Decent-sounding records are becoming increasingly rare, so I'd like to point out the great-sounding ones that have come my way in recent months. For more good stuff, check out my previous "Top 10 must-have CDs" lists from 2009.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Live Anthology
First, I have to admit I'm not a big TP fan, but I love this four-disc live collection culled from a database of 3,500 songs, including 169 takes of "American Girl" performed between 1980 and 2007. The tunes aren't arranged in chronological order, but the sound quality remains high from start to finish. Vocals are clear, dynamic range kicks butt, and you hear the fans whooping it up to good effect. Petty does a lot of covers, my favorites run from "Goldfinger" to the old Fleetwood Mac tune, "Oh Well."
Drive By Truckers, "Live From Austin, TX"
This show, from September 26, 2008, has something for everyone: it rocks, it smokes, and it's very easy on the ears and eyes. You can buy the CD or the CD packed with a DVD of the same show. That's what I have, and the band really does put on a terrific show. Sound is clean and clear; I don't think they mucked around with it very much, though I do prefer the CD's sound.
Owen Pallett, "Heartland"
Owen Pallett, aka Final Fantasy, isn't exactly your average rock musician. For starters he plays violin, and if you're a fan of Arcade Fire, Grizzly Bear, or Beirut, you've heard his sound. "Heartland" is an expansive work, with densely orchestrated tunes, but don't get nervous; it still appeals to an indie rock crowd. Sound quality, on CD and 45 RPM LP, is spectacularly good. You're going to see "Heartland" on a lot of best-of-2010 lists in December, but why wait?
The Doors, "Live in New York"
The Doors' "Live in New York" contains all of the Doors' performances at the Felt Forum in New York in 1970. All four shows were recently mixed and mastered by the band's longtime engineer, Bruce Botnick. Sound quality is, and not just for a 40-year-old recording, exceptional. It's very dynamic and totally vivid. This six-CD set ain't cheap, but Amazon is listing a "Live in New York" LP that'll come out in March for a lot less than half the price of the CD set. … Read more