Stereo Action Unlimited!

Stereo Action Unlimited! THE SOUND YOUR EYES CAN FOLLOW

Stereo Action is a new concept of music in motion; a new dimension in recorded sound. Stereo Action brings you unmatched fidelity through the full sound spectrum, plus the exciting new illusion of sound in motion. Soloists and entire sections of the orchestra appear to move thrillingly back and forth across the room. Stereo Action is musical movement so real, your eyes will follow the sound.

STORY OF STEREO ACTION

The advent of stereophonic recordings for the home and the equipment on which to play them brought in its wake a whole specialized repertoire of “sound demonstration” discs—recording which when played on stereo phonographs would provide the hearer with spectacular sonic illusions of motion, directionality and depth (RCA Victor’s BOB AND RAY THROW A STEREO SPECTACULAR, LSP-1773, is a prize example). The snarl of racing cars whizzing past the starting line, the New York City subway, a ping-pong game, the bowling alley, the zing of a rifle bullet toward its target, the soft-shoe dance across the stage—these and a host of other novel effects became showpieces for the home stereo listener.

Wonderful as these stereo sound effects may be as aural novelties, they cannot hold the listener’s attention for long or over many hearings. The substance of almost all recordings worth living with is, after all—MUSIC.

Stereophonic recordings of symphony, opera, Broadway musicals, jazz and popular music literally added a new dimension to home phonograph listening. Such sound is enhanced not only through being spread across a broad frontal arc covered by the loudspeakers—as against being “squeezed” through a single enclosure; but more especially it is enhanced through the sense of localization and depth perspective. A soloist or instrumental choir, recorded in stereo, can be heard in the living room in the same relative placement as it would be in the concert hall, on the opera stage, or in the night club. The sound of instruments and singers emerges from the speakers in genuine aural perspective. In stereo recordings of opera, Broadway musicals or drama, movement across or from front to back of the stage is immediately discernible as such to the listener. These elements of directionality, depth illusion and motion are not to be found on monaural recordings; they are properties unique to stereo. This holds especially true for motion.

Though the great classics of the concert hall and opera remain of necessity inviolate, beyond a certain point, when it comes to exploitation of stereo recording techniques, popular entertainment music is something else again. Such music, after all, is meant to entertain—to delight and even surprise the hearer. So it is that record producers of the stereo era have been industriously devising ways and means of bringing the special properties of stereo to bear on entertainment music, and in a manner that would add something genuinely new and exciting to this type of listening fare. What RCA Victor has chosen to call STEREO ACTION is its special response to the fascinating challenge posted by the new techniques made available through the development of stereophony for the home. This has involved much more than merely exploiting motion and directionality in terms of shifting instrumental choirs and soloists from one side of the listening room to the other. For meaningful results, it has demanded new concepts in the art of orchestral arranging and a large measure of truly imaginative and creative collaboration between musicians and recording engineers.

The art of “pop” recording has become today, more than ever before, an art of dramatic enhancement through every device of microphone placement, reverberation technique, ping-pong stereo, and the like; but little had been done to develop a whole repertoire of pop musical arrangements that would take full advantage of the complete armory of enhancement techniques now available to the record producer. RCA Victor’s Stereo Action series marks a serious and carefully thought-out step in that direction. The facts of recording history show that musical enhancement by way of microphone and other audio techniques dates back a surprising number of years.

RCA Victor began experimenting with multi-track recording of soloists well before magnetic tape came into general use—notably with Jascha Heifets playing both solo parts of the Bach Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra (c. 1947) and with the late, great Jazz musician, Sidney Bechet, playing all six instruments of a New Orleans combo in Blues of Bechet and Sheik of Araby (c. 1940).

After the war came the magnetic tape revolution in recording technology, and with it came a greater flexibility than ever before in using various enhancement devices in the field of popular music recording.

With the coming of stereo and the development by RCA Victor and others of doing master recordings on 3-channel stereo tapes (“triple-tracking”), special new techniques became and everyday part of phonograph record studio production. Every 3-track original has, of course, to be blended to a 2-track working master tape for producing the disc or pre-recorded tape for use on home 2-channel stereo phonographs or tape machines. So, in the process of “blending down,” many things that may not have come off in the recording session can be set right in the re-recording. Even before stereo, “post-equalization” and “post-reverberation” were commonly applied in instances where a master tape from a recording session may have left something to be desired. Of course tape editing techniques play a great part in this, too, so that the combination of all of these devices and techniques adds up to a product created as much by the studio engineers as by the performing musicians. With this wealth of knowledge and dramatic device at their beck and call, it seems only natural that the art of “musical-dramatic” enhancement, applied so successfully over the past decade to monaural entertainment recording, should begin to turn to stereo, no longer as just a novelty gimmick, but as a medium to be used with genuine creative imagination. It is with this in mind that RCA Victor has embarked on its Stereo Action series of recordings that highlight the special listening dimension provided by motion-in-stereo. Some of the “stereo highlighting” on these recordings will be apparent at once to the listener—wherein plectral, percussive or solo legato elements in an arrangement are manipulated in motion and/or in apparent perspective against a tonal background that shows them and the stereo medium to the most striking possible advantage; but this is merely a first step in the development of a new dimension in the art of orchestral arrangement and entertainment presentation on records, one that should over the years establish a dimension in home musical listening that is truly a la unto itself—to be experienced, as on these RCA Victor recordsings, only in stereo and only through the art of recording as developed for he 1960s and beyond.

— DAVID HALL
Music Editor, HiFi/Stereo Review


This album is comprised of outstanding selections from the widely acclaimed Stereo Action catalog developed by RCA Victor artists and engineers. In the event you wish to explore further in this exciting field, the complete album source for each composition is illustrated and numbered for your convenience.

Side One:

  1. Ray Martin and His Orchestra: The Flight of the Bumble Bee (2:02) …Flutist Julius Baker is the “bee” in a honey of an arrangement. Listen as he flits furiously back and forth between speakers, with the string action following in hot pursuit.

  2. Marty Gold and His Orchestra: Did You Ever See A Dream Walking? (2:38) opens, naturally enough, with the dream walking…from right to left, and back again. The chorus moves across from the left, and the trumpet solo moves across from the right. note how the voices move from left to right toward the end.

  3. Dick Schory’s Percussion and Brass Ensemble: Runnin’ Wild (2:33) — Five shifty trumpets keynote this — rhythm drummer using brushes is centered — three xylophones, split right and left, hammer out the intro — the auto-brake drum (left) challenges the wood blocks (right) — more trumpets from everywhere — a drumstick solo on string bass plus bongos (left) and claves (right) — finally trumpets in high register, left-to-right and then parking in the middle.

  4. Vic Schoen and His Orchestra: And the Band Played On (1:44) was approached with a swinging sense of humor. Trombones, cellos and horns on the left provide the depth for the Dixie-like feeling of trumpets and clarinets on the right. In the second chorus, the trombones move to the right to accompany the drumstick solo (played on the rim of the drum).

  5. Leo Addeo and His Orchestra: Dancing Tambourine (3:15) starts off with the orchestra galloping from left to right, then back again and over to right once more. The harmonica is heard moving in the same pattern, as if following the orchestra. that’s the bass accordion making three turns, left to right. And there’s an amusing touch at the end when the accordion bellows down from left to right.

  6. The Chorus and Percussion of Keith Textor: Lonesome Road (2:38) has one pedestrian, at least, snapping his fingers and whistling as he moves from right to left. The accompaniment begins on the left and the whistler goes right. The voices begin on the left, and at the end the whistler returns, this time moving from left to right.

  7. The Guitars Unlimited Plus 7: Expresso (2:04) could give you coffee nerves, just in the sheer speed of its switching of speakers. The guitars move left as the tambourine moves right, and continue to alternate with each other. The solo guitar goes left to right.

Side Two:

  1. Bernie Green and His Orchestra: Kiss of Fire (2:27) — In this first example available to the public of a new process called “Animated Tape,” our phantom trumpet soloist bounces back and forth from speaker to speaker at the start, then proceeds to float, somewhat jaggedly, between the speakers as he moves from side to side. The bass guitar and piano in deep registers set off the work of the soloist. Listen for a couple of flashes of the world’s weirdest piano about halfway through.

  2. Marty Gold and His Orchestra: The 3rd Man Theme (2:44) — The harpsichord begins as it slides from left to right and back — then solo guitar (left) and accordion (right) slowly exchange positions punctuated by the piccolo. The full brass states the melody with harpsichord and xylophone accents. These instrumental combinations are heard again during the course of the performance.

  3. Dick Schory’s Percussion and Brass Ensemble: Hernando’s Hideaway (3:35) — After the opening sound-effect tableau, trombones slide from left to right, then tiptoe back and forth with tambourine, castanets and snare drum in hot pursuit. Trumpets, vibes, organ, French horns and xylophone pick up the hunt for Hernando — another tableau depicts the end of our hero. Then a Latin beat and full orchestra criss-cross - a guitar floating from right to left then hands the melody back to the trombones — a harp gliss, left to right, precedes the final door slam.

  4. Henri René and His Orchestra: Swanee River (1:51) — The big band builds sound volume across the speakers. The guitar solos around a circle from left to right and back again. The chimes swing their circle from right to left and back. Note how the arrangement ends with the sections of the band spread in layers across your speakers.

  5. Leo Addeo and His Orchestra: Every Little Movement (2:32) — The bass accordion clumps around from side to side, swaying with elephantine ecstasy, first with a scratcher for company, then with thumps from the kettle drum, and finally falls into the background, losing none of its joyous force. When the flutes pick up the melody line, they are given added propulsion in their action movements by the kettle drums which send them sliding from left to right with a rumbling wallop. At the very end, the scratcher sweeps across the spectrum from left to right.

  6. Ray Martin and His Orchestra: Jericho (2:48) — The voices get the rhythm going, swinging from side to side. Then the girls change to hand clapping to emphasize the beat and to back up the stentorian trombones on the right when they begin to dig into the melody. Finally, when the brilliantly brassy trumpet solo circles the ramparts of Jericho and winds up with a chilling blast to the heavens — by golly, the walls come a-tumbling down, vividly and on all sides.

  7. Manny Albam and His Orchestra: Stompin’ At the Savoy/Johnson Rag (2:30) — These two fine standards are played simultaneously in Maestro Albam’s unique arrangement. Savoy begins on the right, moving, as do the trombones, playing the same song, to the left. That’s the general trombone pattern, from right to left speaker before the release. Suddenly, the reeds begin to play Johnson Rag on the left, moving to the right and back again. Later on, the trombone solo begins left and moves right; the trumpet solo starts left and moves back and forth, concluding with the original combinations in their original positions.

MIRACLE SURFACE This record contains the revolutionary new antistatic ingredient, 317X, which helps keep the record dust free, helps prevent surface noise, helps insure faithful sound reproduction.

IMPORTANT NOTICE — This is TRUE STEREOPHONIC RECORD specifically designed to be played only on phonographs equipped for stereophonic reproduction. This record will also give outstanding monaural performance on many conventional high fidelity phonographs by a replacement of the cartridge. See your local dealer or serviceman.

RCA Victor LSA-2489

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