Tom Petty – Hard Promises

More Tom Petty

Hard Promises

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  • An impressive copy of this 1981 release, with KILLER nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Recorded at Sound City, home to some of the greatest analog sound ever recorded
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…filled with great songwriting, something that’s as difficult to achieve as a distinctive sound… The Waiting became the best-known song on the record, but there’s no discounting A Woman in Love, Nightwatchman, Kings Road, and The Criminal Kind, album tracks that would become fan favorites… it has a tremendous set of songs and a unified sound that makes it one of Petty’s finest records.”

Two stunning sides for one of our favorite Petty records! This one is a huge step up from most, which tend to be bright, thin, edgy, pinched and gritty — radio friendly, maybe, but not especially audiophile friendly.

We hate that sound but we are happy to report that some copies manage to avoid it, and this is one of them. Is that richer, fuller sound the sound of what’s on the master tape or did the mastering engineer “fix” it? We’ll never know, now will we? What we can know is the sound of the pressings we actually have to play, and this one is killer.

Recorded by Shelly Yakus at Sound City, Van Nuys and at Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, CA.

What outstanding sides such as these 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 1981
  • 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 Hard Promises

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • 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 so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also 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 instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The First Two Albums

His first two albums are also classics, IMHO, and we’ve done Hot Stamper shootouts for both. You’re Gonna Get It, his second release, is my personal favorite. After Hard Promises I kind of gave up on him as an album artist: a few tracks here and there sparkle but mostly what I hear is variations of his earlier and better material, with brighter and brighter, thinner and thinner sound.

Full Moon Fever seems to be the exception to that rule. We found some imports that sound surprisingly good and they should be coming to the site any day now.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Waiting 
A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)
Nightwatchman 
Something Big 
Kings Road

Side Two

Letting You Go 
A Thing About You 
Insider 
The Criminal Kind 
You Can Still Change Your Mind

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

… a reaffirmation that Damn the Torpedoes wasn’t a fluke… filled with great songwriting, something that’s as difficult to achieve as a distinctive sound… The opener, “The Waiting,” became the best-known song on the record, but there’s no discounting “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me),” “Nightwatchman,” “Kings Road,” “Insider,” and “The Criminal Kind,” album tracks that would become fan favorites… it has a tremendous set of songs and a unified sound that makes it one of Petty’s finest records.