Linda Ronstadt – The Middle of the Midrange Is Key

More Linda Ronstadt

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Here’s what we learned when doing our recent shootout: many copies sounded like they were half-speed mastered. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a lot of things. In this case, these half-speed sounding ones had a little something phony added to the top of Linda’s voice, they had a little bit of suckout right in the middle of the midrange, the middle of her voice, and they had an overall diffuse, vague quality, with sound that lacked the SOLIDITY we heard on the best pressings. 

These hi-fi-ish qualities that we heard on so many copies reminded us of the audiophile sound we decry at every turn. We’ve played literally hundreds and hundreds of MoFi’s and other half-speed mastered records over the course of the last twenty years, and one thing we know well is THAT SOUND.

But think about it. What if you only had one copy of the album — why would you have more than one anyway? — and it had that Half-Speed Sound? You’d simply assume the recording had those qualities, assuming you could even recognize them in the first place. (Let’s face it, most audiophiles can’t, or all these companies would have gone out of business and stayed out of businesss, and their out of print records would sell for peanuts, not the collector prices they bring on ebay and audiophile web sites.)

It’s Not Really That Hard to Tell One from the Other

Fortunately our customers recognize those phony qualities and are willing to pay top dollar for copies that don’t have those audiophile BS colorations. If you have a good stereo and two working ears it’s not hard to hear right from wrong. It’s not rocket science.

The records that sound right to us we call Hot Stampers. They’re the ones that get all the energy into the grooves, with correct tonality from top to bottom.

Audiophile records are the ones that compress the shit out of the sound and have colorations and problems everywhere you look. It’s really not that hard to tell one from the other, for us and our Hot Stamper fans anyway. The rest of the world has a way to go in this respect, but we’re doing our best to convert them, one audiophile at a time. (Check out our Testimonials section when you have a chance.)

What A Supporting Cast!

Check out all the cool cats who helped make this record: EmmyLou Harris, James Taylor, Lowell George, Andrew Gold, Peter Asher, Val Garay, Russ Kunkel, David Lindley, JD Souther and more. You see those same names all over our site! Perhaps it is time to rethink the conventional wisdom that says Linda Ronstadt’s records are not for audiophiles. Those people are involved with some of our all-time favorite records, and their contributions really help this music sound great.

Another Ignored Gem From Linda

I confess to never having taken this album seriously (much like Simple Dreams, an album I now LOVE), dismissing it as a commercial collection of pop hits with as much depth as the L.A. river, but I was wrong wrong WRONG. This is a great album on the right LP, not the compressed piece of grainy cardboard pop we’re used to. The typical pressing barely hints at the tremendous energy and top-quality musicianship that characterizes practically every track on this wonderful record.

Val Garay Is The Man

VAL GARAY is the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor’s JT (a Top 100 title)Simple Dreams (also a Top 100 title), Andrew GoldPrisoner In Disguise, etc. They all share his trademark super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound. With BIG drums — can’t forget those. (To be clear, only the best copies share it. Most copies only hint at it.)

I don’t think Mr Garay gets anything like his due with audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them. This is a shame; the guy makes Demo Disc Quality Pop Records about as good as those kinds of records can be made. If you have a Big System that really rocks you owe it to yourself to get to know his work. This is truly a KNOCKOUT disc if you have the equipment for it. We do, and it’s records like this that make the effort and expense of building a full-range dynamic system worthwhile.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Love Is a Rose
Hey Mister, That’s Me up on the Jukebox
Roll Um Easy
The Tracks of My Tears
Prisoner in Disguise

Side Two

(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
Many Rivers to Cross
The Sweetest Gift 
You Tell Me That I’m Falling Down
I Will Always Love You 
Silver Blue

AMG Review

Linda Ronstadt followed the commercial and critical breakthrough success of Heart Like a Wheel with Prisoner in Disguise… it’s thoroughly enjoyable, highlighted by sturdy remakes of the Motown classics “Tracks of My Tears” and “Heat Wave.