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Thread started 07/17/10 7:52pm

jockeyb4u

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Someone educate me

There seem to be a lot of folks here who have knowledge of the process of recording and producing music. I have zero. The thing that bothers me most about Prince music from the last fifteen years or so is the production. It seems that starting with Emancipation we started getting a very plastic, very sterile, almost "cheap" sound from Prince's music. New Power Soul has it. Rave, Musicology, 3121, Planet Earth, 20ten, and the vast majority of the NPGMC tracks all suffer from it.

What causes this? Is it intentional? I mean, is this the sound Prince is going for? It seems to detract a lot of feeling in songs that I really would like otherwise. I've heard people refer to this "plastic sound" for many years, but I have never really seen an explanation into why the music sounds this way.

I hope someone here can break it down, and let me know.

Thanks.

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Reply #1 posted 07/17/10 7:56pm

robinhood

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the sound of a recording is a direct reflection of the state of his mind. thats all i know.

this too shall pass
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Reply #2 posted 07/17/10 8:10pm

PicklesMcMilla
n

doesnt have any feeling to it

it doesnt take a expert know what a feeling is

[Edited 7/17/10 20:10pm]

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Reply #3 posted 07/17/10 8:56pm

daPrettyman

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I was thinking about this also. I'm not in the recording industry, nor do I profess to be a music recording expert, but I think a lot of it has to do with his engineering and mastering. I don't think it's necessarilly "cheap" or "plastic" sounding production.

I think Prince (since around 96 or so) has mostly been following the trends of the last 15 or so years of plastic and digital bead driven recordings. There are a few exceptions (The Rainbow Children, News, Xpectation, and some of Musicology), but most of his recordings were using this drum programming (that is not his trademark Linn machine).

One thing that I've noticed over the last few projects, is that they have a different type of feeling about them. Musicology seems to have a very "slick" and "commercial" feel to it (which would make sense since it was marketed as his "comeback"). 3121 has an industrial type feel to the production to me. Almost like most of the album was recorded in a tunnel or something. Planet Earth feels like a cross between Musicology and 3121. Lotusflow3r/MPLSOUND both have 2 different feelings to me. Lotus has almost a criptic feel to it while MPLS sounds "normal".

I don't really consider a lot of the NPGMC stuff, because a lot of those songs sound more like demos and ideas than real songs. Songs like "Madrid to Chicago", "Van Goh" (sp?), "Props and Pounds", etc. all sound more like ideas to me than actual finished songs. I would guess that's probably why he re-recorded "The Dance".

**--••--**--••**--••--**--••**--••--**--••**--••-
U 'gon make me shake my doo loose!
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Reply #4 posted 07/18/10 4:26am

Tame

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In all honesty...I am not sure about this...however, on a Metallic level of pressing the discs...I believe it has something to do with the percentage of Lime and Nickel...

I believe that cd's with a greater content, which is more expensive...have deeper grooves, and hold onto the sound quality better.

That is my little educated guess. cool

"The Lion Sleeps Tonight...
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Reply #5 posted 07/18/10 4:45am

OperatingTheta
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'Plastic sound', a term which lacks all specifics and definition, is usually used by fans who do not appreciate Prince's electronic soul/r&b material. In particular, it refered to the drum programming of Kirk Johnson from 'Emancipation' to 'Rave' (retail) and some of the NPGMC releases (parts of 'High', 'Slaughterhouse' etc).

I have not heard it refered to any Prince music from 'The Rainbow Children' onward. The drum programming on 'Musicology', '3121', 'Planet Earth' is much beefier sounding. 'MPLSound' and '20TEN' use the linn drum, so if they are 'plastic' so is most of Princes 80's output.

It never seems to refer to Prince's more organic productions such as 'Lotusflow3r', 'NEWS', 'The Rainbow Children' etc.

Generally, I think people here prefer Prince's rock material and under-rate his soul material. This can be seen by some reviews here of '20TEN.'

However, how 'Future Soul Song' could ever be refered to as 'plastic' is beyond me. Same applies to all of 'Lotusflow3r' and most of 'Planet Earth'.

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Reply #6 posted 07/18/10 6:51am

jockeyb4u

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OperatingThetan said:

'Plastic sound', a term which lacks all specifics and definition, is usually used by fans who do not appreciate Prince's electronic soul/r&b material. In particular, it refered to the drum programming of Kirk Johnson from 'Emancipation' to 'Rave' (retail) and some of the NPGMC releases (parts of 'High', 'Slaughterhouse' etc).

I have not heard it refered to any Prince music from 'The Rainbow Children' onward. The drum programming on 'Musicology', '3121', 'Planet Earth' is much beefier sounding. 'MPLSound' and '20TEN' use the linn drum, so if they are 'plastic' so is most of Princes 80's output.

It never seems to refer to Prince's more organic productions such as 'Lotusflow3r', 'NEWS', 'The Rainbow Children' etc.

Generally, I think people here prefer Prince's rock material and under-rate his soul material. This can be seen by some reviews here of '20TEN.'

However, how 'Future Soul Song' could ever be refered to as 'plastic' is beyond me. Same applies to all of 'Lotusflow3r' and most of 'Planet Earth'.

It is no coincidence that many people use the term "plastic" to describe a lot of Prince's electronic soul/r&b material released from Emancipation on. I love Prince's use of drum machines pre-Emancipation. There is just something different sounding about it since then.

An almost hollow, empty sound.

But this isn't just relegated to the drum machines, there is something different about the whole production. The mix of the instruments, the vocal layering etc. Most of the time it all seems so rushed anymore.

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Reply #7 posted 07/18/10 7:31am

cbarnes3121

people complain so damn much about quailty about every notion of prince music there is nothing left 2 say either u like it or u dont if u dont go skip wit drake

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Reply #8 posted 07/18/10 7:48am

TheVoid

I think there's a real correlation between Prince's mastery of his instruments and the sterile nature of his songs of late. He's admitted to being a far better guitar player now than when he was younger, etc. etc.

In the old days, Prince used the studio as his "other instrument", so he's play with sound a great deal.

I'm not going to be able to quote this word-for-word, but Linda Ronstadt once said that she prefers to record with a backing orchestra rather than in a small sound studio--- she said something to the affect : "I don't think you can get that rich sound and atmosphere unless it's an orchestra--a studio just won't do. Except for Prince of course--he can't paint soundscapes in my mind that are just amazing."

Also, I believe that PR was essentially recorded live with his band in a studio. I believe that "One of Us", the Joan Osbourne remake was done in this fashion (at least from the gritty, oddly mixed sounding nature of the track...with vocal embellishments of added later of course).

I think he's probably more proficient in the studio too, so there aren't any real happy accidents any more (like the what lead to "If I was Ur Girlfriend').

But personally, I think that since Musicology, Prince's albums have been far, far, FAAAAARRRR better than the plastic NPGMC 90s material ( Vavoom, Madrid 2 Chicago, U Make My Sunshine, etc.)---that stuff was just dreadful.

Now, it's nothing compared to his early 90s work, and certainly nothing compared to his 80s work. But, I still don't think it's all that awful.

I liked 3121, lotusflow3r, and 20Ten. shrug

Moreso than Batman, Come or D&P actually. shrug

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Reply #9 posted 07/18/10 8:06am

NouveauDance

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Could digital vs analogue studio equipment be a large factor? I'm no expert on recording studios, but I'm guessing they don't use reels of tape these days?

I'm not saying that's the only reason (song writing, instruments, programming, composition etc), but the digital vs analogue thing isn't just concerning Prince, it's infected almost everything you hear.

There is also the ongoing discussion about mastering stuff too loud, there's been some really informed posts on here over the years regarding that issue.

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Reply #10 posted 07/18/10 8:09am

jockeyb4u

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TheVoid said:

But personally, I think that since Musicology, Prince's albums have been far, far, FAAAAARRRR better than the plastic NPGMC 90s material ( Vavoom, Madrid 2 Chicago, U Make My Sunshine, etc.)---that stuff was just dreadful.

I agree with this. The NPGMC stuff is almost unbearable.

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Reply #11 posted 07/18/10 10:51pm

daPrettyman

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jockeyb4u said:

TheVoid said:

But personally, I think that since Musicology, Prince's albums have been far, far, FAAAAARRRR better than the plastic NPGMC 90s material ( Vavoom, Madrid 2 Chicago, U Make My Sunshine, etc.)---that stuff was just dreadful.

I agree with this. The NPGMC stuff is almost unbearable.

All of it?

I like a lot of trax from those days.

**--••--**--••**--••--**--••**--••--**--••**--••-
U 'gon make me shake my doo loose!
http://www.twitter.com/nivlekbrad
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Reply #12 posted 07/19/10 12:10am

Cobblepot

I have to agree with the TS on this, his pre Emancipation work sounds much more layered and has rough edges that give the songs something extra.

20Ten, has a couple of great songs but they all sound hollow like it's just one layer of polished music.

Maybe it has something to do with the mastering, maybe he has a new way of recording I don't know. I'm sure most of his newer songs would sound better if recorded with real instruments instead of a computer.

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Reply #13 posted 07/19/10 9:01am

daPrettyman

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Cobblepot said:

I have to agree with the TS on this, his pre Emancipation work sounds much more layered and has rough edges that give the songs something extra.

20Ten, has a couple of great songs but they all sound hollow like it's just one layer of polished music.

Maybe it has something to do with the mastering, maybe he has a new way of recording I don't know. I'm sure most of his newer songs would sound better if recorded with real instruments instead of a computer.

I wonder if it is the mastering or engineering?

**--••--**--••**--••--**--••**--••--**--••**--••-
U 'gon make me shake my doo loose!
http://www.twitter.com/nivlekbrad
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Reply #14 posted 07/19/10 10:41am

ozone14

The mastering engineer has nothing really to do with the sound of the music, but more the overall EQ of an album. The mixing engineer/producer/musician are are responsible for the sound the album.

Prince's recent work imo eq wise has sounded pretty good with the exception of MPLsound and 20ten. They sound way too clean and no warmth. The Rainbow Children, ONA, and NEWS all sound excellent though.

In recent years, engineers and producers have gone back to recording certain instruments on analog then bring it back to digital such as guitar, drums, and bass to give it a that warm sound. Amy Winehouse's album is great example of analog-digital. That album sounds amazing.

So I don't understand the beef with most of his recent output acoustically speaking. They sound way better than his 90's digital sound and the dated 80's techniques(with exception of Parade, ATWIAD). I love Chaos and TGE but they have a lack of warmth because recorded all digital. PR is one of my favorite albums of all time, but the sound of the album is dated. I'm not talking the instruments like the synth and linn. I love that stuff. But more about how they mixed it. The snare was recorded or mixed through a gate which makes it sound like a basketball hitting a gym floor. The vocals have way too much reverb. I like the music on PR over MJ's Thriller, but in comparing the sound production, Thriller wins out.

[Edited 7/19/10 10:43am]

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Reply #15 posted 07/19/10 11:30am

daPrettyman

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ozone14 said:

The mastering engineer has nothing really to do with the sound of the music, but more the overall EQ of an album. The mixing engineer/producer/musician are are responsible for the sound the album.

Prince's recent work imo eq wise has sounded pretty good with the exception of MPLsound and 20ten. They sound way too clean and no warmth. The Rainbow Children, ONA, and NEWS all sound excellent though.

In recent years, engineers and producers have gone back to recording certain instruments on analog then bring it back to digital such as guitar, drums, and bass to give it a that warm sound. Amy Winehouse's album is great example of analog-digital. That album sounds amazing.

So I don't understand the beef with most of his recent output acoustically speaking. They sound way better than his 90's digital sound and the dated 80's techniques(with exception of Parade, ATWIAD). I love Chaos and TGE but they have a lack of warmth because recorded all digital. PR is one of my favorite albums of all time, but the sound of the album is dated. I'm not talking the instruments like the synth and linn. I love that stuff. But more about how they mixed it. The snare was recorded or mixed through a gate which makes it sound like a basketball hitting a gym floor. The vocals have way too much reverb. I like the music on PR over MJ's Thriller, but in comparing the sound production, Thriller wins out.

[Edited 7/19/10 10:43am]

Could it be because most of the songs on those albums were recorded "live"?

**--••--**--••**--••--**--••**--••--**--••**--••-
U 'gon make me shake my doo loose!
http://www.twitter.com/nivlekbrad
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Reply #16 posted 07/19/10 11:49am

ozone14

daPrettyman said:

ozone14 said:

The mastering engineer has nothing really to do with the sound of the music, but more the overall EQ of an album. The mixing engineer/producer/musician are are responsible for the sound the album.

Prince's recent work imo eq wise has sounded pretty good with the exception of MPLsound and 20ten. They sound way too clean and no warmth. The Rainbow Children, ONA, and NEWS all sound excellent though.

In recent years, engineers and producers have gone back to recording certain instruments on analog then bring it back to digital such as guitar, drums, and bass to give it a that warm sound. Amy Winehouse's album is great example of analog-digital. That album sounds amazing.

So I don't understand the beef with most of his recent output acoustically speaking. They sound way better than his 90's digital sound and the dated 80's techniques(with exception of Parade, ATWIAD). I love Chaos and TGE but they have a lack of warmth because recorded all digital. PR is one of my favorite albums of all time, but the sound of the album is dated. I'm not talking the instruments like the synth and linn. I love that stuff. But more about how they mixed it. The snare was recorded or mixed through a gate which makes it sound like a basketball hitting a gym floor. The vocals have way too much reverb. I like the music on PR over MJ's Thriller, but in comparing the sound production, Thriller wins out.

[Edited 7/19/10 10:43am]

Could it be because most of the songs on those albums were recorded "live"?

No not because of live, just how they mixed it. That was the sound they wanted. At that time it was probably cutting edge and different, but now sounds dated. TGE and TRC were for the most part recorded live(just in the studio), but TRC sounds much better production wise.

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Reply #17 posted 07/19/10 11:51am

chopingard

If I were to hazard a guess it would be a couple of elements.

He's a much tighter musician than he used to be and sometimes that working a little to get a riff made it sound less clean and machine like.

Also Paisley Park has "better" equipment cleaner processors so less dirty sounds get into the audio.

Also he doesnt seem to work on as many projects at the same time anymore so he probably gets to spend longer on them. Where before they were just layed down roughly mixed and released

He did say in an early 2000's interview "can't remember which" that his 80's output was just years of bad mixing and that he has developed a mix ear now.

So maybe this is the sound he wanted all along

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