Bob Clearmountain

I linked before about Bob Ludwig, so it is about time to give some attention to the other top-mixer named Bob. His résumé is also really impressive: After more than 30 years in the business, he is credited on 879 albums and worked with 243 artists since. Some artists he has worked for: Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Rolling Stones, Roxy Music, Hall & Oates, Simple Minds, Crowded House, Tina Turner, David Bowie….

This interview for Sound on Sound is a very good read:

Bob Clearmountain has a career credits list that reads like a Who’s Who of rock music since the mid-’70s. Starting out as an assistant engineer, he soon followed the logical career progression to engineer and then to the producer’s chair, before becoming perhaps the record industry’s first acknowledged specialist mixing engineer. Clearmountain obviously settled very comfortably into the role – he readily admits that he enjoys the mixing stage far more than doing the whole producer’s job – turning out a seemingly endless string of hits through the ’80s and ’90s. Indeed, there was a time when it almost seemed as if nobody but Bob Clearmountain could mix rock albums that would become international best sellers, and I would guess that there are few record buyers with collections running to three figures who don’t actually possess something with his name on it.

Clearmountain, who grew up listening to The Beatles, Motown and English rock bands of the late ’60s, considers that many of the classic tracks from that era still stand comparison with the best of today’s recordings. “I’m completely humbled by those records. When I listen to them now, I think, ‘How did they do that in those days?’ I try to have all the latest gear in my studio – I have a big SSL G Plus console and all that stuff, but it’s more because it’s fun to use and you can do things quicker and easier with a digital reverb than you can when you have to go off into the echo chamber and put blankets on the walls.”

“All this gear we have today certainly doesn’t make the music any better. It doesn’t make the records better, it’s just that the process of making them becomes easier. And that brings up the situation where you’ve now got a lot of people out there making records, just because they can, and I think that has hurt the business a lot. Years ago, records were made by musicians, and singers who could sing and producers who knew how to produce records. Nowadays pretty much anybody can throw together something in their front room using a bunch of loops from other people’s records – records made by people who actually did know what they were doing – and it’ll sound kinda like a record. I take big issue with this. Whatever happened to records made by real recording artists? People with talent that actually have something to say? Before I got into this business, when I was listening to records there would always be certain ones that just sounded like people were having a great time in the studio. It just sounded like something was really happening when this went down, and it really made you want to be there. It was so exciting you could feel it coming out of the speakers. And that’s the reason I got into the business. I wanted to be there when that was happening. But now you get some guy taking loops off a CD and taking samples off this and that and sitting there with a keyboard and a programmer. Where is the excitement in that? They might have this great groove that you can dance too, but there will never be the same kind of feeling in that record. Go and listen to pretty much any Motown record, listen to The Beatles, listen to The Stones, and you can feel the session. We need to get back to that, where it’s not just a product that’s all about making money.”

The statistics I have mentioned in the first paragraph came from, a very web 2.0. spin-off of the All Music Guide, that presents their huge database of album credits in a very clever and useful way. It is really fun to browse it.

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