Dismuke's Hit Of The Week
Previous Selections
February 2002

February 28, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by

(From 1922 ad)


A fitting title to this week's update might be "Dismuke's adventures with his new audio restoration software."

A couple of weeks ago, I purchased an audio restoration program called DCart .  The software was developed for the purpose of restoring old 78 rpm records and evolved out of a project involving the restoration of one of a kind unissed recordings made by  Thomas Edison's record company in the late 1920s.  The software arrived last Friday and I have been happily playing around with it ever since.  This is something that I had been meaning to do for a while  but kept putting off until I purchased a faster computer and felt that I had some time to practice and become proficient. 

I thought people might find it interesting to hear how some of my initial attempts have worked out.  Please keep in mind that I am still very much a novice at this so what you hear will be far less than perfect.  But what I think will be very obvious to everyone is just how powerful and remarkable the software can be in bringing new life to old recordings.

One thing you will need to keep in mind when you listen to the demonstrations is that there is a certain alteration of sound quality when the music is transcribed to Real Audio format.   One of the things that has helped me over the years with this website is the fact that converting a file to Real Audio for low bandwidth users actually helps reduce some of the noise.   The  "before" recordings, in reality, sound much much worse when played in the .wav format used for the audio restoration process than what you will hear on the Real Audio files.  At the same time, on a couple of my "after" recordings, I noticed a deterioration of quality after they were  transcribed to Real Audio.


The first recording is one that I picked up a few months ago in a used bookstore.  It is a rather charming song that describes the widespread popularity of ragtime in the 1910s.  I had originally promised to play this recording last week but decided to put it off until after the software arrived.

When you listen to the recordings, observe how the surface noise that you hear on the "before" version is completely absent from the "after" version.  As I mentioned above, the difference is much more noticeable when one hears the original .wav files because some of the noise in the "before" version is filtered away by Real Audio.  Also note that the music in the "after" version sounds brighter.  This is because the software has removed the equalization that is imposed on vintage recordings whenever they are played on post-1950s playback equipment. 

You Can't Get Away From It
Bert Williams, vocal                             1914
(Columbia  A1504 mx 39204)




The next recording is of a record that I am fond of and would have put on the site a long time ago were it not in such horrible condition.  Its grooves have been damaged by previous owners who were too cheap (or perhaps, during the Depression, too poor) to change the steel needles on their wind-up phonographs after every playing.  The record's surface is also covered with scuffs and scratches. 

When I play the record on my turntable, the pops and surface noise almost overwhelms the music.  Again, keep in mind when you listen to the "before" version that Real Audio has somewhat minimized the noise. Also observe in the "before" version  that the music sounds muffled.  This is because of the difference between the equalization settings that were used when the recording was made and the default settings of modern playback equipment. 

While the record is in mono, I recorded it to my hard drive in stereo which resulted in  the music from each side of the groove wall being captured separately.   Because the recording is in mono, the sound from each channel should theoretically be identical.  But sometimes the heavy tone arms on the old wind up phonographs would wear one side of the groove wall worse than the other. One of the things I noticed after I finished restoring the recording was that there were fewer pops and less surface noise remaining in the right channel than in the left channel. Therefore, when I made my final save to the file, I kept only the sound from the right channel.  If I were to do it over again, I probably would have done this at the start of the restoration process and not at the end..

Observe how much clearer and cleaner the "after" version sounds despite my less than perfect skills with the software.  The difference is amazing. 

Restoring a record in such bad condition is something that most people would resort to only in those cases when it is impossible to obtain a copy in better condition.

"Park Lane Orchestra," by the way, was a recording pseudonym used by the Harry Reser band. 

You Can't Cry Over My Shoulder
Park Lane Orchestra                               1927
(Brunswick 3513-B)




This record did not have a lot of surface noise - and in the "before" version, much of what was there has been reduced by Real Audio.  But notice how much clearer the "after" version sounds due to the correct equalization settings being restored.

Let's Fall In Love
Eddie Duchin and his Orchestra
Lew Sherwood, vocal                             1934
(Victor 24510-A)




One of the frustrations I have always had with playing 78 rpm records of quiet vocal recordings is that surface noise often overwhelms the music even on records in great condition.   Most jazz and dance band recordings do not have that problem because the music is louder than the surface noise.   I have a great many records by 1920s vocal artists such as "Whispering" Jack Smith and Gene Austin that I rarely listen to because of such surface noise.

One of the challenges with noise reduction is that, if it is done too heavily, it can make a recording sound very unnatural.  That was the problem that I had when I worked on this recording.  I managed to take the surface noise out - but the results sounded very weird.  What I finally ended up doing was making a compromise by bringing some of the noise back in exchange for a more realistic recording.  I am sure that it is possible to remove all of the noise without distorting the music - but I am nowhere near capable of it at this point.

When I played back the restored .wav file, I was more or less satisfied with my results.  While some of the noise still remained, the recording  nevertheless sounded much quieter and clearer.  Unfortunately, when converted to Real Audio, it sounds horrible. When you listen to the "after" file, you will notice that the remaining surface noise now has a metallic quality to it.  Also, the music itself is a bit distorted and has a somewhat "electronic" sound.  I am not sure why things deteriorated so much during the conversion.  Since this website uses the Real Audio format, let's hope that this does not happen too often.

So Tired
Gene Austin, vocal                             1928
(Victor 21329-B mx 43507)



Oh, yes - when you have finished listening to the recordings, be sure to click here!

February 21, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Dismuke's Pronto-Lax.
(From circa 1920s promotional card)


Gotta Feelin' For You      
The High Hatters
Frank Luther, vocal                              1929
(Victor 22041-B)

Unfortunately, the Bert Williams recording promised for this week's update will have to be delayed for reasons which I will explain when I finally feature it.

"The High Hatters" was a recording  pseudonym used by a Victor Records in-house band under the direction of Leonard Joy. 

February 14, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Las Angeles Limited ad

...provides the very finest of travel comfort, meals that appeal and service that satisfies.  Air-conditioned dining cars.  Bath, barber, maid, manicure and valet service.  Excellent service to and from California also on the San Francisco Overland Limited and other fine Union Pacific trains
(From 1932 ad)


St Louis Blues          
Bing Crosby, vocal
Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra     1932
(Brunswick  20105 mx BX-11263)

I think Bing Crosby was one of the best vocalists of the 20th century.  And while his name is known to modern audiences,  he is often not given the credit I think he deserves as a great jazz singer.  Go to any music store and you will see boxes and boxes of Frank Sinatra recordings.  Obviously they are there because their is a market for them.   On the other hand, you might be lucky to find a half dozen or so dozen Bing Crosby CDs, many of them featuring only the more hokey recordings he made late in his career.  Part of the blame probably goes to Crosby himself in that he did not seem to be especially selective about the songs he recorded in the years following World War II. 

Of course, it is a matter of personal taste,  but I think Crosby - especially during the peak of his vocal career in the 1930s - was a much more talented and expressive vocalist than Sinatra ever was. To me, Sinatra too often lacked melody and sounded like he was singing in a monotone.

This recording is also significant from a historical perspective in that it features a major white American pop star appearing with an all-black band.  In 1932, that was anything but ordinary. 

This recording is a bit longer than most selections presented here because it is from a 12 inch disc.  Most popular recordings of the time were on 10 inch 78 rpm records.

February 7, 2002

This week's Hit of the Week is brought to you by
Texaco - Tune In On Ed Winn, Tuesday Nights on NBC

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Victor Cuban Orchestra
Álvarez and Rodriguez, vocal            circa 1934
(Victor V-102-A)

Even though I do not understand Spanish, I enjoy 1930s music from Latin America - especially rumbas.   Unfortunately, I do not have any specific information about the Victor Cuban Orchestra.  It is possible that it was one of Victor's in house groups composed of studio musicians.  It is also possible that the recording was made in Cuba and released in the USA under the pseudonym.  If anyone has any information about the group, please email it to me and I will post it in next week's update.


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