B.B. King – L.A. Midnight

More B.B. King

More Electric Blues

xxxxx

  • The best copy to hit the site in over a year with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Dramatically better than practically every other pressing we played – super lively, full-bodied and clear with real extension up top and down low
  • Check out how cool the tuba sounds anchoring the bottom end on the opening track 
  • “The King is at his sly peak on ‘I Got Some Help I Don’t Need,’ uproariously humorous and hurt at the same time, with crazy wah-wah filigrees laced within, and ‘Can’t You Hear Me Talking to You” is also tight and right.’

We had the chance to sit and play a big stack of these recently and only a few copies sounded very good. This one was our shootout winner! Check out how cool the tuba sounds anchoring the bottom end on the opening track! Both sides here were bigger, fuller, more open and more transparent than any other.

This vintage pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with King and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of L.A. Midnight 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 1972
  • 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 space of the studio

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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top 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 air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings 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.

What We’re Listening For on L.A. Midnight

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The musicians aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

I Got Some Help I Don’t Need 
Help the Poor 
Can’t You Hear Me Talking to You? 
Midnight

Side Two

Sweet Sixteen 
(I Believe) I’ve Been Blue Too Long
Lucille’s Granny

AMG Review

Using a freely eclectic mix of sidemen from Los Angeles, King strides to some sterling performances in certain tracks. The King is at his sly peak on “I Got Some Help I Don’t Need,” uproariously humorous and hurt at the same time, with crazy wah-wah filigrees laced within, and “Can’t You Hear Me Talking to You” is also tight and right. One of his best recordings of “Sweet Sixteen” leads off side two, where the lyric is updated to suit the times (“I just got back from Vietnam, baby/And you know I’m a long, long way from New Orleans”) and band, singer and his guitar rise to an emotional crescendo down the stretch.