Give me some "vintage music that still sounds fresh" tips
January 8, 2010 6:49 PM   Subscribe

I want to listen to luscious old (pre 90s) music that sounds fresh and as if it could have been recorded and released today (in terms of production values, instrumentation, orchestration, etc.) Can you recommend some?

I seem to have reached that stage where I want to listen to "old" music but without listening to stuff that sounds trite or is easily dated (like "oh, that sounds so 80s" or whatever). There's a lot of great, very well produced, luscious music out there, but I've only scratched the surface.

Examples to inspire:

Chicago - Chicago II
Electric Light Orchestra's mid 70s output
Much of Brian Eno's 70s output - particularly Here Come The Warm Jets
Much of Egberto Gismondi, Antonio Carlos Jobim or Airto Moreira's progressive bossa/Brazilian output
Nick Drake - Bryter Later
David Axelrod - The Edge: At Capitol Records 1966-1970
Isley Brothers - Summer Breeze & Harvest For The World (especially in terms of production quality)
Scott Walker - Scott 4
The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds
Much of Dire Straits' output is hard to date musically and was very well produced.

For a strong counter-example, I'd say The Velvet Underground's debut album - it's great and experimental but the production and instrumentation still sounds very dated (to me).
posted by wackybrit to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Google for "audiophile recordings". I assume you're looking for stuff on CD not vinyl, so you may want to look for remastered recordings (a lot of pre 90's CD released were low quality even if the source material was good quality).

Look for albums that have been released on SACD—that tends to be an indicator that the music and recording was good enough to justify such a release. Shop at places like Acoustic Sounds or Music Direct, which carry a lot of SACD and vinyl in addition to CD's.

As far as particular music... you have a pretty broad range of stuff in your examples, and it's hard to pick music for someone you don't know. However, I might suggest Rufus Wainwright, Mark Knofler, and Vic Chesnut.
posted by paulg at 4:32 AM on January 9, 2010

I'm thinking old Stevie Wonder. (Exhibit A, B)
posted by booth at 4:39 AM on January 9, 2010

Guns n' Roses, Appetite for Destruction.
posted by liet at 6:58 PM on January 8, 2010

Much of Pink Floyd from Dark Side of the Moon and afterward is pretty timeless. (There are some exceptions of course.) Wish You Were Here always sounds pretty fresh to me.

Traffic had some great stuff, especially The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.

And of course Queen's 70s output (especially Sheer Heart Attack, A Night at the Opera, and A Day at the Races) is pretty spectacular. Don't be distracted by their monster hits. Give the whole albums a listen.
posted by The Deej at 7:01 PM on January 8, 2010

Nick Lowe - Jesus of Cool, 1978
all Steely Dan
King Crimson - In the Court of the Crimson King, 1969 (!)
Bob Marley's early ska albums, but then stuff like that doesn't really attach to a decade anyway.
Add to the Eno anything with David Byrne
Stevie Wonder? Particularly Innervisions and Talking Book

It's hard to tell what you're gonna think. For example, I'd say that the Isley Brothers and Chicago are very dated (but good!), but I see what you mean about the production on Pet Sounds.

I'm sure I'll think of more. I'll be back!
posted by cmoj at 7:02 PM on January 8, 2010

Neu! and Harmonia - check out, for example, Für Immer and Hallogallo.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:44 AM on January 9, 2010

Sorry. I seem to have named all post-1990 artists as examples. Try instead Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and Paulo Conte. Eh... I guess most of my pre-80/90's stuff is jazz or classical....
posted by paulg at 6:49 AM on January 9, 2010

Love - Forever Changes
Skip Spence - Oar
Thunderclap Newman - Hollywood Dream
Dr. John - Gris Gris
posted by TrialByMedia at 6:57 AM on January 9, 2010

Response by poster: Looks like we lost some good ideas due to the database outage :-(

Some of the lost suggestions that I took note of:

Serge Gainsbourg - Histore De Melody Nelson
Fleetwood Mac - Tusk
Icewater - Keep An Eye On The Sky
Television - Marquee Moon
Some early Bob Marley
Shuggie Otis
posted by wackybrit at 7:05 AM on January 9, 2010

The Beatles had excellent production values, technically and musically. Especially the later stuff- lots of musical tricks and instrumentation that is only coming back into vogue in recent years. Many of the CD versions aren't as good as the album versions. They tweaked the equalization.
posted by gjc at 7:38 AM on January 9, 2010

Darn... I spent a long time posting a big list here yesterday. Hope they can restore it...
posted by kdern at 7:47 AM on January 9, 2010

Mind if I chip in with a more obscure sort of music? The Atrium Musicae de Madrid is somewhat renowned for producing albums with magnificent recording quality. In particular, La Folia de la Spagna has some marvelous things going on. It's also one of the more bizarre recordings you'll ever hear.

(I'm very suspicious of those iTunes links, by the way. If you can find a place to purchase the CDs/records, I'd go with that; otherwise, I'm pretty sure there are FLAC versions of the album floating around online.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:55 AM on January 9, 2010

Roy Harper - Stormcock
posted by Chairboy at 11:48 AM on January 9, 2010

Here's what I suggested before the comment mess:
  • Penguin Cafe Orchestra (e.g.) — dare you to date that track without peeking.
  • Young Marble Giants (e.g.), a Welsh post-punk act who were pretty obscure at the time but whose reputation and influence have grown.
  • Big Star would be a perfect candidate but for the giant British Invasion influences that made them sound retro in some ways even in their time.

posted by abcde at 2:08 PM on January 9, 2010

Modern Lovers Self-Titled Album is a great recording and sounds, well, modern.
posted by occidental at 3:28 PM on January 9, 2010

note: Skip Spence's Oar is not really slick in the conventional sense, but it is timeless, in the respect that nothing else sounds quite like it. Highly recommended.
posted by ovvl at 4:43 PM on January 9, 2010

Going to give dittoes to the following:

1. Big Star

2. Steely Dan

3. Modern Lovers, despite an association with VU, you may still like them.
posted by kensington314 at 6:56 PM on January 9, 2010

Ah, bum: my comments got eaten. Serge, Histoire de Melody Nelson; Astral Weeks; Stevie, Talking Book; lots of XTC.

A commenter also offered this:
Prefab Sprout - either Steve McQueen (1986) or From Langley Park to Memphis, all the way up to Jordan: The Comeback (1990).
And I heartily agree.
posted by holgate at 8:11 AM on January 10, 2010

Alan Parsons Project did/does nice work. He was the engineer on Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and went on to do his own work with the same production standards. The albums "Pyramid" and "I, Robot" are especially good, to my taste.
posted by Goofyy at 11:45 AM on January 10, 2010

I think a lot of 70s David Bowie still sounds terrific. I'm especially partial to Young Americans.

Also: Crowded House, especially their first album; Peter Gabriel; Joni Mitchell, especially Hejira. Lots of Elvis Costello, especially Imperial Bedroom.

And totally seconding The Deej on the Queen rec. A Night at the Opera and News of the World (especially the second half, which some of us fondly remember as "Side 2") have some great stuff.
posted by kristi at 11:06 AM on January 14, 2010

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