I recently read an article about how Taylor Swift is re-recording her entire back catalogue as a business move, since her early masters were sold by her record company to a private-equity fund and she has been unable to convince the fund to sell them to her (or perhaps she’s just not offering enough $$). It got me thinking about how she might actually be improving on the sound quality of her earlier recordings given advances in recording and mastering technology. Not that I care, as I have no interest in her music, but still . . . .
With recording and mastering technology continuing to evolve (and, hopefully, improve), and with the absolutely stunning sound quality of many new releases of the past 10 or so years (especially hi-res releases recorded and mastered digitally with incredible dynamic range, silences that are blacker than black, etc.), I sometimes find myself listening to a beloved older recording and wishing that it had been recorded and mastered today. For instance, one my favorite all-time albums, U2’s The Joshua Tree, has always seemed to me to suffer from poor recording and mastering, especially resulting in a lack of bass response. I feel that a lot of classic rock (e.g., Led Zeppelin) and later progressive rock is that way.
Even more pronounced are the way some newer classical recordings can make you jump out of your chair with dynamic contrasts and instruments that sound like they are in the room with you. IFor instance, I listen to something like the relatively recent digital recordings of the Minnesota Orchestra under Oue and wonder what it would have been like to have Karajan or Kleiber or Bernstein or Reiner record with today’s technology (although with Bernstein he probably wouldn’t have agreed to make a studio recording anyhow!). I sometimes find myself torn between the artistry and interpretation of a master conductor of yesteryear and the lesser sound quality of his recordings.
So, if we can engage in a bit of useless wishing, what beloved recordings do you wish had been recorded with more modern recording technology, and why? Perhaps another way to consider it is what are some of the recordings that you love in spite of relatively poor recording quality?