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There are a few other threads on this topic that offer up some excellent ideas that you might want to check out. Bands / artists that I find have excellent recordings are: Tool, Dream Theater, Tori Amos, Pink Floyd, Days of the New, Cowboy Junkies, Creed.
There aren't a lot of great live recordings (lots of great performances recorded live, but not live recordings). If you ever listen to hard rock or just want a live recording to show off your system, the new Nine Inch Nails "And All That Could Have Been" is ASTOUNDING. Probably not something to sit through all at once, but it's incredibly well recorded. I haven't heard it, but Trent Reznor's "The Fragile" is also supposed to be superb. -Kirk
Janis Ian "Breaking Silence"-this is the finest recording I own. Superb dynamics, great music with bummer lyrics. Thankfully the lyrics are easy to tune out. A++++, must buy.
Paul Simon "Still Crazy After All These Years"-a definite must have. Great music, excellent recording and you get to hear him teamed with Art Garfunkel on one cut.
Greg Alman "Laid Back". Big mistake not to own this one.
Any Karla Bonoff. There isn't a weak cut on any of her recordings.
Any Keb MO. This man gives me happy feet.
Zachary Richard "Silver Jubilee The Best of Zachary Richard"
Neil Young "Harvest", "Harvest Moon" and with Crazy Horse "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere"
Bob Dylan "Blood On The Tracks"
Any Alan Parsons Project
Supertramp "Crime Of The Century"
Some of these recordings are very old and may not be available on cd. Alan Parsons and Supertramp are probably in a sale bin for a giveaway price.
Glad to see "Amused To Death" make this list, but you have to hear the vinyl. It absolutely blows away the CD version - even the Gold one. Anything on Lugnut's list - I have all of them as well. But, here are some of my favorites:
Paul McCartney - "Unplugged - The Official Bootleg" Best sounding CD AND LP I own. And it's live.
Steve Miller - "Born 2 B Blue"
Aztec Two Step - "See, It Was Like This... An Acoustic Retrospective"
Eric Clapton - "From The Cradle" One of the best recorded single-take session albums ever.
Guy Clark - "Dublin Blues"
Crosby, Pevar, Raymond - "CPR" Better than all but one CS&N album
Crash Test Dummies - "God Shuffled His Feet"
Ziggy Marley - "Spirit Of Music"
The Pretenders - "Isle Of View" Another great live CD.
I could go on & on...
I would suggest Reckoning by the Grateful Dead. It is a collection of tunes from their live acoustic sets from their split acoustic/electric sets in the early 80's. They also released an album called Dead Set which is a collection of tunes from the live electric sets from that same tour, but the acoustic sets seemed to be better recorded. A great live acoustic album that everyone should own.
Any disk by Ben Harper is well recorded and will contain exceptional music. Elvis Costello's "All This Useless Beauty" has great sonics and is a great album. Aimee Mann Bachelor #2 is another example of a quality rock recording. Natalie Merchant's solo releases are examples as well. Los Lobos Kiko is a classic that has great sonics as well. I am sure that there are more opinions on this subject.
Some what I consider to be fine recordings are... and some do depart from the requested genre...
Heart - "The Road Home" - recorded live in a five hundred seat theater in bands hometown of Seattle. John Paul Jones produced it.
Little Feat - "Waiting for Columbus" - double disc live recording. Not bad.
Alison Krauss - "Now That I Found You" - There is some well recorded music on this album.
Vince Gill - "Souvenirs" - Most all his stuff is well recorded.
One of the best recorded albums I've heard (besides Janis Ian's) is George Straight's "Chill of an Early Fall". Superb.
OK, since you already mentioned Dire Straits, hope you've got Love Over Gold.
There are some other sonic/lyric gems that IMHO are MUST HAVEs --
XTC - Skylarking
Peter Gabriel - Security
OMD - Achitecture and Morality
Sarah McLachlan - Surfacing
and I know you said you're set for Jazz, but Larry Calrton & Lee Rittenour's 'Larry & Lee' is outstanding!
Run, don't walk, to buy any or all of these. Then pour yourself a big glass of zinfandel, lower the lights and immerse yourself in the sounds....you will not be sorry!