Question; Who is THE worst engineer to sit behind a console at EMI/Angel's Abbey Road recording studios?

Answer; It's hard to tell there are so many awful ones.

OK, this is a gripe posting. If you aren't into gripes, move on to another thread. I'm not the kind who minces words or opinions and I'm not about to start here.

Anyone who has read my postings knows what I think about most so called musicians. I don't expect much from pop singers, no matter how famous or commercially successful. Most of them are musically incompetent IMO. Even some very famous ones like Barbara Streisand can't sing on key and if you have perfect pitch, even just perfect relative pitch like I do, you can find listening to her recordings unbearably painful. Most others, even the better ones like Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Andy Williams don't have much of a voice, pleasant as it might be and would be unmarketable without the benefit of all of the enhancements technology can offer when skillfully applied. However, occasionally, a REAL singer will cross over from the classical or operatic genre and record pop music. And when they do, the best thing is to make as accurate a recording as possible and allow their special qualities to present themselves unadulterated. One such artist is Dame Kiri TeKanawa, the Kiwi soprano whose beautiful and powerful voice can fill La Scala or The Met to the last row of the last balcony without artificial amplification. That's one characteristic of a REAL voice.

I've got a fistful of cds here, mostly by Kiri singing pop music and all but two are on the Angel EMI label recorded at Abbey Road by one bum after another. The first recording is NOT by EMI but on the London label and is a reference of what she SHOULD sound like singing pop. It's "Kiri Blue Skies" with Nelson Riddle and his Orchestra. Kiri sings a host of pops by Berlin, Weil, Rogers and Hammerstein, Porter, etc. and this is a fine recording (London 414662-2). Perhaps these people learned their lesson with their gimmicked Phase 4 vinyl series which made bad audio equipment sound better and excellent audio equipment sound awful through the artless use of equalization and peculiar miking. The recording engineers Richard Lewzey and Stanley Goodall did their jobs well in 1985 a straightforward manner and the results are excellent.

On to the stinkeroos.
First comes Kiri Sings Gershwin (EMI CDC547454) recorded in 1987. John Kurlander's equalization is so shrill that this recording is unbearable. What was this man thinking. The one bright spot was cut 8, Summertime from Porgy and Bess which is an operatic piece recorded in a straightforward manner. The rest is awful. It isn't clear where this was recorded.

As bad in its own way are 3 more of Kiri's pop discs, Kiri Sings Kern (Angel/EMI CDQ 0777 7 54527 2 3) in 1991, Kiri Sings Porter (Angel/EMI 7243 5 55050 2 6) in 1994, and Kiri Sings Berlin (Angel 7243 5 56415 2 6) in 1997. In all three, the engineer who perpetrated these abortions was Haydn Bendell. In every one of them he added an annoying echo which is particularly prominant for all sibilant and explosive parts of speech, the exact opposite of what happens with real reverb in a live performance. It is more than grating on the nerves. Too bad, these were otherwise fine recordings.

One last example is the original cast album of The Phantom of the Opera (Polydor 831 273-2) which has a delayed echo of sibilant parts of speech so irritating as to be at times unbearable. This one was engineered by Martin Levin at the EMI Abbey Road studios in 1987. Did he teach Bendell how to ruin recordings in this particular way? Somebody must have liked them.

BTW, Sarah Brightman who sings the role of Christine has a mediocre voice IMO. On the other hand, Rosemary Ashe who sings the diva Carlotta has a beautiful operatic soprano voice. Too bad their roles weren't reversed.

If you are looking for accurate pop recordings, beware anything from EMI's Abbey Road studios especially if Bendell is the engineer. EMI classical and operatic recordings do NOT suffer from these engineering defects. Lovers of classical music would not put up with them.