Dorsey Bros HiFi Demo Discs?

Dorsey Bros HiFi Demo Discs?

Richard Iaconelli
Richard Iaconelli

October 16th, 2007, 5:43 pm #1

Does anyone know the story behind the Dorsey Brothers making hi fidelity demonstration discs between 1933 and 1935? Did they have extended play time? I know nothing about them.

They are included in a new CD release, contents listed below. Some of the titles seem to be the same as commercial releases.


Songs:

Fourty Second Street
Learn To Croon
This Is Romance
Theme -
Is That Religion? (a)
Solitude
By Heck
Eccentric
Rhythm In The Rain
Night Wind (a)
Don't Let It Bother You
Sugarfoot Stomp
The Weary Blues
I Was Lucky (a)
I Believe In Miracles (a)
A New Deal In Love
Personnel
(Vocalist: a- Bob Crosby)

Label: SOUNDCRAFT
Dates: [1933-1935]


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Jon Pytko
Jon Pytko

October 17th, 2007, 12:10 pm #2

Some of those titles are the same as ones recorded by the brothers at a January 1935 World Transcriptions session, for which the fidelity was indeed better than commercial recordings of the time. Other than this, I don't know.
By the way, anyone know where you can get a hold of some of the 1932-33 "experimental" Victor stereo recordings. The Rust Discography lists "LP" for some of these, what does that mean??
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David Logue
David Logue

October 17th, 2007, 3:01 pm #3

Are these similar to the experimental "stereo" recordings made in the early 1930s by Duke Ellington?

In the liner notes of an LP from the 1980s--in which I believe forum participant Brad Kay was involved producing--it was mentioned that other recording artists like Paul Whiteman made similar recordings.

I was hoping that other such recordings would be released but I never heard anything more about them. Does anyone know if other "stereo" recordings from this period are available?
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Jon Pytko
Jon Pytko

October 18th, 2007, 7:20 pm #4

Call it silly, but it is most unfortunate when an interesting topic dies on this board. I would think the question of high fidelity for 1932-34 recordings might elicit some interest, but it is as productive as talking about Rube Bloom, I suppose. We all have our expertise, I guess, but not on "stereo" 1932 recordings.
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Albert Haim
Albert Haim

October 18th, 2007, 8:40 pm #5

Occasionally, I would post about a subject that I think will elicit a lot of contributions, to find that no one seems to give a hoot. By and large I doubt that it is lack of expertise, more likely, as you suggest, lack of interest. At other times, I post simply for information purposes, and a huge thread ensues that blows me out.

Forumites are a bunch of independent, free-thinking individuals who will post in detail -and thoroughly research a topic- if it tickles their curiosity. They will let other postings "twist in the wind" if the subject does not appeal to their fancy.

The Bixography forum is a bastion of liberty where people, with a very few exceptions (individuals that I would not welcome in my home), post when, if, and what they want. This is the essential quality of the Bixography Forum, no censorship, total freedom of expression. As I said ad nauseam, open and unregulated. Navigate as you please, but beware of occasional rough waters.

Albert

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John Leifert
John Leifert

October 18th, 2007, 9:59 pm #6

Hello Albert - I have read the following from, I believe, the liner notes of the original LP (Jerry Valburn's Blu-Disc label) where the Duke Ellington tracks first appeared in the early 80s:

Two separate turntables were used to record the same performance at the same time, as a back-up master, in case one master could not be used due to damage. Interestingly, and apparently inadvertently (though we'll never really know that, given that Bell Labs were also experimenting with stereo around that time, recording Leopold Stokowski that way - this was released on cassette many years ago): two different sets of microphones were also used for each recording turntable. The result: if you are lucky enough to find the two masters for the given take ("1" or "1A", let's say - the "A", meaning alternate, added to differentiate between the two masters), and mix the two together using modern equipment, VOILA - you get stereo, or as close an approximation to it as can be allowed.

In the early 30s you'll find many Victor sides with not just take 1 or take 2, let's say, but "1A" or "2A". These are alternate masters of the same take. If you manage to find an Isham Jones 78 track with take "1" and another pressing of it with take "1A" - mix 'em together and you will most likely get stereo. But, one laughs at this, considering how rare those 78's are and how lucky we are to just FIND the damn things!!

John
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Linda
Linda

October 19th, 2007, 4:59 am #7

If two separate turntables with two separate microphones were used to record the same performance at the same time in the case of the Duke Ellington tracks from the early 30's wouldn't there be a big problem in synchronizing the recordings?
Because of the slight variations in speed on both turntables during the recording I would think a very sophisticated computer program, which was not available in 1980 when the lp was released, would be needed to perfectly align the 2 separate recordings to have them play perfectly together to get the stereo effect.
The slight variations in speed would be different for each separate turntable during the recording and what computer program could bring them together perfectly to get the stereo effect?

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Mike
Mike

October 19th, 2007, 5:39 am #8

Hello Albert - I have read the following from, I believe, the liner notes of the original LP (Jerry Valburn's Blu-Disc label) where the Duke Ellington tracks first appeared in the early 80s:

Two separate turntables were used to record the same performance at the same time, as a back-up master, in case one master could not be used due to damage. Interestingly, and apparently inadvertently (though we'll never really know that, given that Bell Labs were also experimenting with stereo around that time, recording Leopold Stokowski that way - this was released on cassette many years ago): two different sets of microphones were also used for each recording turntable. The result: if you are lucky enough to find the two masters for the given take ("1" or "1A", let's say - the "A", meaning alternate, added to differentiate between the two masters), and mix the two together using modern equipment, VOILA - you get stereo, or as close an approximation to it as can be allowed.

In the early 30s you'll find many Victor sides with not just take 1 or take 2, let's say, but "1A" or "2A". These are alternate masters of the same take. If you manage to find an Isham Jones 78 track with take "1" and another pressing of it with take "1A" - mix 'em together and you will most likely get stereo. But, one laughs at this, considering how rare those 78's are and how lucky we are to just FIND the damn things!!

John
John, you are correct about the origin of RCA Victor's "stereo."

Interestingly, at this time RCA Victor was attempting to develop a high fidelity long playing phonograph record. RCA and Bell Labs were working together on this. Bell Labs had developed a transducer mechanism for their disc cutters that boasted a flat frequency response up to 10 kHz - a full octave more than standard phonograph records at the time. RCA Victor also had the benefit of the new RCA 44 velocity microphone, whose frequency response was nearly flat from 50 Hz to 7 kHz, which was far better than any of the other various moving coil or early condenser microphones used at the time.

But just as WWII snuffed out RCA's nascent television efforts, the Depression doomed any system that required special records and a new record player. Also, the plastic used to make these "Program Transcription" records was noisy and did not hold up well under repeated playings, due to the extremely heavy magnetic pickups used in record players of the period.

However, RCA Victor engineers busied themselves using the new microphones and disc cutters as often as possible. They seemed very interested in developing new techniques for microphone placement. Engineers used different microphone combinations on multiple cutters in order to judge differences during playback. As a result RCA Victor produced 78 rpm recordings between 1932 and 1934 with remarkable clarity and fidelity. Fortunately they used this equipment to record their best artists, so we have Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, and many others preserved in high fidelity.

But after 1934 this system seems to have been abandoned, and RCA Victor's recordings were "low fidelity" until the early 1940's. Around 1939 - 1940 both Victor and the new CBS/Columbia records (and their subsidiaries Brunswick and Vocalion) began making records with above-average fidelity.

Many Decca records made in their New York studios from 1934 on also seem to have remarkable fidelity.

I assume that World Transcriptions had access to studios with superior microphones and disc cutters. It is interesting that these Dorsey Bros. sides have been issued again. They were issued during the 1950's with horrible reverberation added and the vocals wrongly attributed to Bing Crosby! Circle Records issued the same tunes 15 or so years ago on CD, but with muddy sound. I hope the sound on this CD issue has been restored to its original quality.

(I've been interested in early high fidelity for some time, so I have assembled this info from various sources over the years.)


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Mike
Mike

October 19th, 2007, 6:06 am #9

Here is an article about the Bell Labs stereo experiments: http://www.coutant.org/stereo/index.html

And here is info about the brilliant British inventor Alan Blumlein, who patented "binaural sound" in 1931, before Bell Labs began its work: http://www.doramusic.com/Stereo.htm
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Brad Kay
Brad Kay

October 19th, 2007, 7:34 am #10

Are these similar to the experimental "stereo" recordings made in the early 1930s by Duke Ellington?

In the liner notes of an LP from the 1980s--in which I believe forum participant Brad Kay was involved producing--it was mentioned that other recording artists like Paul Whiteman made similar recordings.

I was hoping that other such recordings would be released but I never heard anything more about them. Does anyone know if other "stereo" recordings from this period are available?
Guilty as charged: I was responsible for the 1932 Duke Ellington stereo realizations, and yes, there are other examples. These are truly accidental stereo recordings, not special experiments of the Blumlein or Bell Labs sort. They were the results of ordinary commercial sessions done at Victor and HMV, where two cutting lathes were used, with a different mike on each lathe. These sessions took place between 1928 and 1933, and except for the Ellingtons, were all classical orchestral dates. Sorry, no stereo Whitemans, with OR without Bix!

Since absolutely no one at Victor was thinking of stereo recording in 1929 or '30, the phenomenon passed unnoticed until 1984, when fellow 78 collector and Ellington fanatic Steven Lasker and I were comparing two very different pressings of the same Duke Ellington medley. We listened and butted heads for hours until it was suddenly apparent that these were alternate takes in space rather than time.

There were two major sessions at Victor where this dual lathe/mike setup was used, and what sessions! The first was Sept 24-25-26, 1929. Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra recorded The Rite of Spring, The Carnival of the Animals, The 1812 Overture and the Tannhauser Overture and Venusberg music. The second session was in late April, 1930. Serge Koussevitzky and the Boston Symphony recorded the Pathetique symphony of Tchaikowsky, and the first American recording of Ravel's Bolero, among other works.

These records were issued of course as 78-rpm album sets, which Victor kept in print at least until the late '40s. During those years, as the metal parts wore out, alternate metals would be used to press the various sides. Comparing the various editions of these albums turned up all kinds of alternate pressings, including different versions of the same take, each from a different lathe. These are de facto stereo channels, which I was able to synchronize, pre-computer, by ear - an exacting and laborious process!

Because of the random placement of the microphones, the stereo balance is consistent but strange, as if one was standing in the middle of the orchestra, turned sideways. It is real stereo, nonetheless, and the sense of depth and presence is palpable and thrilling.

What exists today of "Accidental Stereo" are the two Ellington medleys, and random sides from the aforementioned album sets. There are also a couple of stray orchestral British HMV sides, a 1928 Eugene Goosens Le Cid Ballet excerpt, and from 1933, side three - the finale - of the "Cockaigne Concert Overture," conducted by its composer, Sir Edward Elgar! It adds up to about 75 minutes.

I have come close a couple of times to issuing a CD of these stereo curiosities, but through a combination of lack of public interest, possible litigation and (mostly) sheer inertia, have never followed through. A pity, since these are fantastic performances of absolutely great music.

-Brad Kay
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