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Best engineered analog album?

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Best engineered analog album?

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:53 am

What's the best engineered pop album of the analog age, the most refined example of what the medium could produce? Aja? As jjoyce once observed, in the 1980s, unctuous stereo salesmen always demoed Aja. On a metal cassette.

I believe Donald Fagen's The Nightfly (1982) was the first digitally recorded major release, so maybe that's the cutoff.
Last edited by Kenneth Burns on Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:57 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby fisticuffs » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:57 am

Siamese Dream. Engineered right here in Madison. All two-inch analog. Average of 200 cuts/splices per track. A marvel of analog engineering in the midst of the switch to digital.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby Kyle Motor » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:55 am

fisticuffs wrote:Average of 200 cuts/splices per track. A marvel of analog engineering in the midst of the switch to digital.

It's amazing that you can get a cohesive recording out of that, but that amount of splices makes me want to barf. To me that screams either incompetent musicians, an overly-anal producer, or both.

When I think "best engineered", I think of something like Elvis Is Back!, recorded in 1960. A true stereo recording of a group of damn fine musicians churning out R&B tunes with Elvis in fine form. The recording is simple and unadorned, with incredible realistic depth. Turn it up loud and the band is in your living room.

Conversely, most 65-66 recordings by The Sonics have an unparalleled fierceness. Much of that is the way the band itself sounded, but how engineer Kearney Barton captured it is beyond me.

Otherwise for more "modern", multi-track engineering, any Queen album engineered by Mike Stone is pretty amazing, particularly the stretch from 75-77 when they had more studio time/money to play around with. There's a noticeable difference in sound (to its detriment IMO) on 1978's Jazz, the first Queen album without Stone engineering.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby wack wack » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:00 am

The Black Crowes, Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby ilikebeans » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:10 am

Some of the Supertramp albums sound absolutely amazing on vinyl on a good system, particularly Brother Where You Bound. I remember the initial full band hit on the title track actually startling me, and not because of sheer volume.

If you're looking for pure recording and mastering quality on vinyl, you could certainly do worse than Sheffield Lab, although the bands aren't likely ones you'd recognize.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby minicat » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:42 am

wack wack wrote:The Black Crowes, Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.


Considering that didn't come out on LP at the time, the true analog chain is broken. The original CD sounded great, though, and I would bet it was recorded/mixed analog.

There's so many good choices and judging sound quality is so subjective to the likes of the listener it would be impossible to nail down one particular album. It might be easier to find consensus on best recording, mixing or disc cutting engineer.

That being said, I'd go for some of the early '70 recordings made at Ardent: Big Star, Cargoe, various Stax artists, etc.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby wack wack » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:58 am

minicat wrote:Considering that didn't come out on LP at the time, the true analog chain is broken. The original CD sounded great, though, and I would bet it was recorded/mixed analog.


It was! My understanding is that the entire process was analog until the CD master. My understanding is also that enough drugs were consumed during the making of the album that they may not really know what it was recorded on.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:00 pm

I like the warm, detailed sound of certain rock releases from the late 1970s and early 1980s, like "The Wall," "Back in Black," even "Double Fantasy." The distractions of the quad era were over (I don't think anyone ever really figured out how to mix quad), and the techniques for recording and mixing a certain kind of mainstream stereo album had reached a point of refined perfection. Who knew the gated drum was just around the corner?
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:03 pm

I think this relates to the fact that I came of age as a rock fan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. So a part of me that I can't control still thinks a rock album ought to sound like "Back in Black."
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby wack wack » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:06 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:I think this relates to the fact that I came of age as a rock fan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. So a part of me that I can't control still thinks a rock album ought to sound like "Back in Black."


Certainly nothing wrong with that!

Rush Moving Pictures is also amazing.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby Kenneth Burns » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:08 pm

wack wack wrote:
Kenneth Burns wrote:I think this relates to the fact that I came of age as a rock fan in the late 1970s and early 1980s. So a part of me that I can't control still thinks a rock album ought to sound like "Back in Black."


Certainly nothing wrong with that!

Rush Moving Pictures is also amazing.

Yes. A great example of the sound of that period.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby minicat » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:11 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote: Who knew the gated drum was just around the corner?


Satan.

stepping back a bit:
I was really mad at the time Southern Harmony didn't come out on LP, particularly since the first and third Black Crowes did (and sound really great, FWIW). There was a reissue a couple years back but it looked sorta sketchy - it's really too long for a single LP, but they squeezed it on. I'd love to see a well-mastered double LP with some of the singles B-sides appended.

some more great sounding early '70s LPs: Sunflower and Surf's Up by the Beach Boys.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby dave esmond » Wed Oct 24, 2012 12:23 pm

minicat wrote:some more great sounding early '70s LPs: Sunflower and Surf's Up by the Beach Boys.


I'm a big fan of Holland too. Wash over you sound.

Otherwise when I think of a well engineered album, as opposed to a well mixed or produced one I tend to like the simpler stuff like Elvis is Back! Put on either Elvis' version of Fever or the one by Peggy Lee from the late '50s and they're in the room with you.

Brubeck's Time Out album is pretty awesome sounding also. In mono the drums sound really, really good.

I like what Roy Orbison recorded for Monument a lot also.

Nothing wrong with wanting rock albums to sound like BIB to me.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby Kyle Motor » Wed Oct 24, 2012 1:35 pm

Back In Black is too polished. Powerage is where it's at.

There's the Spanky & Our Gang album that minicat introduced me to, Anything You Choose b/w Without Rhyme Or Reason. The opening track, "Leopard Skin Phones", is a headphone song about recording and mixing a headphone song. It sounds incredible, and given that it came out in 1969, the engineering behind it was ahead of its time.
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Re: Best engineered analog album?

Postby brentron909 » Wed Oct 24, 2012 2:24 pm

Kenneth Burns wrote:I believe Donald Fagen's The Nightfly (1982) was the first digitally recorded major release, so maybe that's the cutoff.


*Comic book guy voice* Actually, the first digitally recored major release was Bop 'Til You Drop by Ry Cooder. Way back in '79!

Wonder what those master tapes sound like. Oof.
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