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Article: The Best Version Of… Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On

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Unlike Surrealistic, this is an album I feel is a must-have.  I do have some version of it - now to find out which one.  :) 

 

And I hope Every Picture Tells a Story is on your list, because the version I have isn't particularly good on Rod's vocals.

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I have the What's Going On/Let's Get It On 1986 Baker "Twofer" mastering.  I think it sounds great.  Of the other versions, aside from the original LP, I've only heard the 2002 "Deluxe".  I much prefer the 1986 mastering (and also am very happy with the 1986 mastering of Let's Get It On that accompanies it).  I hadn't really noticed tape hiss, perhaps I can't hear it, but it doesn't bother me.  

 

FWIW, here are the DR scores for the tracks on the 1986 mastering of What's Going On according to JRMC audio analysis. It doesn't sound "bright" to me at all.

 

What's Going On: 14 DB

What's Happening Brother: 12 DB

Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky: 11 DB

Save The Children: 12 DB

Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology): 12 DB

Right On: 14 DB

Wholy Holy: 12 DB

Inner City Blues (Make Me Want To Holler): 14 DB

 

 

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The MFSL One-Step super vinyl version is coming soon which if past performance equals future results means we will get a definitive sounding best. It will probably make its way to digital hi-res files from ripping at some point.

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7 hours ago, Jud said:

Unlike Surrealistic, this is an album I feel is a must-have.  I do have some version of it - now to find out which one.  :) 

 

And I hope Every Picture Tells a Story is on your list, because the version I have isn't particularly good on Rod's vocals.

 

That's one of my all-time favorites and is definitely on my list for future TBVOs!

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I have a 1998 CD, made from a 20-bit digital remaster of Lurssen's mastering. It sounds fine to me. 

It never occurred to me to listen critically to this iconic record. What's Goin On? is all about the groove and the message.

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Great review. I like the MoFi myself. Not sure you can really comment about bass accuracy with headphones. I really question your approach. No mix or mastering engineer I know of would rely on headphones to adjust bass. Large speakers with often multiple 12 or 15 woofers are used for bass checks. Of course it still needs to sound good in a car which many folks will check. Nobody I know of would use headphones as they simply are unable to provide reference quality bass - too many variables - fit, head size, adjustment of head band etc.

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PS: those waiting for the MoFi 1step (myself included)... I wouldn't hold my breath that it will actually sound "better" than any of these reissues. Simple point being, the tapes are old, used, and there's a definite degradation happening. Case in point, I compared several of the Dylan MoFi reissues to mint originals and while in some cases it's a toss, several originals sound better by way of having far less issues with sibilance and smearing. It's the same reason I prefer Chad Kassem's Live at the Village Vanguard 45 reissue from the early 2000s to the 1step MoFi. 

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4 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

are the Dylan MoFi reissues all in mono?

They came out as both mono and stereo! I don’t have the mono versions, though I would wager there’s far less tape degradation on those than the stereo!

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7 hours ago, Shadorne said:

I really question your approach.

 

There are the actual measurements....

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7 hours ago, Shadorne said:

Nobody I know of would use headphones as they simply are unable to provide reference quality bass - too many variables - fit, head size, adjustment of head band etc.

 

Maybe not for final mastering but I thought for mixing it’s common to use a variety of speakers - from the big main monitors to NS-10’s to Beats headphones to the mix engineer’s car’s bog standard stereo ... so that the mix translates well into the real world.

 

I thought?

 

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I love this kind of analysis, and really appreciate the time and effort put into it.

 

I haven't heard the 2012 HD mastering, but I've heard pretty much all the others. I would agree with the author's analysis in that the MoFi SACD is definitely the best of the ones I've heard: rich and detailed, precise without sounding clinical.

 

At the same time, my 2nd favorite is the '94 Lurssen mastering. It just sounds right to me, and far preferable to most of the other masterings, including the 2CD Deluxe Edition, which I did not care for at all.

 

This is all subjective of course, but the one area where I would disagree with the article's author is that he dismisses the Lurssen out of hand simply based on DR readings. I am no fan of squashed masterings, to be sure, but the Lurssen is not a Loudness War mastering. The other masterings he dismisses, he does based on the actual sonic profile (too much high end, not enough bass), which makes more sense to me.

 

The Lurssen is very obviously not as refined as the MoFi, but it is warm and lush without (IMHO) being wooly or muffled in the least. YMMV of course, and none of this is to diminish the value of this article - these kinds of shoot-outs are great!

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6 hours ago, PeterG said:

 

I cannot speak to the MoFi versions, but the recent Original Mono 6 CD box set is incredibly good compared to whatever stereo versions you might have.  They are a must buy for any Dylan fan.  Once you've heard the mono, you will only hold on to the stereo versions so that you can tell yourself you would have done a better job mixing that Dylan's guys (haha).

I bet they are fantastic indeed!

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Every time I think of Marvin or play his music I can't help but think of the gigantic tragedy that was his life. First he lost his amazingly talented singing duet partner Tammi Terrell to brain cancer at the tender age of 24. Then losing his own life by getting shot in the head by his own father. :(

These things are supposed to happen.

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On 12/8/2018 at 10:28 AM, Shadorne said:

Great review. I like the MoFi myself. Not sure you can really comment about bass accuracy with headphones. I really question your approach. No mix or mastering engineer I know of would rely on headphones to adjust bass. Large speakers with often multiple 12 or 15 woofers are used for bass checks. Of course it still needs to sound good in a car which many folks will check. Nobody I know of would use headphones as they simply are unable to provide reference quality bass - too many variables - fit, head size, adjustment of head band etc.

 

I should note that I listened to all of the versions on my speaker setup (which includes a 12” SVS subwoofer), too. The bass problem with “Mercy Mercy Me” is worse in speaker setups. Listening with a bright-leaning headphone, like the HD800S, mitigates it, though. 

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On 12/9/2018 at 6:05 PM, Ralf11 said:

"The bass problem with “Mercy Mercy Me” is worse in speaker setups. "

 

eh?  which setups?

 

KEF Ref 1 with an SVS 12” subwoofer rounding out the bottom, calibrated for a flat response in the listening room. Most of my listening is done on this system. But I try to check my column’s conclusions with common headphones, like Focal Clear, since more people are likely to own them, and headphones eliminate more variables. 

 

The slightly overdone bass is a small issue with the MoFi SACD, which I still think is a great choice, as the column makes clear. Once I’ve narrowed down the choices to a few, little differences end up being decisive. But I wouldn’t say that someone with the MoFi who doesn’t feel like buying another copy of What’s Going On should think they’re missing out on a dramatically improved experience by not owning the HiRes download. 

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