Category Archives for "Isolated Track"
“Don’t Stop Believin'” is one of those classic rock songs that keeps on going and refuses to fade away. You hear it at sporting events, on television and movies, and on the radio even after 35+ years since it was recorded. Journey had a lot of success at its peak, but this may be song that defines them in the end, so today we’re going to have a listen to the isolated lead vocal from the song.
“Don’t Stop…” is an interesting song in that the chorus only comes once in the song and it’s at the end. I can’t think of another song where that happens but it’s not a song structure that you’d teach an aspiring songwriter, and yet here it is in this huge hit. Let’s get into it.
1. Journey vocalist Steve Perry truly has one of the most incredible voices in music and it’s perfectly on display here. The song was recorded as we entered the age of perfectionism in the studio (thanks to the 24 track tape machine), but this performance is still scary good.
2. I didn’t hear one slight imperfection at 0:33 where he went slightly sharp on “…anywhere” but that’s really splitting hairs.
3. The audio quality of this video isn’t great, but you can still hear that the vocal has in a nice long delayed reverb. If you listen carefully to the decay, you can hear a midrange ring to it.
4. On the B sections you can hear a double slightly to the left and an octave below the lead slightly to the right.
5. The vocal is edited together so there’s no big gaps from the instrumental sections of the song.
Usually on a Friday I post an isolated track from the studio mix of a hit song. The studio is one thing, since we’re after perfection and there are many tools to help achieve that (including hard work). That said, top artists make most of their money from live performances, so maybe we should take a listen to the isolated live vocal feed from those.
Here are 10 of today’s most famous artists live on stage with just their bare naked isolated vocal track. You be the judge as to how good they are.
The performers are Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, Rihanna, Beyonce, Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, and Mariah Carrey.
Please note: The comments on the video are not mine, but I agree with them.
There are few guitar players that you can truly say are influential, but Randy Rhoads is certainly one of them. His playing on Ozzy Osbourne’s initial solo album set the guitar world on fire, and for many metal players, it’s still the bar that everyone aims for. When “Crazy Train” exploded onto the radio guitar players everyone said to themselves, “What the f$*k was that?” and that’s exactly what we’re going to listen to today – Randy’s isolated guitar track from that hit. Here’s what to listen for (the guitar enters at 0:19 on the video).
1. Yes, that’s two guitar parts spread left and right and not an electronic double (actually producer Max Norman claims that there’s a third part in the middle but for the life of me I can’t hear it). You can hear some inconsistencies with some of the harmonics and chords, but there are very few. Pretty amazing how close the parts are.
2. The ambience that you hear on the guitars is mostly from the room, again according to Norman. There’s also a little bit of an AMS 1580 delay set to a light flange.
3. The solo at 2:49 is just one guitar panned a bit to the left with a short delay from the AMS on the right.
4. Randy used a fully cranked Marshall 100 watt amp (no master volume) with 2 cabinets, so it was a full stack – unusual for recording. The mic on the cabinet was an SM-58 (!!), with an AKG 451 a few feet back outside the amp room, and a couple of Shure SM87s in the room. The use of microphones intended for live may have come from the fact that Norman was primarily a live sound engineer before moving over to the studio.
For years now we’ve heard The Edgar Winter Group’s “Free Ride“on classic radio, movies and commercials, and as with all hits, there’s a lot of subtle expertise that’s gone into the track. Let’s take a listen to the isolated guitars.
1. The opening guitar riffs, played by songwriter Dan Hartman, is one of the prettiest Strat sounds you’ll ever hear. It’s panned slightly to the left, and you can hear a nice long delayed reverb on the right.
2. The B section feels likes it’s rushing just a bit. That might be because he was following the drums (remember this was before people started to record with a click track) when tracking.
3. Rick Derringer’s lead guitar is up the middle with less reverb (Ronnie Montrose played on the album version). You can hear some of the noise that we’d normally mute today on the second time through.
4. The guitar solo is double an octave up.
5. There’s an ending that you don’t hear on the record as there’s a short jam and a full stop ending if you listen all the way through.
Usually less is more, and that’s what you’ll find in today’s isolated track. Greg Rollie is a great Hammond player and his performance on Journey’s big hit “Any Way You Want It” shows why. There’s feel, tone and dynamics – all the things that lifts the level a performance. Here’s what to listen for.
1. The organ is recorded in mono and it has a boatload of delayed reverb on it that’s very apparent right in the beginning of the song.
2. Greg is playing with two hands (for the most part) – one on each keyboard. You can really hear the difference in the few times that his left hand drops out.
3. The part calls for the organ to shadow the guitar until the end of the verse, then a big swell into the upper keyboard on the chorus.
4. There’s a lot of disciple in this part. It doesn’t vary much in any section, and considering that its so sparse and Rollie has some chops, it’s pretty cool that he puts that aside for the betterment of the song.
5. The chorale setting of the Leslie is used throughout. I’m surprised that he didn’t use the fast rotor setting somewhere in one of the choruses.
The last couple of minutes are same so there’s really nothing new to hear beyond about 1:30.
Toto is a band of musician’s musicians, with a precision about their work that’s almost unrivaled. Of course that comes from years of top studio work before the band formed, something that can clearly be heard in Steve Lukather’s isolated guitar part on their hit “Rosanna.” Here’s what to listen for.
1. The precision of the playing here is as good as it gets. On time, perfect tempo, and a groove all built into the tracks.
2. The guitar has a short delay (I’d say around 50ms) that’s panned to the right for a great wide stereo effect. You’ll also hear a chorus, longer delays and some different reverbs as well as the song goes from section to section.
3. Listen to how often the guitar sound changes as well. It’s differently in just about every single section of the song.
4. The middle solo 3:15 is still in stereo but it’s very narrow compared to the rest of the song.
5. Check out the solo on the outro. Pure Luke!
Some might argue that “Staying Alive,” both song and the movie, heralded in the disco age. It’s certainly a song that everyone knows as it was iconic for the time as has seeped into our musical heritage. Whether you like disco or not, the Bee Gees had a sound that was entirely unique and hasn’t been duplicated since. There’s something about brothers singing together that produces a blend like no other, and it’s evidenced here on this isolated vocal track. Here’s what to listen for.
1. There’s a quarter note delay with a single repeat on the vocals that also has some short room on it. This delay is pretty loud when you hear it by itself, but it disappears into the mix when all the instruments are added (that’s what timed delays do).
2. Barry Gibb’s lead falsetto vocal is by itself, but you’ll hear certain phrases doubled that aren’t obvious in the final mix.
3. The B-section and chorus harmonies are doubled, which is why they’re so thick.
4. The bridge (“Going nowhere…”) full voice track is doubled, but it has a different sound to it than the other sections of the song, which makes me think it was an overdub done on a different day.
5. You can hear a lot of breaths in between words on the lead vocal. Today a producer would be tempted to eliminate them, but they add urgency to the track here.
The Bee Gees were certainly artists of the highest caliber. Great melodies, great changes (although not so much in this song), great lyrics, great harmonies. Always a pleasure to listen to.
Lady Gaga’s debut album was a worldwide smash, and the 5th single off the record, “Paparazzi” continued a streak of hit singles that would last for years. The song was written by Gaga and former manager Rob Fusari, who also co-produced the track. The mix was done by Robert Orton and mastered by Gene Grimaldi at Oasis Mastering. Here’s what to listen for.
1. The vocal in the first verse has a short stereo 1/16th note delay to give it some space, yet keep in almost dry and in your face.
2. An additional longer delay (sounds like an 1/8th note triplet) is added to the vocal when the choruses begin. This fills the spaces in between the phrases towards the end. Mixer Robert Orton likes to use delays much more than reverbs, and this track is a great example of that.
3. The bridge changes to a lightly flanged vocal that’s panned fairly wide (about 10 and 2 o’clock) leaving a big space in the middle.
4. There’s a fair amount of compression on the vocal but it’s really done tastefully in that you hardly hear it pump or pull. I don’t know for sure, but I would guess that there were several compressors used in series to keep it so steady without any side-effects.
Isn’t it fun to listen inside a big Lady Gaga hit?
There are some songs that get ingrained in rock n’ roll memory and become classics, and The Clash’s “London Calling” certainly fits that bill. It’s always a great treat to hear inside a song as there’s usually much more happening than we’re aware of in the full mix, and this song is no exception. Have a listen to the isolated guitars. Here’s what to listen for.
1. The famous opening riff is actually a combination of two guitars – one is Joe Strummer’s rhythm that’s playing the Em to Cm sus, and the other is Mick Jones straight Em against it. There’s also a E pedal note that gets louder as the intro goes along.
2. The rhythm guitar stays on the Em with a reggae pattern for the first half of the verse while the bass and lead guitar play the Em to C pattern. For the second half of the verse the rhythm goes back to the straight 1/4 notes like in the intro.
3. In the second half of the B section a second guitar joins with a chordal line that’s often missed when listening to the full mix.
4. The b7 at the end of the B section (some might call it the chorus) is way out of tune. Intentional? It certainly does add tension.
5. The interplay between the 2 guitars is off rhythm-wise during the second part of the 2nd verse. You don’t hear it in the track though.
6. You can really hear the backwards guitar solo pretty well here (it’s pretty buried in the full mix).
The final mix of The Clash’s “London Calling” is all kick, bass and vocal and the guitars are mixed pretty far down (listen at the bottom) so it’s fun to be able to hear exactly what’s going on. As always, there’s always a lot more there than you hear on the final mix of the record.
Most musicians and producers hold Motown in a certain reverence, and well they should, since the music has influenced a few generations of artists, players, arrangers and producers. One of the icons of the Motown studio band is bassist James Jamerson, and it’s always fun to listen to anything that shows his genius. Here’s the isolated bass and drums from the Marvin Gaye hit “Ain’t That Peculiar” that doesn’t so much show James’ technique as it does his ability to lyrically pick what to play.
1. The sound of Jamerson’s bass is a little on the distorted side, and what you’re hearing is a miked Ampeg B-15. He also muted the strings on his Precision bass with foam to get his unique sound.
2. There’s lots of leakage, but that’s because the whole band (piano, horns and all) recorded at the same time in a relatively small room about the size of a double garage. When you look at it in that context, the leakage really isn’t that bad.
3. Jamerson plays a repeating line that’s unusual in where it fits with the rest of the song, but listen to the notes he plays around the line. Once again, the notes never seem to fall into the places on the bar that you’d expect, and that’s what made him a genius.
4. The drums are pretty straight, but again, when there are fills they usually aren’t what you’d expect. The sound of the drums is also pretty flat, but that was before we knew what “big” drums sounded like.
5. The interplay between the bass and drums is fairly loose. If you’re used to being in the studio a lot, it’s even a little jarring at first, but by the end of the song it just feels so right!
Oh, for the good old days of people playing together in the studio! Here’s to the great James Jamerson.