Welcome to the first Audio Masterclass Production Review, the first of many hopefully. The Audio Masterclass Production Review will concentrate on the very fine details of recording and production technique – the kinds of things that you might often miss on first hearing, but lend insight into the recording and production process.
Today's review is of Whole Lotta Love from the album Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin – a classic track of unimpeachable quality and excellence.
Here's how it starts, just in case you don't remember it by the title…
You know it now, don't you!
The section I am interested in however comes later in the song. Here it is…
This is interesting because of the echoes on the vocal. Actually, they are not echoes because each 'echo' comes before the vocal line that caused it .
It's a kind of pre-echo. Can we call it a 'precho' perhaps?
This could of course be intentional. In the days before plug-ins and digital delay it was common to use a spare tape recorder to create single or repeated echoes (repeated echoes were sometimes known as 'spin echo').
The echoes could be made to come earlier by taking the multitrack tape off the machine and mounting it upside down so that it plays backwards. All standard stuff for the time.
But you would have thought that if it was intentional, the echoes would be a little louder, so that they were obvious even on a casual listening.
But they might not have been intentional at all…
Analog tape suffers from a phenomenon called 'print through'. The magnetism on one layer of tape on the spool leaks through to adjacent layers, before and after. If the tape is stored head-out, meaning that it is ready to play, then the pre-echo will be louder than the post echo. This is because the magnetism prints onto the surface of the magnetic layer rather than the back, as it would if it were stored tail-out..
So this could be print through.
But hang on, listen again. The echo is different on the left and right channels. Surely then this could only have been done intentionally. Or perhaps it's drummer John Bonham's ghost trying to send us a message.
One more thing…
I didn't play the whole of the intro. It actually starts like this…
Do you hear that breath right at the start?
I would have cut that off. And everyone involved in the production process from recording to mastering to vinyl and CD manufacturing would do that automatically too.
So someone decided to leave it in, and probably wrote a note on the tape box to make sure it didn't disappear.
It's a nice little, almost random, touch that makes the recording more alive.
In the spirit of a review, may I encourage you to go out any buy the album Led Zeppelin II by Led Zeppelin
Do you like the Audio Masterclass Production Review? Shall we have more?