Strut Records are a UK label that has released some excellent compilations, including the Disco Not Disco series and the two CD set of Larry Levan live at the Paradise Garage. After going out of business for a while, they recently returned with “Funky Nassau – The Compass Point Story 1980-1986.” It’s a fine selection of tracks with liner notes and everything. But the mastering… I was listening and noticed the sound was crunchy, opened one of the tracks in Audacity and this is what it looked like. The waveform peaks are scrunched against the ceiling, which – although I’m far from an expert on these things – I’m pretty sure is digital clipping, and it’s even worse than overloading a tape when it comes to the sound. This is the hard-to-find Guy Cuevas track “Obsession” which many people probably bought the CD for. I can’t find any reference to this online in any reviews of the compilation, which makes me wonder if this is just standard now (I’ve seen the same issue with downloaded WAV files from Beatport). Some of the tracks also sound more compressed than others, the other bane of recent music releases.
What’s particularly painful is that Alex Sadkin is one of the best producers that’s ever lived. If you ever need to check out a hi fi system, I’d recommend anything he laid his hands on but particularly Grace Jones “Living My Life” LP.
I realized I could do an experiment. The top picture is the WAV file of the 12″ version of My Jamaican Guy that is on the Strut compilation. I think, based on what I’ve been reading recently, this is pretty typical of how digital files are mastered these days. The second picture is the WAV file of My Jamaican Guy from the original Island CD, released in 1982. Note the undulations that represent the dynamics of the original master, much closer to the way Alex Sadkin recorded it. Finally I’ve included a youtube video that explains this miserable phenomenon, I had no idea how widespread it was becoming.
Edit 4/19: To be fair to Strut, I checked the same track on the CD compilation Grace Jones – The Compass Point Sessions from 1998 and it’s even worse:
Wikipedia – The Loudness War Turn Me Up – non-profit organization campaigning for musician’s rights to avoid “smashtering,” has an excellent list of article links on the main page.
Simple and hugely effective. Have a vague memory of Junior Vasquez cutting out all the bass and mids and just having the hi hats and “rockin rockin music” playing through the tweeters over the dancefloor until everyone was in a frenzy and he finally let the track rip. If he really wanted to be mean, he’d cut out the entire system so the music was only coming through the booth monitors.
Hadn’t been by this site in a while and the list of clubs from days gone by seems to have expanded dramatically. Love this photo of David Morales looking about 16 in the DJ booth at a club called Lovelite (and the stripey sweater too):
One of Keith Haring’s anti-crack posters is in the background.
“I remember, while attending Clark College, myself and three other NJ club addicts jumped in a yellow volkswagen beetle with no floor boards and drove 867 miles just to dance at Zanz. We got to Newark around 6pm saturday, hit the club at 11pm. After they put us out we jumped back in the volks and drove back to school.”
Clark College is in Dubuque, Iowa.
There’s also an interview with DJ Punch from Zanzibar and some pictures and flyers on exaGroove.com.