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Jeff Buckley: the first Anti-Loudness War Remastering?
Old 17th April 2008
  #1
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🎧 15 years
Jeff Buckley: the first Anti-Loudness War Remastering?

So I love Jeff Buckley. Anyone who knows me knows this.

The other day, I am at a record store (yes, they still exist!) and I happen to idly pick up a new record called "So Real" which is essentially an anthology of songs that I have, for the most part, heard before on other releases.

I buy it mostly on a slightly extravagant, completist impulse. I don't need it.

I load it onto my macbook's iTunes (using straight uncompressed AIFF, which is what I always do... I'm not an MP3 kinda guy) and then put it onto my iPod.

And then I promptly forget about it for a few days. I don't bother listening to it because, as I said, I already own the songs on other releases.

Anyway, yesterday I am at home washing dishes and I decide to play the disc. I have one of those now-discontinued Apple boombox things sitting on a shelf in the kitchen and I blast it just for fun.

And then I'm blown away.

Everything sounds deeper and more vivid. There seems to be a much wider dynamic range. Kick drums shoot way outside of the sustaining guitars, snare drums have extra life. There is more drama. The music has more "throw." Even on my little Apple boombox thingie in the kitchen, it seems much different than what I am used to hearing.

I think "Whoa!" but at first, I feel that I must be imagining the difference. Maybe I'm just in a good mood? But, no, as the music continues to play, I become more convinced: I am not imagining this. This record sounds f**king different.

I hop on the internet to google around and see what's up. (You would think that I would first read the liner notes, but sadly this is not the first thought that occurs to me. I actually forget to check the liner notes, even though they are right there on the table. This speaks volumes about the state of physical product in 2008, but I digress...)

Eventually, I find this amazing article. And my suspicions are proven correct: it does sound different!!

Further research (read: actually looking at the f**king liner notes) shows that it was remastered by Emily Lazar at the Lodge. By total coincidence, Emily's a friend of mine. I think she's brilliant, so reading the credit makes me even happier.

So, anyways, the question: Is this the beginning of a trend I predicted seven years ago? The remastering and re-issue of loudness war casualty records that were initially bludgeoned with compression, but now can be released without the so-called "competitive" limiting? The possibility of labels selling catalogue releases from the '90s and '00s back to the public again?

Are we going to see releases with the advertising claim
"Now with full dynamic range!"??

Speaking on a Tape Op conference mastering panel several years ago, I predicted this was going to start happening in the future when the loudness madness began to wear off.

Everybody thought I was kidding...

- c
Old 17th April 2008
  #2
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Silver Sonya's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
Also, check out this article where Jeff's mother (caretaker of his estate) talks about pursuing better sound quality for this release.

And I just realized that the title of the anthology (named after one of his songs) could also be seen as a reference to the sound quality.

Duh.

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #3
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Great post. Thanks!
Old 17th April 2008
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I think that Emily has a really good ear, she's got soul and ghosts in her machines.
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
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Silver Sonya's Avatar
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood ➑️
I think that Emily has a really good ear, she's got soul and ghosts in her machines.
Agreed on all counts. If you want further reinforcement of this, pick up this new record and compare it to any previous Jeff Buckley release.

The difference is... not subtle...

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood ➑️
I think that Emily has a really good ear, she's got soul and ghosts in her machines.
She also messed up Prodigy with just about the most squashed record ever.

Or rather, it probably shows that the ARTIST in this case messed it up by ordering the sound louder and louder and louder.
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lagerfeldt ➑️
She also messed up Prodigy with just about the most squashed record ever.

Or rather, it probably shows that the ARTIST in this case messed it up by ordering the sound louder and louder and louder.
...Or the source tape itself was horribly squashed and Emily had nothing to do with it? A distinct likelihood.

This has happened to me so many times in my work. Client gives me horribly over-compressed (or, more precisely, awkwardly compressed) source mixes and then I worry quietly to myself "I hope people don't think that I mastered it this way..."

This has happened to every mastering engineer on the planet.

Anyway, whatever, back on topic. This thread's not a referendum about Emily, it's about an innovative release with larger implications for a possible new trend.

Anyone else aware of any Post-Loudness War re-issues?

...or is this one the first?

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
Agreed on all counts. If you want further reinforcement of this, pick up this new record and compare it to any previous Jeff Buckley release.

The difference is... not subtle...

- c
I plan on going to my local record shop tomorrow...
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #9
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🎧 15 years
funny to read this thread. i have been enjoying the new Sia album called "some people have real problems". its a wonderful album of a wonderful artist. but the thing is that the mastering is so so quiet - i was shocked to see just how much quieter it really is than most comercial cd's. it would have to have been a choice , i don't think it could have been an accident. i mean how could it be. if i were the producer i would have never allowed for the album to have been mastered that low ever , ever , but in a weird way i was so pleasantly surprised to find it so much lower in volume ... quite a bold decision. is there possibly a chance that cd's will become dynamic again?? just when i have really really mastered the volume wars too
the thought of me finally being able to just mix the way i want instead of always having the mastering stage in mind while i mix ... hhmmmm .. i cant even imagine !

s
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
...Or the source tape itself was horribly squashed and Emily had nothing to do with it? A distinct likelihood.
True, that is also a possibility.

She's got amazing EQ skills BTW.
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #11
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🎧 15 years
i finally heard "the sky is a landfill" and "everybody here wants you"
from vinyl the other night "sketches" was pressed on 3 discs and limited to
1000 copies - it is extremely difficult to find. those songs sounded amazing
on lp.



be well


- jack
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
Also, check out this article where Jeff's mother (caretaker of his estate) talks about pursuing better sound quality for this release.
The link doesn't work here but I remember Jeff's mother stating that the 'Grace' remaster from a few years back was better than the original CD release because there's less compression.......and this is total BS, I'm sorry to say.

I bought the 'Grace' remaster/Deluxe edition and wondered why the amazing emotional impact these tunes had on me didn't materialize. A bit of research and actually loading both version into PT revealed that the remaster was much more limited to get more volume, basically what happened to most CD remasters.
The amazing clarity and air of the original 'Grace' mix is lost on the remasters, it doesn't sound bad at all, maybe even a bit warmer, but it just does teh music a disservice.

But just the oher day I spotted 'Grace' on vinyl in a store here and I'm definitely gonna buy it, even though my turntable isn't fixed yet. I'm sure that the vinyl will blow away any digital version.

I don't like what's being done to Jeff's legacy at all, YET another compilation for an artist that only released ONE full-length album in his lifetime (albeit a most amazing one) says it all I guess.....
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
Also, check out this article where Jeff's mother (caretaker of his estate) talks about pursuing better sound quality for this release.
I mastered a previously unreleased Buckley track for a compilation called "For New Orleans".

SugarfootMusic.com Track List For New Orleans

We had to get her approval for the editing and mastering before it could go to press. His legacy is in very good hands!


GR
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #14
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This is good to know about. I went to only listening to my vinyl version of 'Grace' due to not loving the Grace CD sound.

This topic brought me back to another CD I can never listen to again-Al Green 'Take Me to the River'. I hope the person that mastered it is not on the forum...
The hihats/cymbals hurt on this CD.
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by themaidsroom ➑️
i finally heard "the sky is a landfill" and "everybody here wants you"
from vinyl the other night "sketches" was pressed on 3 discs and limited to
1000 copies - it is extremely difficult to find. those songs sounded amazing
on lp.



be well


- jack
Those songs are absolute genius!

Wow, I didn't know about a vinyl issue of "Sketches." Where'd you find that?!

I have to wonder, though, whether the mastering is simply a vinyl transfer of the CD master. This happens all the time these days and it's a little-known scandal. People say they love the vinyl sound, but often they're simply listening to the same mastering. Truly great vinyl mastering is purpose-built. Don't even get me started on this topic...

Anyway, If I could bring one musician back from the dead, it would be tough not to choose Jeff. John Lennon might win out, though...

What a morbid topic; I don't even know why I would bring that up. There are so many brilliant musicians whose lives were cut short. That's a long list.

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #16
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🎧 15 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
...Or the source tape itself was horribly squashed and Emily had nothing to do with it? A distinct likelihood.
As far as I am aware there was no master tape, as from a article i read Liam Howlett took his laptop and had it going off there so he could adjust all the individuals levels as he wished
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aivoryuk ➑️
As far as I am aware there was no master tape, as from a article i read Liam Howlett took his laptop and had it going off there so he could adjust all the individuals levels as he wished
Still a "source tape" in the conventional industry parlance. I didn't mean literally analog tape. I just meant the source mixes.

A laptop mixed record could easily be horribly butchered before it reaches the mastering desk. One might even argue that laptop mixes are more likely to be f***ed up than conventional mixes. That's a whole topic unto itself, I suppose.

Anyway, I don't want to go stray too far off the stated topic of the thread. I'd be happy to contribute to an Emily Lazar or Prodigy thread if people wanna open one. (Actually, I have no interest whatsoever in Prodigy, but whatever. Taste is subjective.)

Back on the rails: my conjecture: "So Real" is the first record of its kind. A re-issue that is more dynamic than its loudness war original issue. As far as I know this has never happened before.

Anyone have another example of this? Or is this record truly a breakthrough?

I mean, think of the possibilities. Every popular rock record from the last 12 or 13 years of loudness war madness could now be re-issued in the future with wider dynamic range, if there's a market for this.

Wouldn't dedicated fans of a band want to buy this? I admit this is not something the general public would care about, but hardcore dedicated fans would want to hear it.

I mean, take for example the latest Bruce Springsteen album, which is infamous for how brutally awful the sound is. Wouldn't Bruce's fans want to hear the record "naturally" after the initial commercial push is over?

Maybe the label finally realized: "What's the point of slamming Jeff Buckley's music into the superloud brick wall? He's gone, he was a genius, he's respected, and he was never on the radio anyway [and, really, does terrestrial radio exist as a promotional cultural force anymore?] . And hey, check it out: the only people who are listening are... the people who are really listening."

Maybe they're treating it as --- gasp! --- art!

Y'know?

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #18
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🎧 15 years
not wanting to get off the topic but found the link for the article

The Prodigy
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aivoryuk ➑️
not wanting to get off the topic but found the link for the article

The Prodigy
ugh.

c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
Anyway, I don't want to go stray too far off the stated topic of the thread. I'd be happy to contribute to an Emily Lazar or Prodigy thread if people wanna open one. (Actually, I have no interest whatsoever in Prodigy, but whatever. Taste is subjective.)
Bears repeating.

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aivoryuk ➑️
not wanting to get off the topic but found the link for the article

The Prodigy
Based on this following quote from the above linked article I'd say that the hyper-limiting was requested by the client - who seems very happy with the results:

Quote:
Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned was eventually mastered in the Lodge Studios, New York, by Emily Lazar. "She's brilliant — she does a lot of hip-hop and she totally understands bass," Liam says. "And she gets volumes that other people can't get. I went to New York for the mastering and the sound was monstrous. It just shifted up a few more gears. We had Pro Tools set up and were still tweaking the tracks in another room linked to the studio, adding more bass until we were happy with it. It was a good idea to take Pro Tools to the mastering room and I'd certainly do it again."
Just another example that when people get disappointed by a hyper-limited release that the blame for this generally lies with the client and not with the ME!

Best regards,
Steve Berson
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #22
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Certainly, but also an indication that the mixes weren't necessarily squashed to begin with.

I haven't heard the re-mastered Jeff Buckley, but I'm a huge fan of Jeff Buckley (who isn't) so I might get it too.
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
Back on the rails: my conjecture: "So Real" is the first record of its kind. A re-issue that is more dynamic than its loudness war original issue. As far as I know this has never happened before.
I'm totally lost here.... 'Grace' was issued on CD way before the 'loudness war' era, the original CD sounds great. The remaster was IMO also pretty o.k in terms of level but it added more limiting in an attempt to either raise the level or 'warm up' the sound.

Also, it added bonus tracks on a second disc so it's obvious marketing-wise that they wanted to sell it as 'better' also in regard to the original CD issue.

So we should thankful that there's YET another version, or better said 'sampler', whatever that means in regard to Jeff Buckley.

I don't get it.
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker ➑️
I'm totally lost here.... 'Grace' was issued on CD way before the 'loudness war' era, the original CD sounds great.
I disagree that the original CD sounds great, but that's okay. Subjective.

Mainly this raises the question: when do you think the loudness war began?

I mean, there's an argument that it's been happening since the Beatles' "Revolver," but that's kind of taking it to absurd dimensions.

I find it interesting that you consider "Grace" to be pre-loudness war. I'm not saying I disagree with you, but I'm curious: when do you say it began?

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #25
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Regarding the content of "So Real," I agree with you. I think it's time to stop mining his catalog and let the existing releases speak for his life's work. But the label isn't marketing it the way it should be:

"Now, for the first time, hear these Jeff Buckley songs with less strident equalizaiton and more moderate limiting."

I guess that's not such a sexy promotional tagline. Only nerdy audiophiles would buy it.

The official stated reason for "So Real" is to mark the 10th anniversary of his death.

Btw, there are a lot of Jeff Buckley fans who agree with you about the *yawn* content of the record.

This is why I'm saying that the real star of the show is the new sound.

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
I find it interesting that you consider "Grace" to be pre-loudness war. I'm not saying I disagree with you, but I'm curious: when do you say it began?
No idea, it's most obvious when listening to random stuff on my iPod (I only do this when jogging). Some songs are HALF the volume of others.

I always though that 'Grace' sounded great but when i got a Studer CD player a while ago, I actually was floored.....unbelievable clarity and emotional impact, just a great mix on top of killer perfromances. I think that this impact was lessened in the CD remaster, that's just my opinion.

I tend to be pretty unscienctific about this stuff, about a week ago I bought the new Black Crowes CD 'Warpaint' and I do think it sounds great and the level seems o.k. On the other hand, I also got the latest Lenny Kravitz platter and it sounds small, crushed and claustophobic to me...could be the music though....
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by doorknocker ➑️
No idea, it's most obvious when listening to random stuff on my iPod (I only do this when jogging). Some songs are HALF the volume of others.

I always though that 'Grace' sounded great but when i got a Studer CD player a while ago, I actually was floored.....unbelievable clarity and emotional impact, just a great mix on top of killer perfromances. I think that this impact was lessened in the CD remaster, that's just my opinion.

I tend to be pretty unscienctific about this stuff, about a week ago I bought the new Black Crowes CD 'Warpaint' and I do think it sounds great and the level seems o.k. On the other hand, I also got the latest Lenny Kravitz platter and it sounds small, crushed and claustophobic to me...could be the music though....
Seriously, I encourage you to spend the $12 or whatever for "So Real." Buy it and see if you don't agree that the sound is superior to any previous release. It's stunning.

- c
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #28
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Sony swooped in and took all of his stuff, so I'd expect every last demo to be released eventually. I don't expect this to be a trend because it's posthumous, and it's not a hit record musically. Not to be cynical, just realistically speaking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bcgood ➑️
I think that Emily has a really good ear, she's got soul and ghosts in her machines.
Are there ghost in Avalon's stuff? I thought it was surface mount ICs Seriously, Emily is a good person I respect, but she works for clients, some of which have had her abuse music. The thanks here goes to his mom.
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Silver Sonya ➑️
Seriously, I encourage you to spend the $12 or whatever for "So Real." Buy it and see if you don't agree that the sound is superior to any previous release. It's stunning.
Thanks but I go for the 'Grace' vinyl I spotted the other day first. it must be a new issue because the store that had it on the shelf only sells new vinyl.

Again, I love 'Grace' in the original CD issue. It's a testament to Andy Wallace's mixing skills that it's not audiophile or hyped sounding but just right, that's IMO anyway.
Old 17th April 2008 | Show parent
  #30
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🎧 15 years
from what i know, there are close to 50 songs on 2" tape that are still in the
vault - jeff and a guitar performing the great american songbook ........
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