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Best engineered / best sounding album


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I'm wondering what people think are the best engineered / best produced albums out there. Learning (or stealing) is always more fun when your teachers are the best :thu:

 

Albums that come to mind for me are:

Tom Petty -- Wildflowers

or anything produced by Mutt Lange (def leppard, ac/dc, or shania twain or whatever)

 

So what are the albums that you listened to that made you want to run around and tell everyone how freakin awesome they sound?

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Also if you want to elaborate at all, feel free...

 

For me the thing that stands out on Wildflowers was how every sound occupies a spot not only left/right, but they also have a vertical sense of space (some things sound like they're floating above others) and a sense of depth (two things could be in the same spot left/right but one sounds more forward than the other).

 

Whenever anyone says "3D soundstage" that is the album I think of immediately.

 

Not to mention, each instrument just plain sounds like perfection : )

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Without a doubt it is ACDC Back in Black for me. What a huge difference in tone from a couple albums before that one.

 

I wish I knew half of what Lange does. He sure knows how to fiddle with dem pan and EQ knobs.

 

Also KISS' Destroyer.

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Well I can't stand them personally but as far as production goes I'm gonna have to say nickelback's latest album.

 

I will also but down Linkin Park's meteora.

 

One that I actually like for the band itself is killswitch engage's the end of heartache.

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I remember 3 records that just sonically kicked my butt when I was a kid-

 

AC/DC "Back in Black"

 

Judas Priest "British Steel" (very crisp and 3-D)

 

Jeff Beck "Blow By Blow"

 

There are better-sounding records, but these are my immediate responses. Then there's "Gretchen..." by King's X and Living Colour's "Time's Up". I can keep going, but I gotta run...

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I ALMOST said Nickleback too, but it seems to me more like a STANDARD GOOD prodcution that sounds great because the SONGS themselves are not over done. Just a few parts written, cleanly done, clear and present... then mastered with that pop shine. Good sound overall

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Emmylou Harris "Wrecking Ball" by Daniel Lanois is incredible.

I like a lot of the Led Zeppelin recordings.

Michael Jackson stuff - really fantastic, full recordings

Metallica (Black Album)

NIN (not sure, probably Downward Spiral)

Steely Dan "Aka" (I like this but don't love it, but the playing and production are phenomenal)

ELO

 

I also think that Steve Albini has recorded some really great sounding stuff, like some of the Zeni Geva stuff and obviously Nirvana.

 

Note that these are not necessarily my favorite productions (with the exception of Lanois), but are some of the best engineered/produced albums I've heard nevertheless.

 

And regarding Metallica and NIN, there is so much midrange information in there that mixing this is in itself a work of genius.

 

I also can't think of any specific examples, but Roy Halee must be mentioned in some of the best engineered stuff. Great work.

 

FIELD RECORDINGS:

 

David Parsons - his field recordings are *phenomenal*. Just freakin' amazing.

 

Alan Lomax - his field recordings are also "phenomenal".

 

Hugh Tracey - He did what the others did, but in adverse conditions, well off the beaten track. Hugh Tracey, take a bow.

 

People who do field recordings rarely get accolades for doing outstanding engineering, so I hope to rectify that by pointing out some of these people that I greatly admire who lug the recording equipment to the source instead of having musicians come into a controlled, sonically tuned environment....and STILL come up with fantastic recordings that stand the test of time.

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The new Raising Sand with Plant and Krauss comes to mind. It has that wonderful smoky quality that comes from an upright bass booming poking into the other mics. Tape delays, tube grit... and nice relaxed yet fully engaged performances by all involved.

 

I think the electric guitars and bass on Abbey Road are godlike.

 

Everything about the recording of the overplayed Stairway to Heaven is golden. It has the added benefit of including "the perfect rock guitar solo." That's a great recording.

 

Have you listened to the recording of Don McClean's American Pie lately? With the recording in mind? It's awesome and it's my idea of a cool, rockin' yet intimate, house party style recording. Love the piano performance, sound and recording.

 

Mutt is a god For Highway to Hell alone. The he did Back in Black. He remains a guilty pleasure of mine into his "hot wife era" too.

 

Teenage Wasteland

 

The Dylan album with The Times They Are A'Changin' is a really cool recording.

 

MJ's Off the Wall!

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I really like the way "Back in Black" is recorded. So real and full sounding.

 

T-Bone Burnett does some of the best engineering stuff I've heard, but although I really enjoy the Krauss/Plant recording - especially how the vocals are recorded - I don't care so much for the big-ass drums.

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I am not a fan of tool recordings.


The snare is panned weird.

Maynard is to low in the mix.

 

 

I've always liked their drum sound; it's very natural for a heavy band. They get a lot of their drum sound from the overheads, or so I've read, which is very unusual in modern hard rock and metal. As for the vocals, mixing them lower- as another instrument, really, not out front over the top of everything- is a big part of their sound. I think it's appropriate for what they do- prog-flavored heavy rock. But I digress. I really enjoy their production.

 

As far as hard rock's concerned (other than Tool)-

Gov't Mule- pretty much anything. Great, natural sounds, with an old-school vibe and minimal overdubbing.

 

Metallica- Load and Reload. Everyone loves the Black album. I prefer these two for production. I suppose they're more contemporary sounding; drier drums and vocals, less scooped guitars. I'm not a fan of the '80s arena rock sound, so the production on these appeals to me more.

 

Soundgarden- Superunknown. Fantastic drums, huge sounding mix, and one of the best rock vocal performances ever committed to tape.

 

Honorable mention- Alice In Chains- Dirt. Those triggered drums have to go. Seriously, except for the snare rolls in Rooster, every hit sounds exactly the same. A big blemish on a great album.

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Electric Ladyland is amazing as far as production goes.

 

Revolver to me is just as good, but you can't leave out SGT peppers.

 

Dark Side is probably floyds best production done on an album.

 

Morrison Hotel strikes me as an album with good production.

 

Band on the Run is always great too.

 

 

Finally I'd say Night at the opera by queen is produced as well as any album I've ever heard.

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Band on the Run is always great too.



 

:thu:

 

Shawn Colvin's A Few Small Repairs is a great reference recording for acoustic based pop/rock. Mandolins layered with jangly electrics and capoed Martins. Hip folk/blues harmonica work. It's naturally ambient drums add another layer of cool depth as well. Everything is captured with a naturalness that on paper should make it the antithesis of a pop recording. Except it's a pop as can be in sales.

 

I steal production ideas from this recording all the time.

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Dark Side Of The Moon-Pink Floyd-1st album I've heard where the engineering sounds like it deserves songwriting credit.

Moving Pictures-Rush

Zenyatta Mendatta-Police-Best sounding Telecaster......ever

Thriller-Michael Jackson-------Bruce Swedien at his best

Heart-Little Queen-yes, I know they bit Led Zep hard, but this was cleaner than anything Zep had done-Mike Flicker's masterpiece.

Jewel-Goodbye Alice in Wonderland- everything is just so crisp and alive, not much out there more dynamic than this album, I just want to know what kind of compressor did they use on this one.

Hearsay-Alexander O'Neal--Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis set a new standard for R&B quality with this album.

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Dark Side Of The Moon-Pink Floyd-1st album I've heard where the engineering sounds like it deserves songwriting credit.

 

...[cough]Alan Parsons![cough]... ;)

 

hmmmmmmm bunch of OLD recordings.... I see that no one has mentioned CURRENT chart toppers Mariah, Usher, Madonna, Flo-rida, Kayne, Chris Brown.... hmmmmm wonder why that is?

 

Oh! That's right. Because there is absolutely nothing special about their recordings at all. I forgot for a second :)

 

For my money, Elliot Scheiner and his "Mixing at 65db" Yamaha NS10's makes the cleanest, clearest, most sterile yet musically awesomest recordings ever. He's behind Steely Dan and others tracking and mixdown. Look at the list of artists enhanced by his touch http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elliot_Scheiner

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I also like Tool's production. Some of those tunes you can seriously get lost in, wtih the frenetic widely panned percussion and super tight doubled parts and such.

 

One that's always brought up by producer types is Dire Straits' "Brothers in Arms".

 

I really like Natalie Merchant's Tiger Lilly myself. Beautiful production on that album, and very understated.

 

And I really like the production on Sheryl Crow's second album, the self titled one.

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Wow, great thread - where to start? :)

 

Ken, I think you made a typo - I'm sure you meant "Aja". :)

 

And IMO, Aja IS a very well recorded album. With guys like Roger ("The Immortal") Nichols, Elliot Scheiner, Al Schmitt and Bill Schnee behind the boards, frankly, I'd expect nothing less. This is analog at the peak of its powers.

 

Of course, all the skills of some of the world's finest engineers isn't going to make a great album if the musicians are not up to snuff, and SD always had the pick of the session musician litter. Chuck Rainey on bass? Steve Gadd on drums? Come on - that rhythm section locks down tighter than Fort Knox under a security drill. Tom Scott, Jay Graydon, Victor Feldman, Wayne Shorter, Pete Christlieb, Joe Sample, Michael McDonald, Tim Schmit, Bernard Purdie, Larry Carlton, Lee Ritenour - the list of fantastic musicians on this record is amazing.

 

But of course, a great recording and great players in a great studio (several actually - Village Recorders, ABC LA, Warner Brothers, Sound Labs, A&R NYC) does not a great record make - you have to have SONGS. And IMO, the jazzy, yet accessible songs and slightly left of understandable / sensical (like that word? I just made it up. ;) ) lyrics made for a great vehicle for everyone to shine.

 

The tracking and mixing on this album were done with meticulous care and IMO, perfect balance. Of course, it doesn't hurt in that regard to have great arrangements. Nothing sounds out of place or weak. You can hear every note - nothing is hidden or obscured by anything else. The resolution and detail are pretty incredible on this record, and Steely Dan has always - and always will - been on my "reference list" ever since.

 

Hats off to Gary Katz for a incredibly well produced record! :phil:

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