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The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: tomk ()
Date: April 14, 2005 08:50

Although the Stones have adjusted well over the years
with recording technology, does anyone feel
that in today's age of recording with digital, Pro Tools (a great help
for editing, ask any musician), millions of tracks to record on, that it's
impossible for them to make a great sounding R&R record?
Take those 2 new Who songs that came out last year.
Despite being lousy tunes, they sounded too clean.
It may as well have been Steely Dan.
Perhaps this is what I found Bridges their worst record.
Mind you, Some Girls was recorded on a modest 24 track (for the time) in
a demo studio, and look at the results.
Of course, great songs and a great performance are the key to
any good-sounding songs.
What do you all think?
Go back to 8 or 16 or 24 track analog?

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Rockman ()
Date: April 14, 2005 09:02

Some years ago Keith said that the greatest threat to sound of the Rolling Stones was the continual advancements being made in the technology of studio equipment.

ROCKMAN

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: ChelseaDrugstore ()
Date: April 14, 2005 09:58

Stones should stay analog and no more than 16 tracks.
Voodoo sucked for many reasons and that was one of them. Too techno. I don't agree about B2B. I thought they mastered the techno factor there. SW is the one that really really suffers IMO from too much digitalis.
The Stones are one of the few bands that sound WORSE on headphones. They are not meant to ge listened to in pristine surroundings. Way too many songs recorded in adventurours fashion. SFM and esecially "Angie" and much of GHS is riddled with background bleed throughs and Keith talking etc
All the old stuff of course, the early shit has no business in headphones. Who wants to hear Got Live on the cans?

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: backstreetboy ()
Date: April 14, 2005 10:05

voodo sounds great to me,keep it simple,if you want great production use rick rubin,or daniel lanois

john scialfa

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: ablett ()
Date: April 14, 2005 11:54

rick rubin would be tops....imagine if he'd sprinkle the same dust on the stones that he did on the great Johnny Cash American recordings

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: RnT ()
Date: April 14, 2005 11:56

This is a very important issue. Imo the Stones and modern recording technology don't go well together.
First there's the sound itself. Analogue warmth serves them well. They should stay in the analogue field as long as possible (at least till the mastering).
Second it's far more exciting when there are some things left to discover. I mean, after listening to Exile a 1000 times, you can still discover little parts of guitar, piano, percussion etc that you never noticed before. New technology however is focused on making everything crystal clear. What you hear the first time is what you're gonna get. That does not do them justice!

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: liddas ()
Date: April 14, 2005 12:44


We could discuss this forever.

If I record Keef while strumming chords on an acoustic guitar, given that I use the same mic, and this is kept in the same position, the output will sound almost exactly the same if I use a quality tape recorder (analog) or a DAT recorder or similar device (digital).

Therefore what makes the big difference is not digital vs. analog, but how you actually record and mix a given track (how many mics, trax, people in the room, model of mics, effects, etc.). Just compare Voodoo Lounge, the official CD, to the early mix of the same in Brew or Stew. Generally speaking I see that quality products recorded today focus alot on the definition of sound and formal perfection of time and execution. It is easy to acheive this only using the odd tools in any recording software + the market (listeners) have CD trained ears and they want to hear perfection! This kind of sonic perfection can also be found in late '50 jazz recordings (just listen to the super famous Kind of Blue). Of course then it was almost impossible to edit the contents. Early r'n'r recordings were crap, but sometimes crap can be art! And nobody cared if there were mistakes, even in the final mix. Now any mistake is whiped away. I think that this is the polishing that ruined most of the Stones recent work.

C





Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Fansince1964 ()
Date: April 14, 2005 13:30

Tomk

You're putting a finger on something interesting here.
I've heard the comments on songs like "Street fighting man" which was recorded on small cassette taperecorder. Keith says that he leaned over the mike on the machine and the volume of the recording was a bit high so it his guitar sounden like a thunderstorm. He brought the tape to the studio and they used that one as the basic track. I think Charlie was playing his little "jazzdrum kit" as Keith remebered it.

I think the Stones should get back in the basement where "Exile on main street" was recorded and use the old mobile studio. That woould be great. Hopefully they have found out themselves that this new album should be brought back to early days or as Ronnie would say, "the acid past". Not that I want then to get back on drugs but they sounded more rock and roll way back then.

Thanks Tomk for a good post and topic here!

HJofSweden

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Rockman ()
Date: April 14, 2005 13:34

I think that this is the polishing that ruined most of the Stones recent work.

Yep..liddas you nailed it in one line..put the grit back in the grooves.

ROCKMAN


Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Aucoin ()
Date: April 14, 2005 13:35

Yeah, the Stones shouldn´t sound too clean IMO. True, Street fighting man was recordes with a tape recorder and Charlie played on some practice pads instead of real drums. To me that tune still sounds brilliant.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: RankOutsider ()
Date: April 14, 2005 14:44

I remember seeing in a film, I'm not sure which one, where the Stones were in the studio, (Muscle Shoals I think), and, they had an old toilet in the middle of the room with a mic down inside it. Am I dreaming or did I really see this on film? I think this was around the time they were recording "Sticky Fingers" which I think sounds beautiful. I mean the opening guitar chords by Keith, (That would be Brown Sugar), just have a sound that I've never heard anyone else get to this day from a guitar. It's the most beautiful/brutal, sexual sound I think I've ever heard come from a guitar. I mean that, (Brown Sugar), should be the all time @#$%^&! anthem. Anyway, that's the sound I miss.


I ain't stupid, I'm just guitarded.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Aucoin ()
Date: April 14, 2005 14:59

Sticky Fingers sounds brilliant. A rough, pure, dirty sound. A masterpiece. Stones at it´s best.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: RnT ()
Date: April 14, 2005 15:35

Brown Sugar, You Gotta Move and Wild Horses were recorded in Muscle Shoals. See for the recording of Brown Sugar: [www.prosoundweb.com]

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Doc ()
Date: April 14, 2005 16:44

It would be a good idea to use the modern recording technologies in terms of live recordings.

The Rolling Stones could sell SBD recordings from all their shows on the net (in a lossless format like FLAC) like Metallica, or on traditional CDs like the Who, Pearl jam, the Straycats and many more

This kind of service isn't that expensive nowadays and would please all the fans who are spending time and money in trading or buying sometimes lousy audience recordings of the shows they've been to.

I really hope they'll take some time before the start of the tour to think about this possibility.
We already heard about it during the Licks tour, it'd be great to see the project come true on this one

[doctorstonesblog.blogspot.com]

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: ChelseaDrugstore ()
Date: April 14, 2005 23:11

This is a really good topic.
I do not agree at all with most respected liddas. Dig vs analog makes a HUGE difference. Like we are all saying here the Stones should not be recorded too squeaky clean. It's the initial recording , what actually goes down on to tape that has changed. Not what happens afterwards.
Look at all the remasterd old classics. Sticky, Aftremath, Banquet all sound great. And the top of the cream state of the art was used to get these as perfect and punchy as possible. Just look at the song Satisfaction. I remember the first time I heard it on CD. The difference was astounding. I had heard that song a milliion times and yet it was probabaly the first time I heard that accouistic guitar. I think cleaning what was originally there, recorded analog and then cleaned up digitallky has not hurt the sound too much.
It gets tricky when they go all the way on to 48 or 96 track digital. Fullblown seperation. Throwing thew snare o something like 8 stereo tracks alone is not good for the Stones. SDteel Wheels was the worst. Voodoo, no matter what we now think we hear was also recorded digitally. Way too many overdubs and stacking of guitars and BUvox were used IMO.
I think Sticky Fingers is the best recorded Stones album. With Exile (and it IS the greatest) I think they almost lucked out a little. I doubt they could repeat it. The climate, the room, the drugs, Andy Johns, Anita's cooking all probably had eq\ual amount to do with the sound. But Sticky is perfect. It is SO TIGHT!!! Very minimal too. The classic Brown Sugar is three guitars, three or four mikes on thew drums etc. It's the performance, and the microphones and the very very competent mastering that does it for me. Let it bleed and Banquet are still a little looser and eratic. In the headphones you still get the crazy 60's style panning adventures a' la Beatles, Hendrix.
The Stones in a small airtight studio with a headtsrong engineer, doing it live as possible would rock hard. But it laready seems from what we are hearing about the recording that it is very piecemeal. When you hear of one of the main guitarrists flying in for overdubs; not even present for the basic track it can not bode well.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: tomk ()
Date: April 15, 2005 08:47

Some random thoughts on this.
Remember, the "room" that your record in is an important element
in all this. All the rooms the Stones have recorded in over the years are gone:
Chess, RCA, Olympic (totally different today than what it was back in the day),
Musicland, PAthe Marconi. All those rooms had a totally different
and totally unique sound. Ever notice how all the albums made after
Pather MArconi was torn down ( SW, VL, Bridges) are the ones we all
argue about regarding the sound? Trust me, as one who's recorded in a lot
of studios out here in LA, they all sound the same, look the same, feel the same.
Here's a good example: mY wife and I visited the Sun Studios in Memphis,
the Stax Studios in Memphis, and RCA Studio B in Nashville on a vacation there
last year. Not only were they small (unlike a lot of modern studios today),
they each had their own unique sound and were very simplistic acoustically.
Todyy, millions of dollars are put into studios to get them all
"acoustically correct." Every band is gonna sound the same. No difference.
And remember, every person on the dole nowadays has a better stereo stytem
than what we probably had in the 70's or even '80's.
Nowadays, everyting had to be loud, clean, blow your head off.
Ever been to the movies lately? It's louder than a Motorhead concert.
And..I always thought Satisfaction sounded better on a transistor radio
with a 2 inch speaker on a hot summer day. Try it come summertime.
Cheers.
A band recorded in San Fransisco sounds the same as one recorded in Leeds.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: tomk ()
Date: April 15, 2005 09:02

however, in the long run, it is the songs that matter.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: ChelseaDrugstore ()
Date: April 15, 2005 09:18

More random thoughts.
Yes nowadays the room does not matter much anymore. With all the outboard gear afterwards you can do just about anything.
But like tomk says it is the songs ultimately that matter. The somgs and the performance. It really comes down to performnce in the end. And this is IMO still heavily influenced by the room, the surroundings, the atmosphere.
You put a band into a situation where they feel like they are outcasts, pirates and cowboys on a mission. Alone in a basement in France with a bunch of dope and your criminal friends - the reslt is probabaly going to be pure rock'n roll. Whereas if you are stuck in a posh hotel, being limoed in at 3pm to cut overdub No36a on track #19 w/worktitle...looking at some Don Was producer in his stupid hat you are going to lay down a lame guitar track. POrobabaly ask to do it over 89 times because you have the budget and the time. So then siad producer runs it though his newest toy, his computerized sequenced digital delay system where you can set it to # with a poano sitting in the right corner of a large empty room with a small door open onto the highway (this is a REAL setting!) and gets some shmo big raunchy canned crunch on the guitar tgrack that you cut while making calls oin your cell phone to your broker ....etc etc

The "room" is IMO a metaphor for the actual room but also the atmosphere of said room. The engineer and his mikes do matter. His sense of adventure.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Bärs ()
Date: April 15, 2005 09:25

I once listened through VL on a simple, distorted LP player and it sounded ten times better. It was hard to believe it was the same songs and band.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: tomk ()
Date: April 15, 2005 09:26

the mikes and engineer do matter a great deal.
that's a lost art, too.
Chris Kimsey was the last great engineer that worked well with them
yet he was on SW, and that sounded so forced.
Good songs separately, but when put together it didn't make a strong album.
Does that make sense? That was always my opinion of SW.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: liddas ()
Date: April 15, 2005 10:58


Chelsea, I think we are saying very much the same thing! My point was only that today it does not make any difference if you record digital or analog. What makes a huge difference is all the other aspects that you and tomk have underlined. I am sure that if at the end of the chain at the Pathe Marconi we had a quality digital recorder (that means that mics, room and all were the same), you would not have noticed any difference in the final result.

Of course digital world implies a completely different way of working. In my work I have to write a lot. At university I did not have a computer but only a pen. That meant that I had to think in advance what could have been the final result. You could re-draft a couple of times, but you knew that it could be no more than a couple of times. Now, with the computer, I know that I can re-draft as may times as I want, and very easily. If there is a mistake, the spelling check will find out. As a result, the big "thinking" comes "after" the drafting, not "before". There are a lot of people, grown up in the "pen-era" (my father) that can't write a simple e-mail!

In music this is very much the same. People who have grown up in the digital-era work and think in a differnt way. They take full advantage of new technologies. There is a lot of good "digital" stuff around. On the other hand I understand that this is something not easy to cope with for old rokers. I can just imagine that for Keith working with all these software tools is exactly the same thing as it is for my father to write an e-mail.

I am truly curious to see what they will put out with this time!

C

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: ChelseaDrugstore ()
Date: April 15, 2005 15:03

liddas. the point you bring up about us having "to think differently in the digital age" is spot on. And it is a HUGE topic that goes way beyond this thread ona Stonesboard. I totally agree with you. I see kids growing up who take downloading and burning for granted. You just don't question it at all. I think that is what nakes it a lot harde for people who had to adjust to the whole dig thing in their lifetime. People born in the 60's, 50's and 70's e.g. always had the telephone and the TV. No probs using those because one never bothered to ponder why they work. They just are. Same thing with a lot of the newer stuff.
I have noticed a totally novel way that we communicate with each other. Even right here on this board. Writing on line is a form of communication that had to be learned. I remember when we first started talking online many years ago. It was WAY different then. Not only because of conection speeds. We had to learn how to converse, to communicate humor, to find out how to sound light or heavy in written messages. There is much of a new lingo now that we use without thinking. I am not saying anything new here.
In the musical recording world I figure people like Keith might actually be at a disadvantage because of dig equipment. Keith should stiuck with what he si good at. He is brilliant in the last generation of studios. Just leave the new shit for the mastering.
About SW what tomk says. IMO there is also a lot more wrong with that album. It has got to bwe the worst thing that has come out of Stonesworld next to Primitive Cool. Side 3 of SW is exactly what tomk says. In the past the Stones successfully merge different styles and fuse it into the gigantic sound that is the Rollinmg Stones. But the pseudo funk of RAAHP, to the Moroccon chant of CD to the swamp groove of BTS. In between there is some nylon string noodling by Keith on AHYS. Two Keith tunes round out the side. The worst side of a Stonesalbum on record.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Rorty ()
Date: April 15, 2005 16:36

Interesting and informative thread. Thanks everybody.

Just few random thoughts about the mentioned Steel Wheels, that somehow marks a landmark in their recent studio output history. I remember listening it first time and I was so surprised how distinct and clear and up-to-date the Stones sounded in that one. Their usual mess and sometimes typical semi-amateurish lazy, even sloppy attitude (forming a chaotic back track that captures the 'right' moment and is added by dozens of necessary or not guitar-parts here and there, not to forget drunken-sounding back vocals) were absent. They sounded so pro and clean. But it didn't long to notice that with that new 'professionalism' the part of their natural groove and charm, not to mention edge, had also disappeared. Like was mentioned above by someone, there are some nice individial songs, but as a whole the album has not aged very well. The best and worst example is "Rock and A Hard Place", a pastisse sort of song, The Rolling Stones trying a-bit too desperately sound as themselves and give it a ultra-hip modern clothing. There are basically everything in a theory suitable for a great Stones song, a nice guitar riff, recognizeble Richards chording, lyrics okay, catchy sing-a-long chorus, okay lyrical content, and so on - but the result is so forced, the natural groove is totally missing. I don't know where the damage was done: were the hands of the players already on freeze, or just the minds of the people controlling the buttons.

The contrast is huge to the album released about a year before: Keith's Talk Is Cheap is aged quite nicely. It's down-to-earth, even muddy, sound at least not cause any embarrassing feelings in today's listener. I remember reading Keith being so proud of the way they recorded the album, namely recording the whole room, the thing that is discussed in this thread. I wonder why Keith decided to drop that idea so soon. Perhaps it was one way to please Mick. But anyway, the groove and beat of "Take It So Hard" beats RAHP anytime.

In Undercover and Dirty Work the technological advances of the 80's are clearly usead (and are sometimes horribly hearable), but I think Steel Wheels is the first album that the 'modern' idea of production is used throughout. Sets a new era of Stones albums.

- Doxa



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2005-04-15 16:37 by Rorty.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: Greg ()
Date: April 15, 2005 17:38

As aside to this interesting thread: I dislike Steel Wheels and haven't listened to it in perhaps ten years, but I think the album is almost vindicated by Slipping Away. A wonderful, heartfelt song that is completely at odds with the rest of the album because of its unforced naturalness and simplicity (I think Keith somewhere said it almost fell of album and it;s true). The opening 'riff' sounds almost like a minimalistic statement to me, as if he's saying: hey, I can do it the other way 'round. The only song of this album that stands the test of time me and now rightfully belongs to the repertoire.

----------------------------
"Music is the frozen tapioca in the ice chest of history."

"Shit!... No shit, awright!"

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: RankOutsider ()
Date: April 15, 2005 19:46

RnT, I read the story from Muscle Shoals and found it to be awsome stuff. It bares out what tomK says about rooms. And I love what Johnson said about Keiths amp on Brown Sugar: "Man, that thing was gettin' it" woooohooooo!

I ain't stupid, I'm just guitarded.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: RnT ()
Date: April 22, 2005 15:24

CD wrote > Voodoo, no matter what we now think we hear was also recorded digitally.>

Check this interview with engineer Don Smith and with Don Was. It says a Studer A-27 analogue tape machine was used on VL. [www.soundonsound.com]

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: R ()
Date: April 22, 2005 15:50

A lot of digital recording leaves out the AIR and SPACE, the white area if you will, necessary when recording a proper band playing together. An aural "density" becomes apparent where everything sounds as loud as everything else with digital because you just keep adding information. Kind of like adding water to a glass of water.

I would love to record the Stones but I would make sure demos were produced quickly and cheaply and THEN the band would learn the songs and record them in a proper live setting using microphones and amps and not worrying if some insturment bleeds over into another and so on. It wouldn't work for Beyonce, but it sure would work for a band that's been together 40+ years.

The way they record now, it seems like they just throw a bunch of ideas into the pot, stir it up, filter out what they don't like and call the rest a finished song. THEN they go on the road and actually learn how to play the damned thing.

The bottom line is: WE WANT TO HEAR A RECORDING OF THE ROLLING STONES ---- NOT THE LATEST DIGITAL PRODUCTION TRICKERY.

Re: The Stones and modern recording technology...
Posted by: ChelseaDrugstore ()
Date: April 22, 2005 18:19

Yes it says Analog Recorder was used on VL. I am sure some analog recording was used somewhere at some time. But I for one am positive the bulk of the final takes went onto Dig. I bet the over dubbing was done onto Dig. And it is clear that much Dig recording was used when listening to Brew and /or Stew. When you are looking at notations like take 65 for a BU vocal take that is dig.



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