How To

Direct versus tape: the ultimate analogue showdown


About a year ago, I created a direct cut recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (a truly remarkable slab of vinyl, Ed).  We were lucky enough to receive some great press and have now sold over two thousand copies worldwide.  This created the question of what to release next. I have always loved big band jazz and in particular, the music of Glen Miller, Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman. After doing some research, one band in particular kept coming out on top.  This was the Syd Lawrence Orchestra (below).  

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With a direct cut the band has to play live from the first to the last track on each side.  Any mistakes and it is back to the beginning again. With all of their radio work and concert appearances, the band seemed to be ideally suited to the task.  I therefore approached their leader, Chris Dean and explained what I would like to do.  He was immediately excited with the idea of creating a record, as opposed to a CD, because a lot of the band’s followers have been asking when were they are going to release a vinyl record. Chris was also up for the challenge of the live recording approach.

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A direct cut record
We contacted Air studios and I hired the same hall and technicians as I had used before on the Four Seasons recording.  In particular, John Webber (above), the cutting engineer was again available, as was the same sound mixer Jake Jackson (below right with Mike Valentine). The day came round.  We all arrived at the studio and the vinyl gods must have been smiling on us, because everything went well.  We cut four tracks in the morning for side A and four tracks for side B in the afternoon.

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I always want to push the envelope, so decided to release the album as a double LP.  The second LP to be created with a twenty four track two inch Studer tape recorder, running at 30 inches per second.  This we mixed down to my half inch tape, again running at 30 IPS, which became the master tape from which the second record was cut. This means that one record will be the direct cut and the second a record of exactly the same session cut from the analogue tape version.  People will therefore be able to compare these two techniques from exactly the same session, the direct cut, versus the more conventional analogue mix down and mastering version of events.  What will the differences be?  Well, hopefully, we should all know soon enough.

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At the same time, as we recorded the album, we also created a professional video of the events, which I hope to present at this year’s National Audio Show in September, as part of a lecture on how the album was created. I hope that people will enjoy listening and have as much fun as we did in capturing what I think was a very special event.
The double album will be released at the end of August on Chasing the Dragon Records.

Mike Valentine
Photography: Adriano Pennetti


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