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Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so poor

Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:23 pm

I've never heard a really convincing reason why most of the mid-sixties sountrack albums sound awful. The cuts in the budget of the movies coincided with a reduction in sound quality on the soundtracks so presumably that was a major factor but I don't really see why. These songs were recorded in the same studios as before with presumably the same equipment so I don't see why money should have been an issue. The tracks where Elvis overdubbed his vocal result in a drop in quality with a lot of added tape hiss but here again this didn't seem to affect other artists of the period who overdubbed there recordings. It doesn't appear to be the mastering thats at fault either as the out-takes, although a little better, still don't sound very good. Does anyone have any opinions on this.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:09 pm

I know what you mean.. was listening to the Kissin' Cousins soundtrack last night, and the amount of hiss is ridiculous, and it's never been improved over time..

Elvis' voice being so loud up front didn't sound great either, for example on the Double Trouble soundtrack, to name one..

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:32 pm

KevinK wrote:I know what you mean.. was listening to the Kissin' Cousins soundtrack last night, and the amount of hiss is ridiculous, and it's never been improved over time..

Elvis' voice being so loud up front didn't sound great either, for example on the Double Trouble soundtrack, to name one..


The best sound is on the "Double Features" series... still, there wasn't much they could do to improve them. "Kissin' Cousins" is a bit of a mystery since it was recorded in Nashville (as was "Harum Scarum" I believe); but that one still sounds ok to me. "Double Trouble" is probably the worst of them all, but I believe part of the problem was that some songs were recorded on the MGM soundstage, not at Radio Recorders. The outtakes sound better (as always).

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Thu Jan 13, 2011 5:50 pm

Double Trouble and Easy Come, Easy Go were recorded on the movie studio's soundstages. That accounts for the poor sound quality. The real mystery is why Harum Scarum and Frankie & Johnny sounded so poor.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Thu Jan 13, 2011 5:55 pm

Hav-A-Tampa wrote:The outtakes sound better (as always).


They sure do. For example, the "Harum Scarum" outtakes sound just fine -- a million times better than the masters. So the problem wasn't the recordings of the material but the mixing and mastering of the original albums.

Keith Richards, Jr.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:27 pm

The reason Kissin' Cousins has such terrible sound is that the vocals were overdubbed on the MGM soundstage.
The sound that everyone hates on the MGM soundtracks was designed for mono cinema playback. Simple as that. No effort was made to create a desirable sound for record release.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Thu Jan 13, 2011 11:35 pm

It should also be noted that with each advancment in multitrack recording and mixing desks during this period resulted in a trade-off in sound quality. Note the difference in sound when the industry moved away from valve driven equipment to solid-state. You can hear this on the 1969 and 1970 recordings particulary - they have a more 'sterile' quality compared to the natural 'warmth' associated with valve based recordings such as the "Elvis is Back!" sessions.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:00 am

I have several first or first re-issues on LP of the soundtracks in stereo. 'Double Trouble', 'Clambake', and 'Paradise Hawaiian Style' actually sound good to me. But I do see what you're saying about something like 'Girl Happy'. Personally even though I like collecting the soundtrack LPs I don't take the content as seriously as Elvis' classic non-soundtrack stuff from the 50s and 60s. They're fun to listen to with an 'ironic ear' I guess, but every soundtrack has at least two, maybe three really good classic Elvis songs on them. For example 'Clambake' has 'Guitar Man', 'GI Blues' has 'Shoppin Around' and 'Doin the Best I Can', etc, etc.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 9:14 am

The sound of the soudtracks were absolutely right for the purpose.

They were produced and paid for by the movie companies. They needed flat sounding mono tracks.

A more caring setup would have recorded another version of each song in true stereo for record release.


As to the quality of the songs....that rests with Elvis.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:39 pm

The soundtracks didn't need to sound flat for the movies if that was the case why were the early sixties ones well recorded.
Having looked through the session details of the mid-sixties soundtracks again, I was surprised how many were recorded on the MGM soundstage. The ones that were all exhibit the worst sound quality of all the soundtracks. Clearly MGM didn't care about sound quality. It still surprises me though because they must have known those recording would be released on record.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 5:51 pm

chesay7 wrote:Having looked through the session details of the mid-sixties soundtracks again, I was surprised how many were recorded on the MGM soundstage. The ones that were all exhibit the worst sound quality of all the soundtracks. Clearly MGM didn't care about sound quality. It still surprises me though because they must have known those recording would be released on record.


Recording on the soundstage was done to save money and maximize profits for MGM. They didn't care about the record releases - that was RCA's problem.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:15 pm

I wonder why RCA didn't demand a decent level of recording from MGM.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 6:21 pm

chesay7 wrote:I wonder why RCA didn't demand a decent level of recording from MGM.


During this time RCA was in a kind of subordinate position to the movie studios and Parker. The reduced production costs of the films and soundtracks meant more profits for the studios and Parker & Elvis. RCA's role was basically to put an album and single out in conjunction with the film's release, with Parker appoving of the packaging.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:02 pm

Surely RCA weren't powerless. Couldn't they have refused to release sub-standard material.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:08 pm

chesay7 wrote:Surely RCA weren't powerless. Couldn't they have refused to release sub-standard material.


In short, no. They were already in a bit of a privileged position in that they had the right to issue the movie soundtracks on record. MGM had it's own label and could've insisted on issuing the soundtracks. RCA basically took the money and ran.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 8:37 pm

KiwiAlan wrote:The sound of the soudtracks were absolutely right for the purpose.

They were produced and paid for by the movie companies. They needed flat sounding mono tracks.

A more caring setup would have recorded another version of each song in true stereo for record release.


As to the quality of the songs....that rests with Elvis.


Then how come The Beatles soundtracks for "A Hard Days Night" (1964) and "Help!" (1965) sound great on film and record?

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 10:00 pm

I'm sure some of the technical reasons you guys have put up do hold water.

But bottom line is, a lot of people, including the performer, didn't give a damn......................

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Fri Jan 14, 2011 11:57 pm

javilu wrote:
KiwiAlan wrote:The sound of the soudtracks were absolutely right for the purpose.

They were produced and paid for by the movie companies. They needed flat sounding mono tracks.

A more caring setup would have recorded another version of each song in true stereo for record release.


As to the quality of the songs....that rests with Elvis.


Then how come The Beatles soundtracks for "A Hard Days Night" (1964) and "Help!" (1965) sound great on film and record?



The Beatles tracks were recorded for record release and then used in the films.

Other way around for the Elvis movis.....with one exception.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Sat Jan 15, 2011 12:06 am

KiwiAlan wrote:The Beatles tracks were recorded for record release and then used in the films.

Other way around for the Elvis movis.....with one exception.


Bad decision if you ask me!

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Sat Jan 15, 2011 4:11 pm

Pete Dube wrote:Double Trouble and Easy Come, Easy Go were recorded on the movie studio's soundstages. That accounts for the poor sound quality. The real mystery is why Harum Scarum and Frankie & Johnny sounded so poor.



F&J sounds really good on the "Double features" cd release.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Sat Jan 15, 2011 7:18 pm

chesay7 wrote:The soundtracks didn't need to sound flat for the movies if that was the case why were the early sixties ones well recorded.
Having looked through the session details of the mid-sixties soundtracks again, I was surprised how many were recorded on the MGM soundstage. The ones that were all exhibit the worst sound quality of all the soundtracks. Clearly MGM didn't care about sound quality. It still surprises me though because they must have known those recording would be released on record.


All MGM's film musicals have dry vocals. Even The Wizard Of Oz.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Sun Jan 16, 2011 3:47 pm

RCA was the first company to record music in full surround sound.
FANTASIA was recorded in full suuround sound by RCA in 1945
I guess that they think that the sound should be just as bad as the songs :lol: in the Elvis movies. :lol:

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Sun Jan 16, 2011 4:15 pm

I'm surprised bajo hasn't commented on this subject. He's the expert when it comes to 60's soundtrack recordings.

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:29 am

It's a shame... "Almost" would be such a pretty gem with better sound, same with "Anyone (Could Fall In Love With You)," "Tender Feeling," "Who Are You? (Who Am I?)" and "Let Yourself Go."

Re: Why is sound quality on the mid-sixties soundtracks so

Mon Apr 23, 2012 4:01 pm

Google some of the Hi-Fi home equipment of the 1960's - ,do you think anyone even noticed?