“Let me hear your breaths”

A reader eloquently amplifies some of the thoughts I kicked around this morning about the techno-sanitization of the live album:

Live albums, once my favorites, don’t even interest me any more because they are so far from being live. The tracks are usually pre-recorded in a studio and the vocals are almost all re-done afterwards. Even the applause of the audience is mostly chopped and re-inserted into the recording resulting in a Stepford audience sound. Not to mention the robotic singers (whose breaths have been taken out because breaths are imperfect???) No, thanks, I’ll pass.

If someone (TaRanda Greene, Janet Paschal, Katy Peach) were to record something live stripped down like this - piano, maybe some cello or light percussion, a harmony vocal used tastefully here and there - I don’t know if the southern audience would buy it, but I personally would be the first in line to buy it and it would be my Christmas gift to everyone on my list! Let me hear your breaths, your phrasing (that hasn’t been stretched or crunched by a re-mix engineer to fit the perfect meter) let me hear your shaded pitches and cracks. Because, as in most art, it’s truly the imperfections that often make one the most unique and beautiful.

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  1. wanderer wrote:

    Amen to the above. In addition to all that, 2 live albums I purchased recently had all the banter chopped out. The song starts and then ends with the applause fading and then 2 or 3 seconds before the next track comes on. I HATE THIS!!!!!!! I like to hear the whole concert. The jokes etc. If I don’t feel like hearing all on certain days, my fast forward button still works well. Make no mistake, live albums have been edited and in some cases the applause replaced for years. It depends if you’ve got someone who knows how to do it properly. The Oaks Rockland Road Live album had the applause replaced in a lot of places. I doubt most would be able to tell the difference though and that wasn’t even done on a major label. On a closely related subject, I watched a “live” dvd recently and really wondered it there was anyone out there. I’m still not sure.

  2. Brett wrote:

    During the NQC, the MC had the audience clap in different increments to signal small applause, medium applause, and large applause with screaming. Talk about a setup for the tv performances of NQC.

  3. Kyle wrote:

    Brett, Gaither’s been doing that for years. A director will come out before the show and say, “Now, laugh really hard, like Mark just told a really funny joke,” and the cameras will tape 1500 people laughing like complete idiots.

    How do you think the Irish Homecoming videos were edited?? Mark admitted in his “Best of” DVD that they were absolutely bombing with their jokes in Ireland, and Bill edited it in such a way that it looked like they were actually getting laughs. To quote Mark, the only person who was laugh was Russ Taff, “…and he was laughing because we were bombing….you could hear crickets, and Russ….”

  4. quartet-man wrote:

    The Oaks “Performance”, “In Concert” versions of “Jesus Is Coming Soon” and “King Jesus”, live version of “What A Time We Will Have Over There” and “Live” lp on Rockland Road are all very well done. In at least some, there was studio work done (it helped to have a member with his own studio and a band), but they all maintained a live, exciting feel. In fact, some might have been better than they did live on average. These recordings typically (if not always) beat the studio versions in my mind.

    Speaking of the Oaks, I had a fun time in the car singing Sterban’s leads on “He Never Said A Word” then jumping up to Duane’s leads on it and then up to Willie’s tenor on the third at the very end. My singing Willie’s part was challenging and not so pretty, but it was fun nonetheless. :D

    As far as the thing with the laughs and applause on the Gaither things, I noticed a long time ago that people went nuts with applause or laughs in places that didn’t seem realistic or fit whereas other places that were better didn’t have them. Now, part might be my tastes, but I think too it is what Bill liked or wanted to promote. Now, Bill has done a ton and has been successful. More so than most I would say. I also understand what he is doing is likely fairly standard in the industry. Nonetheless, I am for “real”. Let’s see it the way it was and the reactions as they were (unless there are audio and video problems and they have to try to recreate it). I don’t mind as much fixing a few small problems as long as they excitement and live feel are there. For instance, on one of John Denver’s versions of “Thank God I’m A Country Boy” his voice cracks. That would have probably been better to have been fixed (IMHO), but still it is fun to hear it at times. Other times a really far off note can be distracting (if held a long time in particular). Those maybe should be fixed too, but too much today they sanitize so much (fixing every imperfection) you are left with what is practically computer ot robot music.

  5. Irishlad wrote:

    #3 Kyle,that was a definite misconception on Bill Gaither’s part that we (the Irish)weren’t getting the jokes..we most certainly were,i was there.Gerald Wolf thought the same last month whan he was over but soon realised his dry brand of humour was going down very well indeed.

  6. Hector Luna wrote:

    The last “live” album I bought was Live and Alive by the Singing Americans. Not sure about the applause, but Ed Hill indeed “confesses” to forgetting his line. It may have been staged, but we’ve completely gone in the opposite direction. Nobody would intend to do that now, much less leaving it un-edited.

    you’re on the mark though.

  7. NG wrote:

    Here’s an article from New Scientist magazine that says: “no live recordings issued today are really live. They have all been doctored in the studio.”

    It was published in 1984.


  8. Randy wrote:

    I believe this has to be the most hypocritical post that has ever went up on this site. Avery wants to hear cracks, shaded pitches, and imperfections. The very things that he will use to shoot bullets at any singer during NQC is what he wants to hear on a live recording? Not buying it. It sounds like he’s trying to be cool, though. Keep trying, Avery.

  9. Samuel wrote:

    There are a few good ones. The Kingsmen’s 40th Anniversary album comes to mind. There was a bunch of mistakes, but the tracks were re-ordered and some were deleted. Another unedited album (except for the B3) was Greater Vision’s Live at First Baptist Atlanta.

  10. Wade wrote:

    Randy… I know how you feel, but this is not the most hypocritical post that has ever went up!!! That sadly was back right after the election.

    It’s sad when people can dish it out but can’t take it!! I have been bummed ever since!!!… and I think I was if not the most, one of Dr. DH’s Greatest defenders & fanz!!! But most SGM blogs are hypocritical.

    But I truly thought I had found and was a part of some thing special!!! As jaded as I am to this world I thought this was the one place I could go and have some fun talking social issues and SGM… and if I am this sad I can only imagine how you and others feel!!

  11. quartet-man wrote:

    Okay, I know these aren’t albums, but here is the Gather Vocal Band with no stacks and a live band. I remember these quite well and searched for them. It was part of a Nashville Now all gospel episode. It had them do these two songs, the Singing Americans and Speers (I believe). I can’t recall if anyone else was on it or not.


    They also did “He Touched Me”, but I don’t find that one.

    “I Still Get a Thrill” by the Singing Americans


    I don’t find any by the Speers from that show (by the same user at least). But he had this:


  12. wanderer wrote:

    #7 Of course no live albums aren’t without some tinkering. Never have been. There is a difference between fixing a couple of mistakes and having all tracks done before the concert, all the breaths removed etc. Travelin’ Live by the Cathedrals. I’m glad they fixed the mistake on Boundless Love. Oh it’s fun to watch on YouTue, but I wouldn’t want to hear that everytime I played the album.

  13. Kyle wrote:

    I can see where it seems hypocritical of Doug to say he wants the same flaws in live recording that he slams when he sees it done in person.

    I think the point that he is making is that he wants a TRUE representation of a live concert, not a doctored one. Whether it’s good or bad, leave it in there. Otherwise, just release a studio album.

  14. quartet-man wrote:

    I think too it depends on the flaws and how often they are made. I think Doug wants performers to work to get better instead of accepting subpar or excusing it. It can be a fine line on a CD to find that area between fine tuning and sanitized.

  15. Irishlad wrote:

    Have DVDs to a certain extent not replaced the live album?

  16. Doug Sword wrote:

    My favorite live album is the Statesmen on Stage from the Chief, Doy, Jake, and Rosie days. They were arguably the most talented quartet ever. However, on one up-tempo song, they had an absolute train wreck in the middle portion. You can even hear them laugh. Mistakes happen in live performances. It simply added to vitality and character of the recording.

  17. John wrote:

    One of my favorite albums of all time is the live album “Through the States with the Statesmen”. Jake Hess totally butchers the words to “Our Debts Will Be Paid”. I can listen to that over and over and still get a smile on my face.

  18. Matt G. wrote:

    #16 which song is it? I’m surprised I haven’t noticed that! I need to get Through the States converted to mp3 and have a listen.

  19. Irishlad wrote:

    Here’s a thought,would the “crying baby” episode with JD from the Blackwood’s on Tour LP be axed by some recording executive today?

  20. wanderer wrote:

    And would the rejoicing former inmate make onto a live album today as he did on Love Lifted Me on The Kingsmens Big and Live album? Even then, I heard that Eldridge Fox fought the record company on keeping that song on the record.

  21. josh wrote:

    What about the Goodman’s album with the hammering and the reinforcing the stage comment.

  22. Doug Sword wrote:

    #17, I had forgotten about that on Through the States……. Another great example of how imperfections can add to the vitality of a real live performance.

    #18, I don’t remember which song it was. I’ll try to dig up the CD and post an answer.

  23. Samuel wrote:

    #20 Was that what that guy shouting “AMEN!” was? I always thought it was Eldridge Fox.

  24. wanderer wrote:

    #23 On the liner notes of that album and on the album itself, Hammill mentions the former inmate that gave his heart to God while the prison choir sang Love Lifted Me.

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