Top Ten Albums All Recording Engineers Should Own

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Top Ten Albums All Recording Engineers Should Own

Post by cgarges » Sat Jan 22, 2011 9:08 pm

I was thinking about this recently. What are, in your opinion, the top ten albums that all recording engineers should own? I'm asking from an engineering perspective, not from a musician's perspective. If you feel up to it, please list your opinions on this and give a short reason for each selection. Again, coming at this from an engineering perspective, and not reasons like, "Awesome songwriting and great guitar solos" or whatever.

Curious to see what makes the lists and what albums get frequent billing from different folks.

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Post by Marlowe » Sun Jan 23, 2011 7:16 am

Off the top of my head:

1. Dark Side Of The Moon - Pink Floyd (gorgeous sounds and big sense of space)
2. Mezzanine - Massive Attack (the engineering peak of the triphop genre)
3. Back In Black - AC/DC (simple sounds and big impact -- hard rock perfection)
4. Folk Singer - Muddy Waters (incredible realism)
5. Sgt. Pepper - The Beatles (vast creativity within limitations)
6. Amused To Death - Roger Waters (awesomely dramatic, clear, textured production)
7. In Utero - Nirvana (still sounds fresh & great example of Albini drums)
8. Boxer - The National (perfect marriage of the production and the music, also great to demonstrate how analog digital can sound)
9. Rids The World of the Evil Curse of the Vampires - Scientist (the heights of dub creativity)
10. Achtung Baby - U2 (Beautiful sounds and textures)

Each of those demonstrate an excellence within a particular approach.

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Post by vvv » Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:39 am

Well, I, for one, refuse to cite any record, ever, what doesn't have. "Awesome songwriting and great guitar solos" .

Other than my own. :twisted:

Seriously, yer gonna make us think about this.

And worse, in the context of "All Recording Engineers", not just what are personal touchstones, eh?

Hoping you ain't mind piecemeal, then, as I do 'em in no particular order, but in classifications, here's half of mine.

THE CLASSICS:

The Rolling Stones, Beggars Banquet: It's not my fave Stones record, but the sounds, the well-documented recording process, and the vibes and grooves should all be hugely inspirational, and the twist on the acoustic guitars, as well as the relatively primitive equipment, even more so. And don't forget the choir, and the percussion, and the arrangements.

Led Zepplin, The Box Set: Seriously, the re-mastered box set is worth about two years of your recording life. Seriously. And a comparison between it and the original CDs, not to mention the original vinyl, is a primer in mixing and mastering, EQ and panning. Lemme say that if you can't stand the Zep, there are versions of Exile on Main Street to do the same.

NIN, The Fragile: for the sounds, the arrangements, and especially important today, the dynamics.

Television, Marquee Moon (re-mastered): for many of the above-cited reasons, but also as an illustration of a very straightforward, "just capture it" result, by a surprising (for the results) recordist, Andy Johns.

The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper: as to "why" for this, yer on yer own.
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Post by Jitters » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:11 am

Cool thread!

I'll probably just pop in with a few one at a time rather than try to come up with THE ten.

My first nominee has to be Houses of the Holy by Led Zep.

Led Zeppelin I might have made me want to play guitar in a band, but Houses of the Holy made me want to make records! Every song on there is like a self contained universe. 'No Quarter' is probably my personal favorite song to demonstrate just what the studio can do for a song.

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Post by rockstudio » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:42 am

These are the records that I have been using lately (I record and mix a lot of rock & heavy music) in no order:

Metallica's black album ie. "And Nothing Else Matters" (for really pushed top and bottom and dynamic power)

Weezer's Make Believe ie. "The Damage in Your Heart" (great snare sound and overall feel)

Paramore's Brand New Eyes ie. "Ignorance" (a good reference for an ultra slick, modern production style with good examples of modern guitar tones)

Donald Fagan's Morph The Cat ie. "Morph The Cat" (this track is the bass boss. Of course it has the really dry, clean drums and everything is very snappy)

I'll import those songs into my sessions for real-time referencing.
Awesome thread idea Chris!

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Post by Tim A » Sun Jan 23, 2011 3:03 pm

For anyone who doubts the power of the 57.

bon iver for emma forever ago.

recorded with just a 57 this album will be a classic

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Post by ReedRecordingCo » Sun Jan 23, 2011 6:43 pm

Graham Nash's Songs for Beginners. Great acoustic and vocal sounds. Very natural

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Post by cgarges » Sun Jan 23, 2011 7:22 pm

Thanks for the posts, guys!

I'm thinking about this as a guideline for anybody to use. I always loved those kinds of articles in Modern Drummer magazine when I was a kid. "Top Twenty Drum Albums Of All Time," "Top Twenty Great Jazz Albums Of All Time," etc. Those artcles turned me on to a lot of stuf that I might not have investigated otherwise. I've also always been fascinated by albums that a lot of people I respect own and talk about a lot. I'm just thinking that maybe if certain albums appear on here a bunch, it might be worth checking them out.

Just mentioning what you think is great is okay, but it's not all that useful in terms of trying to turn someone else on to it. We already have the "What Are You Listenting To Today?" thread, (which I LOVE, by the way). If you give an explanation of why everybody who's into learning about recording ought to have a copy of a specific album, it's more likely to have an effect. Just because you like something doesn't mean that it's the right thing for everybody. Elaborate a bit, if you can. Try and sell your opinion.

If this goes well and if Larry's interested, I may turn it into an article for the mag. Just thinking about it.

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Post by iamthecosmos » Sun Jan 23, 2011 11:47 pm

I would say Big Star's first album, which is engineered brilliantly all over but has probably the best sounding acoustic guitars I've heard on record. Specifically 'Watch The Sunrise'.

Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division, for the creative use of delay, and for showing that even in a post-punk setting the unwavering vision of a producer ignoring the band's wishes can create something incredible. It's a great example of how de-constructing the drum kit can work as well, I'm just listening to how 'wrong' the snare is on 'Day Of The Lords'.

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Post by red cross » Mon Jan 24, 2011 12:55 am

"Histoire de Melody Nelson" - Serge Gainsbourg. An aural instruction on how to make a record sound like a film soundtrack. Glorious low mids.

"The Band" - The Band. If there's any living document that shows why the modern practice of carving a bunch of 200-400Hz out of every damn track is a bad idea, this is it. Low midrange to die for.

"Hot Buttered Soul" - Isaac Hayes. Sounds exactly like what it says on the tin. Glorious early 70s hi-fidelity.

There's just way too many so I'm just gonna stop here.

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Post by ott0bot » Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:35 am

very cool thread.

Dark side of the Moon I agree for the most part, but personally I think Wish You Were Here is more sonically interesting, and Ummagumma and Meddle are more experimental. The whole Pink Floyd catolog has something to offer.

ok here are a few of my own....

The Zombies: Odyssey and Oracle- reallly creative mixes and great utilization of the technology of the time. There is tons to be said about this album, from the use of reverb, to the mellotron, to the massive layering of harmonies. Bands are still emulating this and sgt. peppers and think they are pushing the envelope...but looking back 40 years, it's pretty obvious that someone had pushed a little harder back when technology was much more limiting.

Fugazi: End Hits - some of the best guitar and drum sound ever recorded. Everything on this albums sounds sooo good to my ears. Dan at Inner Ear seems to have perfected the sound of this band... it's like each Fugazi album was building towards getting this sound...and it plataud here.

Unwound: Leaves Turn Inside You - an album recorded in a dingy country house basement that really sounds unique, beautiful and haunting....which I thinks owes as much to how it was recorded as it does to the songwriting. Found a cool article about it:
http://www.neumu.net/inquisitive/unwoun ... d_03.shtml

Marvin Gaye: Here, My Dear - despite the amazing songwriting on this once forgotten record, I think what really stands is the engineering. The perscussion on this album is so great sounding, the massive amount of layed vocals, and awesomely lo-fi synth work on this record really make it sound far more interesting than many of the other Motown recordings of the era.

There are sooo many more, but those are some of the records that inspired me, looking forward to some other peoples selections.

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Post by tonewoods » Mon Jan 24, 2011 9:50 am

Got lots of time to kill today, so-ooo here goes:

1) "Dirt Farmer" Levon Helm (How to make an all-acoustic recording with slammin' drums. Very, very hard to do.)

2) "Embraceable You" The Nat King Cole Trio (Did they have albums back then? Anyway, this just reeks of well-placed ribbons capturing a moment.)

3) "Bone Machine" Tom Waits (The shakers are distorted?? So???)

4) "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You" Aretha Franklin (The vocals are distorted?? So??? The whole album's sonics are just incredible.)

5) Gabor Szabo "Mizrab" (Rudy Van Gelder gettin' sounds... :shock: )

6) "The Mountain" Steve Earle And The Del McCoury Band (Facinating recording, with tons and tons of compression on everything, and guitars and mandolins hanging on the studio walls humming along with the music....)

7) "Bookends" Simon and Garfunkel (Roy Halee and Bob Johnston onboard. Just some killer ear-candy on that LP.)

8} "Odessey and Oracle" The Zombies (More 4-track Abbey Road magic.)

9) "Sketches of Spain" Miles Davis (A whole bunch of great players recorded by great engineers in a great room--Columbia 30th Street Studios.)

10) "A Meeting by the River" V. M. Bhatt and Ry Cooder (I guess every recordist should have a listen to this Blumlein analog recording of two great players in a nice sounding room.)

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Post by lyman » Mon Jan 24, 2011 10:43 am

this is an interesting topic for a list because there are so many ways to approach putting it together. it all depends on the points you're trying to make and what YOU value in how an album sounds.

anyway, here are a few (not sure if I'll come up with 10) and my reasons:

1. weezer - pinkerton: for that 'blown out' sound
2. beck - odelay: a sonic collage
3. dylan - time out of mind: depth of field is your friend.
4. pink floyd - the wall: not my favorite by them but other people have mentioned other floyd albums, and i feel like the scope of this double album and the amount of different sounds/songs/tones that they stitch together merits something. and those toms sound awesome!
5. spiritualized - pure phase: maybe this would be something i'd play more for a mixing engineer specifically...
6. guided by voices - isolation drills: if i was going for a "big" modern rock sound
7. morphine - cure for pain: i dunno, it just sounds right
8. petty - wildflowers: nice sounds that don't get in the way of the songs
9. tom waits - mule variations: another good marriage of songs and production
10. rush - vapour trails: i would play this for my mastering engineer and then say "see, this is what i DON'T want to happen." :wink:

hey, i came up with 10. woo hoo!

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Post by vvv » Mon Jan 24, 2011 6:49 pm

tonewoods wrote:

6) "The Mountain" Steve Earle And The Del McCoury Band (Facinating recording, with tons and tons of compression on everything, and guitars and mandolins hanging on the studio walls humming along with the music....)
Wasn't this all recorded around one omni mic, old-timey blue-grass stylee?
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Post by tonewoods » Mon Jan 24, 2011 10:01 pm

vvv wrote:
tonewoods wrote:

6) "The Mountain" Steve Earle And The Del McCoury Band (Facinating recording, with tons and tons of compression on everything, and guitars and mandolins hanging on the studio walls humming along with the music....)
Wasn't this all recorded around one omni mic, old-timey blue-grass stylee?
That's the way they play live (actually 2 condensers in cardiod), but this recording was done with everyone individually mic'd....
And a ton of 1176s pumping away.....

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