Showing posts with label Webcor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Webcor. Show all posts

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Tonight's night music

My favorite used-record store in the world is closing, so I've been stocking up the past week.

And it is from this new/old and growing stash that tonight's "night music" comes -- Warren Covington and the Commanders with "Shall We Dance?" The label: Decca. The year: 1957.

Here's what the Billboard reviewer had to say in the weekly's edition of Feb. 2, 1957:
Pleasant dance set devoted mostly to slow fox trot tempos. Selections are nearly all standards, with sweet trombones given featured billing. Covington solos for ear-easy effect instrumentally, and similarly and supplies vocals by a group at intervals. There are more kicks here for mom and dad, probably, than for the kids, but enough, in any case, to make a fair seller. Attractive cover.
I'M NOT SURE, but I think the reviewer is saying, four years before I arrived on the scene, that I would be born much, much too late.

As I say . . . to be a young man in New York in the 1950s.

Nighty night.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Late, late on a Sunday night -- Or is it early, early on a dreaded Monday morning? Whatever -- seems to me to be the right time for a little night music.

This day on the old Webcor, we have Frank Sinatra's classic 1966 LP, Strangers in the Night. The monophonic version, of course.

Is it just me amid a bout with melancholy, or is it these sounds of Sinatra from the era of Don Draper, Lucky Strikes and fedoras -- preserved on vinyl like a prehistoric insect in amber -- represent the recorded demise of a civilization unaware of its imminent doom? Confident, a little worn on the margins, upbeat . . . and terminal.

Ring-a-ding-ding, Pally! AAAAACK!

WE SAY we have a civilization today. That may be true, in some diminished fashion in this Kardashianized ruin of a Honey Boo Boo world, but it isn't the civilization my generation was born into. I know this because it's my generation that finished it off.

It had its warts. We wanted a brave new world -- which we got, careless as we were in our wishes. Reaching for the stars, we ended up with "sketti," sex tapes, and baby daddies but not husbands.

That and Sinatra as a salve for disaffected refugees from The Collapse, strangers in the night who wander lost in the ruins of White Trash America.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Four walls . . . and a 78

Stand back, people. I got my geek on.

And I'm gonna show you something. More precisely, I'm going to let you hear something.

First, however, the setup. In three . . . two . . . one. . . .

IT'S IRONIC that, after introducing the 45 almost a decade earlier, RCA Victor had pretty much perfected the 78 rpm record by 1957. As I told you in an earlier post that sadly lacked an audio-visual component apart from a snapshot of an old Elvis record, RCA's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was all that.

Let's once again say that like my Elvis 78s, this old Jim Reeves record -- after 54 years and God knows how many plays -- sounds better than most new vinyl today, what there is of new vinyl today, and better than a lot of CDs being cranked out today. Imagine when it was brand new. . . .

Anyway, I've been telling people how it has been all but lost to history how good 78s could sound, and now I've decided to show you. Enjoy.

AND NOW the technical notes. . . .


The video was shot with a Nikon CoolPix L20 digital camera. Ambient audio was recorded with a Studio Projects C1 condenser microphone, while the audio from the 78 was off the Webcor record changer's phono output. Both the phono out and the mic output were fed into a Soundcraft stereo mixer, then into a professional sound card.

The audio was recorded to a WAV file with Adobe Audition software, then synced to the Nikon video. The audio track was not cleaned up in any way, just normalized to 98 percent modulation.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hank on 78

Take a 1952 Hank Williams 78 rpm record. Place it on a 1955 Webcor record changer. Watch and listen as magic occurs.

As you can hear, 78s could sound quite good. As a matter of fact, I have some that sound a lot better than this.

Before I go back to recording more of these old records onto the computer hard drive, though, I'll leave you with this bit of eerie trivia:

THIS RECORD -- "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" -- was the last Hank Williams single released before the country legend died, hitting the stores in November 1952 and debuting on the Billboard country chart at No. 9 on Dec. 20.

Williams died in the back seat of his Cadillac early New Year's morning 1953, somewhere between Bristol, Va., and Oak Hill, W.Va. Three weeks later, "I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive" hit No. 1 on Billboard the issue of Jan. 24.

Fifty-nine years later, the needle still drops onto the MGM 78. While the platter spins, Hank lives again, because it's always 1952 somewhere.

Right now, it's right here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The dawn of hi-fi . . . at 78 rpm

In many cases, high fidelity spun into 1950s homes, and into popular culture, at 78 rpm.

And so did the king of rock 'n' roll.

I've been putting some more of the records of my youth onto the computer hard drive -- bringing my analog musical formation into the digital present, I guess. This is another of those, Elvis Presley's "All Shook Up" (above), on a glorious 10-inch shellac platter.

I couldn't tell you how many times I played this record -- this very 78 that's four years older than I am -- as a kid. The rough estimate: lots.

IN 1957, "All Shook Up" was magic. As it was when I first got a hold of it around 1964 or 1965. As it is today.

That goes as well for another of my little stash of Elvis on 78 . . . "Too Much." That's it at left, sitting on a 1955 Webcor record changer here at Anachronism "R" Us.

And you know what? After half a century and change, these records still sound pretty much like new. And I have many compact discs that sound a lot worse. A lot worse, because these old 78s sound great.

RCA Victor's "'New Orthophonic' High Fidelity" was, indeed, all that. All that and a pair of blue suede shoes.

I'm itchin' like a bear on a fuzzy tree to play this stuff on the Big Show, I ga-ron-tee.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Pop a top with top o' the pops. Again.

It's late at night in the middle of the week.

You're drinking beer and playing this stuff -- the original half-century-old 45 RPM vinyl records, a ritual extending the full breadth of your recollection -- and you're contemplating life and this week's edition of 3 Chords & the Truth.

In that moment of being lost in yourself, in your memories, in the music (and perhaps in the beer), you are keenly aware of two things.

ONE. You were blessed with -- by accident of time, place and class -- an amazingly good foundation in popular music.

Two. You, by God, are a Southern boy, through and through. Even if, at present, you do a passable imitation of a middle-aged Midwesterner.

In the cold light of day, other thoughts worm their way into the keyboard and onto the blog. In particular, what is the equivalent for those a generation or two younger than a fool such as I?

What today, musically or otherwise, sets in stone one's sense of place, of culture, of identity? When does it happen -- mine happened at about the age of three, I reckon -- and what does it mean in these postmodern times?

What are the things -- the sounds -- that bypass the mind of the millennial and head straight for the soul? Do they understand identity and culture in the same way as their forebears? Indeed, does a young person in Omaha understand who and what he is in anything resembling that of a 50-year-old in Baton Rouge? Or a 20-year-old in Pascagoula?

Who am I? Of what am I? What do I hold dear? Hold sacred?

Eternal questions. I suspect how we answer them only has the whole world riding on it.

Welcome to the intersection of Culture and Everything.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A long, long time ago. . . .

Did you write the book of love,
And do you have faith in God above,
If the Bible tells you so?
Do you believe in rock ’n roll,
Can music save your mortal soul,
And can you teach me how to dance real slow?

-- Don McLean,

'American Pie'

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

Frankie Carle entertains at the piano, through the decades and on vintage vinyl, late on a summer's night.

You want to know why I love estate sales? Because I can pick up original, first-generation LPs -- this one is from 1948 -- for about a buck a piece.

And why a 63-year-old sweet-jazz album for my listening pleasure on a Wednesday evening?

Because it's not Lil' Wayne. Or Lady Gaga. Or Ke$ha. Or Kenny G. We at 3 Chords & the Truth have a reputation to uphold.

Next question?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

'50s sound: It's a thing of renown

What happens when you play a 1958 pressing of a 1956 LP on a 1955 Webcor record changer? Something like this.

What you see and hear here is the real deal. And it's a lot more fun than an iPod. Or iTunes. Or even an iYiYi.

(Yes, there is such a product.)

The first part of the audio is from the crappy microphone on my Nikon digital camera. Then I fade into the WAV file being recorded of the Les Brown LP on the studio computer. The audio file has been synched to the video.

This is what it really sounds like, folks. I did absolutely nothing to the audio other than adjust the volume.

Compact discs, my foot.

Now sit back, relax and enjoy your visit to the world of 1950s high fidelity. Up next, Les Brown and His Band of Renown with "Meanwhile, Back on the Bus" off of the Capitol Records album "Les Brown's in Town."

And note, please, that hipsters today are paying $28 for 180-gram LPs that fall far short sonically of what was the $2.98 norm in the 1950s and '60s.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Come listen with me

This not only looks right, but it sounds right, too -- vintage Sinatra on a vintage hi-fi record changer.

I've probably entered the realm of irrational antique audiophile fandom, but there's something about these old LPs that just sounds a lot better on an old turntable. Technically, it probably has something to do with a slightly vintage cartridge that carries a bit more "pop" (as opposed to pop and crackle) than usual, as well as running with a bit more tracking pressure than a new, expensive cartridge could handle.

Or maybe it's just '50s magic.

But let me leave you with this: I really, really wish the microphone in the upper right-hand corner of the photo was Frank Sinatra's beloved "Telly," a Telefunken (Neumann) U-47.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hang on to your hats

Now that I have this new addition to the 3 Chords & the Truth studios, God only knows what's going to start showing up on the Big Show.

"This" is a 1955 Webcor component record changer. Back then, this would have been part of your expensive and cutting-edge "hi-fi system."

I just call it my "midlife crisis" purchase.

But now that I can play 78 RPM records in the studio just like anything else (in glorious monophonic sound, might I add) . . . watch out.

Is what I'm saying.

It's 3 Chords & the Truth, y'all. Be there. Aloha.