Posts Tagged ‘recording’

Frustration!

October 15, 2009

The Everly Brothers recorded four sides for Columbia in 1955. Two of those were released: “The Sun Keeps Shining” (written by Don) and “Keep A-Lovin’ Me” (written by Don and Phil). In music historian parlance, we might say these represent some of their juvenalia. I know from their own comments and the remarks of others, the songs lean more heavily on their country music roots than later songs do. So I want to listen to them and try to describe how they adhere to “country” as it was understood in the late 1950s.

Therein lies the problem, though. These two songs are not on any of the reissue CDs or download services in the US. I found them in a $90 box set that includes a lot of what I already have. I also found them as downloadable files on amazon.co.uk, but not surprisingly I can’t buy them and download from here. All of this leaves me wondering why they are so hard to obtain in the US. Are the Everly Brothers themselves controlling this access and if so, why? And why are acceptable for UK audiences? And how am I going to get them???

I did find a set of unreleased recordings from the 50s and 60s that is reportedly demos and maybe some outtakes (user hyperbolium includes a good description of them under the reviews). Most of the cuts feature just Don and Phil and acoustic guitars. While I still want the other two songs, these recordings will certainly provide insight into how they perceived and conceived their own songs and how the songs transitioned from there to the finished product. The vocal harmonies will be much more exposed and less polished, allowing me another glance into this part of the creative process. It might be a stretch to suggest this, but recordings like this are somewhat akin to examining the sketchbooks of composers who work mainly in the written form.

I’m also sightly tempted by the $27 CD of outtakes but not enough to twitch for the moment. I’m sure they have value, but they will be so carefully selected that they may not demonstrate much more than close approximations of the releases. I would be interested in knowing what other popular music scholars have made of outtakes and alternate takes.

Bill Porter – Recording Engineer

May 19, 2009
Bill Porter

Bill Porter

I have been reading a three-part series by John Rumble on Bill Porter, the engineer for a number of the Everly’s recordings [“Behind the Board: Talking with Studio Engineer Bill Porter,” Journal of Country Music, vol 18., no. 1 (1996): 27-40; vol. 18, no. 2 (1996): 20-30; vol. 19, no. 1 (1997): 24-31]. Since those articles are not available online, I will suggest Michael Fremer’s interview with Porter to get a sense of the expertise and value that he brought to the recording sessions. You can also see pictures of Porter with the Everlys. Porter first worked with the Everlys on “(Til) I Kissed You” at the RCA studio in 1959, shortly after he joined the studio. He describes that session as rather stressful, the result of new equipment, incorrect levels, exhaustion, and fiery personalities. In spite of his inauspicious beginning as a recording engineer, he went on to work on hundreds of top pop and country hits, including Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley. As a faculty member at various institutions, he was responsible for designing a college-level curriculum in audio engineering.

Sizzling music

March 11, 2009

Dale Dougherty over at O’Reilly contemplates the delivery process of recorded sound as a cultural artifact. I don’t think he questions the notion and aesthetics of “quality” enough but an interesting read nonetheless.