Patricia Barber and Stereophile

Has anyone listen to PB's new CD? I just purchased it, upon rave reviews. I have not owned any of her other cd's, but soon will. The recording sounds great in regards to timbre and detail. It really captures the late night club sound. And, the bass is deep!!!!! Oh, of course the music is wonderful. Although, this is not the reason for my post. My concern is that the mix is really problematic. The drum kit is at least 10 to 12 feet wide and the bass player at times sounds like he is sitting on the drummers lap. The perspective is equal to standing 3 feet in front of a drummer. At times I feel that I am on stage. In reading the review in "Stereophile" there was no mention of this strange mix. This is not the first time I have encountered obvious "objective" problems with their music review. One of their recent reviews of a new funk band, I forget their name but it is the one with the cover including a dollar bill theme, gave it 5 stars in sound. Well, a friend of mine brought it over and I listened to it. IMO the low end was as muddy as the Colorodo River in the spring. As well as the over all sound was somewhat fuzzy. Now, I don't listen to all of their reviews and honestly I only catch the few that I like, however, their credibility has been compromised. Again, I'm not talking about the subjective matters of liking the music. I talking about the overall sound quality of the recordings. Has anybody listen to these cd's, what is you perspective and how well do you feel "Stereophile" does with their music reviews? Again, overall I love the new PB cd, it just the unnaturual soundstage I am talking about.
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While microphone placement is what plays with the soundstage the most, you might be surprised at how much both the studio electronics and the components in your system can affect this. Given these variables and the differences from system to system, it's quite possible that this problem may be manifesting itself to a greater extent in your specific situation. I don't have the disc to compare results with you, but i have noticed drastic differences in air, ambience, depth and width of soundstage, imaging, etc... just by swapping amps within a system. Sean >
Can't wait to hear her new CD. From her previous stuff, I like Cafe Blue the best. JAB, what was she like when you met her? She would seem to have quite an interesting personality from her music.
Sean, with respect to my system set up, believe me it has nothing to do with my system. I do plently of live recordings and use my system to reference how accurately I have captured a band. I have taken great pains to ensure that my set up is the best it can be. I wouldn't have placed this post if the first principles of set up were wrong. Having the cymbals spread way right and way left is not accurate. The drum kit should not blanket the band. This is obviously a multi-track recording with an inaccurate sound placement of instruments. You could swap until your hearts is content and it would still be inaccurate. If it is correct, then 2000 hrs of my mastered tapes as well as the 1500 albums and 1000 other cd's that I own are wrong. Sean, listen for yourself, I'm sure you would agree. Anyway, what I'm looking for is "people who have heard this and other cd's with obvious flaws that "Stereophile" has missed the boat on."
I completely agree, they blew this review in regards to your complaint. I have had great success following there R2D4 discs but this one and a few others got away. I was listening to the new Holly Cole last night for the first time, on one piece the drum was in the upper right hand corner of my room. My system is very good and most recordings are about 3' above the floor, not this one. It really makes me mad when they screw up a great sound. Maybe mid-fi has it's rewards, You can't complain with a good Best Buy system! TRY CAFE BLUE!!! The gold disk is far better than the aluminum, The vinyl is even better yet!
Even on Cafe Blue the drums are spread too far, IMO.
All of the Patricia Bs CDs are mixed this way IMO. Even the last one-the Companion? Does does sound this way, and it was the ROTM! I can't fault the music or the musicality of the discs. MaplesShade CDs are the close to perfect sound (close to live) that I have heard. Even as compared to much bullyhooed Chesky recordings. And yes my system is also set the optimal way and with retail worth of 40K , it does produce the master tape close to peffection( I won't name components but just to make a point to avoid my system debate). So yes, The stereophile does blow the recording quality every now then. Just go back to Santana's Supernatural review. Sound quality was given 4 stars, and in later issues in a 'As we see it' article the sound quality of this CDs was given as a great example to illustrate current state of overly compressed recording quality!! I think, lately, the Stereophile has adopted to ho-hum type journalism.
I have Cafe Blue and think the recording quality is great, but the music is slow and boring. I prefer Diana Krall, especially Love Scenes.
I bought PB's first releases on LP's, not CD. Subsequent comparisons of the LP vs. CD version is "no contest" -- the LP's are much superior. I agree with posts by others that her latest CD is not up to the standards of "Cafe Blue".
Jab's 75 year old mother was right! I think this is Barber's worst effort to date. I find this same drum kit recording problem on many discs, so it really didn't bother me. Otherwise, I think the sound is great,but, who cares if it bores you?
After our guests left last night I rang in the early morning millenium with Companion and then nightclub. Percussion miking is contrived on both discs, but not disagreeably to me. The effect is simply like having TWO percussionists, no? And was it not accomplished by having an additional stereo pair directly in front of the drum kit? Musically, nightclub lacks the spontaneity and real-life great looseness of Companion, and suffers from overproduction that's perhaps a consequence of her building success. Don't Krall's latest efforts sound similarly sterile? And KD Lang!...listen to Shadowland to hear her when she was GREAT (too bad the production's so damned bright, though)! .......Nightclub has a decidedly different feel. I enjoyed it much, but then maybe just as a did put me to sleep at 3AM, but so what! Cheers, and a groggy but Happy New Year to all.
Ramsteel: just reread your post...interesting comment on the muddiness on the bottom. I always revered Companion for its tight but close-miked standup. My good friend Larry Fishman was over last night and caught the bass solo on Companion. He's an old jazz bassist from the old days, and has a successful business producing acoustic pickups for stringed instruments (OE for Guild, Parker, etc., as well his own Fishman Transducers line). It was after he left I played Nightclub by myself, and only thereafter noticed in the credits that the new bass player references Fishman Transducers. Larry's such a busy guy that I don't know when I can get him over to listen to nightclub, but I sure would be curious to know what he thinks of the result of that mix! Certainly the mixing and a host of other variables intrude, but Larry's personal taste is to NEVER allow phase-delay muddiness to slow up the transients off the strings. (He even makes a pro monitor that drops precipitously below 70 HZ to ensure a lean tight standup bass in difficult or carelessly managed situations.) I'll have to listen to Nightclub again to compare the bottom to Companion...but you can be assured that any muddiness is NOT due to Marc Johnson's bass nor his FT pickup. Hmmm....what a missed opportunity to get it from the horse's mouth, eh?
Hey Subaruguru, I believe Companion was recorded with one drumer and a seperate percussionist. Both Eric Montzka, drums and percussion; and Rubin P. Alvarez, percussion are credited. I know the last two times I saw Patricia she had both so you may be hearing what is there, two players. Also did you have the same issue as Ramsteel on the base. If so, wich track? I have not noticed it as a problem.
i love patricia's music. her voice is incredible. i am very disappointed with the muddiness of the bass. in the first track, something seems amiss between the piano and the bass. i dont get it. maybe my system is missing the resolution needed to hear the opening clearly. i love the cd anyway. modern cool was/is the best overall recording i've heard on my system. later fellers!
Avnut, are you refering to "Blackbird" on Nightclub? I have a very solid, deep round note untill about 25 seconds into the track at wich point it drops lower. The first pluck is not as solid as the next few but is still completely defined and remains round. My system looses nothing with the Sereophile test disk to 30Hz, losses maybe 7-10 db at 25Hz and is not really not audible at 20Hz under normal listening levels, but you can still feel it. It may well be my ears or something but the base I reproduce is extremely solid to 30Hz. You might try playing with your speakers or room some and see if you can focus the base better. How far into your room are your speakers?
And one more thought. The base note is located just left of the piano note on my system. The two are almost in the same space, imposed over eachother, but not quite. Are you resolving this or are they one location? This may be the murkieness.
I didn't have any issues with the bass on the PB disc. What I was referring to was another example in which Stereophile rated a disc 5 stars and it clearly was inaccurate in the bass. Again, I would have to look up the back issue for the name of the band, but refer to my first post for my reference to it. I don't have a problem with the bass in the PB disc. I would agree with the post regarding the spread sounding like 2 people drumming. However, it doesn't sould like two kits, it sounds like someone playing the high hat far right and removed from the rest of the kit. Also, on the first track the piano wanders from left to right in corelation with upper and lower keys. Again, this is clearly not a recording made to sound like real players in real space. IMO, this recording sounds like it is close mic'ed and then pasted to right, left or both channels without any regard to natural placement of instruments. With respects to Jim Anderson, the sound engineer, at least on this disk, he has a great ability to excite you with sound but lose you with sonic accuracy.
jademo' I have the same problem with this recording. There is a lot of overlap with instrument placement. This, IMO, is an artifact of the multi mic'd cut and paste mixing that was done by the engineer and not brought out by the Stereophile reviewer.
I agree Ramstl, the piano is wrong. That seems to be a common problem with alot of recordings. The old 20 foot keyboard, I'd like to see her play that!
Is it possible that the recording's phase is inverted. I have heard this in some other recordings
The other album I was referring to was the review of Robert Walter's 4th congress. Great music but not so good recording and Stereophile gave it 4 1/2 stars.
Snook2 - your phase is inverted.
Keep in mind that the folks doing the music reviews on a month to month basis at Stereophile are not the same ones that do the equipment reviews. What this means is that our systems may be provide much better detail and resolution than the system that the music reviewer is using. I do not particularily care for PB. I bought Cafe Blue and Premonition on vinyl and was disappointed. Part of it was the mix problems that some of you have described and some of it was that the music just didn't appeal to me. A friend stopped by and listened and fell in love. He bought the cd's and was disappointed. He brought them by and we compared cd to vinyl and we both agreed the vinyl left the cd in the dust. It convinced him to get his turntable back in operating condition.
I goofed. Premonition is not the name of one of PB's albums. It is the name of the label she has recorded on. the other album I have is Modern Cool. Sorry gang. Doug