Peggy Lee – If You Go (1961)

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  • Stunning sound throughout with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grade on the second side and a solid Double Plus (A++) grade on the first
  • This vintage Capitol stereo pressing is rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical – we’re talking All Tube Analog from 1961 after all – with wonderfully sweet and breathy vocals 
  • “… the man writing the charts here is Quincy Jones, and he is only occasionally interested in underscoring the heartbreak with suitably sad music… Lee responds to the music with a world-weary tone, but an occasional swing in her step, as if this is not her first romance, nor her first one to go wrong.”

This vintage Capitol pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Peggy Lee singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.

What outstanding sides on If You Go have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1961
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on If You Go

Copies with rich lower mids did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to pressings from every era and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

Mono Vs. Stereo

This album is fairly common in mono but we found the sound of the mono pressing we played seriously wanting. It was dramatically smaller, harder and less natural than even the worst of the stereo LPs we played. We’ll never buy another, although if one came my way in a collection I might drop the needle on it to see if every pressing is as bad as the one we had. In the world of records you just never know.

We’ve put hundreds of Mono pressings in our shootouts over the years, and discovered plenty with the potential to sound amazing.

Here are some of the records we don’t think sound very good in Mono, pressings that should be avoided by audiophiles looking for the best sound.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

As Time Goes By 
If You Go
Oh Love Hast Thou Forsaken Me
Say It Isn’t So
I Wish I Didn’t Love You So
Maybe It’s Because (I Love You Too Much)

Side Two

I’m Gonna Laugh You Out Of My Life
I Get Along Without You Very Well
(I Love Your) Gypsy Heart
When I Was A Child
Here’s That Rainy Day
Smile

AMG Review

In form, Peggy Lee’s fall 1961 studio LP If You Go is a concept album in which the theme, as suggested by the title, is love that doesn’t work out. Over the course of 12 songs, the singer begins as a romantic philosopher (“As Time Goes By”), then immediately begins to worry that her love affair may be in trouble (“If You Go”). Soon, her fears are confirmed (“Say It Isn’t So”). By the start of the second half, she is trying to accommodate herself to separation (“I’m Gonna Laugh You Out of My Life”), but by the end she has acknowledged the pain (“Here’s That Rainy Day”) and returned to philosophy with her hard-won wisdom about romance (“Smile”).

It sounds like a formula for sad, string-filled arrangements from, say, Gordon Jenkins or Axel Stordahl, but the man writing the charts here is Quincy Jones, and he is only occasionally interested in underscoring the heartbreak with suitably sad music. He does write for strings and horns on such songs as “I Wish I Didn’t Love You So” and “I’m Gonna Laugh You Out of My Life,” but just as often he pairs Lee with a small exotic group with prominent flute lines, a guitar playing arpeggios, and syncopated Latin percussion played in easy rhythms. That’s how he accompanies “If You Go,” “Maybe It’s Because (I Love You Too Much),” and “I Get Along Without You Very Well,” for instance. The effect is of a heartbroken woman who may be drowning her sorrows in a bar in Brazil instead of walking in the rain. Lee responds to the music with a world-weary tone, but an occasional swing in her step, as if this is not her first romance, nor her first one to go wrong.