Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:
This White Hot Stamper pressing has the sound I’ve been trying to find on a pressing of The Last Record Album for more than thirty years. Finally, here it is! This was my first Little Feat album, purchased way back in 1975, and it’s still my favorite by the band. The recording is notable for having amazing bass; it goes REALLY deep in places (Long Distance Love) and it’s punchy and rich throughout the album.
The problem has always been an overly smooth top end and a serious lack of presence. The good news is that if you clean enough copies with the advanced cleaning techniques we’ve developed (using an $8000 RCM helps) and you make enough improvements to your stereo, room, etc., with the right copy you can actually get this album to sound REALLY GOOD. This is one of those amazingly good copies, the best we have ever heard. It easily won our shootout on both sides. From start to finish it’s As Good As It Gets.
A+++ White Hot stamper sound! So transparent, big and open, with huge space and 3-dimensional like no other copy we played, without sacrificing any of the richness and bass that the best copies have. This one does it all.
A+++, not quite as rich in the lower midrange as the side one we discuss above, but very high-rez (listen for the vocal reverb, not audible on most copies) and by far the best side two we played. See if you don’t hear the change in the lower mids we mention when switching sides.
The piano is key here. On track three it should sound rich and full and solid, yet percussive. Rarely does it sound right, which is what makes it a good test for side two.
Whose Fault Is It?
Most copies of this album are ridiculously dull and compressed. The band itself sounds bored, as if they don’t believe in their own songs. But it’s not their fault. Whose fault it is is never easy to fathom; bad mastering, bad tapes, bad vinyl, bad something else — whatever it is, that thick, lifeless sound turns this powerfully emotional music into a major snooze-fest. It’s positively criminal but it happens all the time. It’s the reason we have to go through a dozen copies to find one like this.
This one has the kind of super transparency that allows you to hear the space around all the instruments. Most copies have a bad case of ‘cardboard drums”; even the best copies have a bit of that sound. But when you have one of these high-rez copies spinning, the sound of the drums doesn’t call attention to itself. It may not be the BEST drum sound you ever heard, but it’s a GOOD drum sound, and in a lot of ways you could argue that it’s the RIGHT drum sound. It’s rich and fat, a perfect match for the sound of the album as a whole.
A True Test
Now if you have mini-monitors or screens, some of that sound won’t come through nearly as well as it might with another speaker, a big dynamic one for example. To our way of thinking, this is the kind of record that one should bring to one’s favorite stereo store to judge their equipment. They can play Famous Blue Raincoat; they do it all day long. But can they play The Last Record Album and have it sound musical and involving.
This is a much tougher test, one that most systems struggle to pass. (That’s what makes it a good test, right?) Leaner and cleaner — the kind of audiophile sound I hear everywhere I go — is simply not going to work on this album, or Zuma, or Bad Company, or the hundreds of other classic rock albums we put up on the site every year. There has to be meat on those bones. To switch metaphors in the middle of a stream, this album is about the cake, not the frosting.
Keep that in mind when they tell you at your local audio salon that the record you brought in is at fault, not their expensive and therefore “correct” equipment. I’ve been in enough of these places to know better. To mangle another old saying, if you know your records, their excuses should fall on deaf ears.
One of the Greats
Little Feat is one of the ten best rock bands in the history of the world. Their live album Waiting For Columbus is, in my opinion, the greatest live rock album ever recorded. If you don’t own a copy of it, buy that Little Feat album next.