All the major bands that make those amazing records that we love to listen to spend hundreds of hours (sometimes 17 years, like with Axel Rose and The Chinese Democracy) in the studio recording and perfecting their songs and performances. If you're going to play ball with the big boys, you're going to have to spend a similar amount time putting your tracks together. I'm not really suggesting that you need to spend 17 years, I just had to mention that because it's so ridiculous.
Recording your album off-the-floor in a few days, on the other hand, isn't going to yield the necessary results if it's something you're planning on releasing on a serious level. I know Van Halen made many of their early records in a matter of days, but it's not 1979 anymore.
Recording off-the-floor may not be the way to go if you want produce a slick-sounding recording that will stand up to other pro bands in your genre; however, there are a few reasons why it can be something worth doing under the right circumstances.
1. If you've just put your band together and you're in the early stages of writing songs and finding your 'sound,' it can be great way to put your ideas down in a tangible form in order to become more clear about your current direction. This will allow you to listen to your music more objectively so you can tweak the arrangement, parts of each individual instrument, the melody and so on until you have a cohesive, hard-hitting song that's ready to knock your audience out of their seats!
2. It can also be a great exercise to help improve the level of musicianship within the band. Nothing's more humbling than hearing what you really sound like in the sterile studio environment. When you listen back to your tracks on studio monitors you hear everything.
When you're rehearsing with your band in a typical rehearsal space, it's usually too loud (probably around 105-110 dB) to hear what's really going on. In fact, when the music is above 95 decibles, you're simply unable to discern things such as timing and pitch. You're perception of what you're hearing is distorted and therefore, inaccurate. This is why live music (which is up in the 115-120 dB range) tends to sound so awesome when you're there, but, in many cases, not so awesome when you play back the video footage of that same performance. At a lower volume level, you can hear all the mistakes. Ouch!
Don't be afraid of finding out that you're not as tight as you thought you were. This will just serve to make you tighter when you become aware of what you need to work on. Be open to feedback from your engineer and/or producer too. This kind of constructive feedback can help you improve leaps and bounds if you let it. If you continue to hide behind the security that volume provides, you'll continue to make the same old mistakes everytime you perform your songs.
3. Getting the whole band used to playing together with a click track is great practise and something that not only offers valuable experience in the studio environment, but also gives you more options with your live show should you decide you'd like to incorporate backing tracks or loops from your computer. My bands, Emerald Rain and Pain, used to run tapes for our vocals because we had a million harmonies on our recordings like Def Leppard and there were only four of us. We would sing live and feed the tape track in a bit to thicken the sound. All of our songs were mapped out to a tee with the tape vocals happening exactly where they were supposed to and we had to be right on that click or else it would've been disasterous. :)
So there's a few reasons why I think off-the-floor recording can be a great experience. Maybe you can think of more and if you do, please share them here. Or if you've had good or bad experiences with this kind of thing, please tell me all about it. If you've never recorded off-the-floor, give me a shout and we'll do it up!