Gerry Rafferty – City To City – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of City to City.

Listen to the chorus on the first track, The Ark. On the best copies it really gets loud without becoming harsh or shrill. So many popular albums have choruses (and guitar solos) that are no louder, and sometimes not even as loud, as the verses, which rob the songs of any real drama or power. This recording has the potential to give you a dramatic, powerful, loud chorus. It’s a thrill when you find a pressing that delivers on that promise.

One way we know to listen for these volume changes is that we actually play our records good and loud. When a dynamic recording such as this comes along, we have to watch our levels, otherwise the chorus will overwhelm the system and room. When playing this copy, be sure to set the level for the chorus of the first track. Everything should play just fine once that setting is correct, as the artist intended.

Side Two Listening Test

The double tracked vocals on Whatever’s Written in Your Heart are a good test for resolution and Tubey Magic. There should clearly be two voices heard without sacrificing richness for the clarity that makes hearing both voices possible. 

Simply Vinyl

We had two copies of the Heavy Simply Vinyl pressing to audition as part of this shootout. We used to like it, but it now sounds quite a bit worse than we remember, especially in the low end, which is a blurry mess, with even less bass definition than most half-speeds. And that’s saying something.

Better than any domestic copy I suppose, but in the case of this album that’s not really saying much, the domestic pressings are truly awful. It’s hard to believe that Artisan, the cutting house responsible for every original I’ve ever seen, could have done such a poor job. But they did! Just play one if you don’t believe me.

Mobile Fidelity

The MoFi pressing of this album is a complete disaster — it’s fat, muddy and compressed. It was mastered by Jack Hunt, a man we know to be responsible for some of the thickest, dullest, deadest MoFi recuts throughout their shameful catalog. With mastering credits on this album, Michael McDonald (149) and Blondie (050), you have to wonder how this guy kept getting work.

Rolling Stone Rave Review

Even in his mother’s womb, Gerry Rafferty must have expected the worst. This Scotsman entitled his melancholy 1971 solo album Can I Have My Money Back? (the answer was “No!”). And when Stealers Wheel, the group he subsequently formed with Joe Egan, became an overnight success with the hit single “Stuck in the Middle with You,” only to lapse into morning-after obscurity, he probably said, “I told you so.” On City to City, his first LP in three years, Rafferty sticks grimly to his guns. Not only does he use the same producer (Hugh Murphy) and several of the same musicians, but a similar un-self-pitying fatalism pervades the record.

However, there is a slight but significant change for the better that makes City to City as eloquently consoling as the spirituals Rafferty echoes in “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart.” Indeed, there’s a prayerful quality to the entire LP, a quality reminiscent of the dim dawn after a dark night of the soul. “The Ark” begins as a Highland death march, complete with doleful bagpipes, but swells into a stirring hymn to love. And, after etching a relationship stalemated by the inability of two lovers to express their feelings, the somber “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart” (whose only instruments are a piano and a hushed sythesizer) concludes with a coda of vocal harmonies that sing of sublime forgiveness.

Hope, in almost all these songs, lurks on the horizon. And when it springs fully into view — as on “City to City,” with its rollicking train tempo, and on the jaunty “Mattie’s Rag” — the music almost burbles with anticipation.

Gerry Rafferty still writes with the sweet melodiousness of Paul McCartney and sings with John Lennon’s weary huskiness, and his synthesis of American country music, British folk and transatlantic rock is as smooth as ever. But his orchestrations have acquired a stately sweep. For all their rhythmic variety — from the suave Latin lilt of “Right down the Line” to the thump of “Home and Dry” — these are uniformly majestic songs. The instrumental refrain on one of the best of them, “Baker Street,” is breathtaking: between verses describing a dreamer’s self-deceptions, Rapheal Ravenscroft’s saxophone ballons with aspirations only to have a sythesizer wrench it back to earth with an almost sickening tug. If City to City doesn’t rise to the top of the charts, its commercial failure will be equally dismaying. And our loss will be greater even than Rafferty’s. After all, when was the last time you bought an album boasting more than fifty minutes of music? And great music at that.

– Ken Emerson, Rolling Stone, 1-15-78.


AMG Review

Rafferty’s turns of phrase and tight composition skills create a fresh sound and perspective all his own. Any diverse style (and he attempts many) filters through his unique mindset, resulting in a classic platter buoyed by many moments of sheer genius. “Whatever’s written in your heart, that’s all that matters.”