[Dixielandjazz] Bessie Smith and "distortion"

Anton Crouch anton.crouch at optusnet.com.au
Sun Jan 9 22:30:18 PST 2005

Hello all

Distortion - dismortion. It can occur anywhere in the chain from microphone
to pressing. In the case of Bessie's first electrical sessions for Columbia
(5 and 6 May 1925) the only thing we can be sure of is that there was a

On 5 May, the 2 matrixes before Bessie are by Maggie Jones (also with the
Henderson Hot Six) and the same problem can be heard - the band sounds OK
but the voice has a fuzzy sound to it, with the occasional "gurgle" (as
Mike put it). As with Bessie, Jones sounds too close to the mike.

Bessie's first take of Yellow Dog the next day (6 May) is even worse than
the previous day's efforts but things suddenly improve with the second
take. I'd take a punt on the problem being in the cutting head settings. 

Almost certainly, all this would  have gone un-noticed by the millions of
people who heard these records in the 1920s. We live in a golden age of
sound quality.

All the best

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