For the Bluebird, a few recommendations for modern and almost modern live recording masterpieces.
First of all, I’m going to recommend investing in a good pair of headphones. And by good, I don’t mean expensive, necessarily. Just a decent pair of Digital Reference phones. Digital Reference phones are designed to fully reproduce the audio spectrum, and the nuances you can hear will astound you. I’ve had a pair of Sony MDR-CD60, which I bought for about $40, since 1999. Not a huge cash outlay, and they will change the way you hear music.
And now, let’s listen.
1: New and Old
In this category, I include current bands that faithfully record according to traditional practices.
Tricky Britches (Portland, Maine’s own! Just saw these lads throw down a completely unplugged set for Record Store Day, and was blown away)
These bands are all practitioners of traditional bluegrass, and traditional recording techniques: set up one mic, play it live and call it good. This is as traditional as it gets.
2: New and Reverent
In this category, I include current bands that record using strictly traditional, analog gear: vintage tube amps, mics and recording consoles, nary a hint of binary code anywhere and NO ProTools.
3: Old and Original
American bluegrass, folk and country – think the late Earl Scruggs, The Carter Sisters, Bob Willis and The Texas Playboys – was of course all cut live, one take, one mic, with all musicians gathered tight around the mic with acoustic instruments.
4: Old and Modern
But to really hear how great a one take, one mic recording can sound, look to post-bop jazz, from the mid ‘50s on. The instrumentation got a lot louder with the popularity of hot drums, trumpets and saxes, but the one take, one mic ethos remained. Thus, your “importance” in the mix was related directly to your closeness to the mic. This is the age when drummers started disappearing behind baffles and soloists walked toward the mic at their cues. Records to examine include Miles Davis Sextet: Some Day My Prince Will Come (this record is so intimate you can actually hear Miles’ stool squeaking) and Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers (Blakey’s moaning during his drum solos is clearly audible and awesome).
This is a VERY short, incomplete dissertation, and much more will follow.