Chris Bellman Uses Original Stereo Analog Master Tapes
Pictured is mastering engineer Chris Bellman. Photo by David Goggin.
Eight classic Grateful Dead albums comprise the newly remastered “VMP Anthology: The Story of the Grateful Dead”. Renowned mastering engineer Chris Bellman worked with the original stereo analog masters for the project at Bernie Grundman Mastering. “It’s triple A analog all the way,” says Bellman. “There is no digital stage whatsoever.”
Albums included in the box set: Workingman’s Dead (1970), American Beauty (1970), Live/Dead (1969), Europe ’72 (1972), “Wake of the Flood (1973), Terrapin Station (1977), “reckoning (1981), “Without a New (1990).
All eight titles in the VMP anthology had lacquers cut by Bellman. All titles were cut “AAA” from the original analog tapes, with the exception of “Without a Net” coming from the original master digital audio. The anthology was pressed on high quality 180g colored vinyl at Quality Record Pressing (QRP) in Salina, KS.
Working from the original quarter-inch stereo master analog tapes, Bellman explains, “Quality by and large was very good. Some of the splices were a little bit dicey, so I had to reconstruct some splicing. But that’s relatively easy, just time consuming. You have to pull it apart, clean the tape, and then just redo the splice with fresh splicing tape. They’re all mixed down to quarter inch, 15 IPS, some cases Dolby A, some cases, non-Dolby. And actually there’s one project that was 30 IPS, ‘Terrapin Station’.”
Cameron Schaefer, VMP Co-Founder, explains, “A great series unfolds in episodes and the best stories are told in chapters. We’re reinventing the box set experience to take listeners on a joyride through one of the deepest catalogs and richest legacies in rock history. The eight album, 14 LP collection connects the Dead’s history, subculture and lore to modern relevance and mainstream music culture While the box ships with all eight albums inside, the exclusive podcast series guides listeners through the evolving saga.”
Is there any difference between the original pressings and the newly remastered vinyl? “I would say that the playback electronics has much improved, especially over the past 50 years,” says Bellman. “We can pull off a lot more information off of these tapes, in spite of the fact that they’re 50-plus years old. We can get a lot more resolution off the tape, which lends to a better end vinyl product.”
“The Story of the Grateful Dead” booklet features an extensive collection of both iconic and rare photos taken throughout the different eras of the albums by some of the Dead’s favorite photographers: Jim Marshall, Jim Anderson, Adrian Boot, Bob Minkin, Jay Blakesburg, Herbie Greene, and Rosie McGee.
“My basic process for doing reissues of any kind, as well as these, is that I like to hear what it was when first released,” Bellman explains. “In this case it was vinyl. So VMP gave me all eight albums on vinyl, the earliest pressings they could find. And I referenced our remastering with those. I put up the tape and I play them roughly parallel and kind of dial it back into the tape. And then I go back and I turn the record off and I just kind of listen again and try to see what I could do to improve the transfer, faithful to the original.
ABOUT BERNIE GRUNDMAN MASTERING
The name Bernie Grundman is synonymous with Mastering. His world-renowned facilities, responsible for a consistently large percentage of chart recordings, were launched in 1984. In 1997, Grundman opened his Tokyo mastering studios and in 1998 relocated to expanded facilities in Hollywood. Bernie Grundman Mastering in Hollywood is a complex of six studios, including dedicated 5.1 Surround and Lacquer Cutting rooms. Virtually any analog or digital format can be played back thanks to a deep inventory of modern and legacy equipment. The facility provides high quality vinyl masters, pre-masters for CD, and file masters for standard and high-resolution digital distribution and streaming. https://www.berniegrundmanmastering.com/