Masters and Sound Quality

Lost and Not Found – Motown remains 'The Holy Grail'

It all goes back to 2011 and Bill Hollands article titled - 'Labels Strive to Rectify Past Archival Problems' in which he highlighted the problems of the Motown Archive in New York State.......but also to the shock of us finding 3 songs from a cassette tape of Bob Crewe acetates that showed that the Tape Index sent to us by an ex-Motown employee was totally correct......the tracks existed and were not all 'out of key demos' as Peter Bennett, the FSP lawyer had told us in 2008. As the Artists Card shows there are 43 SMX[Stereo Mixes.....all saved to safety T Tapes] of the Four Seasons biggest hit at the label and one of their most loved UK Hits, 'The Night'. They have certainly not been 'pulled' and supplied to Bob Gaudio as the Motown Librarian Andy Skurow hasn't found this Artists Card in Motown's Microfiche Library.

The Night Studio Record Artists Card

Legendary Motown Sound Engineer Russ Terrana mixed the first 14 STEREO Mixes on 1st February 1972 and the last of those mixes was probably the one selected for the 'Chameleon' album. But as the need for a single release increased after the album release in May 1972, it was mixed 7 more times on 6th June. Motown hesitated over a single release but did Mixes 22 to 34 on 8th July and again Mixes 35 to 39 on 13th and a demo/acetate was done. But MoWest chose 'Walk On, Don't Look Back' for US release and pushed the track to a UK release in October 1972. This would ultimately lead to it becoming a hit. Only 'we', can reveal this story from the above Artists Card. It's success was made as an essential playlist track at the Northern Soul Club, Wigan Casino [a former theatre] in 1974 which led to it's re-release in March 1975 and a Nr 7 UK Hit.

Motown asked Russ Terrana to revisit the Master Sessions and he found an Alternate Take featuring Frankie Valli's intro[instead of the Four Seasons] for Mixes 40 to 43 in August 1975 for their 'Inside You' album after the group had left the label. These various unreleased mixes although of interest to fans have not been recovered from Motown's vaults as I write this. Maybe it is deemed 'not worth the cost or trouble'. Just another track with alternative Masters we would like to hear.

Bill Holland captured the problem of Motown and other 'majors' back in 2011 when he said.......

“The Motown vault, now owned by Universal, is estimated to be about 30,000 tapes, and is "typical of a smaller company of that era," said one veteran whose first-hand observations were corroborated by other sources. A peek at the Motown vault serves also as a description of the holdings of other once- small labels that came to prominence in the '60s.

The good news in the case of Motown is that they have most of the masters and most of the multitrack reels, but engineers and producers taped over a lot of sessions. Tape was expensive. They'd get a master and then use the rest of the reel for the next session. So there aren't many alternate takes. There never were.”

That however isn't the case with the FV/4S tracks listed as 'unreleased' except perhaps for the ones with the same songs recorded by Michael and Jermaine Jackson or The Jackson Five. Many session mix downs from the Valli/Seasons sessions were copied to safety 'T' Tapes as was normal at the West Coast Detroit these were DM tapes. Bill Holland again.......

"Also, there are safeties or copies of probably everything on so-called DM (lesser quality, backup) reels. They'd copy these copies off when they sent the production masters to the pressing plant. Some are on standard 1/4" tape, but 300 or so mono tracks are stripped onto three-track reels, like 36 songs, 12 squeezed on one track, end to end.

"Some of the mixed masters are missing or hard to find--I wouldn't say gone," said another source. "A lot of them have been recovered over the years, those left stored at outside mastering labs. Most acetates and metal parts (not as necessary in a tape-era vault) are long gone, though.”

“Other masters are just worn from use, so to get the best sound, you have to remix," said a source. "And the problem of remixing from the multitracks is that it's very hard to duplicate the 'Motown mix' sound-- they had their own custom EQ boards, custom reverb.

"If you look hard enough, though, you can find a substitute (of the era). Take Stevie Wonder's 'Fingertips': there might be like 20 mixes, done at five sessions, all stored in different places. They'd do a song until they got it right. The problem is finding the right version."

All the sources said that the Motown vault has many unreleased masters of both well-known and lesser- known artists, and many reels of live shows. "They used to bring a three track machine down to the Twenty Grand Club in Detroit to record on weekends for years."

Overall, the various sources said, the Motown vault is in good shape. "But trying to find the definitive master can be a problem," said a source. "Remember, the label has gone through four owners, three cities, and seven addresses, if you include Detroit."

"Other indies, especially smaller companies, had the same 'tape-over-it' policy to keep costs down," said another source. "But even RCA, Capitol, ABC, Mercury-Smash,[Vee-Jay] and Philips-Mercury had policies in place throughout the '60s and '70s of reusing, scrapping or not storing multitrack session tapes, and just keeping mixed masters.” This has been the policy for the FSP storage for all of the analogue history of recordings by 'The Four Seasons' and 'Frankie Valli' as our tape Research revealed with just Safety Copies from the Studios.

Stuff is just missing and no-one knows where it may be..but we found what we could with Bill Inglot. It is a common problem with many artists.

”Sony can't find some Bang label multitrack masters. On the other hand, somebody opened a mystery box at BMG the other day and found some unreleased 'Hot Tuna'. It happens all the time in the industry." ...said a Bill Hollands source.

There is no evidence the FV/4Seasons recordings as dentified as existing in the Tape Index were taped over but the tapes need research to find their efforts with the various producers. Also tracks not known to be completed [but were listed] have been found with producer Michael Masser. I did not get to share the extensive data I had found on Artists Cards with Andy Skurow when he ordered the tapes down for review from Iron Mountain based on the Motown Tape Index. Just some confirmation from his partial scan of tape box data of what should have been there from the index and a few surprise tracks with vocals like 'Chained' and 'Starvin For Your Love' being found[but not approved for release]. The fact is they all needed 'listening tests' …......but clearly Bob Gaudio did some as we got 13 approved although not the 30 plus we expected to be found. Such is life as a music detective!! Bob Gaudio did not share the findings of his review of the Master Tapes nor do we know if he received all we had listed.

We were however given full access to the tapes Bill Inglot was rummagind through and those he digitized for us...well almost!!!...we did not get any of the 16 track tapes that he found for listening....but in a last push he found the best of the pre-Motown 'unreleased' and sent them.

Also when searching the FSP Storage Tape Box Scans we found a 5 “reel Master can with five 'unreleased titles'.......but when we played the tape it unfortunately turned out to be a 'distorted' two track MONO version of the Studio Masters recordings of 'Timeless' with one track still intact we recovered the recordings for inclusion as the only surviving 'Timeless' MONO 'LIVE' recordings....recorded before the final mix 'takes' used in past releases.

Of the original tape of 5 lost 'unreleased' tracks ????......maybe in another box or possibly 'stolen'!!!!!...and when did this loss occur....maybe back in the 1960s!!!!......we never got to search anymore. The budget for transfers 'ran out'....and there are 200+ unmarked tapes still there 'unresearched'.

So you have to find and play the tapes......Bob Gaudio said that he couldn't remember [the titles at Motown] we advised him of and he would 'go through them with Frankie at the weekend' …....Frankie of course has a great he was on all of the tracks with several different producers......some Stereo and Mono mix-down test versions made it to 'Evaluation Tapes' in 1973 and got copied to the FSP storage and we found them and they will no doubt appear in due course as alternate takes as they have slightly different orchestra and vocal...[hopefully in the Snapper Music Box Set as we asked]...but all are complete session master mixes. We even know of two whole albums mixed and assembled for release and abandoned at Motown. We know the Production Tape numbers .....Do Bob or Frankie know this ? The tapes just needed finding and none have surfaced yet.....but 'listening tests' are needed for all of the identified tapes and should be shared with the 'curation' team. We know the Tape Numbers......are they still there?

We have found 90% of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons Catalogue.......but not all......and not the alternate takes and mixes..and 13 of a potential 30 unheard songs at Motown. As another collector said of the problems with finding masters: "I've found tapes in every imaginable place, not just vaults. In basements, even unheated garages. Unmarked boxes, no track sheets, the works.” There is more to be found.

Bill Holland again as he interviewed researchers......"We found the tapes for Leiber and Stoller's indie labels, Daisy, Red Bird, Tiger, Blue Cat masters, in the old Brill Building. In an unoccupied room on top of a file cabinet by an open window. Exposed to New York summers and winters since probably 1963. They were like linguini in the boxes. Believe it or not, once we re-wound them and worked on them, the tapes played fine."

The reason to act is because as Bill Holland put it.....”Most of the 65 experts interviewed for this article expressed concern about the future of archiving recorded sound. First, they were concerned that with the CD reissue boom of the late '80s and early '90s apparently leveling off, [and now receding by the 2020's as streaming and downloads grow in dominance].......funding for archiving and preservation efforts at some companies are already becoming a lesser priority.[this is now known to be the defacto situation post pandemic] And they are also worried about reliable preservation in a digital universe.”

And as was stated by 'Second Disc'....”With the end of every year comes 50th anniversary batches of classic past outtakes and ephemera surreptitiously dumped onto digital music services - all to preserve the copyright to prevent the 50 year European gray-market from taking advantage of lapsed copyrights.” Pink Floyd/The Beatles and The Beach Boys are all taking care to protect recordings with digital downloads as are many other artists from the 1970s. We have supplied many unreleased and salvaged LIVE tracks for the FSP now, in the Snapper Music Box Set from decades of collecting......and at Motown tracks like the unheard and unreleased 'Chained' and 'Save The Children' by Frankie Valli will have dropped out of copyright and more will as the year ends......but there is no movement from Universal or the FSP re more Motown so the question arises......who owns these 1971 to 73 'Unreleased' Motown vaulted tracks? The rest drop out of copyright for Universal as the original owners at the end of 2023.

We are still on course for the FSP and Snapper Music to deliver the NEW SET of the 'Whole Catalogue Masters' in April/May and for this eventually to be available also in the strengthening digital streaming/download age in time. And we look for more to be added as the 'Out-Take' CD' [Disc 46] of tracks salvaged that did not make it into the Box Set. We still have many tracks and by investing in SSD.......[Solid State Disc Storage for digital masters] ….....THE NEW LIBRARY of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons will be created from 2023 onwards by us[in the best sound quality avaialble] as we have collected since 1988 from our CD discography....

We are lucky to have had the opportunity to help salvage this music since 2018 for all of the is a set curated by the fans and for the fans. We also already have THE MONO 45 Archive from 1961 to 1970 and have now recovered more MONO 1970 mixes........More Motown unreleased?????? Only Bob Gaudio can say YES!.....will he and Frankie invest in recovering the art for art's sake? The future beckons.......

Casey Chameleon

PS.....Our research enabled me to create a re-mix of an underdub recording of 'The Night' from the many mixes done. It captures more of the instrumentation and minus the 'dreaded' tambourine in the official mix. An interesting 'mix'.

Happy New Year everyone.



















































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