John Dent, the mastering engineer who worked on albums by U2, Love and Rockets, The Stranglers, Bob Marley and others, and is credited by Andy Partridge with figuring out XTC’s Skylarking suffered for years from “reversed polarity,” died of cancer last week at 63.
In a note posted by his studio, Loud Mastering, Dent is described as “a man with vision and a deep understanding of life and his profession” who was known alternately as a “mad professor” and a “king of vinyl.” He died on Dec. 29, according to the U.K.-based studio.
Dent got his start at age 16, and worked at Trident, Masterroom, Island Records Sound Clinic and The Exchange through the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s before founding Loud Mastering. His online CV lists an extraordinary amount of work, including mastering The Police’s “Roxanne,” U2’s debut album Boy, The Smiths’ “What Difference Doe It Make?,” Love and Rockets’ classic Express and more; in more recent years, he worked with PJ Harvey, Public Image Ltd., Kasabian and Radiohead.
Mastering is the final stage of the album-making process, in which the mastering engineer takes the final mix and prepares it for reproduction, ensuring it sounds as good as possible on all formats.
The Arkive, the archival arm of the Beggars Banquet label, posted a note on Facebook this week noting that Dent had worked on Express, and re-teamed with Beggars in later years to work on remastering albums by Gary Numan, The Go-Betweens, Bauhaus, The Cult, The Fall, Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil and Pixies.
“Always devoted to getting the best quality sound, John was an early adopter of high resolution transfers from analogue tapes and it was always a pleasure and revelation to take a trip to Taunton and listen to the results in his studio. … When the demand for vinyl returned John was the perfect person to cut the albums as his early training gave him the knowledge and insight to get the best from the format.”
And on Twitter, XTC’s Partridge paid tribute to Dent, crediting him as “the only individual on the planet to identify what was wrong with Skylarking, and fix it.” Partridge was referring to the 2010 vinyl reissue (and eventual CD re-release) of that classic 1986 album “as it was intended to sound, but never has.”
Sad news. The great record mastering engineer John Dent has died, and too damn young.He was so good, and a lovely person. I’ll miss him.
The only individual on the planet to identify what was wrong with SKYLARKING, and fix it. What a giant. RIP
— XTC (@xtcfans) December 30, 2017