Thursday, December 15, 2022

John Mendelsohn - The Stooges debut album - Los Angeles Times - 1969

Well, we can't always be right. I have a few like this (dismissing Nirvana not once but twice - the first time for being too fussy-sounding, the second for their knackered war-horse riffs)

John M appears to have changed his mind at some point because he was the one wot played the Stooges to David Bowie when the latter was over in America touring - with world-historic consequences

I seem to be one of the only people in the world who enjoys "We Will Fall"  - even fans of this album think that that tune is its sole doldrum

Sunday, December 4, 2022

Jack Good - Beyond Realism in Recording - Disc (1960)

The current number one recording in the States is a disc that would never have got past the selection committee in any British recording company. Of that I am sure.

Not that it could possibly have been made over here. No self-respecting British recording engineer would have made a record like this. He would rather resign his job. Nor would any British A and R man conceive a record in terms of the one that tops the American charts.

It just breaks all the technical rules, and runs counter to every idea of progress in recording techniques.

This record is fuzzy, muzzy and distorted. According to present day technical standards it is appalling. If this record is good, then for the last ten or so years the pop industry has been wearing blinkers.

However, for my money, the disc is not just good, it's sensational and revolutionary. It is now released by Top Rank and is called "Quarter To Three," by Ulysses Samuel Bonds.

A few weeks back, I commented on the difficulty for a first-time winner to achieve a hit follow-up, and I quoted U. S. Bonds as an example of one of the artists who bit the dust on his second attempt. "New Orleans" was a knock-out, but what a disappointment when "But Not Me" followed. It didn't mean a light.

Bonds was marked down as a flash in the pan. "Quarter To Three" changes all that. The pan is sizzling up to flash-point again. This disc is so exciting that for your health's sake, you should restrict the number of plays you give it to three times a day -- and never during or after meals!

But it is not the record itself that is the most important thing. It is the light it throws on the limitations of the current approach to the business of making pop records.

For some years now, the technical side of recording has been concerned exclusively with realism. The tremendous progress in recording techniques and equipment has made this trend inevitable.

Records have been made of ping-pong matches, railway trains and even road drills. And they sold in thousands. People who would write fierce letters to the council to complain about road drills in the street outside their homes, flooded to pay two pounds for the privilege of hearing them reproduced to the last thud and splutter in their front rooms.

Exactly the same thing happened when painters discovered perspective. They became so engrossed in the fun of cheating the eye into believing it was not looking at a painting, but through a window, that they forgot all about making pictures.

After realism -- exact reproduction of nature -- follows surrealism, where the techniques of realism are transferred to a world of fantasy. The eye of the old man in the painting is still painted with eye-cheating accuracy. But it just happens to be painted in the middle of his forehead. Surrealism came to recording with Rock'n'Roll.

Echo-machines, limiters, equalisers, tape delay, were all employed to transform the sounds being made in the studio into noises that were even more real, more compelling. more immediate and exciting than reality itself.

Echo-chambers gave small voices the sound of rich reverberating ones. A tap on a drum was converted by the engineer's magic, to the sound of a ten-foot giant hitting a six-foot tom-tom. A new sound-world of fantasy was built up. But the style was only realism, carried to a higher plane of imagination.

Now Ulysses Samuel Bonds introduces a new era of pop-recording. Realism and Surrealism is old hat. Impressionism is the thing.

"Quarter To Three" is clearly not interested in reproducing the sounds of a band and a voice, of a group chanting and clapping in the background. These things are only useful as a canvas upon which an impression can be painted of the changing textures of sound itself . . . the thickness of it, the muffled reverberations, the vibrant roughness of it.

This is a whole new sound world. Not perhaps the sound of music, but the sound of sound. And the possibilities for development are endless and fascinating.

And after that? Abstract and Formalist recording must inevitably follow. And then ? Action Recording, of course.

(one of record producer / TV producer JACK GOOD's weekly columns in Disc magazine, 1960)