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Best Sounding Albums

Spring-boarding from a conversation happening elsewhere in the community this week, about sound quality and compression on albums, here’s a simple question that is sure to open the floodgates of answers:

What are your favourite best sounding albums? Not necessarily the music alone, though that can be a part of the overall picture for sure, but I mean production-wise. You’ve all heard a zillion albums by now, and could probably even pick out this or that producer by sound. I’m after YOUR personal favourites, not necessarily even the ones we all know are landmark recordings, or important albums, what are your faves? Bonus points: what about live album versus studio?

The one I always use for testing new stereos is Wynton Marsalis’ Standard Time Vol. 3: The Resolution Of Romance. It’s so clear and roomy, and you can even hear the vibration of the strings on the upright bass. It’s like you’re in the room with them. I also always thought radiohead’s OK Computer’s sound perfectly matched the songs, creating a server room of sound for the songs to be in.

For live sound, I always liked Midnight Oil’s Scream In Blue album, it’s a monster. And Rollins Band’s The Only Way To Know For Sure is a great-sounding record that went from the stage to the truck to the CD.

And there are tons of others. Let’s use the comments section to start a list!

Which albums, for you, have the best sound?

Midnight Oil – Scream In Blue

To my ears, this is one of the best-sounding live recordings I’ve ever heard. In terms of sonic quality (I’m not comparing the Oils to these other artists, per se) it’s right up there with James Brown’s Live At The Apollo, the Rolling Stones’ Flashpoint and a few others that rock me completely. The sound is crisp, clear, and full. A lot of live albums suck because it’s apparently rather difficult to capture what is heard in a venue on tape, even after all these years of people doing just that. Frankly, I don’t think a lot of those people are trying too hard. Sucks to be them, having this record to live up to… This one does it right. 

Even better, the songs themselves are great! This record just kicks ass.

I owned a copy of this years ago, I think it was on cassette, and have always remembered it as brilliant. I recently grabbed a CD of it, for nostalgia’s sake, and was thrilled to find that my memory of this record was indeed correct. What a joy to play this again!

Now, I know it depends on how a person feels about Midnight Oil. Some find them too preachy, some find Peter Garrett’s voice obnoxious, some relegate them to the past as “that 80’s thing” and forget about them. Some have never given them a moment’s thought (imagine that!). Then again, some just love the band and everything they do, and give them proper respect for all of their hard work. Over the years, this band has always been one that sparked a strong reaction in the people with whom I’ve talked about them, whichever way they felt about it.

Personally, I think the message is strong, and it is something we need to hear, although I wonder how many times we have to hear it (and from how many sources) before we do something about it. That they took their message out into the world and did their best with it gets top marks in my books. But it’s the songs as a whole that keep me coming back, not just the words. Listening to this record now, I’m thrilled by the guitar sound, from gentle to buzz saw, with heavier riffing than you might remember from their album releases. The drums bash away gleefully, in tight tandem with the bottom-heavy bass. What’s caught on this recording is the undeniable energy of their shows, which was massive.

Yeah, this is straight-up rock and roll, and it’s played very, very, very well. Yummy.

The Oils stood for something and tried to do something about it, and that’s more than a lot of us can say. This record is a snapshot of them in action, and it sounds absolutely great. I’ll be playing this one a lot. Again.

Track Listing:
01 Scream In Blue
02 Read About It
03 Dreamworld
04 Brave Faces
05 Only The Strong
06 Stars Of Warburton
07 Progress
08 Beds Are Burning
09 Sell My Soul
10 Sometimes
11 Hercules
12 Powderworks
13 extra track – Burnie

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