- This outstanding copy of Lous Rawls’ 1971 release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- The immediacy of the vocals is striking, putting a living, breathing Lou Rawls right between your speakers
- 4 stars: “Relying on his deep, rich voice, he sings with confidence everything from the bluesy ‘I’m a King Bee’ and the Beatles cover ‘Got to Get You into My Life’ to Duke Ellington’s jazz ballad ‘Sophisticated Lady’… a representative collection covering the eclectic range of styles in which Rawls has always performed.”
This Original MGM 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 Lou, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Lou Rawls singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
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 Natural Man 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 1971
- 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.
What to Listen For on Natural Man
Copies with rich lower mids 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 ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
Tube smear is common to pressings from every era 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.
A Natural Man
Everywhere I Go
I’m A King Bee
Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’
Got To Get You Into My Life
You Can’t Hold On
When I Fall In Love
How Thoughtless I’ve Become
Till Love Touches Your Life
Got A Lotta Love
Before leaving MGM, Rawls also recorded a concert album, Live at the Century Plaza (1973), and contributed a song to the soundtrack of the film Soul of Nigger Charley (1973). This material is the source of the 15 tracks on Natural Man/Classic Lou, and it results in a representative collection covering the eclectic range of styles in which Rawls has always performed.
Relying on his deep, rich voice, he sings with confidence everything from the bluesy “I’m a King Bee” and the Beatles cover “Got to Get You into My Life” to Duke Ellington’s jazz ballad “Sophisticated Lady.” The selections from Live at the Century Plaza include re-recordings of Rawls’ hits, like “Love Is a Hurtin’ Thing” and “Dead End Street.”
This album is a portrait of the artist in transition from his early, sometimes gritty Capitol Records period of the ’60s to his creamier Philadelphia International Records period of the ’70s.