Tag Archives for " isolated vocals "
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.
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.
I usually post isolated tracks on Fridays and for the most part, the majority of them are classic songs that are somewhat old. The reason for that is that those tracks are more available, but every now and then I find something that’s current, like today’s One Direction isolated vocal track of their hit “You And I,” which was co-written and produced by Julian Bunetta and John Ryan. Here’s what to listen for.
1. Unlike most songs today that are somewhat dry, the vocals on “You And I” are deeply effected. There’s a basic long, very lush, delayed reverb that’s augmented by a 1/2 note and sometimes 1/4 note delay that trails its repeats to the left.
2. There’s a lot of compression on these vocals and sometimes it really stands out. That said, you’d never hear it in the track, and that’s what counts in the end.
3. Listen to the beginning of the choruses at 1:07 and 1:54 on the left (especially at 1:54 and a little beyond). There’s some throat clearing that was left in. This was something you heard a lot back in the old tape days, but hardly much any more in the world of DAWs. There’s also a lot of lip noise during the second verse at 2:32 on beyond. I’m surprised this wasn’t cleaned up. Likewise, there are some glitches around 4:46 and again around 6:30. Can’t tell if these are just digital artifacts from the upload or if on the recording. There’s even a bit of noise from the studio talkback left in.
4. There are some very abrupt cut-offs on some of these vocal tracks, which makes me think that the editing wasn’t as good as it could have been. Usually you put a slight fade at the end of an edit to eliminate that.
5. At 6 minutes and 54 seconds, this is a really long song in a time where shortness prevails. However, like other big hitmakers of the past, One Direction can break the current rules and even establish some new trends thanks to its huge fan base.
When Lorde broke on the scene in 2013 with “Royals” the song was met with positive critical acclaim and the singer immediately built a huge fan base that embraced her minimalist sound. That sound is somewhat deceiving though, because even though the backing track doesn’t contain many elements, Lorde’s vocals are far more complex than you might think from a casual listen. Take a listen to the isolated vocals to see what I mean.
As an interesting aside, the song’s title and lyrical hook is actually named after the Kansas City Royals baseball team. Lorde saw an image of the Royals hall of fame great George Brett on a 1976 copy of National Geographic and decided the name was cool (how she saw such an old magazine is unclear), and it provided the inspiration for the song.
Here’s what to listen for.
1. Check out the nice delayed reverb. The delay is pretty long and so is the reverb tail, which is pretty much needed to fill the spaces in a minimalist arrangement like this one. It’s also pretty dark so it adds a nice glue to the track.
2. The background vocal arrangements are very sophisticated and Lorde is excellent when it comes to singing with herself. There are also some difficult harmonies that she pulls off perfectly.
3. The vocals are pretty compressed, and you can hear the compressor pulling during the choruses, which are sung with much more intensity than the verses.
4. The second verse develops nicely thanks to a combination of simple and stacked harmonies, as well as a slight melody change.
5. Unlike just about everything on the charts today, the lead vocal isn’t doubled, which is very refreshing sound.
6. You hear the finger snaps and lots of phasing artifacts throughout the video. I suspect this isolated track was created by playing with the phase of the track to eliminate everything but the elements that were panned to the center during the mix. The phasing sound is byproduct of the process.