These are Katy Lied, Aja and Gaucho. Two (Katy Lied and Aja) are products of an American outfit dedicated to producing the best possible cuts from original master tapes, and the other (Gaucho) was produced by MCA and issued only in North America.
|Katy Lied||MFSL 1-007|
|Aja||MFSL 1-034 1980|
|Gaucho||MCA 6102 1980|
The MFSL issues also included an audiophile cassette release of Aja which claimed to be a direct copy made in real-time of the master tape on a high quality cassette. As far as I'm aware the cassette was only released in the USA. A highly desirable item for those of you with decent hi-fis, I'm sure you'll agree.
The half-speed mastering process involves slowing down to half-speed both the master tape and the cutting lathe. This simple expedient places less demand on the cutting electronics and the cutting head. When pressed on high quality vinyl originally developed for Quad, by JVC in Japan, the result is an improved bass response and better stereo imagery due to better high frequency response, in excess of that attainable by standard cutting techniques.
The mention of quadrophonic sound prompts me to mention that in the USA, two Steely Dan LPs were issued in that format:
|Can't Buy A Thrill||CQD 40009 1974|
|Pretzel Logic||CQD 40015 1975|
Whether anyone still has the equipment to play them or whether they have a different mix that is obviously different when played back in stereo, I don't know.
Lastly, an article in a hi-fi magazine in 1979 included an interview with Stan Ricker, the MFSL cutting engineer, which reveals the fact that during the recording of Katy Lied the multi-track recording was done by using the DBX noise reduction system instead of the more common Dolby A and it malfunctioned. The improved MFSL cut reveals this as an occasional rise and fall in the levels of various instruments in the mix and can be disconcerting when listening on headphones. Perhaps you don't want to hear of a rare imperfection from an otherwise almost perfect group, but it does put the technical gibberish on the back sleeve into perspective.
Now that Matthew has raised this subject, I think it might be fitting to include here some quotes from Gary Katz and Walter and Donald regarding their own feelings about the problems they encountered recording Katy Lied.
GK: There were some real problems with that record and, although there are some songs on there that to this day are still my favorites, it is my biggest disappointment of any of the albums -- in the sense of acceptance. We had some real problems in recording that album, and that eventually came out on lacquer for electronic reasons. So I don't listen to it any more, as a rule. The album was recorded and it was, in hi-fidelity terms, the best sounding thing we had done -- far and away -- and something had got messed up in the electronics before it was done and it didn't quite ever sound the same. For me personally, I thought the album would have been accepted on a much broader scale than it was, so that was somewhat of a disappointment, too.
Interviewer: Your picture was on it.
GK: That was the beginning of the disappointments, you see.
In an interview in the Melody Maker just after the release of Katy Lied, Donald Fagen virtually refused to discuss it, saying, "The recording and mixing didn't take that long. But there was a technical problem, which I don't want to get into. These are things the public doesn't want to know." He was, however, persuaded to elaborate just a little. "The problems are very complicated and boring. It took us a long time to figure out what it was and then undo it. Machines 10, Humans Nothing, as the engineer says."
Walter Becker said, "It sounds acceptable. I mean, I can't listen to it now, but like the rest of the albums, I'll get to it later."
In 1979 in an American radio station interview, they admitted having learned a very costly lesson from the disastrous experiment with the state-of-the-art equipment.
Donald Fagen: "We had a problem with Katy Lied from a technical standpoint. We went through a noise-reduction system which had just come out on the market and it ruined our record; it broke our record and as Walter says, the moral is..."
"I'll tell you, the moral of the story is: don't be so hasty to use the latest and the greatest piece of equipment."
Last modified on Mon Apr 15 16:01:48 1996