Tuesday, March 1, 2011

1963, February 25: Sources: MISERY

“MISERY”

Versions. There is only one version.

Foundational Variations. A “Foundational Variation” is any preceding base for a released recording which (with some exceptions) has no extra material. For this song, the true Foundational Variation, 1.0, is Take 11 (the “best” twin-track), which is not available. The next Foundational Variation, 2.0, is Take 16 (1.0+ piano dub), also unavailable.

Variations. Since Take 11 is Variation 1.0, and Take 16 is Variation 2.0, we begin in this section with 3.0.

There are ostensibly two Mono mixes, described here.

The first Mono mix, designated Variation 3.0, is “UK Mono” (“Mono 5”), found on all releases except Vee-Jay.

The second Mono mix, designated Variation 4.0, is “US Mono” (“Mono 6”), found on Vee-Jay releases.

There is only one Stereo mix, designated Variation 5.0 (and at least one “deviation”).

Not Variations.

(1) In testing* “Misery” on the German Stereo Die Beatles LP, considered to have less processing than all other Stereo Please Please Me pressings (details: here), I heard a tiny (if any!) discrepancy in the reverberation quality on the vocal (Right) channel, but not enough to earn any new Variation.

* I tested using both vinyl (German Please Please Me) and needle-drop FLAC (Die Beatles), performing A-B tests against several other sources, including UK Please Please Me (vinyl and FLAC), Blue Box Please Please Me (vinyl and FLAC), MFSL Please Please Me (vinyl and FLAC), and the 2009 Please Please Me remaster.

(2) Any small differences in Stereo image positioning will not be designated as new Variations, but as deviations. Naturally, judgment has been used to differ between Variation and deviation.

(3) Discrepancies in channel loudness generally do not earn any new Variation.

Intentional Sibilance. This song is famous for deliberate slurring of the “S” sound (“shend her back to me”) at about 1:22 into the song.

The reason for the slurring subsists in several theories, but the likeliest is Beatles humor.

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AUDIO SOURCES

Sonic Ratings. All recommended sources will receive a subjective sonic rating, either Excellent, Very Good, or Good. This subjective rating is based on various factors, including (1) clarity vs. murkiness, (2) smoothness vs. distortion (including harshness) or peaking, (3) balance vs. over-loud elements (for example, too much emphasis on bass), and (4) comparison to other sources under a particular category (for example, Mono). Any source not given a rating of at least Good will at least be provided explanatory notes (including whether or not I’ve heard that source).

Price Tags. Vinyl sources will include an estimated 2011 price tag in US dollars, taken mainly from completed eBay auctions.

Terminology. "Analog" refers only to vinyl. No tapes were tested.

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MONO

Imbalance. “Misery” in Mono has mastering imbalances of several varieties, differing from source to source. In cases where I was able to test for such imbalance, I provide details.

Terminology. "FLAC signature" and "Channel Duplication Solution" are terms under the subject of imbalance, discussed: here.

End of Song. The song ends with a coda, John and Paul singing “misery” followed by various ad-lib responses. After the fourth “misery” comes “la-la...” followed by a crash of some type (since we haven’t the twin-tracks, the sound is unidentifiable, but it could be a cymbal). This is heard on nearly all Mono releases, boldest I think on pbthal red wax FLAC.

VARIATION 3.0: ANALOG

UK LP Please Please Me (1963) - Mono

$20-1000.

General. Details for various incarnations of this album are: here.

My Sources:

Dr. Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC.

Imbalance. Ebbetts FLAC hiss: link.

Sonic Rating. Unimpressive. Sharp, even screechy, with some sibilance. Ends one “la” short.

Pbthal needle-drop FLAC.

Imbalance. FLAC signature.

Sonic Rating. VERY GOOD. Good: Richer, not unpleasant feel, with a vocal-drum attack and balanced second layer. Bad: Sometimes feels muffled.

Millennium Remasters Red Wax Japan LP needle-drop 320 kbps mp3.

Imbalance. Millennium Remasters mp3 signature: link.

Sonic Rating. VERY GOOD. Good: Darker is better, reigning in the piano and accentuating the bass. Bad: A bit dull.

Pbthal Red Wax Japan LP (Toshiba EAS-70130) needle-drop FLAC.

Imbalance. FLAC signature.

Sonic Rating. EXCELLENT. Good: Spectrum analysis shows less highs than Millennium Remasters, and a reduced low hum area. This neat trick makes the bass airy. Pretty bold. Bad: Not much.

UK EP The Beatles' No. 1 (1963)

$5-50, the lower price for the reissue from the vinyl box set

General. This (Parlophone GEP 8883) is also part of The Beatles EP Collection 1981 vinyl box set.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl box set, “-1N” lacquer. (2) pbthal FLAC.

Imbalance. Vinyl, untested. Pbthal, FLAC signature.

The CDEP is reportedly remastered differently (see below).

Sonic Rating. Vinyl, EXCELLENT. Good: Terrifically blended bass, drums, and guitar, with the vocal out front and piano nicely positioned. Great vocal mix. Bad: Not much.

Pbthal, for the fourth time, looks and sounds like a slightly-louder version of pbthal red wax album FLAC (see also pbthal EP FLAC remarks for “Anna,” “Chains” and “I Saw Her Standing There”). That’s not bad at all.

Mono, Analog, Notes

(1) The Mexican EP (EPEM 10039) is bright and imbalanced, enough to reject it.

VARIATION 3.0: DIGITAL

CD Please Please Me (1987)

My Source. CD.

Imbalance. link.

Sonic Rating. Irritating. Bass plugs along, but peaky and distorted vocals, erratic drums, and mostly hidden guitar.

CD EP The Beatles No. 1 (1992)

General. This is from the CD EP box set, although it can also be found at auction as a separate CD.

My Source. CD box set. Note. Dr. Ebbetts' UK EP Collection (2000 edition) used the CD EP, not vinyl, for this track (checked with Audacity).

Imbalance. None: link.

Sonic Rating. GOOD. Good: Kind of bouncy from emphasis on low frequencies. Decent blend. Bad: A bit loud, even distorted at times. Lows muddy here and there.

CD Please Please Me - Remaster (2009) - Mono

My Source. FLAC.

Imbalance. FLAC signature. Spectrum analysis of WAV file from CD showed same characteristics as FLAC signature.

Sonic Rating. VERY GOOD. Good: Full and balanced. Spectrum analysis reveals modified lows from the CD EP (good), and it comes across as a louder version of pbthal red wax FLAC (good). Bad: A tad sibilant, the consequence of perfecting the blend.

VARIATION 4.0

US LP Introducing the Beatles, et. al. (1963) - Mono

$100+ (Introducing the Beatles, if genuine)

General. I did not test “Misery” on any other Vee-Jay album, but I assume they use the same master as Introducing the Beatles.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl. (2) Dr. Ebbetts’ needle-drop FLAC. (3) Every Little Thing Vol. 3 bootleg 256 kbps mp3.

Imbalance. Vinyl, no. Dr. Ebbetts, none. ELT3, none.

Sonic Rating. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good: Extra mids, and gained up a bit, for a super-clean vocal. Thinner, but enjoyable. Bad: Bass frequencies require knob-fiddling.

Ebbetts, VERY GOOD. Good: Very close to the vinyl, with a perhaps a tad more bass. Bad: Still thinner.

ELT3, GOOD. Good: Interesting, in that it sounds like the Vee-Jay vinyl but, under spectrum analysis, looks almost exactly as the 2009 Mono Remaster (or perhaps the CD EP). Bad: Besides the anomaly, the coda ends abruptly after three repeats, rather than going into the fourth.

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STEREO

The takes were recorded as twin-tracks, two tracks recorded simultaneously. For Stereo mixing, bass, drums and George’s guitar, along with harmonica overdubs, were sent hard (wide) to the Left channel, while vocals, John’s rhythm guitar (whether it be acoustic or electric), and piano overdubs were sent hard to the Right channel. There is nothing (except bleed and occasional echo) Center, approximately thus (“I” = instrumental track, “V” = vocals/rhythm guitar/piano track):

Left _I_________________V_ Right

Stereo Image Deviations. There are at least two deviations known which I think do not approach the status of Variation:

(1) The Beatles Box (“crate”), approximately thus:

Left ___I____________V____ Right

(2) Although it could be an aural illusion (on both the vinyl and Ebbetts FLAC), Please Please Me second lacquer (“Blue Box”) is approximately thus:

Left _I_______________V___ Right

Relative Channel Loudness. Relative Channel Loudness is the relation of the Left channel to the Right channel. Each source has its own recipe, affecting the listening experience, especially under headphones. This differs from overall loudness; whereas the former may cause a desire to rebalance the channels (by whatever method), the latter (which I will call “gain”) motivates to adjust the volume knob.

I will be assigning a number (from 1 to 10) for each channel, subjectively measuring the amplitude. For digital media, this is based on the waveform in Audacity. For analog media, this is based on channel LED indicators. Note that numbers assigned to analog media do not correlate to digital media. Neither are the numbers perfect, but are approximations. The reader is advised to run similar tests, and make necessary correlations, according to the gear.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. The deviations to Wide Stereo are limited, those deviations being (1) channel placement (see “Mix Information” above), (2) relative channel loudness (already covered), and (3) equalization. Due to this minimalism, I decided to listen in Mono to determine the sonic rating (this also satisfied any curiosity concerning “how it would sound”). When I double-checked my findings in Stereo, I was pleased that they matched.

Fake-Outs. There is at least one digital production for “Misery” in Stereo which is not the same as its vinyl counterpart, and I consider it to be an intentional fake: (1) a particular circulating mp3 for The Beatles Box (“crate”).

End of Song. Same description as Mono, the boldest example being I think on the HDCD track.

VARIATION 5.0

UK LP Please Please Me (1963) - Stereo

$50-24,000

General. Details for various incarnations of this album are: here.

My Sources:

UK LP, Two-box label, "-1" lacquer.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl, “2” mother, deep stamper (9th label, ca. 1970). (2) Pbthal “Tube Cut” needle-drop FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, Left 2, Right 3. FLAC, Left 3, Right 6.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good: EQ doesn’t seem like much at first, but ends up producing a nice vocal mix with good instrumental separation. Complete ending. Bad: Bit of distortion.

Pbthal, GOOD. Good: Breezy and light. Bad: The ending contains FLAC transfer issues, not anomalous.

UK LP from The Beatles Collection ("Blue Box"), "-2" lacquer.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl. (2) Dr. Ebbetts’ needle-drop FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, Left 1.5, Right 2. FLAC, Left 6, Right 7.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, GOOD. Good: A little more bass here than on the first lacquer. Bad: Vocal mix not as clear. Ending one “la” short.

Ebbetts, GOOD. Good: Like the vinyl. Bad: Like the vinyl.

US LP Introducing the Beatles (1963) – Stereo

$ expensive !

General: Vee-Jay album, catalog SR-1062.

My Source: Dr. Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Left 5, Right 7.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Kind of muffled. Incomplete end.

German LP Die Beatles, or Please Please Me (1966-1977) - Stereo

$ 20-100

General. There is no perceivable difference in reverberation for “Misery” 5.0 here compared to other sources. Details on the German sources for “Misery” 5.0 are: here.

My Sources: (1) Vinyl, German Please Please Me (Apple Electrola 1C 062-04219), lacquer “SHZE-117-A2/-B2.” (2) Pbthal Die Beatles needle-drop FLAC. (3) Dr. Ebbetts was used to verify testing.

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, Left 2, Right 3. FLAC, Left 4, Right 7.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good. To my ears, a perfect blend, especially drums and guitar. Bad. Bit of distortion. Ending one “la” short.

Pbthal, GOOD. Good. Clean. Instrumental blend similar to vinyl. Bad. Lower vocal.

US LP Rarities (1980)

$5-10

General. Brennan reported of this source (Capitol SHAL-12060), “In the remix, the Left instrumental channel is relatively louder, which isn't bad, but reverb has been added too, especially in the intro vocal.” Concerning the vinyl (and authentic needle-drops), I find such changes to be very slight, even absent, earning no new Variation.

My sources. (1) Vinyl. (2) Dr Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC. (3) All Together Now bootleg FLAC. (4) Every Little Thing Vol. 3 bootleg FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. (1) Vinyl, Left 1.75, Right 2. (2) Ebbetts, Left 6 Right 5. (3) All Together Now, Left 8, Right 7. (4) ELT3, Left 7, Right 7.

Sonic Rating. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good: Nice vocal mix, backed by heavier bass & drum focus. Bad: Ending one “la” short.

Ebbetts, seems inauthentic, more like MFSL in blend, even including MFSL buzz during the final moments.

All Together Now, just a louder version of Ebbetts, evident from the buzz.

ELT3, GOOD. Good: Adequate. Bad: Somewhat dull.

UK 8-LP The Beatles Box (1980)

$50 or so (a bargain!)

General. This is “The Crate” (its nickname), issued by World Records (SM 701/8), EMI’s mail order division.

My Source. UK Vinyl, first lacquer, cut by Harry T. Moss.

Relative Channel Loudness. Left 2, Right 2.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. EXCELLENT. Good: Bass filters through a vocal and drum focus, those elements trading center stage. Good vocal mix. Complete ending. Bad: Not much.

Fake-out. A certain circulating mp3 has the channels reversed.

Japan (MFSL) LP Please Please Me (1986)

$50 up

General. This release (MFSL 1-101) was also part of a box set (the “Black Box”).

My Sources: (1) Vinyl, from The Black Box. (2) Dr. Ebbetts needle-drop FLAC.

Note that Dr. Ebbetts’ 2008 Upgrade was a remaster, not a needle-drop. I deal with this appropriately.

Relative Channel Loudness. Vinyl, Left 1.5, Right 1.75. FLAC, Left 8, Right 6.5.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Vinyl, VERY GOOD. Good: Nice instrumental section, with soothing balance. Nearly-great vocal mix. Bad: Buzz in final moments and after the track.

Ebbetts, GOOD. Good: Drum-vocal focus, with more than adequate bass. Good vocal mix. Bad: Boomy and doomy. Some distortion on Left (instrumental) channel.

Dr. Ebbetts 2008 Upgrade. Overbearing, with a bit of sibilance. Clicks and buzz.

VARIATION 5.0: DIGITAL

CD Please Please Me - Remaster (2009) – Stereo

My Source. FLAC.

Relative Channel Loudness. Left 8, Right 9.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. GOOD. Good. Drum and vocal focus. Nice insistent bass. Bad. Loud (though not distorted or peaky), giving the impression of trying to do too much. The ending is incomplete, fading on the first “la” to avoid the crashing noise!

VARIATION 5.0: BOOTLEG

Fabulous Sound Labs HDCD Please Please Me

My Source: 320 kbps mp3.

Relative Channel Loudness. Left 7, Right 7.

Sonic Rating by Mono Summing. Not overly loud, but bright with sibilance.

OUTFAKE

General. An "outfake" is a fan-created mix or recording.

Bootleg, Dr. Ebbetts' Please Please Me "Stereo Remix"

Dr. Ebbetts worked a “Stereo Remix” (details: here), with vocals Center (“V” in the diagram below), instrumentation Left and Right (“I” in the diagram below), piano Right (“P” in the diagram below), approximately thus:

Left _I________V_______I+P_ Right

There are two shortfalls to this remix: (1) the vocal wanders a bit, (2) the MFSL buzz is evident at the end.

Naturally, being unauthorized, this is not a Variation.

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VIDEO SOURCES

CARTOON

The Beatles cartoon series, Episode 4, includes an animated sing-a-long, with mostly symbolic animation (a few frames of Ringo as Yorick). However, the song has been edited to loop, and is furthermore missing the opening arpeggio, making it not a suitable "music video" experience.

"Misery" was also utilized for an animated segment in The Beatles cartoon series, Episode 5. In this, The Beatles are chased by Dracula before turning the tables. However, there is a long interruption in the middle of the song, and also too many cartoon voice overdubs, making it not a suitable "music video" experience.

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Tom Wise
gengar843@msn.com

Although I use quotes from sources, or cited fact, much of the material on this and other pages of my blog is original, from my own pen. This is not cut-and-paste, it is a work of art. Copyright © 2011 Tom Wise.

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