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Thread: Pet Sounds

  1. #1
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    Default Pet Sounds

    During some recent casual reading, I happened across a comment about the stereo mixes of the Beach Boys' classic, "Pet Sounds". I find this an especially interesting album for a number of reasons, not least that it is rated no. 2 in Rolling Stone magazine's list of all time top 500 albums, below Sergeant Pepper. Although recorded a year or so prior to Pepper, it was done on an early 8 track machine unlike the latter which was, famously, made on 4 track machines. Someone observed that the 8 track master was sufficiently useful to make some new mixes in stereo; Pet Sounds had hitherto only been issued in mono and a dreadful artificial stereo.

    If you buy the right edition of the 40th Anniversary issue of Pet Sounds, you get the complete album twice over - first, the original mono mixes remastered followed by the stereo mixes which are stunning!

    Considering that this recording considerably pre-dated Pepper, these stereo mixes really reveal what a fantastic job Brian Wilson and his team did on Pet Sounds. In my view it sounds considerably superior to any edition of Sgt. Pepper, on which the stereophony is contrived and consists, largely, of a number of mono "lumps" panned into different areas of the stereo stage. The stereo imaging on Pet Sounds owes a lot to the famous New York jazz recordings of the late fifties and early sixties in which leakage between the various microphones gave increased colour, texture and the illusion of depth to the sound, and shows up all the better in these stereo mixes.

    While the critical view of Pet Sounds is that it lacks the consistency of "Pepper" in terms of the quality of its songs, there is no doubt that there are high spots approaching the divine, principally the aptly titled "God Only Knows" which sounds quite superb in stereo. These mixes do the music a great favour in revealing the subtle beauty of Wilson's vocal arrangements. Do yourself a favour and treat yourself to a copy of this superlative album - you won't regret it.

    post scriptum - see this first rate Wikipedia article for more information about this incredible album!
    Last edited by Pluto; 08-08-2011 at 09:43 PM. Reason: Spooling & malapropism

  2. #2
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    Hi pluto,

    Nice post! Have you listened to early demo tracks available on "good vibrations, thirty years of the Beachboys"? More specific: God Only Knows, tracking session. Listening to this track is über cool on a Harbeth monitor 30! Feels like being there. Try Odeon records Smile as well, goose bumps!

    Have fun!

    Ciao Mike

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hwveldhuis View Post
    Have you listened to early demo tracks available on "good vibrations, thirty years of the Beachboys"?
    I've never been one to purchase those releases that are clearly squeezing out absolutely everything a particular artist ever recorded. There was a reason Pet Sounds took several months to make; personally, I'm not too interested in what I assume to be sub-standard demo material.

    I do have SMiLE, which contains two or three songs of real note - Good Vibrations is a splendid insight into Brian Wilson's ideas in 1967 as the original release of the song was laden with distortion and a couple of appalling edits; Wilson's thinking was well ahead of the studio technology of the time and everything was being pushed well beyond its true capability.

    But on the whole I find the songs on SMiLE a bit ploddy and the quasi-agricultural theme that seems to run throughout, a little strange. SMiLE has a great beginning and a marvellous, uplifting ending. It's just the stuff in the middle that's a bit ho-hum. You do need to take this in the context of the fact that some of this material was perceived "not to work" in 1967 and I'm not sure that's changed. What has changed in that Wilson has now become a minor deity and for that reason alone, SMiLE is worthy of attention.

    That said, in my view "Good Vibrations" on SMiLE far outshines the 1966 original which was limited by the available technology of the time. "Heroes and Villains" and "Surf's Up" are both masterpieces. If only the rest was just as good...

  4. #4
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    Hi Pluto,

    I don't mind Brian singing about vegetables, but I get your point. Just love the nostalgia of the demo tapes, especially when listened on the monitor 30. SMiLE perticularly because of all the mystic surrounding the process of recording. I think you know your classics regarding the recording observing how you wrote the name using the specific capitals.

    After Petsounds the music of the Beachboys shines by bits and pieces, but in general Brian was a true genius at his heyday. Mastering all those espects of delivering a great song/recording.

    And now back to 2011, going to listen to lady Gaga :-).

  5. #5
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    Default Pet Sounds stereo mixes

    So has anyone else had a chance to listen to this superb newish version of this 1966 classic album? I've listened to it two or three times a week since I first wrote about it and haven't got bored yet!

    It seems that Wilson recorded the instrumental parts onto an 8 track machine (with which just one studio in L.A. was equipped at that time), mixed those tracks down in mono onto one track of a second 8 track machine and used the remaining 7 tracks for the vocal parts.

    Production of a new mix involving both tapes (so that the original unmixed instrumental tracks were available alongside the vocal tracks) was not possible until digital technology allowed the two sets of tracks to be synchronized tightly enough to avoid phasing and other nasty artefacts which result when two similar sources which are almost synchronous are mixed together.

    Go on, treat yourself!
    Last edited by Pluto; 23-08-2011 at 03:39 PM. Reason: added wisdom

  6. #6
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    I'm glad you reminded me about the 40th Anniversary edition. I'm going to pick that album up ASAP. In the meantime, I've been listening to the original version (I have a new amplifier and it's been fun to check out well recorded material).

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    Is this better than the re-mastered version of 15 years or so, ago ? Because that was absolutely dire, being bright, thin and hard - nothing like the vinyl version at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hifi_dave View Post
    Is this better than the re-mastered version of 15 years or so, ago ?
    Hard to say because there are several different issues to hack through which include vinyl. The music industry recycling money machine has been hard at work on Pet Sounds ever since it was recognised as one of pop's great achievements.

    The key question is, does your copy contain the 1996 (genuine) stereo mixes? The one I listen to has none of the dubious attributes you describe although I bet it sounds very different to the original 1966 issue. This is what, I think, I'm listening to. It's certainly not the best endowed record I've ever heard for generosity of bass, but rather a very nice job of "colourizing" a 1966 monochrome production. And most significant, streets ahead of "Pepper" in its presentation.

    I think we have an interesting basis for a subjective comparison here...

  9. #9
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    In my opinion, as great as “Pet sounds”, shock horror, is SMiLE. Its in glorious mono, like a black and white photo, without the distractions of sound jumping around. It’s a pure focus on the beautiful harmonies of this wonderful group. Your Harbeth's will disappear through mono. If you don’t already have Brian Wilson’s SMiLE try to have a listen to the Beach Boys version. They don’t make music like this anymore.

  10. #10
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    While SMiLE is interesting, with the exception of two or three masterpieces, many of the songs are too wacky for my taste.

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=Pluto;19474]too wacky ...QUOTE]

    Probably might have to do with Brian Wilson’s adventure with consciousness altering chemicals. Think the wider group probably thought the same about the album and held back its release? In any way you look at it, its a high level of abstraction, this album, to the degree of raising eyebrows. The Beach Boys like so many other groups of the time started singing about love, girls, the sun, unreciprocated love and almost all of them grew up and progressed into abstractions of sorts.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by kittykat View Post
    The Beach Boys like so many other groups of the time started singing about love, girls, the sun, unreciprocated love...
    and Vega-Tables....;)

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