Sunday, August 3, 2008

what makes a good song?

i'd never really listened to quiet riot's 'metal health' before... (unofficially also titled 'bang your head').

i think it's a pretty blatant rip off of def leppard's high and dry. go listen.

the intro guitars are different, but once the verses come on, the build up and melody is _very_ similar. fyi, def leppard was first.

then i wondered - why do i like the def leppard version so much more? they communicate much the same idea. some thoughts:

. def leppard's is faster
. the build up is more gradual, and has is more techincally impressive.
. the def leppard song has more parts (eventually)
. the drumming on the def leppard song is more involved/energetic.

sometimes, i think if you took two nearly identical songs, where one was somehow 'better' than the other, you could learn a lot about what makes a good song.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A quick, bloggy note

I just caught Bookshop Casanova by The Clientele on New York Noise.

I have never before heard something I would describe as a "George Harrison rip off"... Impressive, I'd say.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Reading Wilson and Alroy's Record Reviews, I found out about the band Spirit.

They were mentioned as having written the song that Led Zeppelin ripped off to come up with the intro for Stairway to Heaven. The Spirit song was Taurus, and the guitar part is played about 40 seconds into the song.

Other direct influences from Spirit: Aerosmith's Somebody has a guitar/vocal solo very similar to the one on Spirit's Uncle Jack.

Listening to Spirit's album The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus, I came across the song When I Touch You, and was pretty impressed with it.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

'interesting' pop

One goal in music that I appreciate is the creation of interesting, layered, complex, challenging pop.

One of the important things to remember about this sort of stuff is that you need to have something immediately fairly catchy and understandable, but you need to layer things in that reward repeated listens, and don't end up being boring..

Off the top of my head, Shiina Ringo, Bumblefoot (on his latest CD), and Jethro Tull are among the most successful at this sort of thing.

Bumblefoot - Real
Bumblefoot - Normal
Shiina Ringo - Identity
Shiina Ringo - Shuukyo
Tokyo Jihen (Shiina Ringo) - OSCA
Jethro Tull - Velvet Green
Jethro Tull - Quizz Kidd/Crazed Institution
Judas Priest - Deliverin' The Goods

searching for clips, I found this cool video of Bumblefoot covering Judas Priest's Running Wild

songs that sound similar

Deep Purple's Stormbringer (1975) and Judas Priest's Revolution.
(wait until the verses)

The Definitive Edition

Let's go a little in a different direction and talk about remasters, remixes, alternate takes, and definitive editions.

When there's a crappy old release, and there's a desire to clean it up, there are a lot of ways you can do it:

A purist would insist on simply improving the transfer between the 'master tape' (traditionally some high-quality reel-to-reel tape) and the final product. Companies like MFSL will do this at half speed, for instance, to reduce hiss (if you do it at half speed, the hiss sounds the same, and then when you play it at full speed, the hiss is much higher, and much of it is out of the range of human hearing).

If you want to get less pure, you can apply all sorts of equalization and similar things. One can argue that no matter what you do, your transfer will never be 'pure', and that you need to compensate in these ways.

You can go further, and apply noise reduction (something I personally dislike, as I can often hear its effects on the sounds themselves more than on the noise), gating, things like that.

You can go even further, and take as your source material the original multitrack tapes, rather than the master. This means you can apply any one of the above steps to the original, cleanly recorded instruments. The big problem is that you have to actually duplicate the parameters of the original mix as closely as possible. The end result is likely to be less 'definitive' in that it sounds less like the original, but who's to say if it's less 'definitive' in the sense of closer to the original intent?

You can go a little further, even, and intentionally diverge from the original mix - a true remix. Again, this is a highly subjective matter.

Some interesting examples:

The Who - Who's Next. The original master tape was apparently ceremoniously destroyed after completion, so the remastered CD release was actually remixed. Some people complained of this. The original CD release was from some master other than the original, so is truer in some ways to the original recording.

Judas Priest - the remasters. Actually, these are again remixes, and some people have found some flaws, compared with the originals. Still, the sound quality is arguably better.
Judas Priest - Hero Hero. This deserves its own post (maybe, maybe later). Apparently no one was satisfied with the results of Judas Priest's first album's mastering (Rocka Rolla, 1974), so to capitalize on their success, their original record company (Gull Records), asked Rodger Bain (producer of Rocka Rolla, as well as early Budgie and Black Sabbath), to truly remix the album, as Hero Hero, in 1981. The results are interesting, where most of the songs are just 'interestingly different' (in my opinion), while a few sound actually better for the remixing. Certainly, you can hear Rob Halfords climactic "I can't go on" more in the front of the mix, though with a lot of echo, on "Run of the mill".
(for more info, check out the excellent Judas Priest INFO PAGES)

Various MFSL releases - Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, all sorts. These are true remasters.

Apparently, the King Crimson remasters were really remixes, that angered some people..

For the rerelease of Koenhihyakkei's first album, drummer Tatsuya Yoshida not only remixed it, but rerecorded the drums.

Jethro Tull's Stand Up has had many releases on CD. The "Orginals" rerelease, by Chrysalis, was a processed remaster, with all sorts of noise reduction, compression, eq, and other processing, while the MFSL gold disc version had none of those features. The results are subjective, and also will sound different on different systems.

Given all these changes, it's sometimes difficult to even define what a 'definitive' edition really is.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bon Scott

I've been starting to appreciate AC/DC's originally singer more and more these days.

Back in my teen years, I always preferred the Scott AC/DC material to the Johnson material - I thought it was because it was more raw, and that may be true.

I came across Scott's band before AC/DC (at least, one of them) - Fraternity. I had some trouble believing it was him, on this song, Seasons of Change (now removed from youtube!), and also Jupiter's Landscapes.
Clearly, this is a guy who can sing, and who can do quite a bit with his voice..

Which is why it's so interesting that he eventually chose such a raw sound, as shown here in T.N.T. What's so interesting about him is that he knew when _not_ to sing, something that a lot of 'skilled' singers never really figured out.
Also, check out his range on Touch Too Much. (Another cool thing about Touch Too Much is how there's no bass until the chorus - a very nice effect)

just for kicks, check out some really early Bon: The Valentines : Build Me Up Buttercup.

also just for kicks, check out Spongebob's version of T.N.T.