The Doobie Brothers – Livin’ On The Fault Line

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

WHITE HOT STAMPERS for this overlooked and underrated Doobies album from 1977! Not a lot of hits but a lot of good Sophisticated Soulful Pop songs — the first four tracks on side one are some of the best of the Michael McDonald era, with Nothin’ But a Heartache and There’s a Light on side two making six SUPERB tracks all told.

I’m not even sure you could make the case that Minute By Minute has six tracks of this quality, and I would still find these six superior even if you tried. The consistency may not be as high as MBM, but the high points reach higher, and go deeper emotionally. (Yes, I’m being completely serious.)

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And with Hot Stamper sound now you can actually enjoy the album as an audiophile quality recording. Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? Not us! We’ve been buying copies with different stampers for years with virtually nothing to show for it. That’s why you haven’t seen a Hot Stamper hit the site, ever.

That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, murky, dark sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobies Brothers albums may be the rule, but this pressing is the exception. The average copy of this record is such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that too many audiophiles would have taken it seriously over the years. They should — the band cooks on practically every track, with strong songwriting that holds up to this day.

Why go to all the trouble to find great sounding copies? Because this is a good album! Side one is strong from start to finish, and side two has its own share of top quality material and musicianship. If you don’t know the album this is your chance to rectify that oversight.

A RECENT LETTER FROM A GOOD CUSTOMER TELLS HIS STORY WITH THE ALBUM

The Doobie Brothers album “Livin’ on the Fault Line” has been my favorite album from one of my favorite bands of all time. It is full of great songs, phenomenal musicianship, and Michael McDonald at his best. As a retiree who has very modest means today I have “shot out” more than a dozen copies of this lp and have a very good copy and backup. So last week Tom put up a double sided Triple Plus White Hot Stamper of “Livin’ on the Fault Line”. Could it be THAT much better than my best copy considering that my copy was the best of over a dozen and when played really sounds great? AND the Better Records copy would be almost 100 times the cost of my used record store “finds”.

But I couldn’t resist so I pushed the button and the Better Records White Hot copy arrived yesterday. I couldn’t wait to play it. It was in minty condition. I heated up the rig and sat down and laid my Jan Allearts “needle” (economy model $3000 cartridge with its Fritz Geiger stylus, ruby cantilever and hand wound gold coils that extract just about everything a record groove contains) on the band of the song “Little Darlin”. Suddenly Michael McDonald was in the room in front of me. The sound was simply amazing! TOTALLY transparent. Dynamics were fantastic…..harmonics were great without losing the high end or low end to the midrange. I was listening to the master tapes!

Now this record was not one of the Doobies biggies. It’s a sleeper… a lot were made but you can find them easily and the used prices in bins are dirt cheap. Your average copy sounds pretty good and a good one sounds great BUT this White Hot Stamper just put ALL of them to shame! This makes it a RARE find and Tom has alluded to how he hasn’t found many that sound this good. And that brings me to the thing that is most disturbing about collecting vinyl (forget cd’s)…..WHY could the record companies do such a really poor job shipping a majority of poor to good records when they also shipped a minority of fantastic Hot Stamper LP’s. I could say it’s the 80/20 rule where 20% of anything is great and 80% of everything is much less to awful. Like you want your car mechanic or your brain surgeon to be in the 20%! Then with vinyl you have to find the small percentage of the 20% that survived stems, twigs, coke, and horrible record players that destroyed most of all the records ever produced including the 20%.

But hey… there’s Tom Port and Better Records to do the hard work of finding a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage. Are they expensive? Sure. But from all my attempts, I personally know just how much money and work it takes to produce these “finds”. It’s a LOT. Can I afford many? NO! But I have my small collection of Better Records Hot Stampers and it is separate from my main “excellent” collection of vinyl. It’s separate because I can hardly ever top a top Stamper from Better Records…..especially a Triple Plus from that rarified air of BR!

ED Z