The Cars – Candy-O – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of The Cars’ second album.

This is one of our favorite recordings — a former member of our Top 100 — for one very simple reason: it’s got Big Rock Sound in spades! Drop the needle on Let’s Go and check out the sound of the big floor tom. When the drummer bangs on that thing, you will FEEL it! It’s similar to the effect of being in the room with live musicians — the difference between just hearing music and also feeling it. That’s what you get from a Hot Stamper copy.

What other New Wave band ever recorded an album with this kind of DEMONSTRATION QUALITY sound? It positively JUMPS out of the speakers. No album by Blondie, Television, The Pretenders or ANY of their comtemporaries can begin to compete with this kind of sound, with the exception of the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures. The Cars very own first album is excellent, but it doesn’t have this kind of LIFE and ENERGY. No way, no how.  

It Rocks!

If you have big dynamic speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong here. Neil Young albums have the Big Rock sound, and if you’re more of a Classic Rock kind of listener, that’s a good way to go. We’re behind you all the way, just check out the commentary for Zuma. For a band with skinny ties, leather jackets, jangly guitars, synths and monstrously huge floor toms that fly back and forth across the soundstage, Candy-O is the girl for you, no doubt about it.

Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER recording. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It demands to be played LOUD. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended for it to if you play it at moderate levels.



In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Let’s Go

You can tell what’s happening on side one in the first 20 seconds of this track. Listen for the guitarrist tapping his pickups (rhythmically foreshadowing the claps in the chorus). If the tapping doesn’t sound hard and metallic (which is what you hear on most copies), you’re off to a very good start.

Ric Ocasek’s vocals can be slightly veiled on this track, but the better copies get him to sound breathy, with a room around his voice. We like him much better that way.

Another key point is the aforementioned hand claps that warn us of the incoming “Let’s Go!” The standard pressing is so compressed it makes these feel sharp and sterile, whereas the good pressings have the sound of flesh hitting flesh. They let you hear the room around them which adds to the good time vibe that makes this track the perfect lead off.

Since I Held You

Elliot Easton’s guitar solos frequently sound flat and compressed, but not on the good copies! The tone he gets with his guitars is captivating and triumphant. They soar above the rest of the music. The guy gets a sound that really works for this music, kicking it into high gear. Some say he lacks passion at the expense of technical virtuosity, but I hear plenty of both.

You can really hear the difference in the rhythm guitars as well. Often they come across as dull and lifeless; they should be jangly and playful.

Another great test, probably the best of the bunch, is the tambourine in the right channel that usually doubles the snare drum hits. It’s heavily gated, taking out all the harmonic trailing, a very popular and cool effect in those days. Most of the albums we listened to made it brittle and nasty. When you’re really cookin’ it sounds like a tambourine, highs perfectly intact, just one without the trails. That’s the sound they created in the studio. Not many records managed to capture it on vinyl. It’s a dead giveaway to good or bad sound on side one.

It’s All I Can Do

Some of the most spacious vocals on the record — we love this track here at Better Records. Pay close attention to the hi-hat sound. You want it to have a nice “chick” sound, not bite your head off.

Double Life

Listen to this kick drum! I’ve never heard so much low end in a New Wave pop record. It has the formidable weight and power of a marching bass drum. Wow!! That’s some major low end energy, tight and punchy as it gets. Give your subs a workout with this one; they will thank you for it.

Shoo Be Doo
Candy-O

Side Two

Night Spots

The guitar interplay in the intro is dark by nature, but needs transparency and midrange detail to properly convey the tension that it creates.

You Can’t Hold On Too Long

This ends up being one of the smoother tracks on the album. If your copy is lacking extension on the top, you pay for it here big time with noticeable veiling and loss of transparency.

Even on the best copies the bass is slightly leaner here than on the rest of this bass-driven record. Which means you need all your bandwidth to get this track to work, and that means you better have a very special copy to play or this song will be a letdown. Since it’s one of the two or three best songs on the album, we hope you either find yourself a good copy or let us find one for you. You deserve to hear this one at its best. When it’s good it’s REALLY good.

Which pretty much sums up this album. We just love it. After two days of playing it constantly, I’m still not sick of it. I say bring it on and turn it up!

Lust For Kicks
Got A Lot On My Head
Dangerous Type

A big finish for side two, very reminiscent of the ending for the classic first album.