View Full Version : The Best Mix in the History of Rock and Roll (using commercial songs as a guide)

06-05-2013, 12:45 PM
Using a commercially produced song (imported into a session) as an EQ/sonic and/or volume guide is a common practice among producer/engineers I've worked with over the years. One friend still uses Steely Dan cuts from the 70s to use as an EQ guide as well as general inspiration.

Assuming you use this practice, what's your list of the 5 BEST mixed songs since say...1967 heretofore? Or if not the best mixed songs, 5 songs you've used for mixing inspiration and why.

I'm currently using She Will Be Loved by Maroon5 for "inspiration" for a mix with a singer that has very similar vocal tones.

4 other songs I've used in the past to varying degrees:

2. Journey - Don't Stop Believing - why: drums/guitars/vox mix
3. Faith No More - Epic - why: overlapping genres
4. U2 - Gloria - why: guitar efx/echo
5. The Police - Message In a Bottle - why: guitar sound/drum mix

06-05-2013, 03:49 PM

Green Day. Boulevard Of Broken Dreams is one of my fav's

I also take it out with me when i do FOH sound.


06-05-2013, 04:06 PM
The new Volbeat ("Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies") mixed by Chris Lord Alge is ear candy and my new reference for all things rock and metal.

Bill Denton
06-05-2013, 04:45 PM
Give a listen to some of the totally "uncool" stuff from 67 thru 72.

The Grass Roots - "Where Were You When I Needed You", "Midnight Confessions", "Temptation Eyes".

Three Dog Night - "Joy To The World", just about anything by them.

B.J. Thomas - "Eyes Of A New York Woman" and just about anything by anybody that came out of Ardent Studios in Memphis.

The Beach Boys - Just about anything from 65 or so on.

You have to keep in mind that, like stuff from the late 70's, 80's, and 90's was mixed for FM radio, the stuff I suggested was mixed for AM radio. And remember that we were hammering it with tons of compression from Gates Sta-Levels and CBS Audimax and Volumax units (I was a disc jockey from 67 - 78).

When you consider the equipment available in that time period some of those mixes are absolutely amazing. Check 'em out...

06-05-2013, 05:22 PM
Give a listen to some of the totally "uncool" stuff from 67 thru 72.

:D yep :cool:

06-05-2013, 09:09 PM
Best mixed is a subjective measure. Best sounding is more like it. There are lots of well mixed songs that don't have the ideal sonic width you need to sound out a room.

That's why I like "Kodachrome" by Paul Simon. It's got a nice crisp top end and a tight lo end. The bottom organ note on the chorus of "Us & Them", by Pink Floyd can really push your system...

I also have a Dylan song I did several years ago that I know well, and I can judge a room's acoustics in about 20 seconds.

Touchwood Studios
06-05-2013, 11:22 PM
" Calling Elvis " - Dire Straights Neil Dorfsman mix

06-06-2013, 05:18 AM
Michael Jackson - Thriller album :D Why: Analog warmth, balance, multiple instruments, versatility, separation and clarity

Daft Punk - Bring Life back to music Why: Analog warmth, Punchy bass and drums, balance, Retro/modern disco

Radiohead - Paranoid Android Why: Acoustic/Electric guitars, complex vocal layers/harmonies, keys, synth, clarity, separation, panning

The Eagles - Take it easy Why: Acoustic/electric/lead guitars, keys, vocal harmonies, balance, analog warmth

Queen - Killer Queen Why: Multi layered vocals, piano, rhythm section, guitars, punch

Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim - Girl From Ipanema Why: Authentic Jazz dynamics, analog warmth, quiet steady classical guitar and stand up bass

06-06-2013, 07:38 AM
I usually have the band supply some ref points... since that's what they'll compare my mix to. But when left to my own devices... :-)

Modern Rock - Nickelback - All the Right Reasons

80s Rock - Def Leppard - all from High n Dry to Hysteria

Classic Metal rock - Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind - clean and not blasted in mastering, punch and classic metal sound. (referring to vinyl and not the re-re-remastered version)

Doom Metal rock- Black Sabbath first album - its dated sounding but thats what the kiddies want.

Super Modern Pop Rock Country - the new Lady Antebellum album is warm and not over mastered. I haven't listened a ton yet, but its fat on the bottom, smooth on the top and you can crank it in the car without getting a migraine. I love the sound.

Plain Rock - ACDC Back in Black - pick a song. it IS rock.

Roots Rock - Counting Crowes - August and Everything After or Mellencamp
s Mellencamp album (the one with Not Running Anymore on it) - guitars, vocals, mix in general

Blues based rock - Eric Clapton Slowhand - dingy dirty 70s. when people didn't edit their songs together.

Emo Rock - All American Rejects Move Along/ Green Day's American Idiot

i have to stop now....

06-06-2013, 01:53 PM
Great responses. I'm gonna research the newer cuts listed. I own most of the pre-1990 cuts listed and share the sentiments about the quality of those classic songs.

I would also like to see a list of songs that you think are NOT good mixes, as I learn as much from bad examples as good. I was listening to the song BRANDY by Looking Glass on the radio yesterday and the background vocals were ridiculously loud. Interestingly, I checked it out on youtube and the mix was ok, apparently the compression on the radio had artificially jacked up the harmonies to the point of absurdity.

I wonder if that happens as much with digitally produced music as it does with analog?

Keep the lists coming, good stuff


12-01-2015, 02:45 PM
Awesome Thread!

IMHO few reference tracks and albums of excellency would be:


Madonna "Something to Remember" album (amazing crisp and clear sounds, interesting arrangements, beutiful sense of stereo).

ABBA "Dancing Queen" and lots of other songs.


Deff Leppard "Hysteria" album.

Stryper "To Hell With the Devil" album (smoothest glam'n'heavy mix I've ever heard. BIG drums, very nicely sounding cymbals, lush guitars. beautiful backing vocals, nice stereo and depth, everything is very nicely sitting together).

Aerosmith "Just Push Play" album (nice, smooth, interesting, wonderful and interesting stereo arrangements)

Cinderella "Still Climbing" album (Rich arrangements with very well sounding drums and bass lines, every sound finding its nice place in the whole).

Jimmy Hendrix (just take the Hits :) With guitars sitting in the centre, drums and vocals panned to opposite extremes, and like... and sounding completely amazing!)


Marylin Manson "The Golden age of the Grotesque" (amazing sound, dynamics, panning, lots of interesting arrangements. So many things packed tightly without making sound tiresome to ears, every sound remains well defined and easy to discern...)

12-02-2015, 06:12 AM
Nobody's mentioned it yet, but I'd pick anything off Toto V album. Songs like Africa or Rosanna were amazing mixes! (And as I recall it did win album of the year at the Grammy's).

12-02-2015, 10:37 AM
Black Crowes - Southern Harmony and Musical Companion - the guitars.

God those guitars.

oy ve.

those guitars.

12-27-2015, 11:50 AM
For system calibration (or ears to system calibration) I often go for The Music Never Stopped by the Grateful Dead (from the Blues for Allah album) mostly because I know -exactly- what it's supposed to sound like. I generally also grab a track with a more modern feel (often My Moon My Man by Feist) but generally just any track that I know well that has more bass than you find in recordings from the '70s.

For actual mix reference I just go through some tracks until I find something that sounds like what I want the mix to sound like (sometimes the client will suggest a reference song "I want to sound like such and such") I am not always consistent in which tracks I use because I don't necessarily want all my mixes to sound the same.

Steely Dan is very common as reference music, largely because Roger Nichols produced many of their albums and he's got ears like nobody's business!

A quick note about volume: Reference tracks, by definition, have already been through the mastering process. So if you leave the reference track at 0dB and volume match while mixing you can very easily end up with an overly compressed mix. If I want to volume match to a track while I'm mixing, I will usually turn it down 6 to 10 dB, as the mastering engineer to make up the additional volume as part of their process.

12-27-2015, 01:46 PM
A quick note about volume: Reference tracks, by definition, have already been through the mastering process. So if you leave the reference track at 0dB and volume match while mixing you can very easily end up with an overly compressed mix. If I want to volume match to a track while I'm mixing, I will usually turn it down 6 to 10 dB, as the mastering engineer to make up the additional volume as part of their process.


This is what I do: I select few pieces (about 20 sec. long) from my reference tracks, drop them on audio track. Then in between of them I insert 20 sec. piece of my bounced track. Level all them to the same volume. You get a track made from bunch of different tracks with the same loudness and (preferable) similar dynamics. Your own track keeps poping up every 20 sec. If there are problems in your mix, you notice them instantly. Listening to such thing is very revealing and... FUN! :)

01-03-2016, 10:44 AM
Rock is a bit tough as there is such a huge variety to choose from. I usually determine by the style it is.

A very important album to check out for acoustic rock guitar sounds is Zakk Wylde's "Book of Shadows" The entire mix is just amazing on the entire album. Crazy to see Zakk go from this masterpiece to moving onto BLS. A night and day difference. Cant state enough how good this album is from the songs to the mixing.

Have to agree about Black Crowes guitar sounds. For me Lions and 3 snakes and a charm are the 2 I gravitate to for mixes. I remember when Lions came out and taking the cd into a large room I was working in at the time (the stereotypical SSL-Neve room w Genelecs) and putting that in and not being able to move for 45 minutes just being overwhelmed by how good it sounded.

Cowboy Junkies "The Trinity Sessions" Perfection is about all you can say.

Dark Side of the Moon is another staple.

Robert Plant/Allison Krauss "Rasining Sand". That album is scary how good it sounds! T Bone Burnett never fails to impress!

Fiona Apple "Extraordinary Machine"

For metal, I have heard very few other albums have the impact that Sepultura has on "Roots" Andy Wallace performed absolute perfection. This is still my measuring stick for metal and its a 20 year old album this year.

Sevendust's "Animosity" is an absolute lesson in heavily dense mixing and slamming compression yet somehow still retaining its impact. It rides a very thin line between too much and perfection. Ben Grosse has somehow flown under the radar of recognition for being a great engineer. His discography is ridiculous!

02-02-2016, 12:36 AM
Rude by Magic
It's a nice syrupy smooth mix but has quite a punch to it. You'll be able to crank your cd up because the upper midrange won't rip your ears off. Don't smooth the eq curve too much. That's where the "magic" happens.

02-02-2016, 01:13 AM
Toto: Kingdom of Desire. The whole album. I bought 3 more copies of that vinyl once I realised how golden it is.

02-02-2016, 05:19 AM
(just my 2 cent)

For Heavy-punch-compressed metal:
Fear Factory - Digimortal (the best imho)

Depeche Mode - Ultra (I love that sound).


02-11-2016, 06:40 AM
Well this is fun.

My go-to mixes for ringing out a system or just critical listening overall are:

1. Faith No More - Stripsearch (Album of the Year)... punchy low end, nice wide image, crystal clear highs, my #1 for a perfect sounding album, especially for hard rock.

2. Steely Dan - Aja... enough said.

3. Fu Manchu - Godzilla (Eatin' Dust)... SUPER warm low end, super heavy guitars that sound warm and fuzzy, good for making sure your lows aren't *too* cranked, makes you listen closely for high end content

4. Toad the Wet Sprocket - Something's Always Wrong (Dulcinea)... Another just beautiful sounding record, crystal clear, not-so-heavy 90s rock

5. Electric Wizard - Barbarian (Dopethrone)... because **** it, this record owns. Heaviest thing in the universe. If this record sounds good on your system, you did a good job.

02-17-2016, 01:07 PM
The Cars first album any track
Def Leppard Hysteria any track
Queen Night at the opera Bohemian Rhapsody
Shania Twain The woman in me any track
Beach Boys anything from 1964-1967
Gary Numan Pleasure Principle any track


03-20-2016, 06:34 PM
Alan Parsons 'I Robot' for me.

03-20-2016, 06:36 PM
Foo Fighters (all their stuff)
Red Hot Chilli Peppers

I wasn't born until 1985 so most of the albums i see here on the thread is foreign to me but i wanted to post what sounds great in my world :-)

Stig Eliassen
03-21-2016, 03:28 AM
I'll mention the first 4 albums that sprung to mind, and that I listen to frequently:

Blood Sugar Sex Magik - Red Hot Chili Peppers
Ellipse - Imogen Heap
Hourglass - James Taylor
God Shuffled His Feet - Crash Test Dummies

03-21-2016, 02:35 PM
Money for Nothing.

You have to turn it up. Turn it way up.

05-23-2016, 02:40 PM
No mention of Supertramp!??! :confused:
Particularly great is "School" from Crime of the Century, or the title track, or Rudy.
Anything from Breakfast in America.

05-23-2016, 06:59 PM
Boston "Foreplay / Long Time". Best. Mix. EVER.

Crime of the century was produced in a very interesting way. It sounds brilliant, but for sheer impact and detail, the Crown surely goes to Boston.

Sent from my D5803 using Tapatalk

09-18-2016, 06:19 AM
Donald Fagen. The Nightfly (Album) 1982.


Because it has: clarity, energy and a transparent crispness - which features: 'hot lashings' of melodic brilliance and intelligibility.

Yeah :-)

Mind you - anything by the late, 'Roger Nichols' is worth listening to - I might add. Additionally, everything by the late 'Ron Murphy' - the mastering engineer at NSC.

09-29-2016, 12:10 PM
I've always been impressed with the final re-mix to Nirvana's Heart Shape Box. Unless the guitar track was redone/overdubbed, what that engineer (I'm embarrassed that I've forgotten his name) did for that song is incredible. Especially when listening to it side by side with the original Steve Albini mix.

10-03-2016, 05:34 PM
Heart Shaped Box has a horrible edit (at least it sounds like an edit) when that guitar comes in off the break. It always bugged me.

Madonna has some good stuff. Take a listen to Don't Tell Me - nice edits.
Crisp vocal delay panning.

Earlier I heard someone mention Black Sabbath. The first album is blues in my opinion not "doom metal". Paranoid had some nice guitar sounds.

Stones - You Can't Always Get What You Want - nice shaker. Listen to the stereo field open up as the song progresses. All real players. Can't beat money.

Who - Who Are You - live off the floor sound with incredible fidelity.

Too much to list. As previously stated, I have the artist list their top 10 and then I listen. Recently one artist liked the early STP sound.

12-02-2016, 06:04 AM
Here are five of my favorite commercial mixes I use when mixing to provide inspiration, and a benchmark of excellence for comparison purposes.

1. Steely Dan - "Aja"
2. Roxy Music - "Avalon"
3. Prince, The New Power Generation - "Cream"
4. David Bowie - "Starman"
5. Boston - "More Than a Feeling"

Jeffrey LeClair
JL Recording Studios

12-25-2016, 12:16 PM
Alan Parson's Project, Brother Up In Heaven
Moody Blues, No More Lies
AP Project (again), If You Could Change Your Mind
Yes, keys To Ascension, Close To The Edge (live)

01-05-2017, 07:50 PM
Grunge - Nirvana - In Utero (Warm, wide, dirty)
Rock - Alter Bridge - Blackbird (Great blend, powerful)
Metal - Twelve Foot Ninja - Silent Machine (Punchy, Dynamic, Warm)

Those are currently my three go-to albums for the genres I typically work in (unless the artist specifies).

01-24-2017, 09:44 PM
This is a very helpful thread.

Augusta Global
01-29-2017, 05:18 PM
Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder. The horns are amazing! It's not rock, but I use it as a reference all the time.

01-29-2017, 08:13 PM
Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder. The horns are amazing! It's not rock, but I use it as a reference all the time.

Awesome idea, i love that album and listen to it frequently.....I will now start to use it as a reference !!!!