Friday, June 2, 2017

Yes 1976-06-18 Boston Garden Boston, MA

YES - Boston, MA, USA. 18 June 1976 ["B76", a.k.a. "Boston Steam Bath"]

Format: Audience recording ["AR"]

Venue: Boston Garden [capacity +/- 15,000]

Source: Original taper sadly unknown, but clearly professional. There may be one tape generation and the original CD transfer between them and my very trusted, highly professional source. Whatever the unknowns, let us all thank this individual feverishly for his generosity in sharing a real candidate for 'holy grail of Yesdom' status

Lineage: Original master tapes of the highest caliber for 1976 > possibly a very high quality first generation tape copy > CDR [transfer equipment and protocol unknown but obviously professional] > EAC > CEP 2.0 > Ray Gun 3.0 > FLAC Frontend > Bit Torrent to Dime

Lineup: Vocals - Jon Anderson, Keyboards - Patrick Moraz, Guitars - Steve Howe, Bass Guitars - Chris Squire, Percussion - Alan White

Setlist Vol. 1: 01Siberian Khatru, 02Sound Chaser, 03All Good People, 04The Gates of Delirium, 05Long Distance Runaround, 06Patrick Moraz Solo, 07Steve Howe Solo, 08Jon Anderson Solo [harp, accompanied], Heart of the Sunrise

Setlist Vol. 2: 01Ritual-First Movement, 02Ritual-Second Movement* [includes Chris Squire and Alan White Solos], 03Roundabout, 04I'm Down [Beatles cover]
*Suffers the entire AR's only break - roughly 15 seconds and likely due to a cassette change by taper.

Recording Strengths:

1976 was a very strange year for ARs, or Yes ARs at least. Before this one I'd analyzed more than 2 dozen and the best of them only offered an upper strata of "collectors only" sound quality. The numbers began to improve dramatically in 1977 and beyond, but even more strangely I hadn't run across a single 1976 Yes AR of same quality as some going back to 1972. When one saintly soul sent me his unedited master copy of the enclosed Boston concert I had higher hopes for it as he'd already shared the absolute best 1970s Yes ARs I ever dreamed could exist. Despite tape age and a possible 1st generation, when I first played it I was floored. Here was a [thankfully unedited] original 1976 Yes AR sound capture completely and utterly superior to any I'd heard before. It had unbelievable detail across the entire aural spectrum, even though it obviously would require extensive work to reveal completely in most samplings of playback systems. Yes 18 June 1976 appears often in trader networks and in them may or may not be the same source, but their ratings are rarely high. Now thanks to Dime you can get what I'm prepared to bet one of the best if not THE best 1976 Yes ARs from the comfort of your own keyboard, bypassing completely the often fickle, frustrating world of traders and snailmail

Nearly a year later it would take as much disc space as the concert itself to detail what the clearly superior source still needed to sound its best. One thing I've learned about remastering older analog ARs - the best ones are much harder to get right because they already have so much detail so vulnerable to screwing up yet usually requiring some degree of liberation from their often deteriorating tape trappings. A 'brief' description of goals and results should suffice. Another difference in my approach is hard copy "Beta" testing among a select and trusted group prior to general distribution.

High frequencies in all their many layers were already in the raw master, but needed extensive 'polishing' to sound more completely as the audience heard them. My approach to EQ work involves many hours of very small, compounded passes of settings designed to avoid distortion and any change in the frequencies' natural sound or balance. A cymbal, guitar, voice or a Moog tone should sound like one, not like something else. This is especially true in Yes' case, whose concert sound was as detailed as their studio sound. All too often such things become nearly unrecognizable in remastered ARs no matter what their source quality. In B76 we can distinguish each sound from every other, and it even comes closer than most 1970s Yes ARs to delivering undistorted detail from things like crash cymbals we most often hear in ARs made after 1990."Thicker" crash cymbal sounds are actually very distinguishable in this AR now, and they keep ringing just as they would right in front of us. Other high frequency sounds enjoy similar detail.

Tape hiss - the strongest evidence for a first generation source - did become quite fierce after high frequency work completed. In fact, together with a miscalculation in the EQ work itself hiss actually forced a scratch restart of the whole project at one point [it was really worth it:]. Even in the complete new remaster hiss volume exceeded that of the very highs so painstakingly revealed. Thankfully it was possible to reduce hiss to tolerable levels using some experimental noise reduction settings without ANY perceptible damage to signal and without ANY perceptible digital artifact insertion where signal occurs. In the isolated samples used for nr profiling hiss was largely replaced by artifact, but it has not been detected anywhere in the desired recording. To achieve this kind of side effect-free noise reduction work the settings had to be extremely subtle, thus more than 500 passes of them were ultimately needed.  

Midrange and bass frequencies. All had to be treated equally with highs to avoid a 'mixed' AR and preserve its original sound spectrum balance. Bass guitars and various low end percussion like kick drums and toms should be nearly as thunderous and three dimensional to the downloader as they were to the 1976 Boston audience, without peaking or overwhelming any other part of the spectrum. Midrange sounds like electric piano and Steve Howe's hollow-bodied Gibson guitars can be among the most difficult to reveal of any part of an AR's spectrum, but here we can detect every layer of the guitars' 'voices' down to the subtlest properties of their wood. Even audience noise/chatter is rendered so realistic we could almost fool ourselves into thinking we're there, and the audience' enthusiasm for what they were seeing and hearing becomes all the more infectuous. One member of the 'Beta' test group even thought applause was digital clipping at first hearing.

The whole purpose of having ARs lies in their far more realistic capture of what audiences heard and felt than soundboard-sourced official releases or even unedited soundboard boots possibly can. Even bottom shelf ARs do this to some degree. In B76 you have one straight from the top shelf and a remaster strictly adhering to a philosophy of 'excavation' and preservation of its original sound capture, not mixing. I'm hopeful the result speaks for itself in your playback systems - it should come as close to transporting the listener back in time and space right to the middle of Yes' 1976 Boston audience as anything could short of a real time machine. As much as anything we have Yes themselves to thank for their concert sound system standards. In the '70s they were truly state of the art, and their quality has not been surpassed to this very 21st century day. This AR and its remaster should deliver very realistic Yes concert sound  at any volume in most playback systems.

Yes' performance - top notch as ever. All the more impressive given the conditions they had to perform in that night, detailed by one attendee's testimony below. Boston's New England climate is similar to that of Europe, but it can still get plenty hot there in summer. Hot it was on 18 June 1976, and the venue's ventilation system I'm told had broken down. Yes nonetheless soldiered through it thanks to their consummate professionalism and technical skill level so rare among 'rock' bands. It wasn't just skill though - I'm a serious Yes freak due to their imagination and creative energy as much as anything. Both attributes were at the fore in Boston that night. It may not have been their best night of the tour and Moraz' playing at least does seem to have a certain 'rawness'about it no doubt due to the uncomfortable venue conditions, but it was certainly a Yes performance to remember.

Weirdnesses:

Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 had and still have some very interesting sound property differences. Vol. 1 had more bass but less high end going in. Vol. 2 at the start had poorer low frequency distribution but much brighter highs. Part of the year spent remastering went to matching the two for more continuity, again with a mind to not altering the overall spectrum balance of either. They're close enough together now, but Vol. 2 still has slightly brighter high end and Vol. 1 slightly punchier bass. Working hypotheses - A] one is original master transfer and the other first generation, B] They're different ARs altogether with different tapers, c] single taper may have moved from his original position relative to stage. If and as I learn more I'll share it with interested Dime membership.

Weaknesses:

ARs all have them, and despite its overall superior nature so does B76. Some are irreversible. Among them in B76' case counts a certain degree of high frequency oscillation. One of the last year's remastering challenges has been getting the most out of what was good without making oscillation worse. It's most audible in very high frequency sounds like percussive metals, and slightly more noticeable in Vol. 1. Hypotheses: tape wear/ageing in masters, single generation master tapes and/or ageing/wearing in them, or [least likely] the original sound capture. Other weaknesses include some dropout but it's miraculously infrequent for such an old AR. In Vol. 2 certain midrange percussion may not be quite as defined as in Vol. 1 due to the as-yet unidentified differences in source files.

Tape hiss remains noticeable despite hard nr work. Its volume is now well below that of highs it had been obscuring at one time, but it's still there. A few final attempts to get more of it out without damaging desired sound were unsuccessful - they both attacked signal and inserted artifact over signal. Hopefully some new technology I don't have yet will effect further success later on. If it does I'll be reuploading it forthwith. For now I had to go with the option of giving everyone an undiluted sound capture, and remaining hiss seems quite tolerable. Vol. 2 has slightly stronger hiss - there were no isolated hiss samples long enough in it to dehiss its material as effectively.

Hum appeared in Vol. 2 after low frequencies treated to match venue levels and Vol. 1's better original low frequency capture. I was able to get rid of most of it using a setting in Ray Gun Pro 3.0, but a trace remains. It's only noticeable in a few short, quiet passages thankfully.

Miscellaneous sound quality issues include a bit of sibilance in Vol. 1 at high playback volume

This AR now so closely resembles the real thing there could be some problems in some playback systems. My own office desktop setup among them, but it's basically crap so I don't count it. One very high end  factory automobile system among the "Beta" test group apparently rendered high frequencies overwhelming and one last low frequency EQ pass was created to mitigate it. If anyone else has this experience please alert me at once. A second upload treated with Ozone is planned in case it presents a problem anywhere.

Fireworks obnoxiousness from audience. One attendee from what I can determine, but he's enough. I didn't excise these moments because they're part of the historic event. Nonetheless the s.o.b. was in front row and throwing his live M80s and other ordinance on stage near the band's mikes so PA would pick them up. Even at low playback volume it could force a change of shorts. My apologies for not deleting these moments, but as part of the history and after some debate I decided to leave them in place. It was a rarity at Yes concerts, so in a sense actually fascinating. It's also important to note Yes themselves never sunk to pyrotechnic depths like like so many schlock rock acts then and now.

So there you have it, dear fellow Dimers. I think this upload will really make quite a few days, despite its inevitable shortcomings.They in turn are miraculously few given the format and forum.

If anyone has unedited equitable or superior 1976 Yes ARs, please upload them to Dime at once. History will thank you!

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM MY SOURCE, who also provided the enclosed photo files.
Most importantly let us all thank him for making this whole thing possible:

"This concert took place the night after the famous FM broadcast from Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City. Like the weather in Boston, the performance was hot, sweaty, and intense.

Having been built in 1928, the old Boston Garden had no air conditioning. The ventilation was poor at the best of times and apparently had completely broken down that night. The air was steamy and thick with smoke.

The uncomfortable conditions, however, provided an unexpected benefit. The band changed costumes several times, allowing the audience to several concerts worth of their touring wardrobe.

Loud explosions (probably M-80s) interrupted the show at several points. This was a fairly common occurrence at Boston concerts at that time. Security must have been quite lax. Unlike Frank Zappa, who threatened to end his show after the next explosion, Yes simply took it in stride.

The photos included in this torrent were my first attempt at hand-holding a 300mm telephoto lens from the audience. Although only a few images are worth sharing, they capture a little of what the Crab Nebula stage was like."



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