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Ohio Players - Honey Print E-mail
Monday, 24 November 2003
ImageWhat was I doing around the time that this album came out? I was touring with Yes, and working in the U.K. with "medieval rock band" Gryphon. The Ohio Players never even showed up on my radar screen. As a result, this 5.1 reissue of the quad mix provided me with an unusual opportunity to hear a 25-year-old album for the first time.

The Honey album virtually documents where studio technology was at the time. There is enough material on the (probably 24-track) masters to make for a full, satisfying surround mix, while the instrumentation and effects used on the recording tell a tale of technology in transition. We can hear what sounds to me like the very first string synthesizer, by Ken Freeman, on many of the numbers. In addition to a little flanging, there’s what sounds like a Countryman phaser on several tracks. Yet here we are in a time before all the electric pianos you ever heard were electronically generated: this album has plenty of real Fender Rhodes 88s. For those of you with long memories, I’m thinking of the ones that sat on top of the two-channel amps and speakers and enabled you to set up an automatic pan between left and right.

Each track on this album has a very different feel, and most have full, sophisticated arrangements, including brass, keyboards and guitars, as well as multi-part vocals. In keeping with the differences between each arrangement, each track also has its own sound picture in surround, although everything is sensibly rooted around a strong rhythm section across the front, with a clear, natural drum sound (albeit a bit too loud for me quite a lot of the time). The surrounds are used for all sorts of stuff, mainly vocals (as in the title track) but also percussion on "Love Roller Coaster," which starts with an interesting effect where that Freeman synth has its reverb run through a phaser. The surround is also used for percussion on "Sweet Sticky Thing," a song that’s much simpler in concept and structure than many of the others ,and is particularly unlike, say, the title track with its angular figures, tight brass arrangements, and dense overall instrumentation.
There’s an interesting keyboard effect on "Ain’t Giving Up No Ground." Here we find two stereo electric pianos, one auto-panning from front left to rear right, and the other from front right to rear left. This technique is also used elsewhere on the album to great effect.

"Let’s Do It" unfortunately doesn’t do it for me – the vocals are just a bit too overwrought for my taste – but one track where the vocal really is interesting is on the second song, "Fopp," where the lead is at the front with a delay across to the rear in very effective surround. Also effective, in the sense of surround effects in the first case at least, is the flanged cymbal that moves around the room during the same number, and the string synth effect fade-in at the start of "Alone."

Listening to this material for the first time was an interesting experience. There is real use of surround capability throughout the album, and each number has its own surround configuration to set the scene. Check it out.

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