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Tomorrow Is A Long Time "echo"

Mon Feb 27, 2006 9:02 pm

Although much lauded, I have always thought that Tomorrow Is A Long Time was spoilt by the obligatory RCA-added echo, or however you describe the aural gloss that converted a “flat” recording to the normal Elvis sound that was marketed from Nashville in the 1960s.

This is a folk song and it should have been presented in its natural state. The sound is too rounded, almost emasculated. It loses the impact that it should have had.

I had often thought (without ever getting around to checking) that it must have been a one-take master and so I was delighted, when the FTD “So High” was issued, to see that an alternative take was being issued. The sound difference was immediately noticeable. Though still a soft-sounding folk ballad, Take 2 has something of an edge on it and I can now enjoy the listening experience without cursing the sound engineers or the processes they were obliged to apply.

Does anyone else agree ?

Steve Morse

Mon Feb 27, 2006 9:39 pm

Steve -

Well, yes there is something wrong with Elvis' voice on his recording of this Dylan song.

For me, this is only partly redeemed by the outtake on So High.

Elvis voice just seems wrongly placed somehow.

What should have been a great performance only sounds like a good one.

Mon Feb 27, 2006 9:59 pm

A lot of those 60s recordings were recorded with the analog delay and or reverb so there is nothing to be done about it. What should never be done is to add more of that mentioned on top of a vocal that originally has it. That has been done quite a bit.

Mon Feb 27, 2006 10:52 pm

I think alot of recordings from the 50's or 50's had echo originally for effect to create a mood. I for one, have never felt the echo degraded the performance one bit.


"Mm-mm mm-mm.. If today was not an endless highway..."

What a nugget found at the bottom level of his career.

A sheer classic to say the least.

Check out "First in line" from his second album. I wouldn't have it any other way on that song either. It sounds like he was 2-3 feet off mic on purpose on that one.

But I wouldn't say echo is a good thing on all his material. It just happens to work sometimes, just as the overproduced 70's ballads work sometimes with the many overdubs. There really is no pattern.

And it is totally subjective as well. It's is all personal taste in the end..

Tue Feb 28, 2006 12:11 am

Steve, as someone recently pointed out, the mix on this song on the '80s release "A Valentine's Gift for You" was also different.

I'm not sure if the echo was changed, however.

It's a great song, if sometimes a bit draggy when I'm not in the mood for it. The echo has never bothered me.

But then I was weaned on quite a few "fake stereo" versions of his early RCA Lps. :oops:

Re: Tomorrow Is A Long Time "echo"

Tue Feb 28, 2006 12:39 am

Steve Morse wrote:Although much lauded, I have always thought that Tomorrow Is A Long Time was spoilt by the obligatory RCA-added echo, or however you describe the aural gloss that converted a “flat” recording to the normal Elvis sound that was marketed from Nashville in the 1960s.

This is a folk song and it should have been presented in its natural state. The sound is too rounded, almost emasculated. It loses the impact that it should have had.

(...)

Steve, it's interesting to read this since I listened to Bob Dylan's The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan yesterday. I was once again amazed by the absolute great remastering of the album. Great because of the absolutely "dry" and very present sound, that is.

Personally I've never been bothered by the reverb on Elvis' Tomorrow Is A Long Time. To me it has something like a "dreamful" quality to it. The story itself, the arrangement and last but least Elvis' singing which of course it totally different from anything Bob has ever done vocally. It's very soft (often "very headvoice"), very "out of this world" somehow. There's a narrator totally on his own and with himself, reflecting, very contemplative.

Like somebody wrote somewhere (I think it was Paul Simpson in his great little book, The Rough Guide To Elvis - BTW a totally misleading title IMO): The problem for Elvis singing a Bob Dylan song was the question what to do with his voice? Usually Dylan's song do not really require too much singing ability, so for Elvis there was this question how to do it, do the song justice and make it an Elvis Presley record on the other hand. I think Elvis opted for this very "insightful" kind of approach, something he already did on e. g. I Need Somebody To Lean On. I think it was a very good choice not to sing it that straight and almost "offensive" as Dylan does it most of the time. It's more a mirror of his inner state of mind. It flows and somehow pours out of him rather than being too "concious".

Seems to me that Elvis' singing is the "reflection in the water", it's more unconcious than it's the result of thinking and reason. Therefore I think the reverb is okay and in fact chosen well.

Tue Feb 28, 2006 2:11 am

See See,

Wow ! You’ve really made me stop and think, with some of your comments, especially the “reflection on the water” angle. It’s interesting on “I Need Somebody To Lean On” that, in the first part of the song (which Elvis does not ‘sing’ in the film) there is that dream-like echo, but on the second part which he does sing, the vocal is relatively dry and up-front. This is very effective in the context of the scene.

Yes, the Paul Simpson book is fantastic. I have the one with the ’68 Special pic on the front. Do you know whether the current one (with an Aloha pic on the front) has updated content ?

Ekenee, First In Line is really ‘a different kettle of fish’. As I have commented in the past, it sounds like it was recorded at the foot of the Grand Canyon. But I appreciate your comments, and others’ too.

I do not have “A Valentine’s Gift For You”, Gregory. At the time it was non-essential, and money was VERY tight. That fake stereo in the 1970's was horrendous and I've often wondered if Elvis' comments at the Houston press conference meant he had (unknowingly) heard his Sun stuff in the nightmare-inducing "electronically reprocessed" stereo.

Steve Morse

Tue Feb 28, 2006 2:48 am

Blue Moon from Sun has lots of originally recorded echo to a great haunting effect.

Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:04 am

tomorrow is a long time is one of my fave recordings of Elvis of all time, one of his very best. never has Elvis sang so beautifully and effectively, i love the guitar work too, very relaxing after a hard days work

and i love the echo :D

Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:06 am

I like hoe Blue Moon from sun has a little echo.. :)

Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:08 am

now that you mention it, i like a lot of Elvis's echo songs. blue moon, tomorrow night, bridge over troubled water, love letters etc

i think echo gives a better and surreal effect. i tried it with some of my songs and i loved it :D

Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:11 am

JLGB wrote:A lot of those 60s recordings were recorded with the analog delay and or reverb so there is nothing to be done about it. What should never be done is to add more of that mentioned on top of a vocal that originally has it. That has been done quite a bit.


It's the standard practice that you don't RECORD with reverb, you record dry. And then add reverb for the mix. This is evidenced by the lack of echo on the "So High" take.

Axe

Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:12 am

i wonder if tomorrow was issued as a 45 in any country?

Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:14 am

well i was listening to 'love letters alternate take' on the 'today, tomorrow, and forever' boxset. that has echo on it. so its either the take of that song has been over dubbed (but it should'nt be), or that it was recorded with echo

help me out a bit

Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:31 am

Scott Haigh 781990EP wrote:well i was listening to 'love letters alternate take' on the 'today, tomorrow, and forever' boxset. that has echo on it. so its either the take of that song has been over dubbed (but it should'nt be), or that it was recorded with echo

help me out a bit


It was not recorded with echo, in my opinion...Elvis' vocal was run through a reverb during the final mix. This is standard practice in recording, and EVERY vocal on every record you hear has reverb on it, however small the amount, or however un-noticable it may sound in the final mix. Of course there are exceptions, but this is a general rule in recordings.
The only reverb that might have actually been recorded live with the vocal of an Elvis song would be the natural room resonance...which is much less audible in the final mix of a song.
Now maybe you feel they put too much reverb on Elvis on that take...and I might agree. It's not something RCA/BMG hasn't done before.

Axe

Tue Feb 28, 2006 8:33 am

thanx for clearing that up :)

Tue Feb 28, 2006 9:39 am

Most of those 60s studio recordings already had the echo since the mix was live. You can hear it in the untampered outtakes. If it was something put on after the fact for mastering it was extra to an already "wet" recording. And the recording studios do not have a sound. There is no resonance (dead). The silence is loud if you know what I mean.
Last edited by Juan Luis on Tue Feb 28, 2006 10:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

Tue Feb 28, 2006 9:50 am

JLGB wrote:Most of those 60s studio recordings already had the echo since the mix on three tracks was live. You can hear it in the untampered outtakes. If it was something put on after the fact for mastering it was extra to an already "wet" recording. And the recording studios do not have a sound. There is no resonance (dead). The silence is loud if you know what I mean.


The mix was recorded live on three tracks, echo is added later. Again, that's the rule...maybe in Elvis sessions it was the exception. I wasn't there.
Yes sometimes studio's rooms are dead, but many larger studios have a "big room" and a "small room". Why? Differernt room sounds...I was referring to room sound in a general sense...not in terms of this specific session.

Axe

Tue Feb 28, 2006 10:36 am

I was not there either. But Elvis' vocal had reverb on it from the start. From the three individual tracks I would guess the vocal had no reverb. But those three tracks were only used if further overdubbing was needed. Like the piano on Now Or Never. The live mix was straight to 2 track stereo. And since most of the tracks were not overdubbed, the live mixes were used to master the songs. Porter and Nogar did excellent work. By the time the master take was near everything was tweaked perfectly. Anyone correct me If I am wrong. I have not heard a live sounding studio yet. The small rooms are for cutting demos,jingles and small goups etc. The big rooms are mainly big to fit more people and instruments, orchestras etc. Anyway that is what I have seen.

Tue Feb 28, 2006 11:35 am

Another example of echo used as part of the effect is "fool such as I"
Check out the early outtakes. I think its take 2 or 3 and its fairly dry but Elvis asked Steve to add a little more echo to his voice, and on the next take you can definetely hear it.

So all this talk about you don't record with echo is in error.

Tue Feb 28, 2006 12:20 pm

Axeman wrote:
Scott Haigh 781990EP wrote:well i was listening to 'love letters alternate take' on the 'today, tomorrow, and forever' boxset. that has echo on it. so its either the take of that song has been over dubbed (but it should'nt be), or that it was recorded with echo

help me out a bit


It was not recorded with echo, in my opinion...Elvis' vocal was run through a reverb during the final mix. This is standard practice in recording, and EVERY vocal on every record you hear has reverb on it, however small the amount, or however un-noticable it may sound in the final mix.

That's true. There's no vocal that doesn't have reverb on it and also compression of course. In fact vocals without this tend to sound pretty strange. I don't know whether there're people here that sing or play in a band and have recorded themselves. Those people will know what I mean. Vocals definitely need the reverb and compression (for commercial release, that is). As a collector I love to hear Elvis' voice totally unprocessed of course.

Bill Porter made an "on the spot"-mixdown to stereo when recording Elvis and the band but of course there was also a machine running that recorded everything without the effects, e. g. the reverb that went onto the 2-track stereo (live-)mix.

Tue Feb 28, 2006 12:49 pm

I´ve always wondered when (or why) the echo was added, some very interesting comments on this thread :D

Tue Feb 28, 2006 5:29 pm

Everyone has made good choises from tunes with echo on them..
while using a mic of any kind recording a speaking voice is mix without any reverb effects..maybe some highs,and/or very little botttom ( bass) which comes across as sharp and clear..
while a singing vocal is added the reverb, which also helps the singer holds their notes a little longer. which Elvis used on ballards..
as well as how echo is used to make from barely noticable, to a lot of echo to give a hunting effect. as blue moon of kentucky
and as most fans know Elvis liked to work with a hand held mic in the studio and liked a lotta reverb! hope this helps..
Later Elton ^j^

Re: Tomorrow Is A Long Time "echo"

Tue Feb 28, 2006 7:26 pm

see-see-rider wrote:
Like somebody wrote somewhere (I think it was Paul Simpson in his great little book, The Rough Guide To Elvis - BTW a totally misleading title IMO): The problem for Elvis singing a Bob Dylan song was the question what to do with his voice...


Yes, a great book, See See, and and the 2nd version is updated and also fatter and a bit taller, too. Too many are thrown by the title but it's got some of the most insightful comments to be found on Elvis, in a handy format.

If you like the writings of the likes of LiketheBike or Piers Beagley on Elvis, you'll want to pick this up if you haven't.

Image

Tue Feb 28, 2006 11:16 pm

ekenee wrote:Another example of echo used as part of the effect is "fool such as I"
Check out the early outtakes. I think its take 2 or 3 and its fairly dry but Elvis asked Steve to add a little more echo to his voice, and on the next take you can definetely hear it.

So all this talk about you don't record with echo is in error.


What Elvis means when he asks for more echo, is echo in his headphones or the monitors he might be using. That's different than what gets recorded to tape.
It is the rule that you record everything dry, and add effects later during the mixdown. I do not know if this was the rule in the 50's, but certainly by the time they had four track (or even three), surely this was the case. Otherwise, if you later decide there's too much echo on an instrument, you're stuck with it!
I have been recording and mixing for quite a while, I'm certainly not an expert, but I do know what I know.

Axe