Quad LP/Tape Poll Mahavishnu Orchestra: Birds Of Fire [SQ/Q8]

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Rate "Birds Of Fire"


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EMB

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Columbia CQ 31996, from 1973.

Side 1:

1. Birds Of Fire
2. Miles Beyond
3. Celestial Terrestrial Commuters
4. Sapphire Bullet Of Pure Love
5. Thousand Island Park
6. Hope

Side 2:

1. One Word
2. Sanctuary
3. Open Country Joy
4. Resolution

ED :)
 
S

sq10

Guest
Thanks Ed! :)

OK, one of the seminal Jazz/Rock/Fusion albums in Quad, yes!

This review is based on a Q8.

The Music:
Most of you know this; virtuoso playing all around and their positions on the sound field:

-"Mahavishnu" John McLaughlin-lightning fast guitar (quite annoying because of the repeated clichés and lack of range in the guitar fretboard, seems he's only playing on the high frets, but wouldn't I love to play a fraction of what he does; easy to criticize from the audience :D )
Playing Right Field, I mean Front Right ...

-Jan Hammer- One of the few keyboard players that can mimic an electric guitar perfectly. Is a bit restrained and very tasteful. Playing Center Field= Front Center

-Jerry Goodman- Very tasteful violin without going over the top and surprisingly , using a distortion fx. Went over to Private Music in the 80's and became a New Age icon. Playing Left field= Front Left.

-Rick Laird- Bass and Canoe(Acoustic). This guy had enough after this and went to become a Pro Photographer; a pity since he could kick some serious ass with his Fender Bass. Pitcher = Front center (hinting a bit towards the middle of the 4 speakers)

-Billy Cobham-a Master in his own right,his drum sound unfortunately suffering from the early 70's disease of "We don't need no stinking EQ", so his drum sounds flat and ...like a cheap set? This supposedly was the "Fibes" kit which appears in his "Spectrum" cover...sigh...
And if his crappy sound weren't enough: here is where the Quad remixing engineers outdid themselves:
"Gee, George, how about if we pan the drums this way George?Huhh???"
Hi-Hat and Snare: Rear Right
Middle Toms; Rear Center
Low Toms, Bass Drum and Overheads: Rear Left

WTF????????

Now, mind you; I LOOOOOOOOVEEEE discrete mixes , but this is one panning assigment from HELL! :mad::mad::mad:

Overall, it's great to distinguish the 3 lead instruments so clearly and there is a WICKED bass sound -low grumbling and full-.

Now , the panning is basically the same for the whole LP except for one song that the snare roll intro is panned clockwise (George found the panning stick!), and the last song which features a different panning (I guess George had to take a break).

Pet peeve regarding performance:the sforzando/legato parts with violin/gtr/kbds..they are ALL OVER THE PLACE, it sounds as if they either
-didn't rehearse enough
-did it on purpose to sound bad(not likely)
-did it on purpose so you could tell who is who(like the trumpet players who like to tune a bit sharp to stand out :flame)

And I give it a 9, because of the drum panning travesty...if not , it'd have been a 10...
 

EMB

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Ever notice that, of the major labels that issued quad, Columbia/Epic was the most fond of panning, for some reason? :D

I'm personally not that bothered by it, probably because it wasn't really used that often, and was kinda fun to hear when it was...at least the first few times. One of the reasons I always enjoy a listen to SANTANA ABRAXAS is because of the panning, and the remix engineer unafraid to play around a little, have fun, be a little(ahem)'psychedelic,' if you will, and who can say he was wrong? Granted, you tend to want specific instrument placement, but there are times when, done creatively, panning or other movement around the soundfield(think Jim Morrison's vocal on the title track of L.A. WOMAN)seems to make no sense until you think--why not? There is no law set in stone that anything has to be specific to a channel or centered. Like cinema, music can be an art, and at its best, it's larger than life, right? Meant to be a little abstract, inchoate, unreal? Therefore, so is mixing, and 'real life' expectations of sound and placement don't have to factor in(at least with studio recordings)and in certain instances, the unusual or even absurd in a mix can be charming on its own.

YMMV, of course...:)

ED :)
 
S

sq10

Guest
Ever notice that, of the major labels that issued quad, Columbia/Epic was the most fond of panning, for some reason? :D

I'm personally not that bothered by it, probably because it wasn't really used that often, and was kinda fun to hear when it was...at least the first few times. One of the reasons I always enjoy a listen to SANTANA ABRAXAS is because of the panning, and the remix engineer unafraid to play around a little, have fun, be a little(ahem)'psychedelic,' if you will, and who can say he was wrong? Granted, you tend to want specific instrument placement, but there are times when, done creatively, panning or other movement around the soundfield(think Jim Morrison's vocal on the title track of L.A. WOMAN)seems to make no sense until you think--why not? There is no law set in stone that anything has to be specific to a channel or centered. Like cinema, music can be an art, and at its best, it's larger than life, right? Meant to be a little abstract, inchoate, unreal? Therefore, so is mixing, and 'real life' expectations of sound and placement don't have to factor in(at least with studio recordings)and in certain instances, the unusual or even absurd in a mix can be charming on its own.

YMMV, of course...:)

ED :)
Thanks for all the panning references, I'll check 'em out! I love the panning stuff on the Santana stuff, my favorite is Santana III where there are NO "anchored instruments" and the sound field is a helium bubble..

Well, the Birds of Fire mix is fine, but, since I play the drums, it sounds VERY unnatural , it really doesn't work for me. Drums in the rears like in Wings Venus &... is fine cause it's coherent..up to a point...

"inchoate"???Sorry, my aztec is a bit rusty :)

I agree with you and prefer non-standard mixes, as I said before, "extended stereo mixes" bore the hell out of me..unless they're Steely Dan by ES...

Maybe a good thread would be "What are your favorite panning moments?"
(y)

It'd be interesting to find out the info on what the layout was (and photos) for the studios these SQ CBS mixes were done in.... my guess is that they were PRETTY big studios with HUGE speakers...
 

Quad Linda

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10. Love the mix. The tunes are interesting and the musicianship is superb. I have the SQ, Q8 & CD. I had the 2ch LP before it came out in Quad. The SQ cover is cheesy, since it is on regular paper, rather than textured, or vellum stock as the 2ch LP. One of the best albums EVER on any format.
 

JonUrban

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This is one that I ignored totally in the quad years. Had the SQ, and the other titles from these guys (Love, Devotion, Surrender; with Santana; etc), but I honestly don't remember even playing it. Was that a mistake?
 

fredblue

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Somewhat off topic but I am listening to Shakti's Handful of Beauty on my receiver's PLII setting and I'll be damned if this isn't decoding a quad mix.

Can anyone confirm? There are tons of VERY discreet things in this mix. Spotify link here: https://open.spotify.com/album/1mfJkWGwzdCc5Vo6lZBFwu
Very interesting you should say this, thanks! (y)

I have some Shakti on CD (can't remember what exactly, I'll have a check) on another related tangent I recall McLaughlin/Mahavishnu's "Inner Worlds" CD sounding nice thru PLII (the one with "Planetary Citizen" or whatever it is called on it that got sampled by Massive Attack on their "Unfinished Sympathy".
 

MyCuff

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Well the level of talent is superb, and the mix also is good. The music itself though is just not something for me I guess. Won't over penalize it for that, but it will likely sit on my shelf without ever getting played again. A "7".
 

EMB

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Yes, indeed....or as the late Little Feat leader Lowell George wrote, "Give me weed, whites and wine, and I'll be willin': or something like that, heh. Never got into the pills, though, in any way; ironically, I have to take too many now, but that's another story....

Although I no longer indulge--the curse of old age and disinterest, really--I do remember the 'pot years' with some fondness. Not only did I get turned on--REALLY TURNED ON--to Tomita, the Velvets, and lots more besides, thanks in part to grass and my own inquisitive nature when it came to music--it was, unlike alcohol, a cool buzz, the kind that didn't make you pee all the time (though I do remember gaining weight from eating tons of crappy snacks no sane person would make a habit of).

Seriously, though, for those curious, a little good (not cheap, rotgut) liquor or pot does grease the wheels to, um, appreciation of certain kinds of sounds you might not otherwise give a spit about. I mean, I didn't get into a guy like Johnny Winter until I'd done a little of both, but when I locked into his groove, well...it was GOOD, and taught me a little about the blues--enough to seriously begin investigating HIS inspirations--Muddy, Wolf, Elmore, guys like that who never made the money or got the recognition they deserved in their lifetimes (though Johnny did bring Muddy back--HARD!).

Most of all, an open heart and mind works wonders for music, without the other stimulation. Just relax and let your mind float upstream....


ED :)
 

quadfish

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I'm back... This is one of my favorite albums in any format, needless to say quad rules though!!! I saw these guys at Winterland in '73-4 (didn't bother verifying on google). The only complaint I ever had was the opening gong. Compared to live this recording is clanky and clunky, but who the hell am I??

They don't make em like this anymore and I'm pleased as St. Alfonso's pancakes I have this and the memories to sustain me!

Buy it if you don't own it and turn it up to 11 if you do!!!

I can't rate anything a 10 unless it leaves me the way the Mahavishnu Orch. concert did: speechless, motionless and needing more! Therefore, I will rate this album a 9!!!

-Rick :)
 

himey

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Finally stumbled across this mix and the drums in the back work as well as any mix like it. Going to try the, Love Devotion Surrender next. Do we know if JonUrban ever partaked in this excellent mix? :) Will I like LDS, with Carlos? All the Santana's rule... why couldn't the newest Tommy, mix the drums like this rather than a single channel?
 
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