I’m really enjoying your replies to my last blog about my 17 Hills vocal dilemma. I think I will probably mix both versions, possibly use one vocal for the EP and album and the other for a kind of ‘unplugged’ alternative version, as a bonus track or something. Not probably any time soon though, so don’t hold your breath!
Interesting how those of you who have not heard either vocal gleaned from my blog that I basically believe in vocal A, flaws and all. That’s not actually the case, I like both, I felt both. Though it’s easy to side with the ‘underdog’, someone made a very good point that I can do the impassioned, imperfect (and it will be!) version every night when I tour, but I can only do the accurate album version once. It’s not that I’m averse to using a technically imperfect performance if it’s got the ‘feel’—but neither am I sentimental about A just because of how I recorded it.
When I do guide vocals I often deliberately make them unusable, so I won’t have this dilemma! for example when we recorded ‘Love Is A Loaded Pistol’ with Ethel, I chose the crappiest SM57 in the studio and sang and played piano live in the control room, so the string players weren’t playing in a vacuum. For the same reason I did the ‘Amerikana’ backing tracks with a grand piano, when I could have used a digital piano on the backing tracks and avoided spillage. But I wanted to ‘hobble’ the vocal, just so’s not to worry over whether it was better. Now, I realise Bono and others are big believers in the SM57 in the control room approach, but great singer though he is, some of his recent performances have sounded pretty ropey to me, like he thinks he’s invincible. But these days people like Chris Martin who is maybe not the most gifted natural singer are able to up their performance with the help of good studio technology, without taking away from the passion. If you have the studio chops and talent to do that, you have to take advantage of it. Just wish I was a better technical singer take after take so I could use those first takes! I marvel at some records from the 30s through the 60s where the vocal is both technically and emotionally stunning, yet you know they had to get it in one.
Guess in this instance, though, Bill Bottrell thinks he can rescue vocal A. I obviously didn’t hobble it enough!