Oh Yeah. I have the Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum on vinyl. They sound amazing. You will not be disappointed.
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The song "Where the streets have no name" from "The Joshua Tree" seems to lack resonance and punch. To be honest I could not tell the difference between this newly remastered version and any other that I've heard.
Since they've put out their earlier albums first(with the exception of "War" I am not a fan of their earlier work)I will have to see how my favorites sound when they are released-"The Unforgettable Fire", "Rattle and Hum" and "Achtung Baby"
U2 sound was mostly engineered by Steve Lillywhite. This was one of the first bands (apart from Punk rock) to go towards hypercompressed music. It was very successful for U2 - a kind of raw fatiguing unpolished sound that works well in a pub and comes over clearly compared to ther music of those times (but tends to sound flat and monotonous). This sound gives the music a feeling of urgency - it works but it sounds awful when turned up loud on a good dynamic system.
You can also hear the hypercompression by comparing Simple Minds stuff like Waterfront (done with Steve) against their earlier releases. Also you hear it on Dave Mathews Band - yes - that is why the music sounds harsh, edgy and aggresive - it was done deliberately. To me, U2 was one of the bands that led us into the loudness wars by their huge succes, which made many artists follow. Ultimately, the success of this compressed raw sound means that nearly everything produced today in pop is mastered "hypercompressed" or "loud" - thanks partly to Steve Lillywhite!
I would be interested to know if the U2 remasters have fixed the raw edgy sound of U2 (I like U2 for music but not their studio sound. Same as Santana). Generally, uncompressed music will sound much softer and less punchy at low volumes (may even sound thin) but this will sound way way better at higher volumes. Bands like Duran Duran (who had roots in a dance club and tried to emulate the lush sound of Roxy music) made specific studio sessions to record dance mixes for the clubs (these were far less compressed than their regular albums which were targeted at FM radio). A lot depends on what was archived all those years ago...but I would certainly buy more U2 if the new releases sound better.
'it works but it sounds awful when turned up loud on a good dynamic system.'
Yes you are not alone. U2's great success proves it. Most mastering engineers now agree that pop music requires heavy handed compression to give it that aggresive sound - it has become the norm - nothing gets released without heavy compression these days. There is no doubt that distortion can be pleasing and a heavy dose of distortion in the mastering stage is now seen as an essential part of the aesthetic music process - just as "gated drums" keep the music to a completely "mechanical" precise robotic quality and allow more EQ to be excessively applied.
Here is a link that mentions U2 remasters but also discusses the problem of aggresive sound. Of course, what Steve Lillywhite did in the 80's was not half as bad as what they do today. U2 sound quality is not bad at all by most modern standards but we have all forgetten that Pink Floyd, Roxy Music, Alan Parsons and many others showed us that there was another way...
Shadorne is on the money with this one.
It is very hard to find good production in this time period, vinyl or CD, coming out of the UK and US.
Many studios went digital during this period and engineers had a greater array of tricks to use, including all the techniques you speak of above.
I remember visiting a lot of recording studios during that period and seeing all the analogue equipment was shuttered in the corner, left to collect dust--with it went the tubey magic.
I kind of hold up the work done by Mitch E in NC (REM's first EP), Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy and Los Lobos Kiko as albums done right during that period.
With that said, I find, as a general rule, that the Aussie studios produced some of the best sounding music during the same period because it was not compressed. It plays beautifully loud. Try all of Midnight Oil, Paul Kelly and Crowded House albums for that period and be amazed. Play those next to the last four Red Hot Chili Pepper albums and see how heavy compression can suck the wind out of great bass player like Flea.
Bob Dylan's Oh Mercy
I agree - great sound on that one - awesome - in fact when U2 works with Lanois they are distinctly less compressed/aggressive sounding - for example Joshua Tree. Likewise Lanois work with Peter Gabriel - "So" was way better sounding than the mechanical sound of "melt" by Steve Lillywhite. Steve used to say NO CYMBALS - he was so firm about making everything sound harsh. I think they figured a lot of this out with early U2 stuff and the early Police stuff - keep it harsh and raw and urgent sounding - get people's attention kind of music - punk was really popular in those days. Luckily the Police toned it down and produced some glorious sounding stuff later on like Ghost in the Machine (Hugh Padgham) and Synchronicity.
Nevertheless the compression dial has been creeping up and you can hear more of it on U2's "All that you can't leave behind" compared to Joshua tree (even though it was Lanois again - perhaps the mastering engineer got control and over tweaked it)
Shadorne, always enjoy your perspectives.
The devil is in the details and you have a nice technical appreciation for music production. I grew up in an extended family of three generations of session musicians and know very few albums ever capture the live feel of recording sessions, let alone their playing style, due to the mastering engineering processes that usually have to tweak everything out.
Do check out Lanois's work with Willie Nelson called Teatro from 1999. Even as a CD-only release, it is beautifully formed from a dynamic soundstage perspective, each instrument given space to breathe. Willie's playing is inspired and drums sound like, well, drums. I know that Rick Rubin gets a lot of credit with Cash on the five American Recordings projects, and his recent work with Neil Diamond, but I always go back to Lanois. I think the work he did with Bob Dylan and Willie are sonic masterpieces, as well as his own solo albums. I know you are a fellow ATC owner--really special listening sessions on these speakers.
Now, on to the 1980's. Always hated the Police and U2 early stuff from a production standpoint for the very reasons you state. The only U2 album I have heard that is beautiful with the right copies is the Unforgettable Fire. The best stampers of that album from 1985 run circles over the other four albums during that decade.
Seperate from the Aussie bands, I really like the technical work done by all the pioneering Ska bands (The Selecter, The Specials, The English Beat) and some of the mid period Elvis Costello. "Get Happy!", "Imperial Bedroom", "Trust" and "King of America" are highly underated albums that hold up well as beautifully recorded albums, especially the best copies of Trust. The live BBC sessions of the Smiths, out on Manchester/UK, are also wonderful--look for "Hatful of Hollow" from 1988.
From a post punk perspective, a lot of the early Blasters, David Lindley and El Rayo-X, X, and Beat Farmers from So. Cal. sound pretty dynamic and enticing. The best versions of X's "Los Angeles" are incredible, as well as the first EP by the Beat Farmers, "Glad and Greasy," a great unsung San Diego band that fused punk to country. The Replacement's "Let It Be" is another lost classic--the hot stampers of that album are incredible.
I also like the work that Scott Litt did with Paul Kelly at A & M in 1987 and REM for Warner Brothers in 1989.
True...the more recent U2 recordings have been especially "hot" sounding....these are intentially tailored to the commercial mainstream crowd...however...as noted...JOshua Tree sounds very good (at least the remastered 07 edition)...way better than my orginal german LP which sounded muddy and veiled...and early Santana sounds amazing too...
Thanks for all those suggestions- I missed them until today. I'll do some more buying this weekend ;-)
BTW I already have The English Beat and The Specials - Free Nelson Mandela is awesome sounding.
I'll suggest another - M People Bizarre Fruit - great live album.
Although Steve Lillywhite did do some mixing on the Joshua tree as well...mostly some of the singles such as "with or without you", "where the streets have no name",etc...love em or hate em...steve does have a knack for mixing a hit song...and some compression can be a good thing...if used in moderation...
This is played live on Bizarre Fruit CD and it is really dynamic If you don't like them then you can at least use it as a demo disc as it is simply a very nice recording.