Here's another Email I received about Klaatu's remastering of their first album.
Just an update on the progress of the first Klaatu remaster to hit the bricks on Bullseye.
Contrary to my note last week, Klaatu did not remaster '3:47 EST' last
Saturday as planned. Labour Day weekend proved to be unmanageable for
However, today was the day.
John Woloschuk, Terry Draper, and myself congregated at 10:30 AM at Prisma Sound in Toronto for the session with engineers Glenn Belcher and John Clarke.
On hand we had the original analog transfer of the master tapes from '3:47 EST' which had been done from baked reels on November 22, 1990. This tape was curious in two respects:
First -- "True Life Hero" appears on this transfer twice...one is a muddy, low-volume run through marked "The 'DO NOT USE' True Life Hero". The second pass is better fidelity but the top of the song was missing pieces of the first 4 or 5 seconds of the track. Completely unacceptable!
Second -- the version of "Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III" did not have a fadeout at the ending as we so commonly know from the final LP. Instead, it has an accapella vocal harmony following the final runthrough of the line "To Hell and come back" but is cut off in mid crescendo by an abrupt tape edit. This surprised even the boys from Klaatu. For those that don't recall, the Bodsworth mix on this LP is actually a monitor mix...the band only had this rough mix left for the album itself after a tape operator accidently erased the master tape of the song (making any future remixes in 5.1 sound impossible).
Because of the poor "True Life Hero" transfer on the DAT, Glenn grabbed a secondary version of the song from a second DAT which had been run from the original analog masters on a completely separate pass of the deteriorating tapes back in 1990 (a safety of the safety as it were). This version was perfect.
These tracks were all loaded into the main recording room's master computer in ProTools.
Everyone took a break for lunch as the songs loaded and we all discussed how to proceed with the session at length over the dinner table.
Glenn put it best when he asked John & Terry directly: "Now that you've had 25 years to live with this album, what do you want to achieve with it NOW?"
A good question with one solid answer: they wanted the most definitively pristine version of the album that not only satisfies the disgruntled audiophiles who had purchased previous versions, but is also true to the original INTENT of the album whether those intentions were fully realized upon release in 1976 or not.
What needed to be accomplished today was restoration of some badly mastered past attempts on CD as well as the blemishes that have surfaced since then AND address issues that Klaatu could never afford or even accomplish given their budget and equipment limitations from 1973 to 1975 when the album was being assembled.
Because Glenn had mastered a phenomenal version of the "Calling Occupants" 7" single edit for the Juno Box Set already -- and the full-length version for future reference (now THAT was some smart pre-thinking on John & Terry's part) it was decided that the ProTools mastering template for that track would be ground zero for the mastering of the entire album.
And the reasoning was simple. Klaatu recorded "Calling Occupants" last for the album in late 1975. All of Klaatu's previous two years in the studio had been a learning curve and "Calling Occupants" became the barometer for the EQing of the original vinyl. So, we used this as a jumping off point as well.
Woloschuk provided both the original mastering documentation for the vinyl (from April 23, 1976) and the CD remastering documentation (from November 22, 1990) making note of the inherent flaws in both so as to not repeat any of the downfalls of either but being cognizant of the differences in format (analog technology vs. digital technology).
The logical consensus was to take the best elements of both mastering techniques to preserve the brilliance and edge of a vinyl release while maximizing the benefits of multi-band compression, editing and clarity of digital mastering.
A quick run-through of each song showed that most of the original song masters were pretty much EQ'd and volumized equally -- with the exception of "True Life" which was a little 'hot' on the top end, "Sub -Rosa" which had all the inherent EQing flaws pointed out by Dave Bradley and Wayne Harrison the other day (Wayne, we used your comments as a springboard) and "Neutrino" which was both too quiet and too loud in certain spots -- for obvious reasons.
With "Calling Occupants" already fired up and templated to our satisfaction, it was decided to focus the bulk of the attention on "Neutrino"...if that one could be conquered everything else would be child's play. Because of the complexity of the track (Terry recounted that the mix heard on the album was actually a composite splice of three SEPARATE mixing sessions over a gruelling three day period) the "Calling Occupants" template was not used and instead the some creative assessment had to be implemented.
The song was rather noisy from tape hiss which made the EQing decision a critical one. Do you compress the crap out of the intro and ending (the two quietest spots in the song) and lose the subtleties in the process or work under the guise that analog has its limitations and give the remainder of the 8 minute song its rightful due?
John and Terry made an executive decision to maintain the integrity of the original tapes and live with a minimum of tape hiss (only noticeable if you REALLY crank up those headphones). It was also decided that the fade-out of the song should not be tampered with and the blank tape leading up to the mouse squeek would not be muted or muffled as this was the way it was mixed down from the original 24-track recording in the first place...no edits, just a straight play through -- with tape hiss -- following the fade and the mouse squeek hits with all its squeeky ferocity :-)
Glenn Bourgeois' had commented that the explosions on all the CD versions were rather compressed and lame. The original vinyl mastering notes (which caused the lacquers to be ruined from improper set-up back in the old days) showed a volume increase from that first explosive pan near the end of the song right through to the fade out. The amount of increase actually used was a fraction of what was noted in those original mastering sheets but the effect is mind numbing and recalls the moments originally heard on the vinyl all those years ago.
Next was "California Jam" which was assimilated into the "Calling Occupants" EQ template. Essentially, the same as "CO" with a little more clarity and more distinct bottom end...
"Anus" was the same with no challenges except the "glitch" pointed out by Wayne Harrison. This glitch is actually a tape edit that had come unglued at the point of analog transfer to DAT. Glenn went in with a ProTools pencil and flattened the frequency without actually erasing it...the click is there if you really listen closely but it's now muted and relatively background noise now. [to remove the glitch outright caused the track to sound like it was jumping forward a split second so that idea was nixed].
Next was the cranky "Sub-Rosa Subway" which also suffered a tape hiss problem during the intro. To compress this would have sacrificed the piano volume even more than before and once again the band deferred to the 'integrity' of the production issue [not that I agreed with that final decision, but they ARE the artists after all].
Wayne & Dave's idea of EQing some additional bottom end was a sound one except near the end of the song where the intensity of the kick drum and bass guitar increase (John used a Hoffner bass throughout the whole song, which suddenly becomes a Rickenbacher to achieve the driving sound in the final minutes) made it necessary to automate a bottom-end roll off to keep the track from peaking out at distorted levels.
"True Life Hero" was next and was essentially married to the "Calling
Occupants" template as well except some top end was rolled off and the volume level brought down a DB level or two.
Now the ending...
Fans have complained about the impromptu dead-edit as the song fades out which leads into a hard intro for "Doctor Marvello". The whole transition is disjointed.
This was pointed out to the band and it was revealed that the intention back in 1975 was to have the two songs cross fade...which was nearly impossible given the conditions and budget the band was under at Toronto Sound Studios. To cross fade from analog tape to analog tape is lengthy, time-consuming and generally resulted in a poor second generation master copy in the end...so the decision was made to butt-end the two tracks together. Little did they know that years later that little trick would be uncovered as flawed in a set of headphones.
With ProTools the cross-fade was now possible. Revisionist? Maybe...but the band's reasoning was two-fold. One, they got to correct a problem they were unable to resolve because of circumstances 25 years ago, and Two, they wanted to show that at least one noticeable change was made to prove that, yes, this was a NEW remaster of the album and not a bogus digitally enhanced walk through of the previous bad digital versions foisted on the public in previous attempts.
"Marvello" was spun through the same "Calling Occupants" template as well as attention paid to the additional EQing given to "California Jam" (as these two songs fall within the same frequency response range).
"Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby" proved to be a bit of a chore as we discovered not ONE, but TWO glitches in the first set of verses. John had initially thought these to be crackles from his lips smacking on the microphone trying to achieve that gravelly vocal. However, upon closer inpection we realized that the clicks were on TOP of the production mix meaning that they were foreign noises introduced during one of the transfers. What was surprising is that no one ever mentioned these in recent weeks from the Attic release which they are definitely on (and I suspect the Justin release as well because they both originate from the same source master).
The crackles were rubbed out (still there, but ultimately quieter and less distracting). We then had to address the issue of that previously unheard ending. The original mastering notes from 1976 showed where the fade should start and we used that as our leaping off point. In a set of headphones the extra few seconds of the a cappella piece can be heard in the fade-out...another unique revision to this master for the completists out there.
The final stage of the game was to save all the files as back-ups and then sequence the tracks with the correct spacing. Which has been done...including the 7 seconds between "Calling Occupants" and "California Jam".
The 'Hope' remaster will probably be done in January, and the band has asked me to extend an olive branch to producer Terry Brown by asking him to attend THOSE remastering sessions when they occur. After all, he did win a Juno Award in 1978 for engineering this LP.
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