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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:02 pm 
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Tunborough wrote:
I spoke carelessly.

Those gentlemen may be able to carry a tune; they may have robust voices and know how to use them. But I'm not convinced the men's voices are up to the same standard of vocal quality as those of women in rock, say Cass Elliot, Ann and Nancy Wilson, Sinéad O'Connor ...


It's because they're singing over electric guitars. At least since the invention of the Marshall amp, to sound good, you have to push a male voice (rock) or go right up into falsetto (funk). Even Pat Benetar, who was a trained opera singer, had to adopt a screechier voice when she sang rock to blend with the guitars. If she'd used her opera voice she'd have sounded awful.

If you push a male voice into head voice register without being completely relaxed, you get nasal. If you can relax, you get male alto/counter tenor/funk falsetto. Angst being a significant emotional feature of Rock and Roll, most of the time rock singers aren't relaxed.

But in terms of vocal quality, I'd take Freddie Mercury over the Wilson sisters.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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Last edited by s1m0n on Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:10 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:06 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
I still love Led Zep without apology. The were utterly original, and as I see it, the Metal deluge proceeded from there.


Me too. Mind you, I think metalheads date the founding of metal to Black Sabbath, but Sabbath was trying to be Zepplin. Crazy Train was an attempt to knock off Dazed and Confused.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 8:11 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
But in terms of vocal quality, I'd take Freddie Mercury over the Wilson sisters.


And in fact, if you listen to Bohemian Rhapsody, it's fascinating to hear how Mercury shifts his voice around according to the backing instrumentation. He sings in a clear voice when playing over his own piano, or when Brian May's guitar has a clean jazz tone, but gets a lot more aggressive - screechy - when May's guitar tone gets more "rock'n'roll". May was a future PhD astrophysist, and his self-built "Red Special' guitar is famous for the range of sounds he can get from it. He spent hours in his teens experimenting with windings and building switching to enable him to shift between voicings. Mercury's vocals might have been more intuitive, but had as much command of his sound as May.

To take one passage:

Mama, just killed a man,
Put a gun against his head,
Pulled my trigger, now he's dead.
Mama, life had just begun,
But now I've gone and thrown it all away.

If you listen, he sings almost the entire passage in a clear voice, right up until all in the last line, where May also comes with with an electric guitar crunch. Suddenly, and effortlessly, Mercury's voice also gets crunchy, before clearing again for away.

He sings the first part of the next stanza:

Mama, ooh,
Didn't mean to make you cry,
If I'm not back again this time tomorrow,

halfway between rough and smooth, and then gets more serene for the final line.

Carry on, carry on as if nothing really matters.

It fits the lyric perfectly, and the instrumentation matches the lyric, the vocal and the emotion. Freddie Mercury wasn't just a singer, he was an actor. Too many vocalists sing the melody and the rhythm without ever understanding the emotional weight of a line. Freddie gets it.

Finally, on the bridge:

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye?
So you think you can love me and leave me to die?


His voice takes on a third quality, even more 'rock' to match the aggressive guitar sound. Too many rock vocalists can only do this, without Mercury's virtuousity.

It hadn't occurred to me before this post to listen to this song this closely, but I'm glad I did.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

C.S. Lewis


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 12:11 am 
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s1m0n wrote:
Nanohedron wrote:
I still love Led Zep without apology. The were utterly original, and as I see it, the Metal deluge proceeded from there.


Me too. Mind you, I think metalheads date the founding of metal to Black Sabbath, but Sabbath was trying to be Zepplin. Crazy Train was an attempt to knock off Dazed and Confused.

That is, not just in my opinion, but in actual fact, completely wrong. For a start, Crazy Train isn't even Black Sabbath. It's much later - decades later - and is nothing to do with the band - it's Ozzy's solo debut.

Secondly, Sabbath had nothing to do with Led Zeppelin and, I can tell you, as someone who grew up with this music, were certainly not trying to emulate, let alone "try[...] to be" Led Zeppelin. People - like me - who raved about Black Sabbath, viewed Led Zeppelin as being pop. (As it happens, I rather liked Zeppelin as well, but for very different reasons.)

Led Zeppelin, in my opinion, have almost nothing to do with Metal, heavy or otherwise; and the thing about Sabbath is that what they did was not only pioneering - it was unique. Nobody else had ever done what they did, and nobody has done it since, although I would guess that some have tried.

Sabbath and Zeppelin were formed around the same time (actually in the same year), but in different parts of the country and with radically different musical directions and musical ideas. Sabbath were truly ground-breaking. Zeppelin were a session band - a good one, but still, a session band. They copied.* Sabbath innovated.



* ... in the early years. Later, there was some more innovative and influential stuff from Zeppelin. Still pop, though; not metal. And nowhere near as truly iconoclastic as Sabbath. And the two bands, musically speaking, are not related at all, in my opinion.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 5:40 am 
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benhall.1 wrote:
That is, not just in my opinion, but in actual fact, completely wrong. For a start, Crazy Train isn't even Black Sabbath.


Well, my source was an interview with Ozzie, describing how he came to write the song, although at this hour of the might I haven't tried to replicate it with a link.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 6:14 am 
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s1m0n wrote:
s1m0n wrote:
But in terms of vocal quality, I'd take Freddie Mercury over the Wilson sisters.
And in fact, if you listen to Bohemian Rhapsody, it's fascinating to hear how Mercury shifts his voice around according to the backing instrumentation.
...
It hadn't occurred to me before this post to listen to this song this closely, but I'm glad I did.
While I don't necessarily share your preferences, you have argued your case persuasively, and enlightened me in the process. Thank you for that. I knew Mercury shifted the character of his voice in the song, but hadn't considered compatibility with the instrumentation as part of the reason.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:05 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
Tunborough wrote:
I spoke carelessly.

Those gentlemen may be able to carry a tune; they may have robust voices and know how to use them. But I'm not convinced the men's voices are up to the same standard of vocal quality as those of women in rock, say Cass Elliot, Ann and Nancy Wilson, Sinéad O'Connor ...


It's because they're singing over electric guitars. At least since the invention of the Marshall amp, to sound good, you have to push a male voice (rock) or go right up into falsetto (funk). Even Pat Benetar, who was a trained opera singer, had to adopt a screechier voice when she sang rock to blend with the guitars. If she'd used her opera voice she'd have sounded awful.

If you push a male voice into head voice register without being completely relaxed, you get nasal. If you can relax, you get male alto/counter tenor/funk falsetto. Angst being a significant emotional feature of Rock and Roll, most of the time rock singers aren't relaxed.

But in terms of vocal quality, I'd take Freddie Mercury over the Wilson sisters.


With all due respect, this makes very little sense. Amplification and recording technology make having to project or blend with anything fairly moot. And the whole "pushing into head voice without being relaxed" thing confuses me as well, because there are plenty of singers with great, "relaxed" technique who nonetheless sound "whiny" to you. And as for your Freddy Mercury "explanation," he's quite clearly emphasizing "thrown it all away" by adding a bit of a growl to it. Same with the rest of it, it's all interpretation of the text. He'd probably do the same if he was backed by a ukulele.

There's no technique or vocal issues with any of it, it's just a sound that you don't like and others do. So what?


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:36 pm 
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benhall.1 wrote:
Secondly, Sabbath had nothing to do with Led Zeppelin and, I can tell you, as someone who grew up with this music, were certainly not trying to emulate, let alone "try[...] to be" Led Zeppelin. People - like me - who raved about Black Sabbath, viewed Led Zeppelin as being pop.

Odd - I never thought of Led Zep as mere pop. They were completely their own animal to me; the slick arrangements and production simply worked as an asset rather than a black mark of being in bed with The Industry. Where I lived, Led Zep was firmly counterculture, just - oh, I don't know - high-end counterculture, I guess. :)

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 12, 2017 6:59 pm 
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bigsciota wrote:
With all due respect, this makes very little sense. Amplification and recording technology make having to project or blend with anything fairly moot. And the whole "pushing into head voice without being relaxed" thing confuses me as well, because there are plenty of singers with great, "relaxed" technique who nonetheless sound "whiny" to you.


Can you name some? When I talk about relaxation, I'm talking about the mechanics of falsetto vocal production. As a baritone who sings alto, I know quite a bit about how this works. Yes, digital production techniques might make much of this irrelevant. But who cares? The recordings I'm talking about are all analog era.

In any case, if you reread this thread, I believe there's only one artist whom I have IDed as whiny, and with him it's as much a matter of his tone as his lyrics . You're making definitive - and false - statements about what I do and do not believe. You are not qualified to do so. It is my opinion that you have no idea what you're talking about.

bigsciota wrote:
And as for your Freddy Mercury "explanation," he's quite clearly emphasizing "thrown it all away" by adding a bit of a growl to it. Same with the rest of it, it's all interpretation of the text. ....
There's no technique or vocal issues with any of it, it's just a sound that you don't like and others do. So what?


If you think I don't like it, you have completely misread me. My point is that the growl he adds is exactly mirrored by the growl in May's guitar part, and that these need to match each other. If Mercury had persisted in singing over the guitar as he had over his piano, it would have sucked. That's my point. Different backing requires a different vocal quality.

bigsciota wrote:
He'd probably do the same if he was backed by a ukulele.


No he wouldn't, and if he did, the mismatch between the vocal and the accompaniment would have destroyed the effect he was trying to produce. Brian May's crunchy guitars mirrored the 'desperate' vocals Mercury was singing, and vice versa.

The vocalist needs crunch to match the guitars, and the guitars need crunch to reflect the angst in the emotion. Both the vocals and the guitars need to demonstrate 'crunch' at the same moments. And vice versa. What's difficult to understand about that?

~~

Freddie Mercury isn't the paragon of vocals, although he was a virtuoso. I cited Bohemian Rhapsody not for it's excellence, but because of the wide variation in backing instrumentation which makes it easy in the same song to compare vocal quality to accompaniment. It's a rock song that's half not rock. Great for comparison. I believe I demonstrated that there is a qualitative difference in the vocals when Mercury was singing over acoustic instruments, v.s. when he sang over crunchy guitars. My thesis is that this difference in vocal purity is necessitated by the requirements of singing over characteristic rock crunchy guitars, and that the need to provide 'crunch' in the high tenor register is why male rock vocalists don't demonstrate the purity of sopranos who sing rock. There are plenty of altos, like Janis Joplin, who crunch as hard as the boys.

I believe that this is exactly what I have demonstrated. Sorry if you missed it.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:35 am 
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Just for the sake of argument, I listened to Stairway to Heaven to see if I could observe the same effect, and I can. Robert Plant sings in what I'd call an accoustic voice (rougher than Mercury's, but smoother than his rock voice) for the first 6 minutes. At 5:57 Jimmy Page's solo gets electric. At 6:45 Plant comes back in ("And as we wind on down the road..."). His voice, however, is a whole lot screechier, as it has to be to blend with Page's guitar. Both sound good. Don't think that because I'm making distinctions between voices that I prefer one or the other. I'm just noting where each is appropriate, and commenting on the effect each produces. You've felt that effect your entire lives; I want you to be conscious of now it was produced.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

C.S. Lewis


Last edited by s1m0n on Fri Oct 13, 2017 10:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:24 pm 
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s1m0n wrote:
benhall.1 wrote:
That is, not just in my opinion, but in actual fact, completely wrong. For a start, Crazy Train isn't even Black Sabbath.


Well, my source was an interview with Ozzie, describing how he came to write the song, although at this hour of the might I haven't tried to replicate it with a link.

You've missed the point. The song has nothing to do with Black Sabbath. It's decades later.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 3:35 pm 
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Nanohedron wrote:
benhall.1 wrote:
Secondly, Sabbath had nothing to do with Led Zeppelin and, I can tell you, as someone who grew up with this music, were certainly not trying to emulate, let alone "try[...] to be" Led Zeppelin. People - like me - who raved about Black Sabbath, viewed Led Zeppelin as being pop.

Odd - I never thought of Led Zep as mere pop. They were completely their own animal to me; the slick arrangements and production simply worked as an asset rather than a black mark of being in bed with The Industry. Where I lived, Led Zep was firmly counterculture, just - oh, I don't know - high-end counterculture, I guess. :)

They were a British band, and, over here, they were very firmly associated with the establishment. They were very nearly ANTI-counter-culture. I mean, they got better, but hardly rebels. They were, in effect, a manufactured band. The good kids - white bread, house prefects - liked Led Zeppelin. Rebels went for Beefheart, Zappa, definitely Black Sabbath, definitely Colosseum, with maybe some Thin Lizzy for light relief.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 4:19 pm 
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benhall.1 wrote:
The good kids - white bread, house prefects - liked Led Zeppelin. Rebels went for Beefheart, Zappa, definitely Black Sabbath, definitely Colosseum, with maybe some Thin Lizzy for light relief.

I don't recall any such discernibly political (for lack of a better word) stratification on my side of The Pond; it was more about (sometimes-) shared aesthetic interests than social demarcation. Although I'm sure some of that went on - it always does, one way or the other - it didn't seem to be the main thing itself. For example, Captain Beefheart was more the domain of what we'd call geeks now (and anybody - rich or poor, high or low, conventional or rebel - can be a geek); that set would also include The Incredible String Band, Jethro Tull, Frank Zappa, and King Crimson. Everybody listened to Pink Floyd and Led Zep because they were sure to please, and not because a standard of "legitimacy" applied. That mode of critique may have existed in some circles, but if I saw any of it, it was more of an individual thing. That said, trashing the likes of the Cowsills, the Osmonds, and the Jackson Five was considered easy sport in my day. We thought of their work as "children's music". Although one might point it out as a negative argument, in the end it was less about being a groomed product of the Industry than it was about whether the music succeeded aesthetically, and how. If Led Zep were sizzling away in the juices of Belly of the Beast, their souls were their own concern.

I confess I don't remember even hearing of Colosseum until now. Black Sabbath and Thin Lizzy? Didn't relate to them, so I couldn't be bothered - and I certainly did my share of rebelling. Obviously it was on my terms.

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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 7:38 pm 
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"Mercury shifts his voice around according to the backing instrumentation."

It's simple intensity/dynamics (power/volume). I hear no tone matching or tone contrasting just for their own sake. By the way, how do you know it's not the guitar matching Mercury instead of t'other way 'round? :P

Even in Refugee, Petty does the same thing at the beginning of the first pre-chorus. https://youtu.be/fFnOfpIJL0M?t=33s He's picking up the intensity of the music in general, not simply tone-matching. Just like Bohemian Rhapsody. Just like countless other rock songs.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 13, 2017 8:01 pm 
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awildman wrote:
Just like countless other rock songs.


Exactly. Thus explaining the phenomenon Tunborough had observed, in which male voices singing rock seemed to him less pretty than some soprano voices doing likewise. It's not because all male rock singers suck, it's because of the need to blend with rock's signature instrument, the electric guitar. Sopranos can float above the fuzzier frequencies. Male voices have to match them.

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And now there was no doubt that the trees were really moving - moving in and out through one another as if in a complicated country dance. ('And I suppose,' thought Lucy, 'when trees dance, it must be a very, very country dance indeed.')

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