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Music Production and Engineering: Listening Examples

Listening Examples

Listening examples divided by era, Post World War II: Record label producer and Post Vietnam War :The explosion of "independent" producers


Post World War II era - Record label producer era

Elvis, the King of Rock 'n' Roll: The Complete 50's Masters by Elvis Presley
CD 524-528  Check Availability
Image:Elvis_Presley_The_King_Of_Rock.jpg‎ From
"This five-disc set was the first release in BMG's effort to present Elvis's recorded legacy in a manner befitting the most important musical artist of his time. The strategy was simple--showcase, in chronological order, remastered versions of the King's 1950s output, from his sessions with Sam Phillips at Sun Studios (where they arguably invented the very notion of rock & roll) through his 1958 Army induction..." - Bill Holdship
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Buffalo Springfield by Buffalo Springfield
CD 2304  Check Availability
Image:Buffalo_springfield.jpg‎ From
"The band themselves were displeased with this record, feeling that the production did not capture their on-stage energy and excitement. Yet to most ears, this debut sounds pretty great, featuring some of their most melodic and accomplished songwriting and harmonies, delivered with a hard-rocking punch. 'For What It's Worth' was the hit single, but there are several other equally stunning treasures. Stephen Stills' 'Go and Say Goodbye' was a pioneering country-rock fusion; his 'Sit Down I Think I Love You' was the band at their poppiest and most early Beatlesque; and his 'Everybody's Wrong' and 'Pay the Price' were tough rockers." - Richie Unterberger
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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles
CD 271  Check Availability
Image:Sgt_peppers_lonely_hearts_club.jpg‎ From
"Before Sgt. Pepper, no one seriously thought of rock music as actual art. That all changed in 1967, though, when John, Paul, George and Ringo (with 'A Little Help' from their friend, producer George Martin) created an undeniable work of art which remains, after 30-plus years, one of the most influential albums of all time. From Lennon's evocative word/sound pictures (the trippy 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,' the carnival-like 'Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite') and McCartney's music hall-styled 'When I'm 64,' to Harrison's Eastern-leaning 'Within You Without You,' and the avant-garde mini-suite, 'A Day in the Life,' Sgt. Pepper was a milestone for both '60s music and popular culture." - Billy Altman
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The Doors by the Doors
CD 10500  Check Availability
Image:The_Doors.jpg‎ From
"On their 1967 debut album, the Doors more than fulfilled the promise of their infamously challenging gigs around Los Angeles throughout the previous year. Whether belting out a standard like 'Back Door Man' or talk-singing such originals as 'The Crystal Ship' and 'I Looked at You,' leather-clad vocalist Jim Morrison exuded both sensuality and menace. The mixture, on the outsize album finale, 'The End,' helped rewrite the rules on rock song composition. None of this would have worked, though, were it not for the highly visual instrumental work of keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robbie Krieger, and drummer John Densmore, whose work on tracks such as 'Take It As It Comes' and the lengthy hit 'Light My Fire' virtually defined the rock-blues-jazz-classical amalgam that was acid-rock." - Billy Altman
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Abbey Road by the Beatles
CD 261  Check Availability
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"The Beatles' last days as a band were as productive as any major pop phenomenon that was about to split. After recording the ragged-but-right 'Let It Be,' the group held on for this ambitious effort, an album that was to become their best-selling. Though all four contribute to the first side's writing, John Lennon's hard-rocking, 'Come Together' and 'I Want You (She's So Heavy)' make the strongest impression. A series of song fragments edited together in suite form dominates side two; its portentous, touching, official close ('Golden Slumbers'/'Carry That Weight'/'The End') is nicely undercut, in typical Beatles fashion, by Paul McCartney's cheeky 'Her Majesty,' which follows." - Rickey Wright
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Beggars Banquet by the Rolling Stones
CD 4790  Check Availability
Image:Beggars_Banquet.jpg‎ From
"Opening with 'Sympathy for the Devil,' the Stones' infamous we-are-evil poem, this all-original 1968 album began a quality streak almost unmatched in rock & roll. Mick Jagger begins writing from the working-class hero's perspective--especially on the anthem 'Street Fighting Man' and 'Salt of the Earth'--and Keith Richards buttresses his partner with rock-solid slide licks recently graduated from the School of Old Blues Records. 'Jig-Saw Puzzle,' which inexplicably never became a hit, is the only known instance of Jagger's describing the Stones' individual personalities in verse." - Steve Knopper
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The Yardbirds. Vol. 1, Smokestack Lightning by the Yardbirds
CD 9304-9305  Check Availability
Image:Yardbirds_Smokestack_lightning.jpg‎ From
"This two-CD set was part of the first serious attempt to assemble the early Yardbirds material in a coherent form, mastered from decent sources...The emphasis on this volume is on the chart hits, coupled with the early blues-based recordings, both live and in the studio, making this a good starter set for anyone just discovering the group and its reputation, as well as anyone seeking insights into Eric Clapton's earliest official studio sides or his work on stage circa 1963-1964. The material featuring Jeff Beck, which is essentially all of the charted songs represented here apart from 'For Your Love,' is also very impressive, and focuses on his surprisingly advanced technique from very early on as Clapton's successor." - Bruce Eder
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Post Vietnam War era - The explosion of "independent" producers

There Goes Rhymin' Simon by Paul Simon
CD 7789  Check Availability
Image:There_Goes_Rhymin'_Simon.jpg‎ From
"[Paul Simon's] second solo album finds him regarding the passage of time and the fragility of relationships with his usual mix of smart-aleck observations and gentler, more deeply felt melancholy...Actually produced in varied studios with shifting session bands (including the chameleons in the Muscle Shoals Sound section), the set also introduced the Roches and notched Simon's first plunge into gospel on 'Loves Me Like A Rock.'" - Sam Sutherland
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Endless Summer by the Beach Boys
CD 10413  Check Availability
Image:Endless_Summer.jpg‎ From
"Endless Summer runs from the beginning of the Boys' pinstriped career to 1965, right before the melancholy of Pet Sounds, but also includes the inescapable 'Good Vibrations.' You can hear a few hints of adolescent sadness and fear--'Help Me, Rhonda' is essentially a kids' sing-along about a wrenching emotional rebound, and the shadow of death is hiding somewhere in 'Don't Worry, Baby'--but Wilson is mostly concerned with the cars, waves, and girls that made up the Boys' public image, and his ingenious arrangements (coupled with the group's inimitable harmonies) make everything go down as smoothly as lemonade." - Douglas Wolk
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One of These Nights by the Eagles
CD 6535  Check Availability
Image:One_of_These_Nights.jpg‎ From
"The Eagles exploded on the charts in 1975 with One of These Nights, the first of four straight albums by the band to reach No. 1. The album was their most varied to date, with the discofied title track, the stately waltz 'Take It To the Limit,' and the tough, cynical country rocker 'Lyin' Eyes.' The album contains a couple of unusual numbers as well, including Bernie Leadon's psychedelic banjo showcase 'Journey of the Sorcerer' and 'I Wish You Peace,' which Leadon wrote with his then-girlfriend, future first daughter (by virtue of her parents, Ron and Nancy Reagan) and nude model (courtesy of Playboy), Patti Davis." - Daniel Durchholz
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Minute By Minute by the Doobie Brothers
CD 6709  Check Availability
Image:Minute_by_Minute.jpg‎ From
"With Tom Johnston gone from the lineup because of health problems, this is where the 'new' Doobie Brothers really make their debut, with a richly soulful sound throughout and emphasis on horns and Michael McDonald's piano more than on Patrick Simmons' or Jeff Baxter's guitars...There's less virtuosity here than on the group's first half-dozen albums, but overall a more commercial sound steeped in white funk. It's still all pretty compelling even if its appeal couldn't be more different from the group's earlier work (i.e., The Captain and Me, etc.)." - Bruce Eder
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Gaucho by Steely Dan
CD 10363  Check Availability
Image:Gaucho.jpg‎ From
"Pristine and sonically polished (three years and seven studios worth), time has served Gaucho well. Even its sense of laconic detachment now seems but a logical bridge to the two-decade removed Dan of Two Against Nature. To their credit, Becker and Fagen didn't trash the first half of Steely Dan's legacy on Gaucho, they simply burnished it to oblivion." - Jerry McCulley
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Thriller by Michael Jackson
CD 6090  Check Availability
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"The highly-polished sound of Quincy Jones's production sounds almost organic compared to Jackson's more recent work, and in the same regard, Thriller was significantly slicker than its predecessor, Off the Wall...On the song 'Thriller,' Jackson indulged his taste for the juvenile and invited Vincent Price to rap in a really scary voice. With Thriller the album, Jackson created a different kind of monster--a hit album of such magnitude that it would have an irrevocable impact not just on the singer's art, but on his altogether kooky life." - John Milward
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So by Peter Gabriel
CD 18543  Check Availability
Image:So_Peter_Gabriel.jpg‎ From
"So is generally regarded as a peak in Gabriel's recording career, notable both for its solid set of songs and lush yet musicianly production...The album's big hit was 'Sledgehammer,' the English rocker's somewhat stilted take on the Stax/Volt style of rhythm & blues. Gabriel was much more powerful on his own art-rock songs, such as 'Red Rain,' which evoked nuclear ruin with its cascading rush of guitars and synthesizers. 'Don't Give Up' is perhaps Gabriel's best ballad, with Kate Bush's heavenly second vocal enough to give anybody encouragement. But the song that best exploited So's blend of technology and soul is 'In Your Eyes,' a beguiling rhythmic tapestry in which Gabriel duets with Youssou N'dour." - John Milward
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Ten by Pearl Jam
CD 4588  Check Availability
Image:Ten_Pearl_Jam.jpg‎ From
"Eddie Vedder's impressionistic lyrics often make their greatest impact through the passionate commitment of his delivery rather than concrete meaning. His voice had a highly distinctive timbre that perfectly fit the album's warm, rich sound, and that's part of the key -- no matter how cathartic Ten's tersely titled songs got, they were never abrasive enough to affect the album's accessibility. Ten also benefited from a long gestation period, during which the band honed the material into this tightly focused form; the result is a flawlessly crafted hard rock masterpiece." - Steve Huey
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Doggystyle by Snoop Dogg
CD 1317  Check Availability
Image:Doggystyle.jpg From
"Produced by the infamous Dr. Dre with assistance from Mr. Suge Knight, Doggy Style was the first solo outing by Calvin Broadus a.k.a. Snoop Doggy Dog. Incorporating a straight gangsta vibe into the deep funk grooves pioneered by George Clinton and his Parliament-Funkadelic ensemble, Snoop and Dre dogmatically invent the 'G-Funk' aesthetic. Espousing an irreverent dope, bitches, and guns mentality, Doggy Style garnered the Parental Advisory for explicit lyrics it sorely deserved. Still, Snoop's lazy-yet-acrobatic rap/drawl is distinctive and undeniably entertaining..." - Mitch Myers
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