Anita Baker – Rapture

xxxxx

  • This quiet-storm classic earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades for sound on both sides and plays on exceptionally quiet vinyl to boot
  • Rapture is one of the best sounding recordings from the era – with all due respect to Whitney Houston, if I could have only one album of ’80s soulful female vocals, it would have to be this one
  • Key to the sound is richness and Tubey Magic, along with strong midrange presence, and on this Super Hot Stamper you get all three
  • 5 stars: “Rapture gave Baker one moving hit after another, including ‘Sweet Love,’ ‘Caught up in the Rapture,’ ‘Same Ole Love,’ and ‘No One in This World.'”

A Soul Classic — winner, and deservedly so, of 2 Grammy Awards: Best R&B Song and Best R&B Female Vocal.

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 Anita Baker singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 34 years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.

What the best sides of Rapture 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 1985
  • 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 studio space

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.

This is an amazing record when it’s mastered and pressed correctly, but our experience with dozens of pressings over the years tells us that most copies leave much to be desired. Like so many recordings from the Eighties, copies of the album can be phony sounding up top and just “too clean” overall.

When this album sounds wrong, and wrong on this album usually means thin, hard, gritty and opaque, the sultry quality of Ms. Baker’s voice is lost and the romantic mood the album is trying to set never comes about.

A Cream record can be a little raw sounding and still rock, but an Anita Baker record must be rich, smooth and sweet or it simply isn’t worth throwing on the turntable.

What We’re Listening For on Rapture

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t back there somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic that is a key part of the appeal of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Sweet Love 
You Bring Me Joy
Caught up in the Rapture 
Been So Long

Side Two

Mystery 
No One in the World
Same Ole Love 
Watch Your Step

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Rapture gave Baker one moving hit after another, including “Sweet Love,” “Caught up in the Rapture,” “Same Ole Love,” and “No One in This World.” Praising Baker in a 1986 interview, veteran R&B critic Steve Ivory asserted, “To me, singers like Anita Baker and Frankie Beverly define what R&B or soul music is all about.