Monday, 1 June 2009

Joan Osborne


Aeons ago, when I was largely responsibility free, it was not unknown for me to spend huge amounts of cash on building the ultimate hi-fi. My dream was to own a system that would accurately portray the rhythm and dynamics of a piece of music as well as the individual timbre of each instrument and the vocal inflections of the singer. This was of great importance because, to me, music was never a background noise, it was always something to be listened to and the more of it you could hear, the better. Luckily, before marriage and families caught up with me, I managed to build such a system.

Having lived with this load of electronics for many years and listened to many CDs, it becomes apparent that there are two avenues that an aspiring band can travel when it comes to producing their album. The first is to strive to produce the most realistically live sound possible so that the listener feels like they are watching the band play in their living room. The second is to be daringly adventurous and do the exact opposite so that the sound of the album bears little resemblance to live instruments but becomes a collage of sound. Neither is preferable provided that the ultimate goal sounds musical and involving.

The reason I started to muse on this subject was because I sat down and listened to Joan Osborne’s ‘One of Us’ and I did so because it is an incredibly involving production. This is a type ‘A’ live production and it works beautifully. Those who know Joan Osborne or have watched ‘Standing in the Shadows of Motown’ will know that she is a commanding singer – her rendition of ‘What becomes of the Broken Hearted?’ is gut-wrenchingly emotional. The vocal recording on ‘One of Us’ is crystal clear and projects from the mix like she is standing in the room.

Equally, each instrument is carefully recorded. Anyone who has heard an unamplified drum kit will know that it sounds surprisingly loud and ‘messy’. That is, it rattles and reverberates. The drums in this recording are just that, loud and cacophonous – cymbals fizz and snares buzz – and you can just sense the drummer getting carried away and beating the shit out of them.

The lead guitar and bass also have a huge presence so that you can hear what they are playing all the way through without them ‘disappearing’ or moving in the mix. All this gives a great sense of a live band playing in front of you and it heightens the listening experience immeasurably. I don’t know who produced this track, but whoever it was, I salute them. It is the way all music should be heard.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I got to see Joan live last year and she is truly awesome.
-S

musicobsessive said...

Hi S. I wasn't much of a fan until I saw 'Standing in the Shadows..' and was completely bowled over by her. I can believe what you say and envy you the opportunity to have seen her live.

Anonymous said...

Hi again. If you get the chance to see her, do it. In the midst of "artists" like Miley Cyrus and Flavor Flav taking over the airwaves and TV waves, Joan reminded me why I became a music fan (and singer-songwriter) in the 1st place - something that can be easily forgotten in today's market.
-S

musicobsessive said...

S - recommendation accepted! And by the way, we're all genuine music fans here who appreciate the comments of those who share the passion. Keep 'em coming!