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BG vocals on "Black Cow"
Old 6th May 2012
  #1
Gear Head
 

BG vocals on "Black Cow"

I was just listening to Steely Dan's "Black Cow" and I'm wondering how they processed a particular bg vocal. The melody double of the line "I can't cry anymore while you run around"--first occurs around 1:00.

I never noticed how distinctly different this line sounds from the rest of the vocals on the song until I listened with headphones. It's interesting. Anyone know or have thoughts on how this was done? I'm not trying to recreate, just curious.
Old 6th May 2012
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mightypants View Post
I was just listening to Steely Dan's "Black Cow" and I'm wondering how they processed a particular bg vocal. The melody double of the line "I can't cry anymore while you run around"--first occurs around 1:00.

I never noticed how distinctly different this line sounds from the rest of the vocals on the song until I listened with headphones. It's interesting. Anyone know or have thoughts on how this was done? I'm not trying to recreate, just curious.
The main thing about that spot in the BG vox is that they are in unison.

I think that's the main difference.
.
Old 6th May 2012
  #3
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I believe that is correct. The female background vocals are singing in unison with the lead there.

Kirt Shearer
Old 6th May 2012
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kbshearer View Post

I believe that is correct. The female background vocals are singing in unison with the lead there.
Yeah...

...AND of course, also in unison with one another (and VERY accurately so).

I guess creativity of arrangement and vocal control like that are rare enough that it can come across as an "effect".

(...And in a manner of speaking, it IS!)
.
Old 6th May 2012
  #5
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It sounds to me as if the tape is being hit a bit harder on that line, which makes sense since both the lead and bv's are in unison as stated.
Old 6th May 2012
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
The main thing about that spot in the BG vox is that they are in unison.

I think that's the main difference.
.
I think there's more to it than that. I'm aware of the impact of unison doubling, but there's something I hear specifically in the bg vocal there, not just the product of the two together.
Old 6th May 2012
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mightypants View Post
I think there's more to it than that. I'm aware of the impact of unison doubling, but there's something I hear specifically in the bg vocal there, not just the product of the two together.
Its the sound of the tape and/or console being hit hard. I cant remember if its this tune or one of the other tunes on Aja but you can hear a staticy fader being pulled down. Or maybe I'm just imagining things
Old 6th May 2012
  #8
Gear Nut
 

Are you talking about the different spatial treatments of various BG vox lines in the song? Most of them are doubled with a wide stereo spread -- very pronounced L-R. But then they throw in the occasional line that's right up the middle (almost mono?) -- like the second "How you run around" @2:20. Nice contrast.
Old 8th May 2012
  #9
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jtaylor27 View Post
Its the sound of the tape and/or console being hit hard. I cant remember if its this tune or one of the other tunes on Aja but you can hear a staticy fader being pulled down. Or maybe I'm just imagining things
That sounds about right, thanks. I don't hear the fader adjustment you mention, but perhaps it's there.
Old 8th May 2012
  #10
Gear Guru
I knew a guy who worked on Aja. When I asked him how they got that amazing BG vocal sound on Hey Nineteen, he let me in on the secret: You take an 87 and stick it in front of those four guys.

It's one of the best lessons ever.
Old 8th May 2012
  #11
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Having Michael McDonald on BG vocals doesn't hurt either!
Old 8th May 2012
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jake View Post
Having Michael McDonald on BG vocals doesn't hurt either!
Exactly the point.
You take an 87 and stick it in front of those four guys.
Old 8th May 2012
  #13
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Sounds like there's some phasing on the word "I" but maybe that's the wah guitar playing in unison as well?
Old 9th May 2012
  #14
ST.
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By the way, "Hey Nineteen" is from the Gaucho album. I thought that Michael McDonald didn't sing BG's on Hey Nineteen (are there four background singers on that one?)

I don't have the song (Black Cow) on hand to listen to right now... but I always thought it sounded quite audibly compressed. Maybe I'm confusing compression with "hitting the tape hard", though.

Incidentally, initialsBB, I had thought the same thing-- it sounds like there is a little bit of phasing going on. I don't recall a wah guitar there, though. I am going to have to investigate that one later today . I'm always happy to find an excuse to listen to this album.
Old 9th May 2012
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ST. View Post
By the way, "Hey Nineteen" is from the Gaucho album. I thought that Michael McDonald didn't sing BG's on Hey Nineteen (are there four background singers on that one?)

I don't have the song (Black Cow) on hand to listen to right now... but I always thought it sounded quite audibly compressed. Maybe I'm confusing compression with "hitting the tape hard", though.

Incidentally, initialsBB, I had thought the same thing-- it sounds like there is a little bit of phasing going on. I don't recall a wah guitar there, though. I am going to have to investigate that one later today . I'm always happy to find an excuse to listen to this album.
It had been stated in the past by Elliot Scheiner and Roger Nichols, that there was very little compression on their recordings. Black Cow sounds compressed to me too, but its hard to tell with tape compressing naturally.

Also Zack Sanders, Frank Floyd and presumably Fagen sang BVs on Hey Nineteen. There are probably 4 parts. Fagen used them again on his album The Nightfly which had a similar vocal sound.
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