Loggins & Messina – Full Sail – Choruses that Really Get Up and Going

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

At about the two minute mark the big chorus in Watching the River Run is also a great test for weight, resolution, dynamic energy, and freedom from strain in the loudest parts. When the whole band is projecting, really belting it out, the shortcomings of practically any copy will be most evident. It was a key test every pressing had to pass.  

When the music gets loud you want it to get better, with more size, energy and, especially, emotional power, just they way it would be heard in concert. Any strain or congestion in the choruses results in the loss of serious points. (This is of course one of the biggest issues we have with Heavy Vinyl — it never gets up and it never gets going the way real records do. “Boring” is the adjective we most commonly use to critique the few we hear, and who wants to listen to boring records?)

Practically all copies have a midrange equalization problem, with a lack of lower mids and boosted upper mids, which often thins out the vocals and leads to hardness and honkiness.

The better copies manage to keep the EQ anomalies within bounds while giving us full-bodied pianos; rich, lively vocals, full of presence and brimming with enthusiasm; harmonically-rich guitars, and a three-dimensional soundstage that reveals the space around them all.

Multi-Instrumentalists

On Full Sail the more versatile members of the band played a wide variety of instruments. (Michael Omartian as you probably know is not a member of the band but rather a top session guy and producer. In one year alone he was nominated for ten Grammy Awards, winning three.)

Jon Clarke – oboe, baritone saxophone, bass saxophone, soprano saxophone, flute, alto flute, bass flute, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone, English horn

Al Garth – violin, bass clarinet, recorder, alto saxophone, tenor saxophone

Michael Omartian – piano, Wurlitzer electric piano, Hammond organ, tack piano, Lowrey organ, Moog synthesizer, Fender Rhodes electric piano

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Lahaina
Travelin’ Blues
My Music
A Love Song
You Need a Man
Coming to You

Side Two

Watching the River Run
Pathway to Glory
Didn’t Know You When
Sailin’ the Wind

AMG Review

This is every inch a follow-up to Loggins & Messina, including a ’50s rock & roll pastiche in the style of “Your Mama Don’t Dance” called “My Music” that hit number 16 as a single. Other notable material included Jim Messina’s island-rock anthem “Lahaina” and one of Kenny Loggins’ sensitive but generic ballads, typically called “A Love Song.” But then, the charm of L&M was that they could get away with something this sappy. Balance is the key to L&M albums, and it’s the chief talent (among many) that producer Messina brings to them. Here, as on L&M’s first two albums, he achieves a musical flow that’s exhilarating …

What To Listen For

The elements that make up a good sounding Loggins and Messina album can be found, to varying degrees, on all the Hot Stamper pressings we offer. Permit us to break them down for you. (We’ve borrowed heavily from ourselves here so if this material looks familiar don’t be surprised, we’ve used it before.)

Top End Extension

Absolutely critical to this record. Most copies of this album have no extreme highs, which causes the percussion and guitar harmonics to be blunted and dull. Without extreme highs the percussion can’t extend up and away from the other elements in the mix. Consequently these elements end up fighting for space in the midrange and getting lost in the dense mixes that Jim Messina favors (and some of us audiophiles love).

Clarity and Presence

Equally critical. So many copies are veiled in the midrange, partly because they may have shortcomings up top, but also because they suffer from blurry, smeary mids and upper mids. With so many stringed instruments; horns and woodwinds (oboe, saxes, flute, recorder); as well as plenty of percussion elements in the mix for practically every song, dull, dead sounding L & M pressings can’t begin to communicate the musical values in their superb recordings. It won’t be long until boredom sets in.

With a real Hot Stamper the sound is TOTALLY INVOLVING, and so is the music! You hear the breath in the voices, the pick on the strings of the guitars and mandolins — these are the things that allow us to suspend our disbelief, to forget it’s a recording we’re listening to and not living, breathing musicians.

Transparency

Although this quality is related to the above two, it’s not as important overall as the one below, but it sure is nice to have. When you can really “see” into the mix, it’s much easier to pick out each and every brass and wind instrument, and hear all the effects on the guitars, in order to gain more insight into the arrangement and the recording of the material.

Seeing into the mix is a way of seeing into the mind of the artist. To hear the hottest copies was to appreciate even more the talents of all the musicians and producers involved, not to mention the recording engineers.

Bass

No rock or pop record without good bass can qualify as a top quality Hot Stamper. How could it? It’s the rhythmic foundation of the music, and who wants a pop record that lacks rhythm? L&M are famous for putting plenty of bass on their records; this album is no exception. Bass is a big part of their sound. The best copies have prodigious amounts of deep, note-like, well-controlled bass. If you have a high-fidelity full-range system, this is some serious Demo Disc Quality Pop Sound.