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BowieTalk
   >> Views and Questions
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Adam
(cricket menace)
06/24/09 00:56 AM
Bowie's Best Tetralogy [re: ]  

In many ways, we can consider Bowie's albums to contain two tetralogies (four in a series) as against the more commonly prescribed trilogy. The albums in each tetralogy are defined by having the same producer but also a lot of the same musicians and ideas.


Which was best?

The Ken Scott Tetralogy:
1. Hunky Dory
2. Ziggy Stardust
3. Aladdin Sane
4. Pin Ups

The Visconti Tetralogy:
1. Low
2. Heroes
3. Lodger
4. Scary Monsters

Indistinguishable: they're both about as good as each other




View the results for this poll




Well, 100% Brit (and apparently proud of it) is being a bit over the top when he says 8 hours [of Outside outtakes]. I'd love to know the truth concerning what 100% git really has ~ Reeves Gabrels, 2003

Adam
(cricket menace)
06/24/09 01:04 AM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: Adam]  

Now added a third option to this poll ... which is what I went for.

In many ways, placing Scary Monsters at the end of the more known trilogy makes the series an even better and more definite conclusion than having the Lodger album at the end.


Well, 100% Brit (and apparently proud of it) is being a bit over the top when he says 8 hours [of Outside outtakes]. I'd love to know the truth concerning what 100% git really has ~ Reeves Gabrels, 2003

ziggfried
(acolyte)
06/24/09 03:27 AM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: Adam]  

The Visconti ones are superior. That being said, if Diamond Dogs, Young Americans and Station to Station formed a group (OK, not a tetralogy), I would have voted for that one as best.



schizophrenic
(acolyte)
06/24/09 12:46 PM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: Adam]  

"Heroes" is my favorite Bowie album, Pin Ups is a throwaway. Visconti wins.

What I find interesting is how the difference between the producers' approaches suited the albums they worked on: Ken Scott saw a set of strong songs and simply polished them to the point where they could really shine, while Tony Visconti actively participated in the sonic experimentation that marked the Berlin trilogy.



Jerome
(wild eyed peoploid)
06/24/09 02:24 PM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: schizophrenic]  

Ken Scott by far.



Mxy
(cracked actor)
06/24/09 02:59 PM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: schizophrenic]  

In reply to:

"Heroes" is my favorite Bowie album, Pin Ups is a throwaway. Visconti wins.



Switch "Heroes" with Low and that's exactly what I thought.

YOUR TROUSERS HAVE SET FIRE TO THE ZEBRA.

ziggfried
(acolyte)
06/24/09 06:31 PM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: schizophrenic]  

In reply to:

What I find interesting is how the difference between the producers' approaches suited the albums they worked on: Ken Scott saw a set of strong songs and simply polished them to the point where they could really shine, while Tony Visconti actively participated in the sonic experimentation that marked the Berlin trilogy.


I generally agree, although I think the production of Ziggy Stardust is a problem. I'm not blaming Ken Scott though, maybe Bowie was responsible for the thin mix. All I know is that most of the songs on that album came off much better when they were performed live (at the BBC, during live tours, etc). The songwriting's there, but the album doesn't rock out the way, say, Aladdin Sane does.



Forgotten_Boy
(crash course raver)
06/24/09 10:31 PM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: ziggfried]  

Couldn't agree with you more Ziggfried.

I used to be with it, but then they changed what "it" was. Now, what I'm with isn't it, and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me.

schizophrenic
(acolyte)
06/25/09 04:28 AM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: ziggfried]  

The thing about Ziggy is that it's mixed like a pop record, not a rock record. If you want to use Aladdin Sane as a point of comparison, listen to how prominent the vocals are on Five Years as opposed to, say, Watch That Man. Likewise, acoustic and electric guitars are both as prominent on Ziggy, whereas Aladdin is more like a wall of Ronno. I'd argue that both approaches are valid, as Ziggy's comparative lack of raw power puts the melodic elements at the forefront.



sunspot
(wild eyed peoploid)
06/25/09 05:12 AM
Re: Bowie's Best Tetralogy new [re: schizophrenic]  

Ziggy doesn't sound thin if you play it "at maximum volume", as it asks you to do! It ain't fucking Enya background crap!

My uncle had the original LP, which didn't sound anywhere near as thin as the Ryko CD does, FWIW. I suspect the LP's sound was beefed up by the original LP mastering engineer, which is probably what Ken Scott and the others involved assumed would happen. For CD, Ryko probably just transferred the original studio master direct to disc, which is great, except nobody in 1972 intended the audience to hear the actual studio master. Whoops!

The proper way to do it would probably be to tweak the studio master for distribution, even if you intend to distribute on CD, taking into account at least some of the limits of the original vinyl format. So you'd apply a bit of compression, maybe roll off some of the highs and sweeten certain frequencies with the help of an expert mastering engineer. I don't know if this is what EMI did for the more recent releases of Ziggy on CD, but I suspect it is, since I hear they don't sound as thin as the Ryko editions.

I think the only time the original studio master transfers well to CD without tweaking is when the studio recording was engineered by someone with truly golden audiophile ears, someone who was always pushing the sonic and technological limits. For example, Bones Howe's original masters of the Fifth Dimension came out on CD a few years back and sound absolutely fucking incredible. I don't think there's anything which sounds as lively and intensely, beautifully musical being recorded today. Listening to them on a good stereo is like being wrapped inside of music. The Alan Parsons remasters also sound pretty incredible, and I'm assuming those are coming straight from the original studio masters because nobody has better ears than Alan Parsons. Just listen to Abbey Road - the only one of the (non-remixed) Beatles CDs to sound as good or better on CD than it did on LP (discounting scratches and surface noise and the like - I'm talking from an artistic perspective, sonic balance and such, not a purely technical perspective). EMI pretty much did a straight transfer of the Abbey Road studio master to CD back in '87, and it sounds fantastic. Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon has been equally impressive on CD from the start.

Of course, there are also instances where someone goes in and tweaks the original studio masters for CD release and ends up with something that sounds like absolute shit compared to a straight transfer. The recent Fleetwood Mac remasters come to mind. The CDs Warner released in the 1980s came straight from the original studio masters engineered by the brilliant Ken Caillat. Those CDs still sound pretty good even by today's standards, especially given the limits of early digital technology. The original Mac CDs sport crisp highs, rich deep bass and a well-defined soundstage. The new remasters, which were done by a different team at Rhino and didn't involve Caillat, are a muddled, tubby mess. They probably more closely reflect what the original vinyl releases sounded like, but that's only because Caillat's work exceeded the capabilities of the original vinyl format. His work didn't need a mastering engineer to sweeten it, only to cram it into vinyl's limitations. Which makes the dull new "remastered" CDs utterly superfluous.

I have a copy of Rumours on DVD Audio which was produced by Caillat himself a year or two before the Rhino Fleetwood Mac remasters, and it's a sonic wonder. It closely resembles the original CD release from the '80s, only crisper and cleaner and smoother, demonstrating all the advances digital audio has made over the past couple of decades. However, it doesn't sound re-equalized or compressed in the least, because the original studio master didn't need any of that to sound vibrant and alive.

Why the fuck they didn't have him do the subsequent CD remasters I'll never understand. He probably got as fed up with Lindsey Buckingham as everybody else has. Mac could certainly use someone like Caillat as their engineer and producer again, because that last record of theirs was a shrill sonic torture chamber.






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