It's tempting to respond to this by reeling off favourite albums. But I'll try not to.
Firstly, another vote for Jeff Buckley/Andy Wallace, but the whole album this
time - Grace. Specifically in terms of what we consider as "mastering", the
dynamics of the tracks are expressive and exciting. It opens with a lullaby of silence on
'Mojo Pin', soothing enough to rise to (it was my alarm clock for a while)... but this
smacks you very hard indeed with the massive rising choruses. The order of the tracks
couldn't be bettered, it's a lovely journey, finishing with the dramatic and eerily gothic
'Dream Brother'. In terms of production it has everything without going overboard, from
crisp cymbals to intimate vocals; from overdubs in 'Grace' to a simple melody in Corpus
Christi Carol. What I appreciate most is it sounds like everyone involved would surely
have been satisfied with the finished album; suitable for an artist with such talent, the
producer hasn't limited the sound (technically or in a vague sense) to try and rein him in
and sound like the production of someone else - this album has an utterly unique
Just to show how I'm not simply choosing my favourite albums...
how about Radiohead's Hail To The Thief. Although I love Radiohead's music and
imagination, there are flaws in the album. The opening '2+2=5' promises much, but where
the rock tries to kick in, it utterly fails to impact due to terrible hard
limiting. I also have a problem wth the general high end of this album - it sounds a bit
mangled, like they left the reel in the bathroom. I enjoy the reverb used however, it's
suitably epic for the best British band in existance.
I also want to give
another vote to Pearl Jam's Ten. The clarity of all the parts is amazingly clean
(and no limiting in sight thank god, those were the days). The mastering of this album
proves there has been no piece of new swanky equipment invented in the last fifteen years
that can't be done without, unless they had access to Nasa's studio.
for me, Pearl Jam's No Code. Music types talk about 'warmth'. This has so much it
would thaw Jack Frost. It sounds so 'analogue' and 'tapey' and 'woody'. Writing this, I'm
learning that what I consider excellent mastering is when the record has its own
character; for like Grace, this album's identity is perfectly clear and stands out
from everything else. I remember when I first bought this on cassette as a kid, I sent it
back to Sony. I insisted my tape was faulty because of some rippily odd distortion on the
first track, 'Sometimes'. They sent me an identical copy and it gradually dawned on me
that this was an experimental sound I simply wasn't used to, a sound my ears hadn't had
the pleasure of experiencing.