The Cars – The Cars – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More The Cars

More The Cars – The Cars

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Jazz Hall of Fame.

As you may remember from our last go around with The Cars’ debut, we proclaimed that new White Hot Stampers had been discovered, and indeed they had. These, dear reader, are the very ones of which we spoke, and let me assure you, they are every bit as good. They just plain blow the doors off our previous favorites, which is both shocking and wonderful. The King is Dead, Long Live the King!

Talk about jumping out of the speakers, the energy level of this copy is completely OFF THE CHARTS. You’ve probably heard these songs a million times, but you’ve NEVER heard them sound like this. Both sides have FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUND — dynamic, spacious and ALIVE!

The key quality that we look for, the quality that’s essential if the record on the table is to earn our coveted A Triple Plus rating, is SIZE. When the sound is wall to wall, spacious and open as any you have ever heard, you have the prime ingredient for a White Hot Stamper. We discussed the issue in our commentary for BS&T earlier in 2009.

Commentary from the BS&T “Outlier”

The best copies present a huge wall of sound that seems to extend beyond the outside edges of the speakers, as well as above them, by quite a significant amount. If you closed your eyes and drew a rectangle in the air marking the boundary of the soundscape, it would easily be 20 or 25% larger than the boundary of sound for the typically good sounding original pressing, the kind that might earn an A or A Plus rating.

Size Matters

The effect of this size differential is ENORMOUS. The power of the music ramps up like crazy — how could this recording possibly be this BIG and POWERFUL? How did it achieve this kind of scale? You may need twenty copies to find one like this, which begs the question: why don’t the other 19 sound the way this one does? The sound we heard has to be on the master tape in some sense, doesn’t it? Mastering clearly contributes to the sound, but can it really be a factor of this magnitude?

My intuition says no. More likely it’s the mastering of the other copies that is one of the many factors holding them back, along with worn stampers, bad stampers, bad metal mothers, bad plating, bad vinyl, bad needles and all the rest — all of the above and more contributing to the fact that the average copy of this album is just plain average.

Sides One and Two

Side one is OUT OF THIS WORLD! The material is superb — just check out the first three tracks: Let The Good Times Roll, Best Friend’s Girl, and Just What I Needed — how many albums start off with that kind of a bang? Each of those tracks sounds amazing — if you’ve got big speakers and a phono stage capable of resolving musical information at the highest levels, put this record on, turn it way up and get ready to hear some serious DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND.

The guitars are meaty and grungy beyond belief, the synths have so much texture, and the drums are some of the punchiest you’ll ever hear. The overall sound is rich, full, present, dynamic and ALIVE! We rate side one an A+++ — it’s As Good As It Gets (AGAIG!)

Side two is every bit as good — super transparent, with amazing presence — the best we heard for ANY SIDE TWO — not to mention generous amounts of ambience. Moving In Stereo sounds SUPERB here — just listen to that floating synth and the full-bodied vocals. The top end is Right On The Money; check out the superb extension and the silky quality the cymbals have.

Candy-O Blew Our Minds

When we did our Candy-O shootout back in 2007, we had never before heard Demo Disc sound on a new wave record. Times have changed, though, and we owe much of that change to our EAR 324 Phono stage, which is capable of resolving at a much higher level than anything we had before. That super high resolution has allowed us to find the magic in the grooves that we always hoped was there.

And now we KNOW it is. Just listen to all the texture to the synthesizers or the character of the distortion on the guitar. Roy Thomas Baker (the man behind Queen) engineered this album, and he did a stellar job — it’s an amazing sounding recording, and a pressing like this gives you entree to all of that magic. The DCC Gold CD is pretty darn good, one of Steve’s best, but it can’t begin to compete with this kind of seriously Hot Stamper vinyl.

Power Choruses

The hottest of the Hot Stampers did one easily recognizable thing better than the Also-Rans, and it was apparent pretty much from the get-go. The multi-multi-multi-tracked choruses on the best copies don’t strain (a very common problem), they are bigger and more powerful, they stretch from wall to wall, and the voices that make them up are separated much more than on other copies. I won’t say you can make out all the players — there are dozens of tracks overdubbed together don’t you know — but you can make out some of the voices. At least you can if you have the kind of high resolution front end that we do. Big speakers help a lot too, giving space for each voice to occupy. What small driver speakers do to an album like this is a travesty, but that’s a horse we have already beaten savagely in more than enough places on the site, so we’ll leave that problem for the listener to solve.

Big Dynamic Speakers

Which means that if you have big dynamic speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong here. Neil Young albums have the Big Rock sound, and if you’re more of a Classic Rock kind of listener, that’s a good way to go. We’re behind you all the way, just check out the majority of the Hot Stampers on the site: CSN, Zep, Tull, The Stones — we can’t get enough of the stuff.

Still, variety is the spice of life, and the Cars really deliver the good on this new wave classic. If you love big meaty guitar chords, wild synth sounds, and HUGE punchy drums, this record may be just what you needed… so let the good times roll!

How Does the Nautilus Half-Speed Sound?

Terrible. Pure mud; compressed; thick and congested; a disaster on every level, much like their Candy-O. If you own this Audiophile BS pressing (NR-14) and you can’t hear what’s wrong with it, you seriously need to consider revamping your system. We would love to help you achieve better sound, if only so that you can play this wonderful record.

If you already have a top quality stereo, buy this copy and hear what you’ve been missing all these years. The Cars are back.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Good Times Roll 
My Best Friend’s Girl 
Just What I Needed 
I’m in Touch With Your World 
Don’t Cha Stop

Side Two

You’re All I’ve Got Tonight Track Commentary

There’s an “effect” that is used to process the sound at the beginning of this track, and at a certain, quite recognizable point (if you listen very carefully and critically) it is turned off. See if you can spot it, and if you can drop us an email about what you hear “before and after”.

Also note how much like David Gilmore Elliot Easton’s solo sounds like on this track. Very Dark Side of the Moon, and that’s a good thing!

Bye Bye Love
Moving in Stereo
All Mixed Up

AMG  1/2 Star Rave Review

The Cars’ 1978 self-titled debut, issued on the Elektra label, is a genuine rock masterpiece. The band jokingly referred to the album as their “true greatest-hits album,” but it’s no exaggeration — all nine tracks are new wave/rock classics, still in rotation on rock radio. Whereas most bands of the late ’70s embraced either punk/new wave or hard rock, the Cars were one of the first bands to do the unthinkable — merge the two styles together. Add to it bandleader/songwriter Ric Ocasek’s supreme pop sensibilities, and you had an album that appealed to new wavers, rockers, and Top 40 fans… With flawless performances, songwriting, and production (courtesy of Queen alumni Roy Thomas Baker), the Cars’ debut remains one of rock’s all-time classics.