Simon Gibson Masters Blossom Dearie's 'Discover Who I Am (The Fontana Years London 1966-70)'

Simon Gibson Masters Blossom Dearie's 'Discover Who I Am (The Fontana Years London 1966-70)'

30th June 2023

Abbey Road engineer, Simon Gibson, explains the remastering process of the recordings from revered vocalist, pianist and performer Blossom Dearie’s Fontana Records era.

The opportunity to work on remastering an artist’s back catalogue of albums and unreleased material doesn’t come around too often so I have been delighted to work on this box set of the recordings of Blossom Dearie.

The first step for me was to go through the collection of analogue tapes sent over from the archive in the USA and transfer them all so their contents could be assessed, and any tracks chosen for inclusion in the set.
There were 25 small reels in all, all of them playing back at 7 ½ inches per second. The box label information was minimal or non-existent and the majority of the tapes were in mono. Perhaps, surprisingly, the actual quality of the recordings was pretty good and the tapes all played without any major problems.

The most important thing in transferring these tapes was to get the best possible audio quality and that starts with getting the tape machine playback head, or azimuth, aligned properly.

I adjusted this tape by tape to get the best sound. Once transferred to digital format, I could then make further decisions on any noise reduction required (for excessive tape noise etc) and adjust the overall level and sound to give some sort of consistency to the tracks.
Turning to the published albums, my sources were mostly 2-track ¼ inch analogue master tapes, together with one 4-track ½ inch tape for Soon It’s Gonna Rain. For this last tape, I had a stereo LP as my reference and was able to create a new stereo mix from the 4-track tape, having first transferred it to digital.

Every song was mastered and any intrusive noises or electrical clicks removed. Within each album the aim is always to get a consistent sound across all the songs, where possible. This might involve some level adjustments both within tracks and from song to song then more subtle equalisation to smooth out any harsh frequencies in the recordings.

This has been such an enjoyable project to work on. Blossom Dearie’s animated performances, heard particularly well in the live recordings, draw the listener into her sound world and the obvious camaraderie between her and the band shines through in every song.

I hope you enjoy these albums as much as I have enjoyed remastering them.

Written by Simon Gibson

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