Sting/John Dowland/Labyrinth CD

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by JoeH, Jan 4, 2007.

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  1. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
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    I finally picked up a copy of this after hearing all the accolades about it. (It's not only the #1 Classical CD of 2006, it's on Deutsche Grammophone as well.)

    My questions are: Has anyone else heard this yet? If so, what did you think about it?

    The nicest thing I can say (for now) is that I expected more, sonically.

    I was wondering if it's just ME or something...sadly, I don't think so.....there are moments I find appalling (for what it purports to be), and at first glance, I caught two typos in the booklet. Extremely puzzling, to say the least.

    Anyone have a copy of this? Thoughts?
  2. srs

    srs Guest

    I haven't heard the actual CD, but Sting was interviewed on Performance Today a week or so ago, and the host played a couple of cuts from this CD. I'm not too impressed with Sting's approach to the project. He says he spent 2 years learning the lute parts, but his singing style is modern-day Sting. It's a little disconcerting, and he's unapologetic about it. Sonically, it sounded like a typical pop recording, but that could be the fact that I was listening to it on the radio. On the other hand, kudos to him for introducing some beautiful music to people that might not otherwise hear it.
  3. DavidSpearritt

    DavidSpearritt Well-Known Member

    Jan 9, 2005
    Brisbane, Australia
    Home Page:
    ... and his lute technique and playing are really ordinary. I bought the MusicCares DVD for James Taylor and Sting comes out with his huge lute and makes a complete pig's breakfast of "You can close your eyes". He is on the wrong track at present, no question.

    Based on this I certainly won't be listening to this CD you mention. Not when there are so many wonderful versions out there done by serious musicians and performers with years of rigorous study of this challenging music behind them.
  4. MadTiger3000

    MadTiger3000 Active Member

    Nov 16, 2004

    I am a big fan of Sting's career.

    My personal assessment of his situation: He is running out of motivations.

    He is a millionaire, married a few times with children, a HOF-caliber talent in his chosen profession, and has done some charity work. What does he want to do with the remaining years of his life? He thought messing around with a lute would do it. Hmmm.

    He needs to do some of his meditating on what he wants to really accomplish before he croaks. I would not hate him for a determination to rest on his laurels, if that means he doesn't put out work where he is floundering.
  5. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Jun 22, 2004
    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    I should add as well that I've always been a big Sting fan, although I agree he's gotten a bit stale in the last couple of years. (There seems to have been a bit of a slide after Soul Cages, but that's of course debatable.) Sonically, his material has gotten LOUDER (and nastier sounding) with each new release. I found "Brand New Day" and everything since to be enjoyable musically, but almost unlistenable due to the "Finalizing" done to it all.

    I saw him demo his N.E.D. Synclavier in NYC for AES in 1986 to a tough crowd (all producers and engineers) in a private show at the Palladium. He played one track at a time from his "Nothing Like the Sun" CD, and blew everyone away with it, adding one musician at a time as he went along. It was an amazing show, to put it mildly. I admit I've been a huge fan ever since.

    I guess I expected more this time, at least sonically. I have recorded more than my share of Baroque and early music, and since he has accesss to the best people in the business, I (naively, perhaps) thought he'd spend as much time getting the SOUND right as he would have done with the music (2 yrs work on an instrument or genre is hardly big news in the world of classical musicians, of course.)

    I got the CD just before a road trip, thinking I'd enjoy some varied CDs in the car over the holidays. My girlfriend and I exchanged startled glances the moment the second tune was underway. It suddenly went from an interesting lute performance into this UGLY, LOUD, NAKED show-off forum for Sting's voice. Not pretty at all. When I got back home and checked it on my studio speakers, it sounded even worse. (What where these people THINKING when they mixed & mastered this????)

    I fully expected some interesting lute (and archlute) music with the proper sound of a male tenor/high baritone voice, singing in a space or room, much the way it's supposed to sound, with some air around the voice, a bit of room ambience, reverb, etc., even something in a small room. NOT this ugly, up-close, overprocessed in-your-face sound of Sting's voice blaring away, coming out of some deadened closet. (Hey, I like the guy plenty, but not to the point where I can hear spittle and breathing and mouth clicks louder than the music!)

    Sadly, his breathing is mostly as loud as his actual notes (and we all know what THAT means and what caused it.) Mic placement 101, or too much compression? Not sure it really matters at this point, it's just awful and tasteless.

    The lutes, IMHO are thin and watery sounding as well (can't have them compete TOO much with Sting's voice, eh?) and there is one track that has Sting singing four part harmony, which would be lovely if they didn't over-process the $*^t out of it. (Think QUEEN and using the voice as a synth instead of real singing ensemble. I'm sure it was a ProTools orgy putting THAT one together....ugh.)

    I don't know how to put up some screen shots (if someone can tell me, i'd gladly do it) but I heard - to my astonishment - edits and low end rumble all over the place on the last track #23, which Sting personally considers one of the best - and most important - tracks on the disc. (I admit I haven't sat and listened to the CD all the way through, at least for now, it's too annoying.)

    I ripped and opened track 2 and track 23 into Sequoia for the fun of it, just to take a look at it. Track 2 seems to alternate between -17 and -14 RMS level overall, for most of the track, which is ASTOUNDING for a classical recording. Track 23 is a bit lower, but not by much, sometimes down in the -23 area, making peaks up into -14 or so, with ease.

    I viewed all of track 23 with Algorithmix's reNOVAtor, and saw/heard some disturbing things - things the mastering people SHOULD have caught at the very least - LOTS of low end rumble in most of the track (below 60hz down through 20, 12hz, etc.) and some kind of steady-state whine around 16k, with some artifacts below that. (RF subharmonics, perhaps?) There is air handler noise in some places, as well as room noise or breathing as well, all of it glaringly obvious, and easily removed in minutes, in the hands of a competant engineer.

    Sadly, there are even typos in the otherwise-gorgeous booklet - all very little items, but important things that GD should never have allowed to go out under their name. (I'm guessing Sting did it all independently, and offered it to GD as "Take it or leave it, but it'll make tons of $$ for you if you do.")

    I can't help but wonder exactly WHO approved the final sound on this thing. Were the engineers bullied into creating this kind of sound, or was Sting forced to accept something so inferior? (Highly unlikely, of course, considering who he is.) For a guy who wants to venture into such great music of such loftier goals, you'd think he would have done more than just practice the lute. Perhaps listening to some REAL classical singers would have opened his ears to the way it SHOULD have sounded. This is just ugly and crass.

    I'm just stunned and quite disappointed overall. And not-so ironically, THIS is the #1, best-selling Classical CD of 2006. I'm not sure if it makes me happy or sad in the final analysis.

    Who wants to wager on the number of Grammies nominations it gets? :twisted:
  6. Simmosonic

    Simmosonic Active Member

    Jan 13, 2005
    I am also an admirer of Sting's work and his career, but...

    I listened to this album twice (that's all I could take, even the first listen was a *trial* of endurance) over a very nice hi-fi stereo. My first thought was 'under-achieving', but that is probably because I was expecting something with much more life and acoustic energy to it.

    I don't mean any disrespect to the recording crew or Sting, but it sounds like a close-miked pop/multitrack-engineering mentality was applied to something that probably should be purely acoustic, direct-to-stereo, with a nice live room sound and so on. Perhaps this was not the engineer's intention, but pressure from the artist or producer to make something palatable to Sting's existing market?

    I think it is stuck in audio limbo; it is too dry and controlled and lacking ensemble (between the lute and voice) to satisfy the purist audio market, and too bland and lifeless to satisfy the multitrack/pop market. All things considered, I was expecting something beautiful and 'finished', but was presented with a rough demo.

    Nonetheless, one bad apple doesn't ruin the whole lot. Sting has done some great stuff and probably will continue to do so. Perhaps this is one of those 'experimental muse' phases artists go through before coming up with something amazing?

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