A Robert Collins Master Recording.

Artist / Title Stevie Wonder / Merry Christmas Baby
Date December 18, 1983
Location: Circle Star Theater, San Carlos, CA (USA)
Seats: In the round, exact location unknown
Deck: Nakamichi 350
Mics: Nakamichi CM-300
Source: A:C Master Tape; Stereo
Sample Rate 44.1Khz, 16-bit (FLAC)
Rating: A- (first 90 minutes) / B+ (last 90 minutes)
Length: 187 Minutes
Root directory Place all files in: "C:\Stevie Wonder, Circle Star Theater, 1983-12-18 (CD, 44Khz, 16-bit)"
Artwork: Included as "SureThing" compatible artwork, and PDF artwork.
Project Files: Cue Sheets:

Disc-1:  "Stevie Wonder, Circle Star Theater, 1983-12-18 (Disc 1,3).CUE"
Disc-2:  "Stevie Wonder, Circle Star Theater, 1983-12-18 (Disc 2,3).CUE"
Disc-3:  "Stevie Wonder, Circle Star Theater, 1983-12-18 (Disc 3,3).CUE"

Disc-3 (Backfill Edition, see "Rowdy Audience" below):  "Stevie Wonder, Circle Star Theater, 1983-12-18 (Disc 3,3) (Backfill Edition).CUE"
Disc-3 (Original Edition, see "Rowdy Audience" below):  "Stevie Wonder, Circle Star Theater, 1983-12-18 (Disc 3,3) Original Edition).CUE"


Musicians: Stevie Wonder        Keyboard, Vocals, Harmonica
Nathan Watts         Bass
Ricky Lawson         Drums, Vocals ("The Human Mix")
Lenny Castro         Percussion
Michael O'Neal       Guitar
Ben Bridges          Guitar
Ronnie Foster        Keyboards, Sax
Bobby Malach         Sax
Larry Gittens        Trumpet
Susie Green          Vocals
Alexandria Brown     Vocals
Shirley Brewer       Vocals
Guest Artist: Jon Gibson           Vocals  

Notes: Before anybody complains about the length of this description, I'll just say that I've waited 24 years before releasing an unbelievable concert into the wild, and spent over 300 hours mastering it so you all could enjoy.  I figure that gives me the right to say as much as I want.

A friend called me up months before this concert and told me Stevie was playing up in San Francisco as a favor to Bill Graham. Stevie wasn't on tour, but he was playing five or six nights, two shows a night. So I got tickets very late, and was sitting near the back of the auditorium. I was seeing the late show on the last night -- the very last performance.

After the first song, Stevie talks for about 10 minutes. He says the concert got bad reviews in the press. So Stevie wanted to do something different this night. In addition to his normal songlist, Stevie sings Christmas songs, Jobim, James Brown, and other cover tunes of some of his favorite artists. These aren't just cover tunes, these are insanely hot Stevie Wonder covers of these songs.  There are many surprises on this recording, including a 20-minute section of songs done in a Bossa-Nova style (including Silent Night, Girl From Ipanema, and his own Send One Your Love).

When he's done having fun, he performs his own hits all the way from 1961 to present. But after listening to this show for a few years, there was something that always really bugged me about it. Stevie wasn't on tour, yet, the band was the most over-rehearsed I had ever heard. Why would they be this over-rehearsed I wondered? The answer came two years later, when Showtime aired a special concert: "Stevie Wonder -- Coming Home To Detroit." This Detroit concert was recorded a few months after this concert, and it sounds like these shows were the rehearsals for the Showtime TV special.

As you listen to this show, pay close attention to the "oldies." Stevie plays these songs nearly identically to his original Motown recordings. In the many times I had seen Stevie before this show, he NEVER performed these songs in their original styles. This is why I concluded the band was so over- rehearsed, and why they were practicing for the Detroit TV taping -- Stevie's hometown, where he hadn't played in 20 years. Surely his hometown crowd would expect to hear these songs just as he had recorded them, so many years ago.

There are too many great things about this concert to describe -- everything from the sound quality -- to the song list -- but there are also serious problems.  So instead of describing why it's so good, I'll spend the remainder of the time describing the problems I faced during the re-mastering and why it took 24 years to be released.

Levels & Equalization The recording levels were different on L/R channels.  This is relatively easy to fix if you know you shouldn't blindly boost the volume on the lower channel on analog recordings -- as it would cause other problems.  Even worse, the equalization between L/R channels was different -- causing the channels to sound completely different than each other.  Making matters even worse, the equalization seemed to change for every song too. Thanks to modern technology, software now exists to fix this type of problem.  
Drop-outs I've stared at sonogram images of this concert for over 300 hours during this restoration project.  Due to it's age, there are probably hundreds of drop-outs in this recording -- but you'll only be able to hear a small handful of them.  
During As, the audience around me began to unravel.  At the end of the concert, many people around me were trying so hard to get out of their seats and rush down to the stage, that they were literally climbing over anybody in their way.  I was in their way and was knocked down twice.  The recording during this 2-minute 23-second section is not salvageable.  Therefore, I deleted this section, and created an alternate musical transition -- one that most people won't even notice.  Enclosed in this release are two alternate versions of "As."  "As (Backfill Cut)" and "As (Original Cut)" are the two alternate versions.  The backfill cut fills in the 2:23 minute section of my recording with an alternate, and lesser quality recording of the same concert.  The original cut is my recording, as is, and you can hear me getting knocked around a few times.  When burning a CD, there are three separate CUE sheets that correspond to each of the versions of "As."  Use which ever version suits you best, and burn with the CUE sheet provided.  
Stolen Master The master tape of Volume-2 of this concert was stolen many years ago. The last 90 minutes of this show are taken from a 1st-Generation copy. I did my best to make this 1st-Generation copy sound as good as the original, but it still doesn't sound as good as the first 90 minutes.  That's why the first 90 minutes is rated A- quality, and the last 90 minutes is rated B+ quality.  Some of the songs on this section range from sounding 95% as good as the master, to only 75% as good.  The varying quality presented a huge problem for me during the mastering process -- because my techniques literally had to change from song to song, and sometimes section to section within a song.  
Tape Turns This was a long concert, and I didn't have the luxury of bringing more than two 90-minute tapes. I had to conserve tape space. As a result, there are some bad tape turns -- where a song is cut off. Here are the tape turn locations, and how I fixed them (sort of).
  • Tape-1, Side-1: Tape ended in the middle of Creepin.  By the time I turned the tape over, the song had changed styles. To fix this, I had to borrow a section of the song from an alternate recording of this same concert.
  • Tape-1, Side-2: Turned the tape off as fast as I could after You Haven't Done Nothin'  To fix this, I had to borrow a section of the song from an alternate recording of this same concert.
Audio quality The first 90 minutes is as near perfect as it can get.  However, the second 90 minutes (the "stolen master") is far less than perfect.  I had to make many, MANY compromises while mastering the second half of the show.  Above all I favored music quality.  During quiet sections, sometimes it wasn't possible to remove all of the hiss; so these sections may sound noisier than the rest of the tape.  During two "talking" sections, the signal level was so low, and the noise was so high, that I had to revert to MONO just you could hear what was being said.  These sections are VERY short; and as soon as the music begins, the noise goes away and the recording is back to full stereo.  
I Finally ran out of tape This concert was 3+ hours long.  The concert started around 10PM, and lasted until 2:30 AM.  I didn't expect a 3+ hour concert, so I was unprepared.  I ran out of tape during the very last song -- Happy Birthday -- about 30 second before the last note was played.  
I owe the following people thanks for their support and/or help with this project.
  • Dave Philips - Dave provided the alternate source material that allowed me to back-fill the missing pieces from my show (the pieces to fill the gaps during the tape turns).  Dave attended the same concert and also happened to record it.
  • Musicians at this concert.  A few of the musicians at this show know about this recording and already have copies.  I've been friends with one of these musicians for many years now, and he's ecstatic about this re-mastering project.
  • iZotope for support with their RX noise reduction product and giving pointers for noise-reducing the most difficult sections of this recording.  Far better noise reduction software than any I've ever heard.
  • My sister, and others at KVR Audio Forum for making suggestions for software techniques and purchases.
  • My wife.  Anybody who can tolerate her husband spending 300+ hours spanning over three months of working in front of a computer and staring at sonograms of a single concert -- certainly deserves thanks.
Lineage: AUD> Nakamichi 350 (Master tape)
---> Playback on Nakamichi 550 / Nakamichi Dragon
---> Korg MR-1000 (capture at 96Khz, 24-bit)
---> Sound Forge (adjust levels, tear it into mono L,R channels)
---> iZotope RX spectrum editor to remove mic noise, squeeking chairs, etc.
---> Har-Bal (Harmonic Balancing Equalizer)
---> iZotope RX-Advanced (noise reduction, spectral editing)
---> Sound Forge (put it back together, adjust levels)
---> Adobe Audition 3.0 phase correction, spectral editing
---> iZotope Ozone 3 (stereo imaging)
---> iZotope RX-Advanced (downsample, dither)
---> CD Architect (CD Audio)
---> EAC
---> FLAC

Sound Samples: Sample-1 (A-):
Merry Christmas Baby

Sample-2 (A-):
I'm Black And I'm Proud

Sample-3 (B+)
Ebony & Ivory


Song list: Disc-1
       Start           End        Length  Name
------------  ------------  ------------  --------------------------
00:00:00.000  00:05:09.477  00:05:09.477  See Love In Your Heart
00:05:52.682  00:15:29.759  00:09:37.077  Band Introductions
00:15:29.760  00:16:00.800  00:00:31.040  Tiger By The Tail
00:16:21.781  00:18:10.360  00:01:48.578  Jingle Bells
00:18:13.951  00:20:02.858  00:01:48.906  Merry Christmas Baby
00:20:02.858  00:23:34.229  00:03:31.370  Did I Hear You Say 'I Love You'
00:23:34.229  00:29:15.306  00:05:41.077  Superwoman
00:29:17.695  00:31:12.511  00:01:54.815  You And I
00:31:12.511  00:32:51.919  00:01:39.407  Too Shy To Say
00:32:51.920  00:37:28.015  00:04:36.095  Taboo To Love
00:37:28.015  00:40:00.594  00:02:32.578  Send One Your Love
00:40:00.594  00:43:01.695  00:03:01.101  Girl From Ipanema
00:43:01.695  00:44:09.775  00:01:08.079  Silent Night
00:44:09.775  00:45:21.263  00:01:11.487  I Can't Help It
00:45:21.263  00:49:27.919  00:04:06.655  Creepin
00:49:29.733  01:01:06.360  00:11:36.627  Ribbons In The Sky
01:01:26.349  01:05:10.533  00:03:44.184  Intro to 'Overjoyed'
01:05:10.533  01:09:22.650  00:04:12.117  Overjoyed

       Start           End        Length  Name
------------  ------------  ------------  --------------------------
00:00:00.000  00:08:45.714  00:08:45.714  Fingertips / Motown Story
00:08:45.714  00:10:05.407  00:01:19.693  Uptight
00:10:05.407  00:12:55.031  00:02:49.623  For Once In My Life
00:12:55.031  00:16:42.612  00:03:47.581  I'm Black And I'm Proud
00:16:42.612  00:18:24.699  00:01:42.086  My Cherie Amour
00:18:24.699  00:20:03.207  00:01:38.507  Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours)
00:20:03.207  00:22:16.239  00:02:13.031  Higher Ground
00:22:16.239  00:25:43.593  00:03:27.353  You Haven't Done Nothin'
00:25:43.593  00:26:54.617  00:01:11.023  Livin' For The City
00:26:54.617  00:35:46.370  00:08:51.753  We Can Get It Straight
00:36:00.783  00:45:04.181  00:09:03.397  Go Home
00:45:04.181  01:06:31.887  00:21:27.706  The Human Mix
01:06:31.887  01:07:26.433  00:00:54.545  Go Home (Reprise)

       Start           End        Length  Name
------------  ------------  ------------  --------------------------
00:00:00.000  00:02:28.476  00:02:28.476  Sir Duke
00:02:28.476  00:05:39.316  00:03:10.839  I Wish
00:05:39.316  00:07:53.321  00:02:14.005  Isn't She Lovely
00:07:53.321  00:09:33.025  00:01:39.703  Sunshine Of My Life
00:09:33.025  00:13:54.590  00:04:21.565  Superstition
00:13:54.590  00:16:42.377  00:02:47.786  Campaign For Love
00:16:42.377  00:19:42.398  00:03:00.021  Introducing Jon Gibson
00:19:42.398  00:27:23.198  00:07:40.799  Ebony & Ivory
00:27:51.593  00:29:33.961  00:01:42.368  Audience Appreciation
00:29:33.961  00:35:08.159  00:05:34.197  As
00:35:08.159  00:37:04.895  00:01:56.735  Master Blaster Jamin'
00:37:28.447  00:47:48.911  00:10:20.464  Do I Do
00:48:10.669  00:50:44.639  00:02:33.969  Happy Birthday

MD5 Fingerprints: Disc-1:
20743cc78bc5d0070c78af5fb9facb17 *        1.01 See Love In Your Heart.flac
0fa00be37d563ff350e42e4938fbc20a *        1.02 Band Introductions.flac
e5cc59c8b36c60ed03a9dc72b3bc4adb *        1.03 Tiger By The Tail.flac
bafa5005409de6c44f5e026468066193 *        1.04 Jingle Bells.flac
1f06182e4e1328b868a00c0593ab850d *        1.05 Merry Christmas Baby.flac
25d79865b4be82354242c9c583ec6d30 *        1.06 Did I Hear You Say 'I Love You'.flac
c848596c921d0726c663f3fed0dcd41d *        1.07 Superwoman.flac
ad07f00b298867fd0e417443dd8379ab *        1.08 You And I.flac
96d5c0415d5dcafadd41f80c63209535 *        1.09 Too Shy To Say.flac
3783313f8745277a98d52545d2a8b207 *        1.10 Taboo To Love.flac
d5d2d12124b271e6370a331d9fb8d122 *        1.11 Send One Your Love.flac
e74960cc80aa92aac8da281ae6fea424 *        1.12 Girl From Ipanema.flac
bbbc5736929bf09a6a3010998b01a9f7 *        1.13 Silent Night.flac
e4329b5ae21c024f33cab1af5253113f *        1.14 I Can't Help It.flac
184a36b73174d34e2a503eef846fa4bc *        1.15 Creepin.flac
23c849a5074465966baa0bed066eea20 *        1.16 Ribbons In The Sky.flac
5d5b2fc972ddc7c89ae139a6123d4bcb *        1.17 Intro to 'Overjoyed'.flac
7ab0af62dbe483ad574ea2df09aea694 *        1.18 Overjoyed.flac

6f0bf1f70e9238c0844f6393fb2760bc *        2.01 Fingertips - Motown Story.flac
0ec7ac73c38d4f3b112d539f41234eb3 *        2.02 Uptight.flac
71ef3bd29c5438a93577a63b0483cc82 *        2.03 For Once In My Life.flac
a034d4ae05c5e375d0cf751f9254b882 *        2.04 I'm Black And I'm Proud.flac
121c1a585fc54abda670d9c96249a9a7 *        2.05 My Cherie Amour.flac
6af1e9283fac379ef3108dc55f34a82b *        2.06 Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I'm Yours).flac
361cae60d90094a340d606bdab311fca *        2.07 Higher Ground.flac
d6db5887f660e4aab81bb1734668958a *        2.08 You Haven't Done Nothin'.flac
c1b8574b5c9f9f49c3a743a4971062dd *        2.09 Livin' For The City.flac
d339617879291ebae99ca73b22f9ee06 *        2.10 We Can Get It Straight.flac
797abff7a2e060f72999af26c187e92d *        2.11 Go Home.flac
111606be0f8dfceb092edaabacf7024a *        2.12 The Human Mix.flac
b59c5178b3e05d4bcaca016118070de6 *        2.13 Go Home (Reprise).flac

0d2972600edba4c9fb96ba1688676324 *        3.01 Sir Duke.flac
6a2b094523a0305c9cb852c2075c68ab *        3.02 I Wish.flac
f15467f160231fb4491ca09ae1e0c64f *        3.03 Isn't She Lovely.flac
865ec7673f20449debfd58f156be0e64 *        3.04 Sunshine Of My Life.flac
770594fe69c622c71807f638f1ef4f27 *        3.05 Superstition.flac
aa5af3c1341f46ea3f89d1c4419fa3e6 *        3.06 Campaign For Love.flac
a5163fcb3ad70ff478d95603d29f39a4 *        3.07 Introducing Jon Gibson.flac
d9247aeb3ad09eeed98d4c3db188a326 *        3.08 Ebony & Ivory.flac
48ff94bf622febcf71388a1db1a74bd5 *        3.09 Audience Appreciation.flac
59b0bea8992ee7fc353b37aae1f9444b *        3.10 As.flac
d351c6e0b36f35e8b8746d970bc248a2 *        3.11 Master Blaster Jamin'.flac
e1bede7dcce1990ecf912bd2d6bc4dea *        3.12 Do I Do.flac
b878bbf367c212125ef2686f92fd0f3c *        3.13 Happy Birthday.flac

5a2f41f44af390456b0d4b0136a8df3c *        As (Backfill Cut).flac
f3426f2c6255e5006d48a0760968c533 *        As (Original Cut).flac