This old 1956 record, which belonged to my parents, is sadly not in the best of condition. Although there are no skips, there are a lot of pops, crackles and distorted sections.
Side 2 is worst, I suspect that, being the side with the vocal tracks, it got more plays.
Because of its place in New Zealand recording history, I decided to try and create a cleaned-up version that would be a bit more listenable.
(Don't ask why the title script slopes backward, I haven't a clue!)
The record has an interesting history. Wikipedia says: -
“During the 1950s when the transition from 78 rpm records to 33 rpm records was taking place, Bill Wolfgramm & His Islanders recorded South Sea Rhythm at Auckland's Astor Recording Studios. This album took four months to record and it featured Daphne Walker. It has the distinction of being one of the first long playing 33rpm records to be pressed in New Zealand. There is a belief by some that this album may have been the first.”
I note that the TANZA label’s catalogue number is ZLP001, implying it is at least TANZA’s first LP.
Wikipedia on Wolfgramm.
I note that it also says "He is the former leader of Bill Wolfgramm & His Islanders, a popular island band in New Zealand that played regularly at the Orange Ballroom, a historic dance venue in Auckland."
That is the venue that my grandfather's band also played.
(See my post "Restoring antique wind instruments" 01/10/2014).
Also on Bill: http://www.audioculture.co.nz/people/bill-wolfgramm
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YouTube's only song from the album:
The "Tape Out" of the NAD was fed to my desktop computer’s particularly Hi-Fi M Audio Audiophile 2496 sound card and recorded with a really great piece of audio freeware called Audacity, which I would recommend to anyone, and which has capabilities which will become apparent.
This resulted in two large 125 MB .wav files, one for each side of the record. There was no point in chopping up these files into individual tracks as there still remained the cleaning-up work to do, although in retrospect the files would have loaded faster to work on, but there is also the possibility of confusion and file overwriting with 11 separate files to work on.
The original .wav files were copied to my external hard drive as back-up. I anticipated the amount of work needed would warrant much care with back-ups as the work proceeded.
Overview of the clean-up process
The groove of an LP record is basically a wave modelling the changes in air pressure that are a sound. Deep sounds are from slow vibrations and require long, slow waves in the groove. High sounds are from fast vibrations, and require short fast-changing grooves. The playback needle is vibrated as it travels along the groove, but it is also vibrated by any dirt, dust or damage in the groove, the most usual and distinctive damage being the scratch.
Once a digital recording has been made, we have a set of numbers describing the shape of the groove at any point, and the shape can be shown on a computer screen and examined down to the smallest detail. Audacity was set to measure the height of the incoming electrical wave from the needle at 44100 times a second. This rate was chosen as it matches what is used to make CDs.
The central aspect of the clean-up is that Audacity allows you to change the wave in any way you like, as it only requires a change to the numbers describing it, something a computer is particularly well-suited for.
1. Simply listening as the display scrolls by, and stopping when a click is heard. This works where there are a few, isolated and obvious defects from scratches or needle drops.
2. Where there is a lot of dust damage, which produces an almost continuous crackle, it is simpler to just zoom in on the wave form and scroll along locating the damage visually.
This next picture below shows the same lines stretched more in the horizontal direction, or "zoomed", if you will. Now the "spikes" appear as extended bumps.....
This might seem like too much mucking about with the original, but when the example above is considered, the whole “bump” is 7.60280 to 7.60320 seconds, or 0.4 of a millisecond, roughly 20 samples. There is nothing the ear will pick up if a section that short is ever so slightly different.
Another approach is enabled by the fact that this is a mono recording, and thus left and right channels should be the same. If the damage is only on one channel, the damaged piece can be made the same as the other channel.
There is also a much more difficult type of damage, which took up most of my time in repairing. Note in the picture below, the lower unrestored copy has had the peaks and troughs of the waves damaged as the needle has perhaps pushed some dirt ahead of it, or perhaps a blunt needle has simply scraped the peaks off. The sound becomes distorted or “skritchy”. There is little that can be done except to laboriously re-draw the waves by hand with a mouse. Note that the tops of one channel and the bottoms of the other are damaged, thus each can be copied from the other. This process does produce a much cleaner sound, believe it or not.
Below I have included a full-screen capture to show my slow progress at a time I was full-on into editing the file. (click it to embiggen)
I don't think I would normally be quite that dedicated, but at the time I had just given up both alcohol and nicotine, and the work served as a diversion and substitute for time previously whiled away in my local.
I have taken it to the stage where all clicks and pops I could hear have been removed, and the worst of the distorted sections have been cleaned up.
The editing has not been "finished", as there is almost no limit to how much longer I could spend trolling through the waveforms for damage. I have faced up to the law of diminishing returns, which says I will take ten ten times as long as I have already, to get another 10% improvement, a hundred times as long to get the next 10% etc.
I have been keen to show others the fruits of my labours, but also have no wish to infringe on copyright or deprive anyone of income. To that end I have done some searching on the internet. I have been unable to find if there has ever been a re-release of this recording, let alone one on CD.
There was "The Great Kiwi Tanza Recordings", Various Artists, a triple CD released in 2004 by Rajon Music Group, cat. no. RTCD411. Rajon are no longer. The collection includes:
Disc 2-12 Tiger Shark - Bill Wolfgramm & Islanders 1955
Disc 3-4 Hilo March - Bill Wolfgramm & Islanders(Previously unreleased) (Obviously not true!)
There is some info out there on the TANZA 78s, for example ref. here at Discogs, which is a very comprehensive site where obsessive catalogers share their addiction, to the benefit of the rest of us: http://www.discogs.com/label/209392-TANZA
My attitude is therefore that a few free copies to my friends/family are not going to be a revenue loss to anyone, and will perhaps contribute to the preservation of the music.