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It’s always a treat to hear the isolated tracks from a hit, especially when they’re from the old days of extreme tape machine limitations. The Beatles “Day Tripper” is an excellent example of how great a recording could be with only 4 tracks as we listen to the isolated bass and drums from the song. Of course, the magic is all in the song and you can certainly hear that in the recording. Here are some things to listen for.
1. The sound of the bass. It’s pretty woofy and not too defined like it would be in later recordings, but actually works in the track pretty well in when mixed with everything else. The bass sounds pretty bad by itself, which proves the point that sometimes relying on the solo button isn’t exactly the best thing for a mix.
2. There’s a lot of leakage. That would make producers, engineers and players crazy today but it was just standard operating procedure back then. No big deal, you just make it work for you.
3. The B-section bass changes. Paul McCartney plays a different part on each of the three B-sections, but each one of them is brilliant and works as well as the previous one. I wonder if this was planned or just happened spontaneously?
4. The drum B-section snare. Ringo play’s a little pickup snare fill on the second half of the B-section that almost sounds like a mistake. it’s a tad slow, as are the fills and builds, but it actually works well against the other tracks.
5. The bass line on the outro. It’s also a little different from what you’re used to hearing. It actually sounds like this version of “Day Tripper” might either be an outtake or the song was edited to make it a bit longer on the final version.
6. There’s an ending. You don’t hear it on the record but there’s one there if you listen to the end.
There’s so much to learn from the old Motown records in terms of arrangements and groove. You can hear more when you strip off the lead vocal and just listen to the instrumental track laid down by The Funk Brothers (the Motown house band), which is what we’ll do today with Smokey Robinson and the Miracles 1965 hit “Going To A Go Go.” Here’s what to listen for.
1. This was the early days of stereo when all you had available for panning on consoles was hard left and half-left, hard right and half-right, and center. As a result, most instruments are panned in one of those left or right positions except for the bass. Most instruments are panned in the half positions (about 10:30 and 1:30), drums are left, tambourine right, guitars and horns right. Ad lib vocals and claps are hard left and piano and the sax solo is hard right.
2. The guitar sound is very interesting because its three guitar players all playing the same line, so it sounds like a huge 12 string.
3. The long and smooth Motown reverb blends everything together.
4. There’s some background vocals that you don’t hear that well on the final mix that can be clearly heard here, like the “Go go’s” during the second verse, the “ooh’s” answering the sax solo. and the “Come on’s” during the third verse.
5. What’s interesting is the drums are fairly buried in the mix and its the claps and tambourine that carry the groove of the song.
6. James Jamerson’s bass plays a very disciplined line that doesn’t vary much, which is very different from other Motown records that he played on.
All in all, this is another great example of why Motown’s Detroit-made hits were so appealing. When you had a studio full of great musicians playing at the same time, coupled with some great songs and arrangements, it’s hard to go wrong and listening to this instrumental track shows why.
There’s been a lot of hits from the past that you continue to hear on the radio, but a perennial favorite is “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” from Blue Oyster Cult. The song comes from the band’s 1976 album Agents of Fortune album, where it hit #12 on the Billboard charts and has been around ever since. You’ve probably heard the song hundreds of times, but you’re probably not aware of some of the very interesting things that are going on inside the mix that you don’t readily hear. Pull up some headphones and take a listen to the following.
1. The clean guitar playing the lead riff, which comes in the second time through the riff (which you don’t hear here).
2. This song is famous for its cowbell (thank you Saturday Night Live), but the percussion instrument that really stands out is the guiro (as seen on right).
3. The organ shadows the vocals. Here you can hear the organ leaning to the left, and the low harmony leaning to the right.
4. There’s what sounds like a clavinet playing whole notes in the B section.
5. In the bridge you can hear the doubles of the clean arpeggiated guitar and distorted guitar riff.
6. At the end of the bridge there’s a synth that doubles the feedback guitar (which you can’t hear here).
7. On the outro there’s an new keyboard shadowing the main chord pattern.
8. If you listen to the end, you’ll hear the ending that didn’t make the final mix on the record.
All in all, a very cool version of some buried in the mix isolated backing tracks that will have you listening to the track differently the next time you hear it.
How many times have you heard a cover band play Stevie Wonder’s seminal “Superstition” and think, “That doesn’t sound like the record.” One of the reasons why is because there’s more than one clavinet on the track, a fact that’s usually overlooked by the band. In fact, according to Bob Margouleff (who recorded and co-produced the song – hear him talk about working with Stevie on my Inner Circle Podcast episode #78) there are actually 4 clavinets on the track, and in today’s video you can hear them clearly.
1. The clav track on the left during the verse is the signature line that everyone knows.
2. The clav track on the right plays counterpoint to the signature track, and is actually key to the sound of the record (and the part that no one ever plays).
3. During the B-section there are two new clav sounds that replace the verse clavinets, one on each side, that are much softer sounding.
4. Listen for the amplifier noise (no directs used here) on the intro of the track, and Stevie singing in the background during the breaks.
The Who’s “Baba O’Riley” is one of the most played tracks in the entire band’s catalog, to the point were just about every fan (and non-fan’s alike) know each note and part by heart. That’s why today’s isolated track is so cool. It strips away the arpeggiated synthesizer and, in some parts, the piano, to give you a clear listen as to what’s going on deep inside the mix. Here are some things to listen for:
1. The reverb on the vocal is pretty short, unlike many Who mixes. It’s also delayed so the vocal stands out a bit more.
2. The drums are in stereo, but have an unusual balance, with the snare and most of the kit leaning right and the ride and a crash leaning left. On the tom fill at 1:33 you can hear the rack tom on the left as well. Keith Moon also rarely plays the hat during the song, instead bashing the cymbals throughout, something that a producer would no doubt change today.
3. The big guitar power chords in the verse (0:51) are doubled and maybe even tripled, which you don’t notice in the full mix.
4. The outro starting at 3:11 sounds much different without the violin. You definitely get to appreciate Moon’s prowess with his dynamics and machine gun snare roll.
As always, there’s always a lot of cool production techniques to be learned from an isolated track, and this one is no exception.
The band Toto has some of the most acclaimed studio musicians as members, which is why it’s always a pleasure to listen inside one of their songs. Today we’ll take a listen to the isolated drums, keyboards and horns from the Grammy-winning song “Rosanna.” This one’s a real treat! Here’s what to listen for:
1. The late great Jeff Porcaro is on drums playing a version of the half-time “Purdie shuffle” feel. The isolated drums lets you hear why he was one of the most in-demand session drummers ever, with rock solid time and a feel that pushes the track along perfectly. His drums sound great, with just a touch of reverb for ambience.
2. The arrangement is based around David Paich’s (another great session player) piano, which starts in a middle register and moves up an octave for the B section of the song, then back down for the C section and chorus. It also has a nice stereo spread with the left hand panned to about 9 o’clock and the right at around 1:30.
3. Listen to the way Steve Porcaro’s synthesizer strategically weaves in and out of the song. It’s mostly on an organ patch, but you can hear the patch morph into a string patch at the end of the chorus.
4. In the solo section around 3:20, percussion is added that gives that section some movement.
5. Check out the horn section on the turnaround to each chorus and playing a fill line in the chorus. It’s a section of 2 saxes, 2 trumpets and a trombone that are doubled and panned in stereo.
6. The outro jam is a real treat.
If ever there was a track that let you hear why the guys in Toto were all first call session players, this is it.