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Bootleg Compression - from Bill O'Neil

From: <email address not valid>
Subj: bootleg compression

 

Hello all --

 

While working today, I was listening to "Over the Garden," the new TDOLZ title from 6/13/77 at MSG. Whoever transferred this to CD added waaaay too much compression and really messed up an otherwise listenable tape. Maybe you're wondering "What is compression?" Compression is another audio tool used by recording and live sound engineers. I've talked about multi-tracks, I've talked about EQs, I've talked digital and analog, and now I'm talking compression. I should write a book, I swear to god.

 

Anyway...

 

Compression is achieved using (you guessed it) a compressor. In a nutshell, a compressor is used to limit dynamic range; that is, it is used to make loud parts quieter, thereby making quiet parts louder by comparison. Perhaps you've noticed that FM radio broadcasts are heavily compressed. The next time you hear "Over the Hills..." on the radio, listen particularly to Page's guitar work at the end of the song because this will give you a very clear idea of what a compressor does. As we all know, the ending passage of OTHAFA is very, very quiet. But on the radio, notice how loud it is relative to the rest of the song. Technically, this is an example of "limiting," but limiting is merely an extreme form of compression.

 

With a compressor, the recording or live sound engineer can help control volume fluctuations. Vocals are very well served by compression; the human voice has a tremendous dynamic range, and sometimes this range is too wide for the music being presented. Imagine that the PA is set up such that one of Robert's loud wails fits in nicely with the rest of the band. Now imagine what happens if he were to sing "I been workin' from seven..." This quiet bit would be lost. Enter the compressor. By compressing the vocal signal, Robert's loud scream is kept under control (volume-wise), which means that the overall volume can be adjusted louder, allowing the quieter passages to be heard more clearly.

 

Compression works well on every instrument: guitars sound thicker, drums sound fatter, and bass sounds bassier.

 

However, just like an EQ, a compressor must be used with care. Too much compression virtually removes dynamic range, which makes recordings sound extremely un-lifelike. "Over the Garden" suffers from too much compression. Most of you are familiar with 1977's segue from Black Mountainside into Kashmir. Obviously, in the actual arena during the performance, the arrival of Bonzo and JPJ would have brought quite a large increase in volume. This recording has been so compressed, however, that that enormous explosion of sound has been reduced to a whimpy little pop, no louder than the preceding quiet passage. Yuck.

 

If whoever is transfering these tapes to CD is a member of DG, please set that compression threshold a bit higher.

 

Any other studio toys anyone wants to know about? Or am I speaking into the void, here, and wasting your collective time?

 

Bye,

 

Bill O'Neil
Venice, CA, USA
Maker's Mark is mother's milk

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This Month in
Led Zeppelin History

March 17, 1969 - A four-song performance is filmed for TV Byen in Denmark (aired on May 19, 1969)
March 21, 1969 - Zeppelin’s debut TV appearance on "How It Is"
March 25, 1969 - Filming session for the Supershow
March xx, 1970 - The band turns down many TV offers worth large sums
March 05, 1971 - Led Zeppelin started a 12-date "Thank You" tour for British fans, appearing at the clubs from their early days and charging the same admission prices as in 1968. The first show was at Ulster Hall, Belfast, Northern Ireland where they played songs from their upcoming fourth album, including the first public performances of Black Dog, Stairway To Heaven, Going To California and Rock And Roll.
March 12, 1972 - Page and Plant rehearse some songs with the Bombay Orchestra
March 25, 1973 - Led Zeppelin finally release Houses of the Holy after production issues with the album cover
March 28, 1973 - Led Zeppelin released Houses Of The Holy in the UK. The album title was a dedication by the band to their fans who appeared at venues they dubbed "houses of the holy". Houses Of The Holy has now been certified 11 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 11 million copies.
March xx, 1974 - The band decide to release a double album due to the amount of left over studio material
March 29, 1975 - Led Zeppelin saw all six of their albums in the US Top 100 chart in the same week, alongside their latest album Physical Graffiti at No.1. Physical Graffiti has now been certified 16 times Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for US sales in excess of 16 million copies.
March 15, 1975 - Tickets for the Earls Court shows sellout within four hours
March xx, 1976 - Jimmy speaks with reporters mentioning the new album due out called Presence
March 31, 1976 - Presence is released
March 28, 1977 - Zeppelin arrive in Dallas, Texas to rehearse before opening the eleventh tour of the US
March xx, 1978 - Robert and John spend some time hanging around the Midlands
March 26, 1979 - Robert takes lead vocal at a Bad Company gig in Birmingham
March 04, 1980 - John Bonham makes a TV appearance on "Alright Now" with Bill Connolly
March 26, 2006 - Readers of Total Guitar magazine voted the guitar solo by Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The 1971 track was voted ahead of tracks by Van Halen, Queen, Jimi Hendrix and The Eagles. On the 20th anniversary of the original release of the song, it was announced via US radio sources that the song had logged up an estimated 2,874,000 radio plays - back to back, that would run for 44 years solid.
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