I finally got around to listening to some of the more recent, posthumously released Jimi Hendrix music. I noticed on several of the studio cuts that there were some little mixing/engineering tricks here and there. Subtle and tasteful but, very digital sounding delays, guitar tones that sound beefed up by overdrive effects…maybe even re-amped (seems like in the back of my brain, I remember hearing Eddie Kramer praise re-amping).
I remember a conversation I had with Lou Whitney back when digital was taking over as the norm in the recording field. I was deep in to studying all facets of the process at the time. I mentioned that future folks, that were deep-geeking on recording, would have evidence of every single step; punches, edits, effects patches…all the minutiae of a great record. Imagine being privy to every one of Teo Macero’s tape splices on Bitches Brew or all of the editing Tom Dowd did on a comped guitar solo. Like I said, deep-geeking.
But, even though there is a digital log of all events on a particular recording, that doesn’t mean that the curator is going to let you see it. So, even after the fact, way after the fact tweaks and twizzles can remain secret.
And that brings up some interesting stuff in this era where bands are first and foremost “brands” and people don’t seem too bothered by shelling out cash to see acts that don’t even have one original member (which by the way, isn’t a brand new idea; see Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Oak Ridge Boys etc.), they aren’t going to be put off by hearing an original recording greatly altered to include the new technology.
Now we’ve become accustomed to the idea of “re-mastered”; it’s a selling point. To be fair, the great majority have no idea what mastering is in the first place. And, of course, there have been major re-releases that had tape speed corrections, noise reduction all that sort of stuff. But, “re-engineering” can involve taking each individual part sung or played and manipulating it…sometimes subject to the whims of current tastes.
The ability to even listen to recorded music is new in the grand scheme of things. With that, the ability to evaluate an individual performance as if under a microscope.
If Coltrane were still with us, he would very likely be blowing his sax in to the same kind of microphone he was over 50 years ago. All in all though, it’s weird and a little offsetting for me to hear Jimi’s guitar played through a rig that didn’t exist in his lifetime. I’m not so sure he would be in to a “Dual Rectifier”, you know?