Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Mastering by a Master

I always knew that mastering is crucial -- musicians pay a shitload of attention to their mixes [or producers do, if they've wrested control from the musicians -- as they should], but don't spend the money for a good mastering job. I learned that in the eighties, and the money spent on Greg Calbi struck me as one of the best bargains, dare I say it, "investments," made by a young DIY record company.

But I've had a hard time understanbding how "mastering" works in the digital age -- how it is different from just taking a macro view of the mixing process.

I don't know a goddamned thing more about it than I did yesterday, or last week. I don't know what the fuck mastering guys do, except use judicious ears to fine-tune eq to get the most out of a recording.

But I do know that my entirely fortuitous purchase of a used CD while in Missouri taught me a lot. I bought a volume of hits from 1976, hoping to use "afternoon Delight" or "You Are The Woman [That I've Always Dreamed of]" as a gag on one of my nascent podcasts.

Well, I saw that Joe Sasfy had produced it. A careful look confirmed that the collection was a Time-Life Collection digitally remastered by Steve Carr at Hit and Run.

I knew that Steve had hung a few Platinum albums up on his wall, and also knew that they were a result of his work on the Time-Life series.

i figuredthat he'd done digital conversions, and I knew that he'd done a solid, professional job [unless he'd been dropped on his head] because he is just a good, solid engineer and producer.

But I'll be GodDAMNed if the CD doesn't sound just . . . freakin fantastic!

Big, booming bass, crystal clear high end, pop, sizzle -- I run out of nouns and adjectives. It just sounds great.

And this is sourced from, at best, 1970s masters. And the Lou Rawls and Starland Vocal Band tracks [hell, the KC and the Sunshine Band track] didn't probably come from the absolute top fucking notch studios -- they may have been major label stuff [although I'm not sure about the first KC Record, or the SVB], but not the highest-budegeted acts in the world. But rather than revealing "limitations" of the original recordings, the remaster revealed some damned fine sound.

i still don't know how CD mastering really works, and I don't wanna look it up.

I'd prefer to remain under the impression that it's PFM.



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