Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.
You know how you can tell when you have a Hot Stamper? It’s the side you play through to the end. When the sound is right you want to hear more. Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it’s mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled on any given LP. Some advice follows.
This is usually the brightest cut on the first side, commonly found with some sibilance problems. On the high-res copies the sibilance is lessened, and the sound of the sibilance itself is much less transistory and spitty, with more of a silky quality, which is simply another way of saying it’s less distorted.
Of course one wouldn’t want the sibilance to be lessened by having a dull top end, but few of these pressings are dull. Most of them suffer from a brightness problem. The best copies keep the sibilance under control and balance the upper mids with extended highs. Without extension on the highs the sound will tend to be aggressive.
This is the rocker on side one with fabulously punchy bass and real rock dynamics. On bad copies, you can’t turn it up because the sound will be much too aggressive. On the best copies, the louder the better.
This is a big speaker album. You need to be able to play full range at a loud volume with low distortion for this music to make any sense at all. This is a live rock concert. It is not a tea party. Do not attempt to play this record on Quads.
She’s Got A Way
Without a doubt this is the most beautiful song on the album. Billy Joel is on record as saying that his favorite songwriter, the one he tries to emulate with his own writing, is Paul McCartney. This song could easily have been written by Paul himself, one of the handful of great songwriters in the twentieth century. It has the timeless qualities that we hear in the best pop material from the classic rock era. Billy Joel has written dozens of great songs over the course of a career, but I’m guessing he might just think this is the best. It’s certainly a personal favorite of mine.
Say Goodbye to Hollywood
The Big Sound! You need a superb copy to get the full effect on this one — wall to wall, floor to ceiling Phil Spector sound.
This is the high point for side two. Big sound. Big production quality. If you want to turn this song up, you have a good copy. It should be noted that the music on side two, although excellent, is not as consistent as the music found on side one. Billy Joel does not put a foot wrong for the entire first side. Side two, however, has a few weak moments, but they pass quickly, and I still like to play both sides of this album when time permits in order to have that full-on Rock Concert experience.
Besides wanting to listen to it all the way through, you also want to TURN IT UP.
This is the surest sign of a good pressing. You WANT to turn it up, and you CAN turn it up, because the mastering is right. The distortion levels are low and the tonal balance is correct at the extremes. Records with too much bass and especially too much top end can’t be played loud. The louder you play them the worse they get. Try playing the average MoFi at a loud volume. All that extra 10k starts to make your brain hurt. The CBS half-speed of this album is like that. It’s frustrating — the music makes you want to turn it up but the sound says forget it.
Actually, what you really want to know is how good each song can sound — what it sounds like when it’s right. Once the quality of the mastering has been established, the fun part is to play the rest of the album, to hear it really come alive!