To our way of thinking, this is the kind of record one should bring to one’s favorite stereo store to properly judge their equipment. They can play Famous Blue Raincoat; they do it all day long. But can they play The Last Record Album and have it sound musical and involving? Can they get it to ROCK? Will they even turn it up loud enough to find out? My jaded money is on no, for all three.
Rockin’ The Last Record Album is a much, much tougher test than what they are used to, one that their systems will struggle to pass. (That’s what makes it a good test, right?)
Leaner and cleaner — the kind of audiophile sound I used to hear everywhere I go — is simply not going to work on this album, or Zuma, or Houses of the Holy, or the hundreds of other Classic Rock records we put up on the site every year. There has to be meat on those bones. To switch metaphors in the middle of a stream, this album is all about the cake, not the frosting.
Bear that in mind when they tell you at your local salon that the record you brought with you is at fault, not their expensive and supposedly “correct” equipment. I’ve been in enough of these places to know better. If you’ve put your audio time in, their excuses should fall on deaf ears.
Whose Fault Is It?
Most copies of this album are ridiculously dull and compressed. The band itself sounds bored, as if they lack faith in their own songs. But it’s not their fault. Whose fault it is is never easy to fathom; bad mastering, bad tapes, bad vinyl, bad something else — whatever it is, that thick, lifeless sound turns this powerfully emotional music into a major snooze-fest. It’s positively criminal but it happens all the time. It’s the reason we have to go through a dozen copies to find one that sounds like this.
This copy has the kind of transparency that allows you to hear the space around all the instruments. Most copies have a bad case of ‘cardboard drums”. Even the best copies have some of that sound. But when you have one of these high-rez copies spinning, the sound of the drums is right. It may not be the BEST drum sound you’ve ever heard, but it’s a GOOD drum sound, and in a lot of ways you could argue that it’s the RIGHT drum sound — rich and fat, a perfect match for the sound of the album as a whole.