Arlo Guthrie – Watch Out for Vocals that Are Too Forward

More of the Music of Arlo Guthrie

More Records with Specific Advice on What to Listen For

It’s not easy to find a copy of this album that sounds right.

Many of the copies we played suffer from a “forward” quality to the vocals, which make them positively unpleasant to listen to.

Others lacked of presence, which left them easy on the ears but ultimately boring.

Then there were the copies that got the vocals right but just didn’t have all the Tubey Magic you want for this kind of simple, folky music.

I’m not going to go out on a limb and say this is an album everyone needs in their collection, but it’s certainly enjoyable. For those of you who get a kick out of this slice of ’60s life, you’re going to have a very hard time finding a copy that sounds as good as this one.

It’s nice when the copy in hand has all the transparency, space, layered depth and three-dimensionality that makes listening to records such a fundamentally different experience than listening to digitally-sourced material, but it’s not nearly as important as having that rich, relaxed tonal balance.

A little smear and a subtle lack of resolution is not the end of the world on most of the records we sell, including this one.

Brightness and leanness, along with grit and grain on the vocals, can be.

If the average record sounded even close to right, nobody would need us to find good sounding copies for them. They’d be sitting in every record bin in town and we would have to find some other kinds of records to sell.

The records may indeed be in every bin in town — that’s where we found the copies that went into this shootout — but the sound sure isn’t.

Engineer Extraordinaire

One of the top guys at Warners, Lee Herschberg, engineered this album. You’ll also find his name in the credits for many of the best releases by Randy Newman, Ry Cooder, The Doobie Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot and Frank Sinatra, albums we know to have outstanding sound (potentially anyway; you have to have an outstanding pressing to hear outstanding sound).


Side One

Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

Side Two

Chilling of the Evening
Ring Around a Rosy Rag
Now and Then
I’m Going Home
The Motorcycle Song
Highway In the Wind

AMG 4 Star Review

Although he’d been a fixture on the East Coast folk circuit for several years, Arlo Guthrie did not release this debut album until mid-1967. A majority of the attention directed at Alice’s Restaurant focuses on the epic 18-plus-minute title track, which sprawled over the entire A-side of the long-player. However, it is the other half-dozen Guthrie compositions that provide an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.

Although arguably not 100 percent factual, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” — which was recorded in front of a live audience — is rooted in a series of real incidents. This decidedly anti-establishment saga of garbage dumps closed on Thanksgiving, good ol’ Officer Obie, as well as Guthrie’s experiences with the draft succeeds not only because of the unusual and outlandish situations that the hero finds himself in; it is also his underdog point of view and sardonic delivery that maximize the effect in the retelling. In terms of artistic merit, the studio side is an equally endowed effort containing six decidedly more traditional folk-rock compositions.

Further Reading