When I finished my presentation of HA2014, some people approached me to ask me for titles of albums that sound good, that I consider to be “reference”. I can think of “Quartet” by Pat Metheny Group (recorded and mixed by Rob Eaton), “Hourglass” by James Taylor (recorded and mixed by Frank Filipetti) or “Badlands” by Peter Erskine (recorded and mixed by Rich Breen) . But the question would have to be deeper: reference of what? For what?
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Over time, we have compiled some records that we consider emblematic, starting in my case with “The Nightfly” by Donald Fagen (recorded and mixed by Roger Nichols † in 1982), the highs, cleanliness and homogeneity of that record are still in present spectacular. But over the years, that reference was changing, both in a general sound and in more discrete things. For example, the environments of engineer Hugh Padgham in works like “Syncronicity” by The Police or “Face Value” by Phil Collins; the irreverent reverberations of John Fausty on the album “Buscando América” by Ruben Blades and the Seis del Solar; the subtle treble of Neil Dorfsman in “Love over Gold” by Dire Straits or the simplicity and naturalness that Rafael Henríquez achieved in the album “El Diablo Suelto” by El Cuarteto, in those same 80s. This short list keeps in my memory, the search for a sound criteria obviously attached to a musical taste and a personal identification with certain quality standards. Once they are identified, they must be maintained or exceeded, either by oneself or by other references that appear in the perennial search for new and better sounds.
We are in a world in which the trends govern the environment and that eternal change, sometimes leads us to compromise our criteria in order to please the customer and benefit the music, which is the protagonist in the end. We must adapt and evolve. It will be increasingly difficult to find these references, which are nothing more than a guide to a sound aesthetic, a palette of colors, brightness and textures that each one must find, within their own musical world, to generate patterns and standards to which hang on. The only concern to share this information seems fascinating, for others to listen to the already mentioned engineers and some who escaped as Bruce Swedien, Al Schmitt, George Massenburg, Jan Erik Kongshaug or Bob Clearmountain.
In short, my search for that high fidelity pursues a response of extensive frequency, where nothing attacks, but rather please; a dynamic range that allows music to breathe and that does not suffocate us; and a stereo image as wide, as deep. It would be interesting to know other lists in other musical areas and under other criteria. I invite you to enlarge this one.