Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what to listen for (WTLF).
One of the qualities we don’t talk about nearly enough on the site is the SIZE of a record’s presentation. Some copies of the album don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. Other copies do, creating a huge soundfield from which the instruments and voices positively jump out of the speakers.
When you hear a copy that can do that, needless to say (at least to anyone who’s actually bought some of our best Hot Stamper pressings) it’s an entirely different listening experience.
With constant improvements to the system Shoot Out is now so powerful a recording that we had no choice but to add it to our Top 100 list in 2014, but we would go even further than that and say that it would belong on a list of the Top Ten Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time.
The guitars are HUGE — they positively leap out of the speakers on the title cut, freeing themselves from a studio that seems already to be the size of a house.
Not long ago we played an amazing copy of The Sky Is Crying, one of the biggest — and by that we mean tallest, widest and deepest — sounding records we have ever heard. This album is every bit as big. It’s nothing less than astounding.
There is the kind of solid, powerful kick to the drums on every track that only the best of the best rock records ever display, the Back in Blacks and Zep IIs, with deep punchy bass augmenting the drums, just as it does on the Hot Stamper pressings of those two titles.
It’s no exaggeration to say that this record should put to shame 99% of all the rock records you have ever heard.
A Big Speaker Record
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.
Music has the power to take you out of the world you know and place you in a world of its own making. How it can do that nobody knows. Whatever Richard and Linda Thompson tapped into to make it happen on Shoot Out the Lights, they succeeded completely. If you’re in the right frame of mind, in the right environment, with everything working audio-wise, about a minute into the title track you will no longer be sitting in your comfy audio chair. You won’t know where you are, which is where you need to be.
The Power Of Live Music
To accomplish this feat the sound has to be right. This is always the rub. If you’re an audiophile these transcendent experiences tend to be prompted by exceptionally well-recorded music, the kind of recordings that let you forget you’re listening to a recording at all.
So many records call attention to their shortcomings so quickly that the transcendental effect never takes hold or is quickly dissipated after a few minutes. This is not the case with the best Hot Stamper copies of the best recordings. They create a truly out-of-body experience from first note to last.
For those of you who are not familiar with the album, not only is it Richard & Linda Thompson”s masterpiece, something the critics recognized at the time I’m happy to report, but it was in fact the Rolling Stone Album of the Year for 1982 (tied with Nebraska). It ranked #333 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest of all time, and it belongs in your collection.