Saturday, July 21, 2007

Recordings ---Old and New

The title might be a bit misleading. Some thoughts on the evolution of recording from the 78s to LPs and CDs (I leave out wax cylinders---I am not that old but do know about them).

And there you have it---78 on top, LP (33 1/3) , 45, and, CD. One brief aside regards the 45 and the LP. Sort of a VHS vs Beta Max or the DVD formats now in contention. Each hoped to be the standard and we now know what has been relegated to the dustbin of recording history (and become collector's items). No word on DVD standard as yet.

Recording for the different mediums required different formats for the recording artists. 78s, obviously, had room for only 2 pieces. An A side and a B side. It was always the hope that the A side would become a smash. Imagine the surprise at Decca when the Weavers had both A and B become hits and they did not distribute them as separate entries on the market---and, only reluctantly, signed The Weavers. Tzena Tzena and Good Night Irene if you did not realize it.

Nostalgically, you have to love those labels from those 78s---Decca, Okeh, Bluebird, etc. Very valuable today.

Along came 33 1/3 (rpm) records. LPs. Now came the opportunity to record some 20 minutes per side. Songs were not limited to 2 minutes. Classical music could be recorded in some form of entirety. It could also be recorded with some good quality---high fidelity and stereo are later and not discussed here. You could listen to an album with that damned new fangled contraption---the record changer. Yes, stacked up and recorded in such a sequence that the records within an album were printed so that the sides played in the proper sequence (side 1 had side 4 on the opposite side--side 2 had side 3 on the opposite side).

As to the labels on the LPs and on the album covers. The artwork on some of those albums are quite valuable today of this miniaturized CD labelling. Some of the artwork was wonderful---whether classical, pop, folk, or any genre.

The world of CDs arrives and so does the point I am, finally, getting to. When you had 78s--2 songs. LPs some 4 or 5 songs per side. Those songs were usually sequenced by the producer to make some whole out of the pieces. As a film does with a beginning, middle, and end. That is how one listened to LPs--any genre.

CDs create a whole new issue. Sequencing is mostly irrelevant. Many people listen in their cars and can program (as they can at home) the players to play a random selection. Which means that in a classical album you might as well do it on one track. If, however, you are recording a folk or a pop album the sequencing matters not. I suppose a first track as a grabber for a DJ might be good, but in general it matters not.

This makes me come to the thought that perhaps non-classical artists might best stick to one style and one subject on a given recording. While many of the well known artists can produce a CD that will be grabbed by the public, lesser known artists have to find that audience. To do that I suggest finding that niche that grabs the audience.

At the risk of alienating some people let me offer an example (I had said in an earlier writing that I would put the negative along with the positive)--a positive one. PAT HUMPHRIES. Emma's Revolution are anthemic. I doubt you want to hear "june moon spoon" from them. That--and the meaning they deliver to causes they espouse are the niche. On the other hand you can find artists who have found their audience with a variety of music--history, gospel, nostalgia, and much more. KATE CAMPBELL comes to mind there.

My point is that there are audiences and, as the changing of the technology shows us, recordings have to be geared to different things---to MP3 downloads, individual pieces via Itunes, and who knows what is next.

That is the recording portion of this diatribe--and the thought that the 78s were .75 each (and you listened to them in a record store listening room), the LPs ran about 2.50 and the CDs run about 15.00. Itunes charges .99 a song--so that means, what would fill a CD, $20.00. Think of it.

Admittedly the 78s have not been adjusted for inflation---as they say.

It must be admitted that many CDs come in each week. Since I realize that all opinions are subjective I do not like to denigrate those that I think are "bad". A subjective term. What I will say is that those that arrive that are on a given topic or theme and have a certain "listenability" are the ones that will surely be put in the playlist.

That said, I have to add the comment that, as I say, to all my guests---you are the talent and we (radio people) are merely your conduit. Yes, I admit that a certain mien is required to do what we do (Note---I did not use the word "talent"--would that well paid radio hosts share such humility---on an unnamed local station).

If anyone would like a personal reply as to recommendations (positive or negative) for recordings just leave your e mail address or e mail

One artist that I did not mention in the prior submission is one that, I believe, should be in everyone's collection---even on that damned desert island that has not food, water, or any of the other basics you need and you want to get the hell away from and really don't need to listen to records on a phonograph that you don't have on a place where there is no electricity---but, you can dream: PAUL ROBESON

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