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New Steely Dan LP: great songs, shame about the drums.
Old 10th June 2003
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

New Steely Dan LP: great songs, shame about the drums.

Really diggin the new Steely Dan album - especially 'Green Book' with its Aja-isms, and "Pixeleen" is the pick of the bunch for me. But what's up with that thin drum sound? and the horns are tame sounding too.

Anyone else checked it yet?

Burt
Old 11th June 2003
  #2
Was it recordedd at Sear Sound NYC?

If so, I want to hear it, if not, not!

Old 12th June 2003
  #3
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toledo3's Avatar
 

Oooh. The first thing me friend (longtime Steely Dan fan) said about the last album was how much she hated the sounds of the drums. I was hoping that this album would be better.
Old 12th June 2003
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

Steely

Recorded at:

Sear Sound / Skyline / River Sound / Hyperbolic (Hawaii) / Bearsville.

Kick & snare drum sounds like somebody tapping on a desk.


Otherwise its another great Dan album. Becker actually sings (very well too) on 'Slang of Ages' and gets to play a lot more solo's too (which I'm not so keen on - just personal taste).

'Pixeleen' is up there with 'Almost Gothic' from the album before - beautiful!

Burt
Old 12th June 2003
  #5
Gear Addict
 
mdbeh's Avatar
 

It was done on tape, right? I guess it just shows how you can make things sound sterile in any medium--God knows those guys managed it fine during the 70's.

(Not meaning to start a Steely Dan war here... they're certainly talented, but I've never been much of a fan.)
Old 12th June 2003
  #6
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Anonymatt's Avatar
 

I heard the first couple of cuts on the album today. I agree on the drums. If they were a bit bigger, at least the whole thing wouldn't smell so cheeezy.

Interestingly enough, my buddy that bought the CD introduced it as the album with the "best drums he'd heard in his life".
Old 12th June 2003
  #7
Well I guess Becker and Fagen must like the drums that way as well.
A lot of the drum sounds in their 'classic' era were bright and on the thin side.
Old 12th June 2003
  #8
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Well, maybe I'll dare come out of the closet now and say that I've always thought "everyone's" all-time favorite reference CD, Nightfly, always sounded a little thin and bass-lite to me.

Figured it had to be some flaw in my auditory perception, given the universal acclaim, so i was always prepared for my mastering engineers to tell me "Yo! Lighten up on the bass, dog!"

But no one has, yet...
Old 12th June 2003
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Steely

For me the drums only became a problem from Gaucho onwards... too precise, too thin & not enough dynamics...

However the songwriting is so strong that the tracks rarely sound 'sterile' to me...

Frustrating cos the Steve Gadd drums on Aja are my fave recorded drums ever probably...

Burt
Old 12th June 2003
  #10
With regards to Nightfly etc....
It doesn't have to be a negative IMO.
Drums don't always have to be phat and low endy.
It's a matter of personal taste I think.
At least they usually mix the drums pretty present in their songs.
My pet peeve is drums that sound small AND distant.
Old 12th June 2003
  #11
Here for the gear
 
floodstage's Avatar
 

Re: Steely

Quote:
Originally posted by Burt


For me the drums only became a problem from Gaucho onwards... too precise, too thin & not enough dynamics...

However the songwriting is so strong that the tracks rarely sound 'sterile' to me...

Frustrating cos the Steve Gadd drums on Aja are my fave recorded drums ever probably...

Burt
The drum solo on Aja isn't too bad playing either! (understatement of the year!)

If you have to say something bad about Steely Dan " Too precise" would hit it square on the head!

I still can't wait to hear the new CD. Their last CD was awesome musically, and the sax solo on the last cut...man, it just knocks me down every time I hear it! I want more!
Old 12th June 2003
  #12
Lives for gear
 

I haven't heard the record, but whatever happened, it came in the mix. My Protools system was the house rig at Skyline, which is where they did a lot of the overdubs. At that point, the drums sounded amazing.

Here is what I know of the workflow. The basics were recorded to tape at Sear Sound. They were then transferred to 3348 (16bit/48k) at Presence, which is Elliott Scheiner's studio.

The 3348's were overdubbed against at River Sound (Steely's Manhattan studio) and transfers to Protools were done so Walter could head to Hawaii and work at home (Hyperbolic).

They shut down RiverSound and began alternating bewteen Skyline and Bearsville for 3-4 month stints, with little bits at Presence. It was all vocal/guitar/od type work. They didn't even have an engineer, just one of the Skyline assistants who would follow them up to the other places for consistency and to keep track of everything.

During this time, they started with the 3348 doing most of the work and began flying stuff to do a little editing in Protools, but began leaving the 3348 out of the loop and just working in PT against 2trk bounces.

During this period, I heard the tracks a number of times, and I'm kind of baffled that the drums sound thin, because I remember clearly loving them and thinking these were the best Steely drums tracks I'd heard in a long time.
Old 12th June 2003
  #13
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toledo3's Avatar
 

My premonition is that I am going to be dissapointed with the guitar work. Walter is no Larry.tutt
Old 12th June 2003
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Steely

Rob

that's some great insider info...

could you pls take a listen to the new album and tell me what you think it is that I'm not liking about the drums? Even if you think they sound great and think I'm talking **** (wouldn't be the first time )

The last track starts with a drum solo of sorts and sounds OK cos there's some dynamic range and I think that may be the key to what I'm not diggin... check out the drums on Track 2 & 3... the drummer is playing within a tiny dynamic range and comes across sounding restrained, polite and drum machine-like. The kick is just not my kind of thing... clicky - not enough bottom end.

thx again for the info...

Burt
Old 12th June 2003
  #15
Rob, you are always good for those NYC area 'in the trenches' reports

Old 13th June 2003
  #16
Lives for gear
 

So I went to the Apple Music Store and listened to what was there. Yeah, it's been mixed kind of thin. Interesting. I mean, I guess it makes a lot of sense in the context of a Steely Dan record. By the time you layer in all those voices and little guitar licks and keyboards, your drums are going to have to follow suit.

It does sound like real drum sounds, though, rather than triggers.

Whoever said that the drummer plays like a machine and that there isn't much dynamic sort of hit it.
Old 13th June 2003
  #17
Gear Addict
 

It's what they like...or we wouldn't be hearing it. Donald likes things 'short'. He is not a fan of real low, sustained events. Therefore, the drums are somewhat small and snappy. Pretty much always have been.
Old 13th June 2003
  #18
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Mike O's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Benjy King
It's what they like...or we wouldn't be hearing it. Donald likes things 'short'. He is not a fan of real low, sustained events. Therefore, the drums are somewhat small and snappy. Pretty much always have been.
Perhaps this is true. But maybe they are now more like most people (not pop stars) making records than we would like to believe. I remember rushing home with AJA and having a damn near religeous experience when it first came out.

However I have put put that cynical hat on and suggest that economics might have come into play in some form or fashion in one or more places. A little cynicism anyone?

1) Quickest record they have made in years. Better to get to market quick after their Grammy last year and hall of fame?

2) Reported to have not used an engineer during parts of the process.

3) No apparent outside production influence. See item 4.

4) Arguably not using the best (and highest paid) talent in hired guns (instruments and arrangers) like they used to.

5) SD no longer percieves the record company as "picking up the bill".

With many others here I sure would like to here some of the old hands that helped make them who they were are back in the fold.

Walter's guitar playing IS getting better, but he doesn't do anything to "transform" the tune the way all their past soloists used to.

If this is how they prefer to spend their time and money, bless 'em. They earned it with some of their past efforts as far as I am concerned. And who knows maybe they will use the $ proceeds and effort "banked" to createl the next REEL SD record.

Those older records must have taken a HUGE toll with all the personalities, etc.

Maybe I am wrong and they simply cannot make a better record than this, but I hope they still can.

It's hell getting old. For all of us. Hey SD - take me back a few years by seasoning the cool with some passion. Or get even cooler. I will gladly pay for that CD.

Flame suit on.
Old 13th June 2003
  #19
Quote:
Originally posted by Mike O

Flame suit on.
Not for me.
I'm thinking you've probably got it spot on.
Who is the drummer anyway? (Or is there more than one, as in the ol' days).
Old 13th June 2003
  #20
Gear Maniac
 

Steely

Drums all by Keith Carlock.

I think somebody raised an interesting point... economics may have had a large part to play in the sound of this album... they no longer have the 'unlimited budgets' of old. Equally relevant is the fact that they are touring with this band... I guess its another sign of the times - bands don't make much money from album sales these days and touring is a way to make some extra dough... using the same 'core' musicians on each track makes it easier to do 'live' I guess.

Anyways - I still love em to death and hope they come touring in the UK... the new album still has some real gems on it... I can't stop playing it.

Burt
Old 13th June 2003
  #21
Lives for gear
 

Let me tell you, budget has nothing to do with their process. Those cats don't know how to be anywhere but a studio.

Think about it this way. If all you love is being in the studio, and it costs you maybe $10,000 a week to do that, you are looking at a bill of only $520,000 a year. Split that between two guys, and you're down to $260,000 a year. Now, since it is all deductible and you're in the 50% bracket, you're down to it really costing you $130,000 a year, out of pocket personal take-home cash. That's just one silly car per year, and on a rock-star income, that's not much.

As for questioning why they don't have so many people around, I'd look to the fact that they like doing an awful lot of things themselves and the quality of talent to hire that isn't just the same bunch of cats you've used for 30 years is very low in a world where most of the skills you mention- arranging, orchestrating, playing- are vastly diminished.

I think maybe Benjy has the core of it in saying that if that is how it came out, then it because they just wanted to do it that way.
Old 13th June 2003
  #22
member no 666
 
Fletcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally posted by robdarling
The basics were recorded to tape at Sear Sound.
Really?!?!?! To tape?!?!?! ... and here I thought Elliot and Roger were so anti-tape that they were on the edge of being militant about it... go figure.
Old 13th June 2003
  #23
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RKrizman's Avatar
 

Re: Steely

Quote:
Originally posted by Burt
[B]Recorded at:

Sear Sound / Skyline / River Sound / Hyperbolic (Hawaii) / Bearsville.

Kick & snare drum sounds like somebody tapping on a desk.

The first cut is perhaps the worst offender in this regard. There's one tom fill where it sounds like the tom mics just aren't on. That being said, I really enjoyed the drum sounds on the rest of the album, particularly the kicks. The sound is tight by design, almost iconoclastically so, and I could see one not caring for it. But to me it sounds nicely tape-kissed and punchy and about a 5 million percent improvement over those icepicks-in-the-ears that passed for drums on the last album.

I particularly like the last tune. It almost grooves

-R
Old 14th June 2003
  #24
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Steve Smith's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally posted by Fletcher
Really?!?!?! To tape?!?!?! ... and here I thought Elliot and Roger were so anti-tape that they were on the edge of being militant about it... go figure.
I actually saw a quote of Elliots where he was praising how great the recording to tape was sounding.. I had the same shocked response.. and then to 16 bit digital huh?... talk about a sonic swing..
Old 16th June 2003
  #25
Gear Addict
 

My comment, "......it's what they wanted"......is a response based in logic. People this experienced at what they do, and particularly *these* people, known for being rather anal and discerning in their choices of sonics, are not going to arrive at a *sound* they didn't want. Good or bad. Not unlike a film, where an incredible amount of people spend a lot of time and work to get an end result. Good or bad, it's usually what they wanted. There is plenty of time to change it, after all.

Having peeked through the window in the door to Studio 'B' at Media Sound years ago and watching Donald Fagen standing next to a seated Anthony Jackson....stopping tape...pointing to the chart and saying to Anthony, "Play this note a little softer..." then resuming. Creating what he called "ghost notes", where the chord change isn't as obvious as the harmony it creates.

Scott Hull said to me, "Donald likes attack, but he's not really into low, sustained sounds".
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