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Thank you for this information! So I'm NOT crazy. Many years ago, I 
purchased the r2r version of the original Capitol release of 1964's 
Golden Boy with Sammy Davis Jr. This was the recording as originally 
issued, not the revised version with Davis re-recording several of his 
tracks. The right track (if I remember correctly) has much lower sound 
volume level than the left, and always wondered whether it was an 
azimuth error. It seems like it was actually crappy duplication!

DrG

On 3/10/11 4:27 AM, Tom Fine wrote:
  Another trend in the
> 60s was big duping operations like Ampex and Bel Canto and GRT becoming
> the outsource factories for the major labels, with lower quality control
> and cheapo tape and reels employed as time went on. Bel Canto Mercury
> tapes are particularly bad, often with the channels reversed and bad
> level differences between the channels. Mercury must have been sending
> 4th or 5th generation tapes out to be duped, because the hiss level is
> insane on some of those tapes. These kinds of decisions were made by the
> busines folks, not the music folks.

> -- Tom Fine