Category Archives for "Instrumental Track"
So many of you really like these Friday isolated tracks, but I’ve recently had some comments like, “Why do you keep posting old songs?” Fair enough question, and there are 3 reasons.
1. Plain and simple, the isolated tracks are much more available for older classic tracks than new ones, which are much more closely guarded by labels, artists and producers.
2. More people know the songs. Even if you weren’t born when some of these songs were recorded, you still know them because you’ve heard them on the radio, in movies or on commercials (probably over and over).
3. They present a great learning opportunity. Today’s tracks are scrubbed upside down so they’re perfect, but hits of the past were pretty raw in comparison. They were still hits anyway, so listening to an isolated track with imperfections can be a great lesson on just what’s important when it comes to a hit (hint: it’s performance, not perfection).
With all that said, today’s isolated track we’ve heard a lot through the years. If you lived through the disco era, it represented a sort of surrender of the rockers to a new trend that was taking over at the time. Here’s the isolated vocal track from Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music.”
The story behind it is that Wild Cherry frontman Rob Parissi wanted to write a hit song, and decided to copy a hit, but make it just enough different to avoid getting sued. The #1 song at the time was “Fire” by The Ohio Players, and that was the inspiration for “Play That Funky Music.” The title came from a real life situation where a black audience member shouted, “Play some funky music, white boy,” while the hard rock band played a gig. Here’s what to listen for.
1. Listen for the cowbell on the intro, B sections and chorus on the right channel. You’ll also hear handclaps on the B and chorus sections.
2. The vocal is pretty squashed and has a medium decay delayed plate effect that gives the vocal ambience yet it still sounds dry if you don’t listen closely.
3. Listen for the stereo horn replies after the verse phrases. Sometimes there’s just a baritone sax on the left and trumpets on the right, and sometimes they’re spread in stereo.
4. Unison stereo background vocals are introduced in the B sections and choruses.
5. You can hear the two rhythm guitars spread left and right during the solo at 2:42.
6. You usually don’t hear the 3 part harmonies on the outro at 4:00 onward because the song is faded by then.
The original Deep Purple lineup had a very unique sound in the annals of rock, and much of that was because of Jon Lord’s organ. While most organ players want their Hammond’s to sound like the instrument they are, Lord treating his C3 more like a guitar, going as far as plugging it directly into a Marshall stack to get his unique sound. No where is that more evident than in this isolated organ track from the band’s hit “Space Truckin.'” Here’s what to listen for.
1. The organ has a very short slap echo on it. It sounds like the echo from a tape machine running at 15 ips.
2. In the verse, the organ is overdubbed and split in stereo. Lord is also playing in a higher register. Listen to how different the ambience is.
3. Listen to the space noises during the guitar solo coming from the organ (remember, this was the days before synthesizers.
4. You can hear the some leakage from the rest of the band, but it’s a beat before the organ part. This is probably due to the gap between the synch and playback heads of the tape machine.
5. There’s an ending that’s not on the record if you listen to the end. It’s nothing special though.
It’s time to listen inside another big hit from the past. This time it’s the instrumental version of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” It’s actually pretty amazing what you can hear once you strip the vocal off, although it shouldn’t be too surprising since it is the center of attention. Here’s what to listen for:
1. The reverb tail on the main guitar riff is very long. This makes perfect sense since it has to hang over at the end of the riff.
2. There’s not that many elements to the song. It’s actually pretty simple in that there’s usually only 3 elements playing at the same time – rhythm section, a keyboard pad, and a guitar riff.
3. There are some extra guitar parts that aren’t that apparent in the final mix. Listen to the clean guitar on the second half of the verse and the second 8 bars of the chorus. Also in the bridge there’s a 16th note guitar that plays underneath the main figure.
4. The drums are pretty plain in they just keep the beat. It sounds like a drum machine with real drums overdubbed with the high hat doubled and panned to each side, which fills up both the frequency and the aural space.
It’s always fun to listen inside of a hit, and sometimes just taking away the vocal reveals many parts that you don’t hear in the mix but are essential to the song. That’s the cool thing about production. The most important parts of the house aren’t usually the ones seen from the outside.
One of the best things about listening to an isolated or instrumental track of a hit is hearing how intricately designed the arrangement is. Such is the case with The Four Tops version of “Baby, I Need Your Lovin,'” played by the Motown studio band The Funk Brothers. There’s a lot going on within the track that you don’t hear until the lead vocal is muted, as you’ll hear below. Here’s what to listen for.
1. The dynamics of the track are outstanding. Listen to how the band backs off the intensity during the verses. Sometimes this is done by just eliminating some arrangement elements (which also happens here), but in this case you can actually feel the band holding back a little to leave room for the vocal. It’s a classic example of how it’s done.
2. Listen to how important the finger snaps are, as they act as the backbone of the song. This is actually brilliant in that they replace the snare with a softer sound that better fits the arrangement.
3. Take notice how the brass provides a quiet counterpoint to the guitar on the right side during the verse.
4. The song was cut in the early days of stereo, so the panning is interesting. The drums, bass and piano are on the left side, while the guitar, horns and strings are on the right.
5. This is one of the few Motown songs where the bass isn’t featured. In fact, it blends into the track so well that the notes are difficult to distinguish. It also sounds like an upright rather than the standard Precision bass used on most of the label’s hits.
6. The band is made up of the best jazz players in Detroit, but yet they play ver disciplined parts, which isn’t easy for fluid players with a lot of technique. Like The Wrecking Crew from LA, these guys knew how to make a track work.
It’s always a pleasure to hear an instrumental track of a big hit, and “Baby, I Need Your Lovin'” is no exception. We get an X-ray view inside a great arrangement.