We know many of you have been eagerly awaiting Hot Stamper copies of this record, a longtime audiophile favorite and Demo Disc par excellence, but frankly, we’re always a bit hesitant (some might say afraid, but I prefer hesitant, thank you very much) to take it on.
So many copies of this album sound so bad — grainy, compressed and cardboardy are the first three adjectives that spring to mind.
And so many are noisy, having been pressed on the reground dreck that passed for new vinyl in the late ’70s. Slogging through dozens of noisy, grainy sounding copies was not going to be a day at the beach. We like the music, but could it possibly be worth it? Would the ends justify the means?
Ah, but this album was such a smash last time around we felt we owed it to our loyal following to do it again, to dig them up a copy of RLJ with the kind of AMAZING sound we knew the album could have. The late ’70s produced some knockout pop records; two of the best are Rumours and Rickie Lee Jones. It was time. We rolled up our sleeves and started cleaning.
The lifting was heavy right from the start. For one thing the stamper numbers are all over the map. The stampers we used to like for this album years ago turned out to be very good, but far from the best. We basically found ourselves starting from scratch, with no choice but to throw all the old notes out the window and begin the shootout again with open minds and fresh ears.
Designed To Pop Out Of Your Speakers
On the best of the Hot Stamper copies, it becomes abundantly clear just how well the string bass was recorded — assuming you like the close-miked, maximum-presence quality they were after. You hear all the fingering, the wood of the body resonating — all the stuff you could never hear live unless you were ten feet from the guy.
Natural it’s not, but natural is not what most hit records are all about anyway.
Let’s face it: Everything on this record is designed to “pop” out of the speakers, and everything does. The important thing is that the bass sounds just as good as everything else while still staying in correct proportion to the rest of the music.
This is not an easy thing to do. Many recordings have qualities that draw attention to themselves at the expense of the overall presentation. The mix will have an “unbalanced” quality, with some elements coming on too strong and some getting lost.
How ‘Bout Them Players
One of the first things you should notice after you get used to the amazing quality of the sound is the amazing quality of the musicianship. Rickie has backed herself here with a cast of top-notch studio cats — real “musicians’ musicians”, to say the least.
Among the players are such heavyweights as Randy Newman, Michael McDonald, Jeff Porcaro, Victor Feldman, Tom Scott, Fred Tackett (of Little Feat) and the great Willie Weeks on electric bass (a job he also handles very capably on Donny Hathaway Live — a Better Records favorite).
The best copies have the kind of transparency that lets you hear the contributions of everyone involved. They’re all there, right in front of you. Pick out your favorite musician; on the best copies you can hear exactly what he’s doing. Rickie is front and center: she’s hard to miss. The best copies not only give you all the nuances of her vocals, they show you that everyone else in the room is doing his best to bring this music to life. Those guys get paid the big bucks and they earn every penny.
The musicians and producers and engineers are the ones that made Rickie’s debut a multi-million selling Must Own album in 1979.
The Hot Stamper copies we find make it a Must Own album for Sound.