Wow. I am in complete agreement with everything you said. Love Suzanne Vega. I heard Famous Blue Raincoat praised for years, and finally bought it. Don't think it sounds that great, and I didn't connect with the music.
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Leonard Cohen's music is definitely not for every taste and you could certainly argue that Warnes voice is too pretty to do it justice. Personally, I think it's a terrific (and overall great sounding) record, but I'd also be the first to sympathize with those who don't dig it. It's one of those love it/hate it things musically, but sonically I'm surprised that anyone would find it wanting. Maybe the bass gets just slightly ripe here and there, but overall I find the SQ absolutely top notch.
I did not like the recording quality or the music of Raincoat either, so gave away my copy to someone who enjoys it quite a bit.
I have seen Suzanne Vega five times over the last few years and she is great live. Often does "Tom's Diner" a capella. She does a great version of "Blood Makes Noise" with only bass wizard Mike Viseglia for accompaniment.
Not a huge Leonard Cohen fan but I do like Jennifer Warnes quite a bit. There are songs on FBR that I like and others not so much so for me a mixed bag. Some of the songs I don't like seem to have a 50's Beat generation vibe.
Prefer The Hunter and The Well.
As for sound quality I think the last 24k gold issues of all three sound excellent.
I agree with Martykl word for word. Beyond that, I don't quite understand what is being discussed here. While we can disagree about wether FBR is the best sounding record ever or not, or wether it sounds better than SS or not, I can't for the life of me understand how, using any reasonable standard, it's SOUND quality can get in the way of the enjoyment of the music; if one likes the music. Wether one likes the music is an entirely different matter and a very personal one. This distinction sometimes gets lost in these discussions.
As far as the music goes, I find Leonard Cohen's songs to be much better crafted; his lyrics can stand on their own as poetry. In the case of FBR, we have a singer singing someone else's songs while Vega sings her own compositions. So, from that standpoint, her renditions can come across as more personal. However, I find Warnes to be an infinitely better singer with a much wider technical and artistic scope; IMO.
Now, if only we could keep Cohen from singing :-)
"Famous Blue Raincoat" is a wonderful album -- good singer, good musicians, tasteful arrangements and good sound.
Some trivia, "Tom's Diner" is the diner on the UWS that's featured in "Seinfield". The song was also the music used to develop the MP3 algorithm. The dead actor is William Holden.
Personally, I really like the DNA remix.
Jennifer Warnes voice and style of music is much more comparable to Linda Ronstadt then Suzanne Vega. As for the sound quality of "FBR" it has to be in the top 5% of the close to 1000 recordings I own. It's not a warm hazy/lazy analog type of recording but even with it's slight "sharpness" the content of the music is not diminished.
Frogman: Referring to your post on12/02/14: ..for me it's the artificial sound. There's not a hint of ANALOG here.
My question is:, how can such a well regarded lp, sound so artificial/almost digital in it's overall presentation?/ then, the majority of people here, poo.poo. my, or any disagreement with the majority.
I don't know how many times I can listen to it.. and not come to the same result! It has ARTIFICIAL sound!!!!
Nothing at all, analog about it!
Don't sweat it, folks have been using early digital albums to evaluate gear for a long time. After all, one should use the music one likes to judge gear and if it's on 78s, or Elcassettes it really doesn't matter.
Dire Straights "Brothers In Arms" is another early digital recording that many use for reference and the sound quality is even worse. A head scratcher for sure.
IMO, FBR can hardly be considered an example of "early digital
recording" as defined by the grainy, edgy and sterile sound of most
early digital recordings. I can understand why it could be considered to
have an "artificial" sound, but the two samples that I have heard
on my system have sounded clean, tonally fairly well balanced, not grainy
at all and with good and impressive sound staging. Easily identified as a
digital recording, but not in an offensive way; definitely not
"analog" sounding. But, so what? It is a multi-tracked studio
recording; it will, by definition, be "artificial" sounding. Don't
misunderstand what I am trying to say; I much prefer good analog
recordings to (even) good digital recordings. The point I tried to make is
simply that the sonics of FBR, artificiality and all, do not detract from the
enjoyment of the music; if one likes the music. Personally, I would much
prefer to listen to well crafted songs and superior singing with sonics that
are less than perfect than music that, for my tastes, is not on the same
level, but with perfect sonics. BTW, FBR is hardly a favorite record of mine.
I love great sounding recordings and great ear candy, but the music has to
come first (for me); and the sonics a not so close second. Besides,
"analog" can have its own set of issues that can make it deviate
from the sound of live music. I think that the term "analog" can
be in danger of being used as some sort of imaginary notion of what
constitutes reality as much as "digital" can be. I have many analog
recordings that deviate from the sound of live even more (if one can
quantify these things) than many digital recordings with their "analog"
overly ripe bottom end, closed-in highs and confused soundstaging. I will
admit that, given the choice, I would usually take the sonic problems of
inferior analog over those of inferior digital. But, "analog" sound is not the
end-all and with most pop or rock recordings there is much more latitude in
deviation from reality than with Classical or acoustic jazz recordings where
the problems with digital make that deviation much more obvious; if one
knows what the real thing truly sounds like.
Frogman, I'm listening to Elaine Elias ,the Brazilian pianist, who is about the most lyrical jazz keyboardist I've heard.
Her bass backup, Eddie Gomez , supports her beautifully with a very soft and melodic sound, to me a great reminder you don't have to play loud to play good. So soft I'll wager
you'd never even hear him on average system. Yet, the conversation is there !
I am guessing it must be very hard to do this ? Makes me wonder if he's improvising or its a chart.
The art of a great improviser! Complete believability in how the improvised lines fit with and compliment the soloist; a type of improvised counterpoint and a true conversation. Yes, hard to do and used to be rare from the bass player who, traditionally, had a supportive role; not as much the case any more. Scott LaFaro broke it wide open with his work with Bill Evans. Gomez followed with the same pianist. He is a brilliant musician. Another that comes to mind immediately is Greorge Mraz. I'm sure that there was a chart while the "head" (melody) was being played ; but, after that, totally improvised.
Frogman great post(6-14)! Analog vs. digital is NOT as simple as good vs. evil. I really enjoy many early digital recordings made on the 32-track 3M system. The Nightfly and Swing of Delight(Carlos Santana) are perfect examples. Are these perfect recordings... NO! IMO the weakness with early digital recordings is in the frequency extremes. The bass is soft(restricting dynamics) and the treble is sharp, but the midrange can have a real(human)texture even if it's a bit "glassy". FWIW most early digital recording are near awful but there are many exceptions with FBR being one of them.
So, to be clear, an early digital CD mastering should not be referred to as a
"digital album" if the source material is analog? Fair enough, the
grainy sound of this CD is not the result of early digital recording, but rather
early digital mastering.
Interestingly, rereading the thread it seems that most describe the flaws in
the recording fairly similarly. Where the detractors and apologists for the
sound quality differ is in the severity of the flaws in the recording and how
they detract from the performance.
It may be as simple as those that enjoy and cherish this music are drawn
into the performance and focus less on any flaws, finding them minor.
While those that do not care for the music are more focused on the sound
quality and find any flaws to be greater in magnitude.
"It may be as simple as those that enjoy and cherish this music are drawn into the performance and focus less on any flaws, finding them minor."
That's about as true a statement, to me. The REAL problem with digital recordings was less the recordings than the playback, at least as far as trying to enjoy the music without being distracted by the sound which was quite difficult for me in the early years. Never owned a copy of FBR and don't care to as I am not drawn into the music and had the opportunity to hear the album from a friend before deciding it wasn't my cup of tea after all the accolades. I think it is quite well recorded and that isn't the issue. "Solitude Standing" is the very first CD I purchased in 1987 after hearing the song "Luka" on the radio and being so moved by the lyrics. It is a real masterpiece by a very gifted singer/songwriter/lyricist, couldn't agree more Slaw. I then purchased the album. It really is about the music. Unfortunately some of our favorite music is just not that well recorded or mixed for that matter, we just have to live with it.
I hear what you are saying "There is digital sounding analog, and analog sounding digital! The quality of the end result is not format dependent." and tend to agree. But I don't agree with "Digitalis sounding to the max!"
I am not saying that the recording of Famous Blue Raincoat is true analogue bliss. I find that it does have a certain audio quality that keeps it from the top of the pile of the best recordings. I believe that somewhere in the mastering a more analogue character has been lost. I have FBR on the Canadian Attic label as a CD and the LP and also have the 12" 33.3 RPM promotional single on the US Cypress label. The single sounds like crap. This is what leaves me to believe that mastering is the issue with it's audio characteristics.
The intent of my post was to rectify the misinformation regarding the recording origins of this album.
I never owned Famous Blue Raincoat when it first came out. I heard it as a demo when I bought my first stereo, in the spring of 86. Anyone heard of Proton?
Anyway, much later on I bought the original cd copy and it became a go to cd for several reasons, one being her voice. More recently I bought the 25th anniversary remaster edition, and to me they didn't do anything bad to the original tracks. A really nice soundstage, the instruments floating in air and of course, that voice.
It's one cd that is timeless to me.