for a double LP's worth of playing time.

    That's why all the various stereo (AAD) CD transfers of TFTO sound bad in comparison to the other titles - they have 128 layers of background hiss mixed down onto just two channels!

    In general, whenever a work in its medium of the time [i.e. analog] is brought into the next age's medium [i.e. digital], the higher the level of complexity in its original execution [i.e 128 tracks], the harder it is to make a replication as excellent as the original in its jump to another medium (this holds true for the visual technologies - film->video-beyond - as well)

    The hope that someone - with great ears like Steven Wilson, or anyone else - would tackle this particular album for 5.1 means that each each of the 128 tracks would be digitized separately, then the individual would deftly use the most recent technology/tools only available in this current moment [and not before] to suppress/rid the digital pre-mix tracks of the ever increasing hiss that tapes garner over the years, and then replicate as close 'to the edge' as possible the original mix, now parsed out to 5.1 speakers.

    When George Harrison oversaw the ADD'ing of the original 15 songs heard [in full or in part] for the new version of the Yellow Submarine CD that coincided with the DVD release at the end of the previous century, that was an easy enough task - most of the songs only had 4 tracks originally (a few had 8, and only a couple had a few more) that the stereo masters were mixed down from in the '60s, so not an immensely impossible juggling act. Steven Wilson has handled far more difficult tasks to date with resurrecting 60's-70's music, and with aplomb and excellence.

    I surely hope Wilson does [or has done] the TFTO album - I've RELLY been waiting for this one ADD'd [even if only in stereo], BUT i don't know what kind of sinkhole this would be to accomplish $$-wise - it would have to be a costly labor of love for everyone involved - Wilson, the band, and the label [Panegyric]

    ...and I don't find any mention or verification at the ultimateclassicrock.com site of this being a reality, which was supposedly what started this thread in the first place!

    If you have a link to a verification that this 5.1 release is a reality [and not just someone reporting that this was so because it was found on this site), PLEASE PROVIDE THE EXACT LINK - all I found at UltimateClassicRock was a Dec '15 article on "How Yes’ Hot Streak Ended With ‘Tales From Topographic Oceans’

    Read More: How Yes' Hot Streak Ended With 'Tales From Topographic Oceans' | http://ultimateclassicrock.com/yes-tales-of-topographic-oceans/?trackback=tsmclip"
  4. MW72

    MW72 Forum Resident

    Berkeley, CA
    I wonder how we'll collectively view the Steve Wilson remasters over time. I'm a huge fan of much of SW's musical catalogue and love his work as both producer and engineer.

    Further, I appreciate his work on certain releases like KC's Islands and JT's Aqualung which benefited from his touch. Both releases were marred slightly post recording phase.

    That said, Tales was IMHO mixed beautifully on the first attempt. I have a German LP which sounds magical to my ears. Even the CD version I have sounds great. All of the performances are well captured and present well in the mix. They keyboard forward mixing choices made on this release stand out to me as brave (by modern standards at least) and as serving the compositions quite well.

    I'm just not sure if there is a need to rework Tales which was done properly by the artists and their production team originally.
  5. anduandi

    anduandi Senior Member

    One of my favourite sections on TFTO
    Whatever "don the cap" means:laugh:
  6. Might explain why I don't watch many movies anymore. The digital animations look horrible to me. Light and shadows don't look right.
    To my ears, the vinyl mix always sounded fine.... but I was always thinking it could be cleaner with more definition. However, I don't think a cleaner mix would necessarily be better because I feel like the blending of the instruments sonically is a big part of the overall listening experience. Seperating them out too much could be detrimental to my experience.
  7. Thanks for taking the time to put this post together. It makes me realize why I intuitively feel like the work was just fine the way it was done. My vinyl copy is from the 70's although not sure exactly what pressing. I've always felt it was a very complex mix. I don't mind some tape hiss, doesn't bother me one bit... to a point. Tales doesn't exceed that point.
    It's like being in a jazz club where people walk behind you, some natural ambient noise is just part of the experience.
    I do like the AAA vinyl version. My CD was AAD. The vinyl sounded much better, but I do have a very good system for vinyl.
  8. Claus

    Claus Senior Member

    Well, making movies is art... like use of different cameras, cut, colorizing and anything else. If you want see clean colors, watch a documentary.
  9. "Art" has become an extremely ambiguous concept. To me a lot of that confusion comes about in the modern age of computers. There certainly is computer art, and there is non computer art, both viable forms of course. But it's the lack of definition or clarity where these tools cross that lends itself to a lot of confusion, poor comparisons and a real lack of appreciation for "The Old Way".

    The easy answer is what I hear often. "Who cares, if I like it, what does it matter?".

    History does have a way of sorting these things out... collectors have already shown a preference for vinyl over the CD format. Digital downloads are near worthless. Factory releases reel to reel tapes are getting more generally even over vinyl when available.

    This isn't always quality driven, but often that could be argued.

    I am sure at some point in time music historians will make clear distinction between non digitally created music AAA,
    hybrid stuff like ADD or AAD, and DDD which is very popular these days in electronica etc.

    But I find my eyes rolling when I hear people saying this or that modern prog band's music is so much better or more sophisticated than something like TFTO. I get what they are experiencing because it sounds so perfect being put together in Pro Tools etc... but it really should not be compared at all. Compare the modern bands to the modern bands..... analog era to analog era.
  10. Claus

    Claus Senior Member

    Honestly I must say, I don't like most of the new Prog (Prog Rock/Prog Metal). Opeth, Haken, Steven Wilson are the exception. I still like the old bands incl. their shortcomings during the recordings. A few new remixes sound better than the originals... but I still like the "colored" sound of the original recordings, like Aqualung, Machine Head, Close to the Edge and many others. But it's fun to listen to the new versions.
    vinylphile likes this.
  11. Endymion

    Endymion Forum Resident

    No, I'd rather watch a movie by Kubrick, Peckinpah, Antonioni, Hawks, Kurosawa etc...directors who knew how to make great art that doesn't look like Tomb Raider XII.
  12. yesstiles

    yesstiles Senior Member

    Nope, the 1994 Gastwirt was the second cd edition. The first was the original Atlantic fatboy cd version in 1988 (mastered by Zal?), which remains to this day the best-sounding cd of Tales.

    Also, not all the other titles came off better than Tales on cd. The Japanese HDCD's and the Rhinos of both Fragile & CTTE are far worse-sounding than the Rhino and HDCD of Tales. And conversely, the Gastwirt Fragile is way better sounding than the Gastwirt CTTE and Tales.

    It's more about who's doing the mastering and what they do.
  13. Endymion

    Endymion Forum Resident

    Yesterday I listened again to the Atlantic fatboy CD.
    Yes, it sounds slightly too dark, has extreme amounts of tape hiss and weird low frequency rumbling in some quieter passages but overall it has a rather pleasant sound when played at high volume over headphones. Even after 90 minutes it is not fatiguing. I can't say that about the Rhino.
    superstar19 likes this.
  14. pdenny

    pdenny 21-Year SHTV Participation Trophy Recipient

    Hawthorne CA
    I prefer the Rhino over the Atlantic and Gastwirt; I don't find it fatiguing at all, but I will admit I don't play it at especially high volumes. In fact the past few times I've played it was in my car--it's the perfect soundtrack for a top-down drive along the SoCal coast :righton:
    qtrules likes this.
  15. milco

    milco Forum Resident

    Just listened to side two of Tales From Topographic Oceans -- The Remembering. A few random thoughts...

    This track generally comes off a 'poor second' to the first and fourth sides of TFTO in most peoples' opinion, but I quite like it. It takes an age to get going and Howe's heavily flanged guitar in the long opening section does become slightly tiresome -- you start yearning for a different guitar sound about five minutes in! There is obviously an attempt to 'pace' the track -- a slow, steady opening section (that probably over-stays its welcome), building through a choppy, contrasting middle part to a rousing climax.

    Wakeman's long synth washes are overdone and drag the piece down a bit. One long, dense, synth-laden section would be fine -- it might add a bit of texture -- but two or three on the same side gets a bit tedious. It's a pity because there is good light and shade in the middle part of the Remembering with a punchy acoustic song ('Don the cap...') and a contrasting section that ROCKS ('Relayer...'), but this is relieved by probably too much swirly synth in between times.

    The track comes to a suitably rousing climax as well -- not quite as stirring as Side One, but paradoxically more emotionally involving and coherent than the album's finale on Side Four.

    All in all, The Remembering is a bit of a mixed bag. There is stuff I really like interspersed with some fairly uninvolving material. Overall, I find the sound too dense for my liking. It's probably the result of the vocals being multi-tracked and placed on top of banks of keyboards. I find myself yearning for the tauter, punchier production treatment of The Yes Album or even Fragile and find myself wondering what Eddie Offord made of it all. Did he yearn for the good old days and the tighter disciplines of eight-track?

    One of the great strengths of The Remembering, however, is its sense of melody. Chris Welch, in his book about Yes, 'Close to the Edge' wrongly states that parts of the track are devoid of tune...especially the opening section. That's just plain wrong and it makes me wonder how well he actually knows the album. He was similarly dismissive of Tull's 'A passion play' and 'The lamb lies down of Broadway' by Genesis. Maybe the great prog journo had had enough of the genre by 1973. Either way, The Remembering's strong sense of melody is its strongest suit and rescues the track from its slightly unbalanced structure and layers of production clutter. It's imperfect, but I like it.
  16. vinylphile

    vinylphile Forum Resident

    Ah - but that's not really what happened here, innit? I don't remember anyone here stating that the new crop of musicians is so much better than Yes et al. No. You were the one saying that today's musicians are inferior because they're so dependant on computers. I believe you even stated something along the lines of that not even being a subjective opinion. That's what got my feathers all rustled. Fine to have your opinion - but I disagree. And when I gave some examples of bands whom I think are every bit as "artistically worthy" as the 70s icons you are putting up on your pedestal, your response made it blatantly obvious that you aren't even familiar with the music to which I am referring (despite opining quite strongly against its worth).

    I think you are kidding yourself if you think that "studio tricks" didn't exist back in the 70s. To me, if you want to talk pure technical musical talent, it comes down to what can be done live. What can be accomplished in a studio - computers or not - is more like the "artwork" you describe. The tools have changed over the years but the use of studio trickery still makes it a bit "dishonest" from a performance standpoint.
    Lonson likes this.
  17. Squealy

    Squealy Forum Hall Of Fame

    You realize this has nothing to do with how the music is created, only with what medium was used to record it, i.e. tape vs. digital. You could have a DDD recording of a folk singer playing an acoustic guitar live in the studio.
  18. Olias of Sunhill

    Olias of Sunhill Forum Resident

    Jim Creek, CO, USA
    While we're waiting for confirmation of a Wilson remix release, it's worth noting that the "flat transfer" available on HDTracks is the best digital version of Tales I've heard to date.
    JamesLord and David Bostock like this.
  19. zen

    zen Senior Member

    I am quite content with the original Atlantic (fat-boy case). It has the sound/vibe of the olden days.
  20. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Senior Member

    I agree not nearly as dramatic as the climax on "The Revealing Science of God". The resetting of the main theme into the main chorus at 19:00 is one of their most brilliant songwriting moments IMO. The rest of the album fails to attain the brilliance of that moment.
    lschwart likes this.
  21. Rose River Bear

    Rose River Bear Senior Member

    I think it is also.
    David Bostock likes this.
  22. tonewheeltom

    tonewheeltom Forum Resident

    Vineland, NJ
    I have all of SW's Yes, Jethro Tull, King Crimson, and ELP reissues.

    1. The surround mixes are so fun to listen to.
    2. The archival aspects of these reissues are deep and fascinating.
    If that doesn't appeal to you, maybe another thread and topic would be appropriate.

    Surround mixes are a blast if you have a calibrated system. I have all the surround versions from Pink Floyd, Beatles, Who, Genesis, Dylan, and many more. Some are better than others, but they're all FUN!!! Much more fun than old dudes arguing about prog.
    dougb222, JimW, tvstrategies and 2 others like this.
  23. Barnabas Collins

    Barnabas Collins Senior Member

    As opposed to old dudes arguing about surround sound! ;)
    zen and tonewheeltom like this.
  24. Lownote30

    Lownote30 Bass Clef Addict

    Nashville, TN, USA
    Steven Wilson doesn't do things in the digital realm like what you say in your example. He's never quantized anything, or changed where a bass not, or bass drum was hit. He has a deep respect for the albums he remixes, and doesn't change the performances.
    MoonPool likes this.
  25. I was only suggesting the things that can be done once tracks are dropped into the digital domain. Most folks around here are well aware of this, but some are clearly not when reading their posts.
    Lownote30 likes this.
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