Steve Albini (yes, that Steve Albini) hangs out on the 2+2 poker forums, and decided to entertain music questions from the poker community. It seems an odd location for that discussion, but the thread has some great Albini quotes:
Well, mixing isn’t the magic bullet it’s purported to be. A recording is about 90 percent as good as it’s ever going to be from the moment of the first rough playback.
In order to maintain a professional level of concentration on the task at hand, and to allow the band to make a record that represents them accurately, I try not to even think about whether or not I like the record. Having said that, sometimes everybody can tell that a record is going to be awesome anyway, and of the records I’ve worked on that ended up being really great, the majority of them showed their greatness in the first couple of hours of work.
Almost any competent engineer could have done what I have. I have been incredibly lucky to be working in a music scene that spawned a huge number of distinctive, talented bands, and I made myself available to them. There is no doubt in my mind that I get some credit I didn’t earn, for working on records that were going to be incredible no matter who was in the chair at the time.
If a record needs aggressive mastering to “save” it, then aggressive mastering isn’t enough to save it.
Albini’s minimalist (by professional standards) approach to recording is something every recording engineer should aspire to. Capture the right sound at the microphone, and mixing takes care of itself.