Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Q Continuum

While Christmas shopping yesterday, I ducked into my secret music store.  The store itself isn't a secret, but its selection of used vinyl is.  The quantity of records is nothing impressive and the quality of titles is hit and miss, but when you find something good, it's usually an original press in near-mint condition, at a rock bottom price.  Most of the LPs are cast-offs from the 70s, commericial(ish) titles popular with hip-hop producers and soul jazz enthusiasts.   Fortunately for me, those people are not this store's regular clientele.

Yesterday's haul included two McCoy Tyner dates on Milestone, a Don Sebesky album on CTI (that I'm second guessing), and Quincy Jones'You've Got it Bad Girl…in quadraphonic sound!

For the uninitiated, quadraphonic recording was an early attempt at surround sound.  Aimed mainly at audiophiles, it required listeners to purchase niche amplifiers capable of decoding the tracks into four separate channels – front left, front right, back left, back right.

I have only one other quadraphonic record, Miles Davis' Live/Evil, also bought at this same shop.  I have no trouble listening to it on my stereo system, but Quincy in quad ain't quite right.  The instrumentals are somewhat stripped and processed with reverb and delay.  The vocals are flanged and phased, the sibilants are sharp and elongated.   It's kinda dubby and sorta spacey - a poor man's Quincy Jones meets King Tubby

So what gives?  This unverified block quotation from Wikipedia may explain my quagmire:

"Audio on [quadraphonic] vinyl records was problematic because one of the systems was based on discrete sound channels (allowing for full separation of the four original recorded channels, albeit with restricted high-frequency response and reduced record life), while two others were matrix encoded into two tracks that would also play back in standard, two-channel, stereo on normal audio equipment (so-called 'compatible' quadraphonic)."

Apparently, You've Got it Bad Girl received the discrete treatment and I'm two channels short.  I've got it bad. Girl.  

We can probably take a stab at why -- like afro quaffs and quaaludes -- quadrasonic mixdowns never survive the Trudeau administration.  But for only seven dollars, I'll gladly take this silky, albeit off-kilter, compilation of soul covers, film scores and television jingles.  Not to mention, it came with a dreamy poster of Mr. Jones himself.

I don't have any recording or encoding equipment currently set up, so I can't post cuts from my quad copy.  Which more or less defeats the purpose of devoting an entire post to it.  But You've Got it Bad Girl is a solid album in any format, so I offer to you instead these "notiophile" rips from Youtube.

The first few bars are the loop to Pharcyde's "Passing Me By."


  1. Nice find. I still have a few quadraphonic records but the equipment I had to play them is long gone.

    Rhino Records has released Are you aware of the two DVD-audio recordings of original quadraphonic pressings. One is Chicago's first album and the other is an Aretha Franklin album.

  2. Very cool. Are they DVD-audio or SuperAudioCD?