The Perfect Mix...

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by DonnyThompson, Apr 5, 2016.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    As engineers, producers and musicians, we tend to listen to songs differently than others do; the engineers in us will start to pick apart a mix, and listen for both the good and the bad; things that we love, things that we don't like so much... The producers among us will listen to the arrangement, and how the mix was approached, treated and printed. The engineers in us listen for mix parameters; gain reduction, EQ, FX, balances, dynamics, and the musicians in us listen to the performances, the talent, the skill. And sometimes, we wear all those hats and listen for all of those things.

    Once in awhile, a song/mix comes along that seems to just sound so perfect, the more you delve into it, the more impressed you become.

    It has to do with many things; the songwriting, the arrangement and instrumentation, the performances, the engineering, the production. And whether you like the song or not or are a fan of its particular style is neither here or there - it's about the craft itself.

    I've heard these "perfect" mixes over the years... in many different styles.

    This one always jumped out at me as one of those "perfect productions" has it all; fantastic performances, dynamics, perfect balance, space and definition of the instrumentation; smooth, warm, rich and silky... all at the same time.

    In 35 years of being a part of the craft professionally, I can admit with all honesty that while I've engineered numerous songs tat I've been proud of, I've never recorded or mixed anything that sounds this good.

    Recorded at Sarm West, London
    Recording Engineer: Tim Weidner
    Mix Engineer: Steve Fitzmaurice ( assisted by Tom Elmhirst)

    Produced by (the incredible) Trevor Horn:
    kmetal, Makzimia and Sean G like this.
  2. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I have always thought this song was something special... I still love it to this day.

    Its a shame its not in HD minus YTs' compression...but it still sounds great.

    The acapella is fantastic IMO.
    kmetal likes this.
  3. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Love this song! One of first cassettes I ever bought myself was the 'batman forever' soundtrack, which this was a feature song on. Wow D, this instantly brought me back to being 8, it's amazing. U2 has one of the only songs I liked by them, on that soundtrack.

    I agree this song is absolutely perfectly executed start to finish. I was a big fan of boys to men when I was a young child too. I bought a coul,e of there singles and listened thousands of times on my "Walkman" lol. Remember those things? Casey Casey's top 40 !?

    90's R&B had some awesome vocals. It was the first genre that really blended electronic and acoustic instruments in songs, in a way that wasn't 'quirky' or for effect, like in the late 70-80's when synth started creeping in.

    What you had a lot of was programmed bass and drums, w live funk gtr DI, and vocals.

    This is one of those perfect ones. The marriage of the gear, and talent, and song. It's basically as good as tape gets, An amazing singer, top notch production team, and the too notch gear, all at once.

    This is imo a pinnacle time in audio. It's the last period of 'classic' production, before the DAW came to the front. That era closed a chapter, that arguably les Paul started writing, with the invention of the 'stacked tape head' and multitracking. Analog digital delivery in the form of a cd! Hell, cassette!

    I think we can thank 90,s R&B and hip hop, for the 'modern' low end we've come to expect from recordings of any genre now. They put machine accurate timing, and sub lows on the map. There's a certain characteristic that was achieved by actually tracking the electronic elements to the recording medium, tape, adat, or hard disk. Gain staging, conversions, recording channels, all produced a sound and feel different than today's itb productions.

    Not on the "better before" soapbox, rather just comparing things. Artists like seal only come around once in a while. Good call D.
  4. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Couldn't agree more.

    The first cd came out in '82, making it 34 years ago, the 16/44.1k standard was introduced. My $60 Apple TV streams HD 5.1, wirelessly.

    For some reason standalone music got the shaft. IMHO MP3 was supposed to be a transitional technology. Processing and streaming and storage has been capable of cd quality for years, but it just got pushed by the wayside.

    The cool thing about wireless gadgetry is its quality level isn't restricted by its physical format, ala cassette and or vynal. So it becomes more possible to deliver super high quality formats, alongside everything else.

    This is one area in particular that LAN/networked audio is exciting. Dante, for instance, allows you to simultaneously send multiple formats of audio (MP3, Ect) and sample rates, via the same basic Ethernet cable/port. This along with data, video, and sync info.

    It seems like space to grow was allowed over the years on devices and networks, for improved video, improved programs, Ect, but audio wasn't allowed the growth.

    I just hope we'll always have the opportunity to have the master quality product available to us. As it is most comercial stuff has been at 96k by standard now for probably at least the last 5 years, and 24 bit recording has been around a while, so we've always been getting a watered down product, as the mass buyer. Now it's even worse as there is no standard delivery format/rate.

    I hope at some point we will be hearing the direct bounce/render/mix down/sum/what-have-you from the sessions rates themselves.

    Digital delivery is making it available, but I see the iTunes of tomorrow subscribing to the current quantity over quality methodolgy.
  5. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Meh. It's got the soul of a Patrick Nagel poster.
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    To me, this statement is a perfect example of not being able to separate musical preference(s) over obvious sonic excellence.

    But, to each his own. ;)

    ( I have no idea who Patrick Nagel is, btw. )
  7. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    The production is great. Actually, it's too good, too slick and still fails to make a boring song interesting. There's basically nothing there but production. It makes me want to cleanse my palate with some Lemmy.

    You might not know his name but you know his work. This is by Patrick Nagel.

    ChrisH likes this.
  8. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I hear more arrangement than production. Most of the movement in the mix is from layers entering, and crcendos, and rythym/percussion elements in and out.

    I think of production more as like automated filters, a lot of effects, and swells, like engineering stuff. I'm not hearing a while lot of technical production tricks or anything. More a whole arrangement built around two basic riffs of motifs.
  9. JayTerrance

    JayTerrance Active Member

    Its a strange thing to say, but I think my ears are becoming more attuned towards digital. The Seal song sounds beautiful, but...its just a tad too warm and rich for my tastes TODAY. Now, 15 -20 years ago I would agree that this is the best it gets production wise. But I think I've heard better clarity and depth on some of the newer songs in the past couple of years. The only thing I can attribute that to is that I'm changing more towards digital...that is, if digital is done right! And some/limited amount of engineers seem to really have it down pat. I just think I'm losing some of my "tape" taste that I had for so many years...30+ years...that period starting in the 70's.

    And its just little things. Like the tails on the verb at the end of the song...they sound so thick and heavy and unnaturally modulated. With digital there is so much opportunity to obtain those intricately detailed tails that dissolve into thin air with extreme clarity...and most importantly, sound real/natural. But I love the Seal song and production, but its already sounds a bit dated to my ear.
  10. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member it !

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