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crapfromthepast
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Posted: 22 September 2020 at 8:31pm | IP Logged Quote crapfromthepast

I love this song. The chord progression is unexpected at every turn, the lyrics punch you in the gut with their simplicity and sincerity, there's a simple series of repeating notes that evokes morse code, there's no chorus, and there's a longing bass solo instead of a third verse. Most importantly, the song still brings a tear to your eye every single time it's played, since its release in 1968. I'd argue that "Wichita Lineman" may be pop's greatest three minutes, ever.

The 45 is mono. (Confirmed on YouTube.) I think the 45 is a fold-down of the stereo mix, but I can't confirm. The mono version doesn't appear on CD, as far as I know.

The LP is stereo, and a very wide stereo at that. (Confirmed on YouTube.) The drums are entirely in the right channel.

The first appearance of the song on CD is likely Capitol's The Very Best Of Glen Campbell (1987). This disc has all six of his top 15 pop hits, and 15 tracks total. Discogs lists this disc as being part of Capitol's informal "CD Xtra Trax Pax" series, noted by a small rectangular logo on the back. The series includes about 30 discs, all released in the 1987-88 time frame, and includes some very well-assembled best-ofs from Helen Reddy, Dr. Hook, Anne Murray, and Missing Persons.

The song on Very Best Of has excellent dynamic range, nice EQ, nice long tails on the fade, and no evidence of noise reduction at all. Unfortunately, this disc narrows the soundstage so that the stereo isn't as extreme. Some drums appear in the left channel, for example. I don't know if there was a '70s-era vinyl Glen Campbell collection that featured a narrowed soundstage, or if the narrowing occurred when mastering Very Best Of. I didn't compare any other tracks on Very Best Of to see if they were narrowed as well.

The same analog transfer as The Very Best Of Glen Campbell is used on:
  • Time-Life's Superhits Vol. 2 1968 (1990) - left/right channels are swapped and tail of fade is shortened by 5 seconds; avoid
  • Time-Life's AM Gold Vol. 4 1968 (1990) - this disc is identical to Superhits Vol. 2 1968 with different packaging
  • Cema Special Markets' Rock-N-Roll Greatest Hits Vol. 3 Late 60's (1995) - adds noise reduction; avoid (I've found added noise reduction on several Cema Special Markets releases; I'm not a fan)
  • Madacy's Rock On 1969 (2004) - mastering based on Superhits/AM Gold, so has left/right channels swapped, and shortens fade even more than Superhits/AM Gold; avoid (Note that Madacy's Rock On discs released in 1996, spanning the music years 1970 to 1989, are top-notch, with most/all of its tracks being digital clones of outstanding earlier masterings. Not true of later-released discs, including Rock On 1969.)
The first appearance on CD of the full wide-stereo mix is Time-Life's Country U.S.A. Vol. 6 1968 (1989). It sounds just fine here, but shortens the tail of the fade by 4 seconds. The volume level is unusually low here, leaving about 6 dB of headroom. The same analog transfer is used on:
  • Time-Life's 2-CD Singers And Songwriters Vol. 14 1964-1969 (2001)
Rhino did a new analog transfer for Billboard Top Country Hits 1968 (1990), and it sounds spectacular. Great dynamic range, EQ, low-generation source tape, and the fade extends out to the full length of the song. There's plenty of hiss on the fade. The same analog transfer is used on:
  • Rhino's Billboard Top Pop Hits 1969 (1995) - actually blunts the tape hiss on the fade and shortens the tail of the fade by a fraction of a second; absolute polarity is inverted (which is insignificant; it means that the waveform looks upside down on your screen)
Finally, there's Time-Life's 2-CD Classic Country Vol. 2 1965-1969 (1998). While I'm confident that this is a digital clone of some earlier disc, I don't know what that disc is. Regardless, Classic Country has added noise reduction. Avoid for this song.

My recommendation

Go for maximum hiss, and super-wide stereo on Rhino's Billboard Top Country Hits 1968 (1990).

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AdvprosD
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Posted: 22 September 2020 at 11:13pm | IP Logged Quote AdvprosD

crapfromthepast wrote:
I love this song. The chord progression is unexpected at every turn, the lyrics punch you in the gut with their simplicity and sincerity, there's a simple series of repeating notes that evokes morse code,
there's no chorus, and there's a longing bass solo instead of a third verse. Most importantly, the song still brings a tear to your eye every single time it's played, since its release in 1968. I'd argue that "Wichita Lineman"
may be pop's greatest three minutes, ever.


I may re-quote this later, but the first thing that strikes me about your interpretation of this song is the "Simple series of repeating notes."

I may be profoundly wrong about this, yet I will share my idea with you anyway. I seem to remember advertisements for AT&T way back in the sixties when they were trying to get everyone on-board for 1+ long distance calling.
The ads were trying to get folks to stop using operator assisted calling I guess. What I used to recall was the similarity of the advertisement and the song with the "Morse code" type sound. Perhaps, it was an ad trying
to get folks to buy in to the new "Touch Tone" calling instead of the rotary type phones that had been around forever. I don't really know since that was a heck of a long time ago.

Glen Campbell may have actually been thinking of a high voltage linesman, instead of a communication linesman. I do know the song invokes intense feelings of loneliness when I hear it. Always has.
And, I agree it is a classic that is well worth discussion all these years later.

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crapfromthepast
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Posted: 25 September 2020 at 12:19pm | IP Logged Quote crapfromthepast

LL sent me a copy of Capitol's Classics Collection (1990), and I was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality on the ten tracks. Nice levels on all, very nice EQ on all, lots of tape hiss on the fades, and no truncated fades (at least compared with the other sources I have). It's mastered by Glenn Meadows, who did some nice work with the Steely Dan catalog.

This disc appears to use the same source tapes as Very Best Of (1987), but with more uniform levels from track-to-track, and an improved EQ on one ("Southern Nights").

"Wichita Lineman" is in its proper wide stereo on Classics Collection, with a sound quality on par with the Billboard disc.

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MMathews
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Posted: 25 September 2020 at 7:09pm | IP Logged Quote MMathews

Ron,
Just to confirm for you I did determine the mono 45 is a
fold-down of the original stereo. I think it just needed
a touch of compression but other than it matched.
MM
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crapfromthepast
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Posted: 25 September 2020 at 11:12pm | IP Logged Quote crapfromthepast

Thanks to you and your golden ears, Mark!

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