The digital recordings from the 80s on DG. Over-miked, harsh and clipped highs, orchestra lacked a sense of space. Worst offender was Karajan since he liked to take control of the production.
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For those who know Emitt Rhodes, get this: When I recorded with him engineering in his studio, he had me do three takes in a row (on drums), playing to a click-track, each of which he recorded on a separate Alesis 8 track. He then synched the three takes, played them all simultaneously, and listened for the "best" section of each take. When he had decided which part of each take he wanted to use, he played them again, switching between them to assemble a "master" take on a fourth Alesis. Somebody at the session asked Emitt about his choice of such a cheap digital recorder, and his response was "It’s just a storage medium". When I heard the finished product, I was appalled by the sound. Really bad. In the studio, he had a 16 or 24 track 2" analog machine, with a sheet of plastic covered in dust over it. I hope someone else engineered his new album.
Last year I did a major system upgrade, including new speakers. Though I do enjoy having "audiophile grade" equipment, I am "in it for the music". So when I've visited dealers to audition equipment, I make sure I bring some CDs from the 80's that I enjoy (some classical, some rock, some jazz). I found some of the speakers I auditioned were so "un-forgiving" that it was "unpleasant" to listen to these musical gems, and as I told one of the salesmen, when I buy new equipment, I'm not giving up my Beatles, Stones and Springsteen.
Speaking of Springsteen, I have the original "Born to Run" CD (also have the 30th anniversary remaster), that CD told me immediately whether those "un-forgiving" speakers should be struck from my list of new speakers.
So often the audio dealers have these fantastic recordings from obscure artists, the technical quality shows off the equipment, but the music is often so "un-interesting", I'd never sit down and listen to them at home.
"Exit...stage Left" by Rush-catching them at their very best with one of the absolute worst recordings I’ve ever heard. I do not understand how a band with such a meticulous reputation allowed the release this terrible recording, yet they went back and remixed "Vapor Trails". I don't understand it and never will. Has there ever been a halfway plausible explanation for this by anyone in and/or affiliated with the band?
Along these same lines... Pearl Jam's Ten Redux (digitally re-mastered and re-mixed by Brendan O'Brien) is superior to the original produced by Rick Parasher imo. Redux brings more bass / percussion thunder, more detail, and the guitar parts are louder. "Release" in particular is just amazing in the little details. I love it.
RHCP with Rick Rubin. Producers like Rick crushed the sound and garnered a great reputation for their in you face sound. Unfortunately it went from tasteful compression in the 70's and 80's to horrible lifeless harsh sound in the 90's. Fortunately I have the bootlegged masters for several RHCP albums and they are a bit better than what was released officially.
@shadorne, If RHCP means the Chili Peppers, then I agree.
I consider Rick Rubin to be one of the great producers of our time, in terms of his arrangements and artists' performances. Given that he has worked within certain genres of music; e.g., Rap and Heavy Metal, he was never going to produce any high quality recordings. One exception would be the Johnny Cash recordings.
But his contribution to the "Loudness Wars" puts him at the top of the list for churning out crap recordings.
Yeah - the Chili Peppers.
Other shameful producers or engineers who ruined good sound
Stairway to Heaven has like 35 Db dynamic range!!! Most everything produced for pop rock is 8 db or less these days - no wonder most everything digital sounds harsh and people are running to vinyl for the better sound.
Joining this thread pretty late but want to add to what Marty and Arcam have said about Todd Rundgren. Brilliant guy but, yeesh, the "A Wizard A True Star" CD I have is just tough to listen to...kinda thin and screechy.
Another bad CD in my collection: Hendrix's, Axis Bold As Love. Love the music but too hot in the treble and pretty unpleasant on playback.
For me, these are two "reference" CDs but in a bad way.
Don't know if the fault lies in the original recording or the bad things done to it over subsequent generations.
Seems also that Rhino remasters are, more often than not, ear bleed inducers.