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Editors' Blogs

A perfect recording—do you have one?

January 15, 2009

While bopping all over the Southland in my rental car I've been giving my iPods a good workout, and DJ Random has been heavily favoring Aretha Franklin's Spanish Harlem. Listening to it for the umpteenth time today, somewhere between Studio City and San Diego, it occured to me that this, to me, is a perfect recording.

So let me ask you—what's yours?

Before you answer, let me explain what I mean by perfect. First, it contains an exuberant and captivating performance by a very unique artist. The performance is so good that we would still want to hear it even with downright crappy audio quality. But even on my iPod, at probably (I haven't checked) 128 kbps, maybe higher, and with that mp3 having been created from a digital (CD) reissue of an old analog vinyl, it sounds really good, even at 70 mph in a KIA with a less than stellar sound system. 

The bass is tight, the drums are clear, the little guitar lick at the beginning speaks well, the organ is organic, and Aretha shines. The bass grooves mightily while the drummer keeps it simple. The arrangement is interesting without being too clever, the odd number of bars catches the ear (4+4 intro, vocal verses 21+19, instrumental with interlude 21+2, vocal 21, plus 4+4 outro fade), and the acoustic sort-of-flamenco guitar underlines the Spanish in the lyrics. All in all, I can't find anything wrong, and after all these years I never tire of it—hence I nominate it as a perfect recording in my book.

So—do you have one, and why do you consider it a perfect recording?

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