Artist Name: World Class Basement Title: Soldiers Genre: Rock Rating:
Sound Workshop 1280B console, Otari MX5050 1/2″ 8-track and 1/4″ 2-track reel-to-reel tape recorders. Mics: Sennheiser MD 441 (kick), Sennheiser MD 421 (toms), AKG C451B (pair, overheads), Shure SM57 (snare and guitar amps), Neumann U 87 (vocals). Keyboards played direct to the board with Roland SBX-80 SMPTE/MIDI sync box.
Production Notes & Credits
“Soldiers” is a male vocal rock song. Peter Hinman provided guitar and vocals, John Jacobson played keys, Bill Ebmeyer was on drums/percussion, and Rochand Westmoreland played bass.
Reviewed By Marty Peters
This month’s Spotlight is a fantastic analog—yes, you heard right, friends, analog—recording from a mighty talented real live band! Pardon us for our glee, but it’s been ages since we have received a submission that contained both of these ingredients, and even longer since we had one of this caliber.
In their production notes, the group describes a recording scenario straight out of the 1970s… and we mean that as a compliment. Tracking through a Sound Workshop console to an Otari MX5050 1/2″ with submixes to an Otari 5050 1/4″ machine, the guys have captured a superb set of performances with equally superb tones.
Starting with the rhythm section, the drums are fantastic. The kick drum has a rich punch through our monitors, and the military-style snare simply shines will a realism that we rarely hear these days. Say what you will about narrow-format tape, but even within the half inch band width, (not to mention a bounce to quarter inch and back), the entire kit sounds superior to 90% of submissions to Readers’ Tracks in our recent memory. Rochand’s tight bass part fits hand in glove with the kick drum, with an equally tasty performance. Well done, guys!
Moving on, both the jangly electric guitar and keyboard string pads were well recorded and positioned smartly in the mix. Not to be outdone we found Peter’s Jon Anderson-reminiscent vocals to be the icing on the cake here. Both the lead and harmony vocals are topnotch, in our opinion. That Neumann U87 condenser mic seems the perfect match, clarity and smoothness rolled into one. Love it!
Lastly, props to all for the care, effort and skill that went into the tracking and submixing/mixing of the song. As they explain: “We had 10 channels of dbx 150x Type 1 noise reduction, and would record 7 tracks of drums and 1 track of bass to the 8-track. Then, making sure all machines were properly aligned, we’d submix the bass and drums, undecoded, to an Otari 5050 1/4″ 2-track. We’d then follow the same procedure back to 2 tracks of the 8-track, then overdub on the remaining tracks. Track 8 was reserved for SPMTE, allowing the use of a Roland SBX-80 SMPTE-to-MIDI converter, thus greatly improving our (virtual) track count.”
It has been decades since this operating method was standard, and we can say from personal experience that no small amount of blood, sweat, and often tears were involved in those days. That said, the song production shines with a tremendous sense of teamwork and excitement that is sadly lacking in much of today’s recording environment.
While we know that very few of you loyal readers will get to experience a working method similar to the one used by Peter and friends, we encourage you to consider co-opting some of the key elements in this great song. Reduced track counts with tight arrangements—and perhaps more importantly, decision making without continual second-guessing—might sound old-school, but as in the case of “Soldiers”, the results speak for themselves.
What goes around comes around, beautifully!
World Class Basement, [email protected]