Commercial pop that somehow sounds really good

I realize one task of the engineer producer is to make a recording sound good across as many playback devices as possible - from the dishwasher's boom-box to a well equipped home stereo.

As I peruse my own music collection, sometimes I find a "sound gem" that clearly falls into the "who'd ever thunk" that would sound as nice category. Talkin something on the pop-level as "Crimson and Clover" by TJ & the Shondells.

So this tread is for such - at least remarkable - pop recordings that happen to sound good too. Thanks for sharing!
 
My mother had a 5 tube radio tuned to the local pop music station from my earliest memories (Elvis) through the late 60's (Monkees). There was music I liked (early Beatles and all surf music) and plenty I didn't (especially the Monkees). I do remember Crimson and Clover from high school, but Abbey Road would soon take over the 8 Track deck for most of my senior year. My father had a mono Magnavox until he got stereo, and the Maggie became my first DIY project, a guitar amp around age 7.

I didn't like any music he listened to, with one exception, The Time Out album by Dave Brubeck. Not exactly pop, but it was popular odd time signature Jazz. Take Five was my favorite song from the record, and it's well recorded for 1959. I have a vinyl record I bought in the 70's and a "gold ultra disc" CD that I found at Goodwill for $1. I prefer the sound of the record.

I have several favorites that I use when playing with circuits, primarily because I am very familiar with how they sound through my Yamaha NS-10M's. I don't think any could be called pop music, but many received radio or MTV play.

Lily was here by Candy Dulfer from the Saxuality CD.

The entire Brother in Arms CD by Dire Straits......My favorite is Industrial Disease.

Hazard by Richard Marx from the Rush Street CD, the closest thing I have to pop. Played on the radio and MTV.

Diamonds in Rust by Joan Baez from the CD of the same name. It saw some radio play.

Duende by Bozzio Levin Stevens on the Black Light Syndrome CD, and on the Gypsy Soul flamenco sampler CD. Be prepared to have your woofer slapped around. The heavy but CLEAN bass over the guitar is a good intermodulation test.
 
There are a ton of well produced and mixed older pop songs...

From 1968...
The Dock of The Bay ... Otis Redding
Mrs Robinson ... Simon and Garfinkle
Midnight Confessions ... Grass Roots
Judy in Disguise ... John Fred and the Playboy band.
Love Is All Around ... Troggs
Classical Gas ... Mason Williams
Lady Madonna ... Beatles
Bottle of Wine ... The Fireballs
I Wonder What Shes Doing Tonight ... Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart
Cab Driver ... Mills Brothers
The Mighty Quinn ... Manfred Mann
Sealed With a Kiss ... Gary Lewis and the Playboys
Bend Me Shape Me ... The American Breed.

All in the same year.

As I said earlier, pop music (all music?) was far better made and far more diverse than it is now.
 
Douglas, what is it those dang kids are saying these days - OK boomer? ;)

Not all of current “pop” music is trash, and a surprising amount of some the modestly produced/engineered material to be found on YouTube sounds very good, and demonstrates that there’s tons of musical talent out there that’s far more accessible for our consumption now than ever before. It’s interesting and edifying how many of the young prodigies are rocking out to classics from our formative years that they got tuned onto by their folks or even grandparents.
 
Not all of current “pop” music is trash

I never said it was.

The problem is not necessarily with the artists or the song writers... the problem is with the way so much of it is compressed to the point of audible distortion. That stuff just gives me headaches. So I pretty much left off at the early 1990s (as I've discussed in other threads in this forum)
 
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What seems to happen with some music is the sound is washed out from over mixing and sounds distant or flat. Sometimes it is badly mixed and you cant hear certain voices or instruments very well.

Yep, that tends to happen when you reduce the dynamic range to nearly zero.

The kinds of limiting and compression needed to do that introduce a lot of distortion --like 25 to 30 percent-- and just washes the life right out of the music.
 
The essence of this is very important IMO, and can be broken down into several subdivisions.


Absolute technical quality probably is much better now for all the reasons of progress, including what we are all trying to do.


The application of that technology by mixers and masterers is another aspect which is often not done well, for many reasons already given, and others.


In the art itself, there are several things, mic. technique, composition, both musically and verbally, arrangement, and an important factor is addressing the way the ear perceives. Hence the following.


Yesterday I listened to "Sounds of the 70s", and one single which had not previously stuck out to me was Linda Rhondstats (sp), "Your No Good."


Even on FM with my meagre reception it was easy to hear; a good expressive vocal, well mic'ed, good clear bass, clear drumming, and the use of an organ, probably a Hammond in the mid, lovely and clear. The interaction of the parts, and the ability to use low levels, eg, refrains, as a part of expression are all evident.


The point is that putting energy into the spectrum such that instruments do not mask each other, and are clear and separate, is an art often lost.


If art desires a communication it should not lose the tools available with which to maximise its expression; good melody, good harmony, some ability to play an instrument, expressively played drums, with sometimes altered timing, and the use of dynamic range to be forceful or restrained.


To compare the verbal expression of today with that of earlier times illustrates a deterioration in usage, and which is comparable IMO.
 
Absolute technical quality probably is much better now for all the reasons of progress, including what we are all trying to do.

Had you said "absolute technical capability" I would rush to agree with you. The CD and HiRes streaming are certainly more technically capable than vinyl having a noiseless background, better dynamic range and better frequency response and they eliminate the problems of wear and tear.

The application of that technology by mixers and masterers is another aspect which is often not done well, for many reasons already given, and others.

In all truth I'm beginning to think the problem is that many of these engineers really don't understand digital formats.

In the analog world you could crank it up, using more and more headroom until clipping set in.

In the digital world clipping is a hard ceiling at 0 db. If they continued to set their levels as they did for analog recordings they would be producing a wildly over-driven pile of noise. The trick now is to use the added dynamic range to advantage... for 30 db of dynamic range you need to start no higher than -15db that will give you plus 15 and minus 85 db range for CD Bluebook recording. Even more for DVD and HiRes formats.

This business of limiting and compression so you can crank up the base level never did work. It introduced copious amounts of distortion --like 30%-- and totally killed the humanity of the music. The far better tactic is to start at -25 or -30 db, record the full dynamics of the performance then adjust the level so that peaks are just a hair below clipping after the fact.

In the art itself, there are several things, mic. technique, composition, both musically and verbally, arrangement, and an important factor is addressing the way the ear perceives. Hence the following.

Yesterday I listened to "Sounds of the 70s", and one single which had not previously stuck out to me was Linda Rhondstats (sp), "Your No Good."

"You're No Good" is an excellent example. Love that song!
Also try "Angie" by the Rolling Stones.

The point is that putting energy into the spectrum such that instruments do not mask each other, and are clear and separate, is an art often lost.

We need to appreciate that what our systems amplify is a single waveform in each channel. With quantizing and other mixing "adjustments" they are forcing the separate instruments to start on precise grids, essentially melding all that individuality into a much simpler waveform... at the expense of detail and dynamics.

If art desires a communication it should not lose the tools available with which to maximise its expression; good melody, good harmony, some ability to play an instrument, expressively played drums, with sometimes altered timing, and the use of dynamic range to be forceful or restrained.

Exactly ...

A guitarist of my acquaintance once said "If you can't feel it, you aren't playing it right."
 
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