Because I was mainly a rock and metal fan, this article will lean in that direction. It is basically me expressing what I have felt all along with regards to some of the most well produced albums that I heard growing up. Its funny how we as kids instinctively knew things and then later in life, someone gives a voice to that.
For example, I used to buy a new vinyl record and tape it on a chrome TDK tape immediately. Originally I did this because I wanted to preserve the record, but I discovered something else...the tape sounded better. Later when taking a music production course, I learned about "saturation" in audio tapes and why people were/are so reluctant to go digital in the studio. If you want to know more about saturation, Wikapedia may help.
If I have not bored you to death, Ill get on with my article. I, like most people, not only had favorite artists, but favorite albums...duh. I didn't know what "production" meant in my early years, but I knew what I liked to hear. Did you ever notice how some bands were average until they released their breakthrough album and it sounded like them...only more intense? Subsequently there were many albums that were over produced. Some examples of over production would include anything produced by Mutt Lang (sans ACDC stuff).
Here are just a few examples of bands and albums that suddenly stood out production wise. Some changes were gradual, and are the doing of many producers through that process (not addressed in this article), and some were over night.
While I don't like Mutt Langs influence on Def Leppard's Hysteria and onward, I did like what he did to ACDC. Think about the old ACDC. Besides the fact that it totally rocked I admit, it was very raw and low budget. This is not a bad thing, but compare High Voltage or Dirty Deeds with Highway to Hell.
Highway to Hell was the first album that I bought. I thought it was fantastic. The sound was right in your face, full and it seemed to capture the essence of ACDC. Hence, new producer, Mutt Lang. when I purchased their earlier stuff, I found it extremely good and raw, but I had been spoiled by Highway to Hell. This sound continued on through with For Those About to Rock although Flick of the Switch was not as good (in my opinion). Nobody would argue that the song Thunderstruck is the epitome of great production. Talk about a wall of sound.
Then there is Judas priest. Again my first album was the very well produced screaming for vengeance. Very hard to top that one. I purchased them backwards from that one. I found that they were discovering their true sound through albums like Hell bent for Leather, British Steel and possibly the popish album, Point of Entry. Defenders of the Faith was the last album of their "rock god" phase in my opinion. I don't want to talk about Turbo.
Then there are Metallicas changes. Kill 'Em All is true garage thrash that changed metal forever. But, with Ride the Lightening once again the production was kicked up many notches, as well as the next two albums before the Black Album, when they became Bob Rock rock.
*As a side note, the song Eyes of a Stranger (Payolas with Bob Rock) was an awesome song with great production.
How about the Paul D'anno Iron Maiden transformed into Bruce Dickenson Maiden with the big production of Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind and of course the masterpiece, Powerslave. I Dont know what happened after that, I went to college and lost brain cells I guess. All throughout the 80s this would happen over and over again.
Perhaps I am in charge of the obvious, but I wanted to express my thoughts on this nonetheless. Nowadays music is very compressed, that is, everything all at once (see Wikapedia.com). Think of anything produced by Timbaland for example.
Remember the ebb and flow of albums like Fleetwood Macs rumors?
What ever happened to silence on an album, or the rise and fall of the music, the tension and release. I could mention all the albums that I think are very well produced, but I think Ill stop here and see if anyone had similar feelings about this or anything else like it. This list is so far from being complete, but I thought it could stir up some good discussion.
PS Regarding production, some bands deserve an article on production to themselves, i.e. Pink Floyd etc