I'll try to respond to everyone in one go if I can!
my view is, fixing *recording*-problems is one thing (and i think that is what dave meant with his "quote"), but changing the production another. young griffos track is fine as it is, but just needs some fixing here & there, but no additional production gimmicks. maybe its not a perfect radio single, but it could have a good place on an album. i think it doesn't need additional production stuff, since it is authentic independent rock & doesn't need to be forced to converted to be fully compatible for the radio-play (it won't be authentic anymore IMO). young griffo had the idea to have the track like that & as an mixing engineer i don't turn a track into something else if everything (regarding the production) is fine from my view.
It's funny, because I actually agree with all of this. It's a question of degree, though, especially in the context of the band (rather than a manager/A&R) being the client, and everyone will drawn their own line in the sand there -- but that's a really good thing, because otherwise everyone's mixes would be the same and the art of mixing as a whole would be stifled. This is why I'd hoped that we'd all disagree on this. (Even if that means me taking on the role of whipping boy!
From my perspective, the one thing that all these mixes have is BALANCE, in stereo especially. So if balance is number one on the importance scale, then this makes a lot more sense to me. If not, then I remain confused.
You've certainly put a finger on one of my own personal hobby horses, as far as mixing is concerned, but to look at this from a more general standpoint for a moment... As I see it, any mix you do without the band's direct feedback is a first draft. Yes, there are clear problems with all these mixes (as Guitar Zero correctly highlights), but the bits that they do
get 'right' for me contribute to a general 'spirit' in each case which is what I wanted to hear. To put it another way, if I were a member of the band, I'd personally choose one of these five mixes, even though I'd know I'd want to follow it up with a list of revisions (as I would expect any band to do with a mix in which they'd so far had no direct input). It's a question of me liking the ballpark, rather than counting the bases. (Wow. I think that's the first baseball analogy I've ever used.
) Or, to put it yet another way: it's probably easier to get ask someone who's submitted a first-draft mix to sort out some duff tuning than it is to ask them to add 'vibe', 'richness', or anything else more subjective.
I did however feel that the arrangement was hugely lacking. No multi tracked guitars, nothing to build the sense of epicness that I sensed the guys wanting. And that lead part in the chorus robbed the song of the opportunity for a really strong hook. Plus some of the ideas clashed. The clean rhythm part in the chorus distracted from the bass, it would've been better just to layer some chords in and leave the bass it's own rhythmic space.
I think fixing issues like this is somewhat dishonest and makes things sound homoganized and sterile. I think a little dissonance can make things more interesting.
Comparing these posts to those of karumba, Guitar Zero, and others just underlines the point that things like this are a judgement call, and they reflect the personality of the engineer. Which, again, is exactly as it should be.
(That's not to take away from Lastrite's relevant point, though, that pitch-correcting to the wrong note (as quite a few people did -- presumably by relying on some kind of automatic pitch-correction) is pretty easy to categorise as a clear mistake. Still, it is again a mistake that's a whole lot easier to remedy than a lot of less tangible things.)
So how do we compare mixes that have obviously been mastered with ones that have not?
Usually by deciding first whether I think the louder track has taken the processing too far, and (assuming it hasn't) by applying my own loudness processing to the unloudness-processed mix to achieve a reasonable match. Again, though, people have very different views on this issue, and while I'm not about to dismiss the importance of loudness issues in mixing, I'm not sure it's necessarily in everyone's best interests to pursue that particular well-worn topic on this particular thread when I reckon it'd be better to use people's energy critiquing each others mixes instead. So far we've heard a lot of my opinions, and I think some other viewpoints on specific mixes would help round things out, especially when it comes to top-five lists. In fact, it'd be rather interesting to see different posters' top-five lists, if only to give context to their comments. (As my own list clearly points to my own personal mixing agenda!
The way this contest is ending could be a learning lesson...perhaps it would of been better if the band just picked the winner and then maybe mention one or two mixes that came close...top 3 or something.
I rather hope that they will do exactly that, and will encourage them to do so. And, as mentioned earlier, I've encouraged them not to restrict themselves to my shortlisted tracks. As I see it, the premise of this competition has always been that you're mixing this track with the band as the client, so it would be the most appropriate ending if the band were indeed to act as the client in making the contest decision. I can't speak for them, though, but will keep everyone posted.
Time to go hide some Easter eggs! Look forward to reading the continuing comments early next week.