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Kate Bush - Before The Dawn...what went wrong?

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  • Kate Bush - Before The Dawn...what went wrong?

    I've never owned any Kate Bush albums. Her career was more art-rock than prog-rock so I was familiar with her music in a peripheral way. I have a friend who is a huge fan and he's always talked up the sonic virtues of her recordings. I love live recordings so when I heard that there was a 4LP set culled from her 22 date run in London I thought it would be fun to finally test the waters. Plus I was able to get the box set wholesale so I figured why not.

    In the interim period before the sets arrival I started to read some reviews about the album on the Steve Hoffman forum which is a complete mosh pit of opinions. One thing that seemed to be getting an ongoing mention was the pronounced bass response from the recording. The debate ensued (its up to 57 pages at last look): is there too much bass? Bass just right?

    Well I have to say there is too much bass but that isn't the only thing I have an issue with. You can tell the recording is meticulous. In fact I would say almost overly so. I find the performance to be so tweaked that its a bit bloodless. A dyed in the wool Kate Bush fan would probably take exception to that comment.

    When I listen to a live recording I like the perspective of sitting in the audience with the stage in front of me. Great recordings like Gil Evans Live At The Public Theater (Vols 1 & 2) allow you to visualize placement of the musicians in 3D. This ain't that! You are on stage with Kate and her band with the audience in front of you. A bit too close miked for my taste. I will say that there is no issue with compression - its quite a dynamic recording. That was a welcome relief.

    There seems to be an overall lack of midrange warmth. I find it a bit tipped up and that bass. We have to talk about the bass. That's the main reason for my post...its quite peculiar and I can't think of another recording like this. The bass is overly prominent in a way that is almost offensive. It stands out so much that it constantly draws attention to itself. There is lots of musical information there but it makes the overall EQ curve seem like a smiley face.

    I'm an admitted bass freak. There is bass and then there is Rockport bass. I haven't heard any recording that the Aquila or its big brother the Altair 2 can't handle. The Aquila handle the bass effortlessly but it makes me wonder about lesser speakers. One of my friends was concerned it would blow out his woofers. I've seen other comments that they don't hear any issues with the bass which tells me their speakers are rolling off like crazy in the lower register.

    I did read one comment from an attendee at one of the shows who mentioned that the bass was particularly prominent at the performance. Maybe this recording is an attempt to accurately reproduce what the audience heard? Its clearly a conscious decision. You don't release a mix like this without constant review - not a musician as accomplished as this, with a budget that I presume to be fairly ginormous.

    I'll keep listening but I find the whole thing odd. Any one else?
    PROGRESSIVE SOUNDS FROM AROUND THE WORLD
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    Rockport Aquila, Boulder 2010, Boulder 2008, Boulder 2060, Transparent Audio Reference XL, Nordost Quantum QBase8, TW Acustic AC Anniversary, TW Acustic Raven 10.5 arm, Lyra Atlas, Bricasti M1 Special Edition, SRA Scuttle3 rack + various SRA/Symposium stands

  • #2
    What went wrong?

    I would say your first sentence.


    I dont know of any true fans that do not love this album.

    Comment


    • lasercd
      lasercd commented
      Editing a comment
      So you are comfortable with the production.

    • Metamatic
      Metamatic commented
      Editing a comment
      I don't have the album. Not a great live album lover. The half a dozen guys I know who own the album thinks it sounds superb. They have also indicated, anyone looking for a short cut best of, need to look elsewhere.

      The last few Kate Bush studio albums have had full deep dynamic bass in the production. Very different feel to her early albums.

  • #3
    In recent years the trend with newer acts/performers in live performances has been to pump up the bass. This is likely influenced by the DJ mix scene. Maybe not that an entirely new trend as I recall Sarah McLachlans Mirror Ball is rather low bass heavy.

    About a year ago I got new speakers which are capable of deeper bass than the previous ones. A few recordings which I've had for many years were revealed to have way too much deep bass. I suspect that whoever did the final mastering did not have monitors capable of deep bass reproduction and the bass was overcooked to get bass out of the monitors. Talking about bass from 40 Hz to the basement.

    Bob Ludwig has been extremely successful mastering for many years. I wonder if some of the success comes from the factor that he has used large full range speakers that more accurately reproduce the full frequency spectrum of the recording. He always seems to capture a detailed realistic sound. Just sayin'.

    Comment


    • Johnny Vinyl
      Johnny Vinyl commented
      Editing a comment
      Several of Sarah's albums are overly bass-heavy IMO.

  • #4
    There is not a doubt in my mind that Kate approved every single part of this production before it went to the pressing plants. She demands total control over her work and would never release anything that wasn’t up to her standards. This does not mean it’s always going to be totally acceptable by the end user as we have our own standards or preferences about whatever gets released on the media of our choice. Add to that the differences between our systems, the type of listener we each are, and it becomes impossible to satisfy every consumer.

    While this is a live recording it is also a theatrical performance that tries to give the listener a look into what it was like to be in the audience. This is not a live jazz ensemble or live arena rock recording experience, which makes any type of comparison rather silly IMO. This is a totally different listening experience and I think she captured it exceptionally well.

    I’ve been actively following that thread over at the SHForums and it truly is a mixed bag of opinion. The posters who feel that the bass is excessive seem to be the loudest and are trying awfully hard to convince others that their opinion is the correct one. I don’t buy it. I also don’t buy the implication that somehow those who don’t agree must have something lacking in their systems. The opinions about the claimed bass exaggeration comes from posters with systems of all types (and vice-versa). There is no doubt this recording is not bass-shy, but I find it to provide a rather energetic feeling that brings me closer to what Kate intended. I should also add that I am NOT a bass freak, so maybe I should have sided with those who think it’s too much…yet I didn’t.

    I’m enjoying the heck out of this release.
    Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables

    Comment


    • Metamatic
      Metamatic commented
      Editing a comment
      Nice commentary Johnny. From a long time fan, you obviously understand what Kate is doing. Opinions like yours hold so much more weight in the overall scheme of things.

  • #5
    Kate Bush may have final artistic approval but once again I wonder a bit at the system used for approval of the final mix. Was it capable of true deep bass response or did the low bass require boosting to achieve a satisfactory sound, which would produce a different result on a system capable of full reproduction of deep bass. Sort of second guessing what the artist actually intended. Given the trend in bass heavy underpinnings of many contemporary performances she probably intended it to be so.

    This is not to detract from her performance or personal preferences, but rather to understand the production choices.

    Comment


    • #6
      As a sidebar, I knew a producer that had a state-of-the-art system that he used for review and approval of music prior to production. I was invited to listening session to audition a new pair of speakers a designer was working on. The designer set up the new prototype speakers next to the producers current reference speakers. The designer suggested that the current reference speakers did not have the bass extension and accuracy to expose bass defects in some of the producers previous music releases. The designer put on some of the previous music issues to prove his point. Sure enough, you could hear defects in the recordings bass with the new speakers. The defects were not exposed with the reference speakers. Although the reference speakers sounded great (and were ultra expensive) they still weren't good enough in the bass. My point here is that even with the best intentions, inaccurate bass can still get through the QC and production process.
      Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
      Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
      Phono 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable with 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Decade Phono Preamp
      Phono 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable with 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
      R2R Tape: Studer A810 with Bridge Console
      Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
      Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
      Power: Audio-Ultra Power System, IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
      Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

      Comment


      • #7
        I just replayed side one of the LP to listen to the bass. My speakers have powerful deep accurate bass. I would agree the album is a bit overblown and boomy in the bass. However, I think the overblown bass is indicative of most rock concerts these days and not unusual. The boomy part I suspect is due to bass feedback from the floor though the microphone stands to the microphones. I have done some live recordings and this is pretty typical. Isolating microphones in a live performance from floor born bass feedback is difficult to prevent. I am used to this kind of bass (distortion?), it no longer bothers me.

        I am a Kate Bush fan. I love this album and am happy it was released on vinyl. The only thing I regret is that I wasn't there at the concert.
        Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
        Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
        Phono 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable with 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Decade Phono Preamp
        Phono 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable with 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
        R2R Tape: Studer A810 with Bridge Console
        Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
        Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
        Power: Audio-Ultra Power System, IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
        Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

        Comment


        • Joe Pittman
          Joe Pittman commented
          Editing a comment
          Microphones are microphonic (pun intended).

        • lasercd
          lasercd commented
          Editing a comment
          Gary my suggestion is to not play it at CES. 😜

        • garylkoh
          garylkoh commented
          Editing a comment
          I didn't even bring it to CES!
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