Another "HOW did they record/produce this so well?" query

Discussion in 'Recording In Progress' started by RoscoeElegante, Nov 18, 2019.

  1. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Yes, yes, he's a hair-twaddling blowhard. And he snagged Meg Ryan, who remained kinda cute despite her plastic surgery mistakes. Even so, this is, I think, just a fantastically recorded and produced song.


    So what were the techniques/secrets here?

    I particularly love its great drum tones, and where the drums sit in the mix.

    Ditto the accordion, guitar, violin, and vocals.

    The separation, resonance, and the spaces--is this largely EQing magic, or what?

    Even on the choruses, the voices retain a great distinctness. Such a great architecture here!

    Thanks for your thoughts on this.
     
  2. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    I preferred his "Uh-Huh" album, both for production and material:
    1. "Crumblin' Down" (Mellencamp, George Green) – 3:33
    2. "Pink Houses" – 4:43
    3. "Authority Song" – 3:49
    4. "Warmer Place to Sleep" (Mellencamp, Green) – 3:48
    5. "Jackie O" (Mellencamp, John Prine) – 3:04
    6. "Play Guitar" (Larry Crane, Mellencamp, Dan Ross) – 3:25
    7. "Serious Business" – 3:25
    8. "Lovin' Mother Fo Ya" (Will Cary, Mellencamp) – 3:06
    9. "Golden Gates" – 4:04
    10. "Pink Houses" (acoustic version, 2005 re-issue bonus track) – 3:47
    At any rate, JCM or maybe his management was always smart enough to surround himself with the very top notch of sidemen and producers
     
  3. WireLine

    WireLine Tele-Afflicted

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    Seems it was recorded at Mellencamp’s personal studio, Belmont Mall, in Indiana. There’s a couple YouTube things giving equipment views.
     
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  4. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    "Pink Houses" I'd put on almost the same plane as "Cherry Bomb."

    How do you get such resonant clarity?? What were they doing, and choosing not to do, to make what seems to me an especially rich mix exactly because it doesn't slop together, or let textures get buried?

    Tough video for me to watch, though, as that cheerleader looks eerily like my second (very ex-)wife. I prefer the song's mixed feelings to mine, generally.....:confused:
     
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  5. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    Pink Houses is a transcendent song. It's actually profound in it's simplicity.
    It doesn't seem so, because we've heard it way too many times
     
  6. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Yeah, but also never enough. My sons whine when I put it on again, but then, within about two bars, are singing along, dancing, smiling, and feeling energized and enlightened. It would fascinating to know if at least some of the love of certain songs and sounds were in our genes, as they sure seem to be.....
     
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  7. thunderbyrd

    thunderbyrd Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

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    Human Wheels is the great John Cougar song to me. and also ROCK in the USA. the rest of his stuff kind of leaves me flat.
     
  8. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

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    I keep banging away on arrangement, but they’ve given space for the vocals to sit. No doubt there’s some eq going on, but might be less than you think. I could be wrong but it doesn’t sound “carved” to me. Just picking the right instrument in the right frequency range in the right place. Even towards the end where the guitar and accordion and fiddle are all going there’s space for the vocals. They are less on top to my ear there though. But still clear.

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
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  9. Carcinogen

    Carcinogen TDPRI Member

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    I dunno, it just sounds like they gated the hell out of everything and then slapped some plate reverb on the snare. It sounds like every other record in the late 80’s where everything is way too clean and crystal clear and nothing has any edges.
     
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  10. teletimetx

    teletimetx Doctor of Teleocity

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    Can't comment usefully on the recording techniques, but as far as the drums go, it doesn't hurt that Kenny Aronoff was the drummer. check out his Wiki page and this:

    https://www.musicradar.com/news/drums/kenny-aronoff-my-best-and-worst-gigs-ever-602963

    The sessions for The Lonesome Jubilee took place at Belmont Mall Studio in Belmont, Indiana and started in September 1986 and lasted until June 1987, a period of nine months. The sessions were produced by Mellencamp with Don Gehman and were engineered by Gehman and David Leonard.[2]

    Clarity is not such a bad thing; although I have heard musicians complain (including myself) "Hey, that microphone makes me sound too much like myself..." in both a humorous and accurate way.
     
  11. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    Not arguing with you here, Carcinogen, and I appreciate your reply. But can you link a song that does all this less, and then one that does the opposite, just so I can better understand you?

    I hear an exquisite blend of its distinct parts, so I'm not clear about what you mean by "too clean and crystal clear and nothing has any edges."

    I'm also a dummy about gating. Can you explain that?

    Again--not, at all, arguing with you here. It's fine if our tastes differ, etc. I'm just trying to understand better, as a newbie to recording and mixing, and have a lot to learn and do. Thanks!
     
  12. John Owen

    John Owen Tele-Afflicted Ad Free Member

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    I think the 'magic' in the recording of this song is similar to the magic in the guitar sound that a great player can have. The equipment and settings play a role but the main reason it sounds like it does is that someone had that sound in their head before it ever got produced. In addition to having the mental image of the sound, the person needs the know-how, listening skills, patience and persistence to bring it into reality. I think more than anything, it is about listening really deeply.

    I asked a guitar builder one time what the 'magic' was in the guitar he had just let me try out. The thing played and sounded amazing. He just said "...ain't no magic. Just attention to detail"
     
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  13. nojazzhere

    nojazzhere Poster Extraordinaire

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    I'm sorry, I can't really help with your technical questions.....but to me, Mellencamp has ALWAYS been deceptively simple sounding......in a fantastic way. I still cringe a little for him in his earliest days for the way his record company tried to shape his image in that "Johnny Cougar" claptrap. But he persevered, and has rarely failed to come out shining. I like him a lot!
    And add my vote, Teletimetx, to two big thumbs up on Kenny.....jeez, I wish I could find a drummer with his kind of confidence and talent! (he doesn't try to hide behind a mountain of drums like some drummers, give him a snare, a kick drum, and a hi-hat, and he'll quote Danny Glover in Silverado, "This oughta do!".....)
     
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  14. Lawdawg

    Lawdawg Tele-Holic

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    This x1000.

    It really is 90% performance and arrangement. It's the way the little things add up to make a cohesive and compelling arrangement. For example, love how the accordion and fiddle drag a little just behind the beat to give the track a laid back and funky vibe.
     
  15. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

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    I love Kenny's drumming, too. In that great Charlie Watts School of crisp precision.

    Also great is the late Howie Wyeth's drumming on Dylan's Desire album. Another album whose sound is so perfectly captured by recording, engineering, and mixing magic that I'm trying to learn how to steal for my own stuff.
    https://www.jmeshel.com/087-bob-dylan-black-diamond-bay/

    A messier, swirlier sound than the other songs we're discussing here, but still really effective. Rob Stoner's bass and Wyeth's drumming really keep Dylan and Emmylou beautifully just-behind, just-on, just-ahead of things, as if everything here but the drums and bass is Scarlet Rivera's sinuous violin. Even when Howie himself mistimes a beat or two, it adds to the gypsies-getting-their-dance-done-right quality. And I just love how the reverb on the drums keeps the song's spaces open. Keeping the guitars to just Dylan's acoustic is important here, too. Doesn't crowd things.
     
    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
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  16. wabashslim

    wabashslim Tele-Holic

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    I read that the Belmont studio was designed & built by an L.A. guy who more or less copied a studio he built in California. I think another factor is that John was able to get the sounds he wanted without having to argue with record company nimrods who were loath to travel to southern Indiana to "oversee" the proceedings. Scarecrow was the first album recorded there and while some vocals were a little bass-y that was fixed for the LJ record. Pink Houses and the Uh-Huh album was recorded in a relatives' farmhouse that was in the process of being demo'd for remodeling. I love those albums, but now the snare on LJ seems a little too hot to me.
     
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  17. Dan R

    Dan R Friend of Leo's

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    John always had a great sound on his records. I think he knew exactly what he wanted on a recording. It's rumored that he is a tough task master when it comes to his music. I think JM just has a feel for things.
     
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  18. Hatfield92

    Hatfield92 Tele-Holic

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    I’m a lifelong fan. His music spoke to me when I was a preteen. And now, all these years later. I can appreciate it all the more for the fact that, musically, so much of it is different structurally from anything else in the same ballpark.

    He utilized very traditional structures and instrumentation, but in a fairly unique (to my ears) way. Uh-Huh, Lonesome Jubilee and Scarecrow are undeniable classics.

    Sorry, can’t help to solve the riddle. I’m a recording novice myself, tinkering with GarageBand every day.

    Cherry Bomb is one of my favorites.

    But how’d he do “crumblin’ down”???
     
  19. Geoff738

    Geoff738 Poster Extraordinaire

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    Just FYI a gate is basically a compressor in reverse. Once the sound drops below the threshold it gets turned down further/faster or shut off completely ala the Phil Collins gated snare that took over everything in the mid 80s, including some of Mellencamps stuff.
    Useful live on vocals so when there’s no singing the mic is turned down / off. I’ve used them on Tom hits or fills that only happen once or twice in a song. Pretty fiddly to get sounding natural quite often.

    Cheers,
    Geoff
     
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  20. blowtorch

    blowtorch Telefied Ad Free Member

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    i KNOW, right?
     
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