Re: Bubs' Code Red (mostly to Guang Ming)

Discuss our reviews or just talk about any old album.

Postby Neil » Thu Jun 12, 2003 6:04 am

billhare wrote:You bet it is! I had a great time mixing it, knowing I probably wouldn't ever get to do such a project again. I saw this as a "great experiment", being given the challenge and opportunity to approximate the characteristics of the original records so closely, which I eagerly "went to town" on. Both Ed Boyer (Bubs Director) and I knew we would be simultaneously praised and lambasted for this work as it grew into the monstrosity it eventually became, but I've been especially waiting for the controversy! :-)

I do agree with Jonathan about getting TOO close to the originals for the exact reasons he stated, but I also think we had to get it out of our systems and prove that it COULD be done!

...

I'm also glad you liked the Harmonics album so much, Neil -if for no other reason that you can see I hadn't TOTALLY lost my mind with the Bubs!


I don't think anybody can question your skill when it comes to this type of work, Bill. I think anybody who hears the Bubs disc has to agree that the engineering and production on that album is beyond words amazing... and, like you said, you took that same skill and turned the Harmonics' disc into something truly special.

So, the question is, when are you coming down to UF to do a little pro bono work? :)
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Da' Bubs

Postby duke00 » Thu Jun 12, 2003 8:17 am

Neil - No Southern Accent wrote:
when that's the case, I think the reviewer ought to feel free to downgrade the album no matter its technical merits. I may have a higher threshold for production wizardry than she does (although I haven't heard the album in question), but I can take that into consideration when reading her comments.


I think Tekay said it best; the idea behind the RARB reviews is the exact opposite. Regardless of how the reviewer feels about the type of album it is, you have to reward a disc that's as technically perfect as this one is. When it comes down to a matter of personal taste, that's where you read the comments and decide if this CD is for you.

Say, for instance, you're a huge 'Bubs fan. You know you love their material, you just want to know which is their best disc. You read all 5s on this one, and you know that this disc is an amazing piece of work.


BUt, I don't feel like a review can be based on the technical proficiency of an album alone. I think that it makes it too much about money, and who can afford to make those affects. If one thinks they are over digitalized then, for me it takes away from your listening experience. That is question of production and the actual techniques used in a studio which seems different to me than suggesting that because someone doesn't like R& B, the whole album sucks. Similarly, the kind of phenemenon you describe happens all the time in the reverse. The standard now seems to be the more processed sound therefore when a group chooses not to use it--even if they are in tune and the arrangements are interesting that is going to show up in their score (e.g. a girl group that might have a wonderful sound but the bass isn't pedaled an octave lower).

This of course is not a comment on the Bubs. I love them. The album probably rocks, but I think those 'instrumental arrangements that the reviewers speak of in lieu of more complicated ones would probably not get as much respect if not backed up by all of the recording equipment available in their arsenal.

Just my two cents,
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Re: Da' Bubs

Postby Neil » Thu Jun 12, 2003 8:40 am

duke00 wrote:But, I don't feel like a review can be based on the technical proficiency of an album alone. I think that it makes it too much about money, and who can afford to make those affects. If one thinks they are over digitalized then, for me it takes away from your listening experience. That is question of production and the actual techniques used in a studio which seems different to me than suggesting that because someone doesn't like R& B, the whole album sucks. Similarly, the kind of phenemenon you describe happens all the time in the reverse. The standard now seems to be the more processed sound therefore when a group chooses not to use it--even if they are in tune and the arrangements are interesting that is going to show up in their score (e.g. a girl group that might have a wonderful sound but the bass isn't pedaled an octave lower).


I completely agree that groups should not be punished for not having the money to use those effects. My point is, though, that after listening to the CD, it's impossible not to give it a 5. It's simply perfect. It's not necessarily the effects that make it perfect, it's simply exquisitely done. Now, there comes a point, though, where lack of money does effect the score given the CD, simply because it becomes less listenable. If the group's sound is awesome, it's awesome, and deserving of a 5. If it doesn't translate to the recording, though, there's no way you can give it a 5.

Put it this way - say I have a perfectly tuned, well-balanced group with good energy doing cool music. But the recording has a light 'hiss' throughout, you can periodically hear doors opening and closing, etc. In terms of what it is as an album, you can't give it a 5, because a lot of people would find it unlistenable.

As long as the lack of cash doesn't detract from the quality of the recording, raw, organic sounding CDs should get 5s as well, though. Absolutely.
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Re: Da' Bubs

Postby Jesse Silver » Thu Jun 12, 2003 12:00 pm

But, I don't feel like a review can be based on the technical proficiency of an album alone. I think that it makes it too much about money, and who can afford to make those affects.


Although I agree with you to some extent, I must point out as an example that 99% of the percussion on Code Red was recorded in my bedroom by me on my PC. I cannot deny and will not be giving anything away by saying that the bubs obviously spent some money on this album. But amazing things can be done with time and creativity and not a whole lot of equipment. I think this is demonstrated by the increased level of quality of the BOCA albums. I don't think most groups are spending more and more money, but rather that better technology is available for less money. Where recording used to be done (and still is, in some studios) on a $200k Studer multitrack and a $500k+ SSL or Neve board, a very similar result can be achieved with less than $3k worth of computers and equipment. I'm not taking a position on the "processed" vs. "live" sound debate; I'm a bub alum who is more than happy to be able to contribute my recording engineering and sound design skills to their projects, but I'm simply taking the position that it is not always a matter of money.

So although I CERTAINLY agree that technical proficiency should not be the sole rating factor for an album, I am not sure that technical proficiency is entirely a financial factor these days.

And on a slightly different subject, I am actually surprised at the high ratings the album got. I was certain someone would have perceived as as REALLY going too far and give us a 2 or something. Maybe I should have left in the sound we originally came up with half-way through Mr. Roboto that Ed wouldn't let us keep because it sounded even less human than the ones in the final track :)
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Re: Da' Bubs

Postby Chris -- Shir Appeal » Thu Jun 12, 2003 5:18 pm

Wow, thread hijack much?

Neil - No Southern Accent wrote:It's simply perfect.


Easy there Neil -- do I need to beat that poor dead "subjectivity" horse again? There are no glaring errors, surely, but perfect? Listen carefully, and you can discover that the Bubs are human after all.

For example, during a later verse in "Crazy Train", they are missing a slew of rolling tom hits in an otherwise empty spot! Sacrilege!

The "grand pause" ("railroad tracks" to band geeks) in "Take me Home" seems to be a bit too empty, as if the usual "natural" reverb was quashed.

And unless my ears are mistaken, autotuning was applied to a number of soloists ("Take me Home" comes to mind). Not such a big deal -- hell we do it -- but I guess I would rather not hear it. Stupid ears.

Ok, these are nitpicky things, but "perfect" does tend to jar me a little. Plus the nose trumpets in the Sinatra tune get a tad annoying. Heh.

I guess my biggest beef with the disc is that -- and I never thought I'd saying this -- I want it to be more like the live performances. Not because I have anything at all against technology and effects and all that jazz, but because I genuinely think the performance versions of some of the tracks are better. More accurate to the original? No. But more stunning nevertheless.

For example, at the opening of "Crazy Train", in performance a lot of the group does this great alternating 8th note line (the higher guitar line). They are completely in sync (while doing head motions), half on the beat and half on the offbeat...and it sounds great. On the album version, this is drowned out by the much more boring (in my opinion) distorted "wow-oo"s.

The same could be said for basically all of Roboto. You think the first low spoken "Domo arigato Mister Roboto" is highly affected? Think again; Travis can do 90% [edit: 100%! see Deke's post below] of that live. The "synthy" part is equally awesome -- and different -- live.

Part of this might be just because the boys put on such a damn good show, but I really do think that I prefer some of the live versions.

All that being said, the album is pretty damn great. More kudos to Greg (where does he store all of them?) for the solos et al. I love the final few chorus chords in "Take me Home". Percussion in "You Should Be Dancing" is particularly nifty. And, oh yeah, the production in general ain't too shabby. Plus I love the delicious irony, mentioned previously, of the production on "Mr.Roboto".

Bottom line: buy the album, see them live, or do both. You (like me) might prefer one to the other, but, ultimately, you're not going to be disappointed either way.

(...all in under 500 words...hmm, maybe it's time to email Chris...)
Last edited by Chris -- Shir Appeal on Fri Jun 13, 2003 9:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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A Few Thoughts

Postby dekesharon » Fri Jun 13, 2003 8:51 am

An interesting discussion, particularly due to people's candor.

A few of my own thoughts:

1) There's not really any separation between the technical and the emotional elements of a recording when considering how good it is by one's own standards. Either you like something or you don't. To that end, I don't think anyone has to give "Code Red" a 5, anymore than you'd have to give an Alan Parson's Project album a 5 in the 80's because it sounded so amazingly clean.

2) I don't see how one could catigorize the arrangements on "Code Red" as "not complex." They don't have an Off-the-Beat-esque woven texture quality, and yet there are on average 7 vocal parts and 30 layers of sounds on each track. It's quite hard to get arrangements to work well in an instrumental fashion (you can't just sing the instrumental parts - that's a recipe for disaster).

3) I think the "art of a cappella" exists throughout the album, by definition. In fact, I think it's great that so much discussion has been generated about the nature of a cappella and art. By showing so much techincal proficiency, they've made an album that is tackling larger issues than "can we sing the bridge in tune?!?" That's art.

4) Whereas this album took money to make, there's no penalizing them for it. The funds weren't unlimited (they worked hard to earn every penny themselves), and they were very, very good before setting foot in the studio. Plus, they made the most of every minute, and every resource. Expertly planned and rehearsed. They worked their asses off to get the album to this level. Bill Hare can attest to that - he was blown away when he heard the raw studio dumps. As a result, much of what was done in mastering was artistic, not just cleanup (autotune/rhythm alignment).

5) Music Director Ed Boyer made a HUGE point out of having things come from the singer's mouths. Far fewer effects are used than you'd think when listening. It would have been much easier to just plug in a distortion box here, flange a chord there - he wouldn't have it. It's funny to me that people are listening to the album and calling it inhuman, when it's incredibly human. One of many examples: "Domo Arigato Mr. Robato" is untouched - _exactly_ the way Travis sang it.

6) The point is made that this album sounds too much like the original recordings. I think this is to our ears (I'm assuming that all of us in this discussion, myself included, are insufferable a cappella geeks). To most people, this album will sound like an a cappella album, hands down. If you stare at the color white for too long, when you see pink, you might mistake it for red.

7) I'd make the arguement (from my highly biased position) that this album is less for hard-core a cappella fans and more for general folks. As much as I love a cappella in all its imperfection (enough to make it my life's work!), most people are not able to hang with amateur performances, shoddy tuning, uneven rhythms, etc. "Code Red" was an attempt to take a college album - not just one track headed for BOCA, but a whole album - to a pro level: the way they arranged, rehearsed, planned, tracked, mixed.

8) Lest it fall through the cracks of this discussion, let me make one more point: emotion was at the center of every performance, solo, creative choice. We had discussions about the nature of a song, meaning of lyrics, and our approach. Each song has its own flavor - often similar to the original - and we worked hard to make sure everyone was reinforcing the emotion in every line, setting the soloist up for a powerful, honest delivery. Which gets me back to the first point above - either the album works for you emotionally or it doesn't. In the end, that's _all_ that matters.
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Re: Da' Bubs

Postby Neil » Sat Jun 14, 2003 7:22 pm

Chris -- Shir Appeal wrote:Easy there Neil


Hehe. Thanks, sorry for getting carried away there. Let me rephrase... the CD is as high-quality an a cappella reproduction of the original songs as I've ever heard in my life. Whether or not I like the song choices or production choices becomes irrelevant in my mind, because it's so damn good.


I want it to be more like the live performances. Not because I have anything at all against technology and effects and all that jazz, but because I genuinely think the performance versions of some of the tracks are better. More accurate to the original? No. But more stunning nevertheless.


I actually made the same request earlier in the thread - I'd love to see this CD live. I bet the stage show and the fact that I'd be able to see each of their mouths making the sound would leave me speechless for days. The live energy is what's lacking (just barely lacking, but lacking nonetheless), and why I don't like it as much as other CDs.

I'll repeat, though... this thing is just amazing. I wish I had been able to bribe them into coming down to G'ville this Spring Break.

***thread hijack of the highest order***

Gainesville, Florida is a beautiful place to visit, specifically during Spring Break. There are many wonderful beaches and bars that could prove enjoyable for your group's vacation time, to say nothing of the beautiful female scenery. Not saying anything specific, just:

Hey! You! Nationally-recognized, awesome a cappella group! Visit us!

:)
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Postby Mahka » Sun Jun 15, 2003 3:20 am

Neil wrote:***thread hijack of the highest order***

Gainesville, Florida is a beautiful place to visit, specifically during Spring Break. There are many wonderful beaches and bars that could prove enjoyable for your group's vacation time, to say nothing of the beautiful female scenery. Not saying anything specific, just:

Hey! You! Nationally-recognized, awesome a cappella group! Visit us!


::attempts to refrain from plugging...fails::

well, i have yet to listen to this album (trust me...once i get enough money to get through this summer, i will), but i'm gonna post anyway, and make a plug for awesome, amazing LOS ANGELES!!! It's a much better trip than Florida, and you get to plop yourself in front of Mann's Chinese Theater, watch a sunset into the ocean, and all the amazing things California has to offer. and that applies to not only the Bubs, but everyone else too, from the Mates to our newbie friends in Florida, OTB, EVERYONE!!!
~Mark
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