- With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, this copy is practically as good as it gets
- Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
- Includes a couple of classic tracks, notably Welcome to the Club and a remake of Turn to Stone
- You’ll hear most of the Eagles playing on this one, produced and engineered by the redoubtable Bill Szymczyk
- “So What sees Walsh in top form as a guitarist. Most of the nine tracks feature solos of unquestionable quality in his usual rock style.”
We were impressed with how rich and punchy this copy sounded after hearing dozens of dry, thin, lifeless pressings over the years. Once we had heard at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make this shootout happen.
Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. The best copies had real energy, surprising dynamics, and lots of that ’70s Tubey Magic we love so much and never tire of talking about. (It’s also a sound that you will have a very hard time finding on most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days, as you doubtless know.)
The best pressings have (relatively; this is still Joe Walsh album we’re talking about) rich, warm guitars and vocals, supported by tight, punchy bass. Most copies were far less energetic and dynamic than this one. Excellent transparency as well.
All in all, this is pretty much as good as it gets for Joe Walsh in 1974. The very next year he would become an Eagle and help those boys knock it out of the park with Hotel California.
What outstanding sides such as these 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 1974
- 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 vintage ABC pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
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 We’re Listening For on So What
Less grit – smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on any recording engineered or produced by Bill Szymczyk.
A bigger presentation – more size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.
More bass and tighter bass. This is fundamentally a pure rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way the engineers wanted it to.
Present, breathy vocals. A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.
Good top end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.
Last but not least, balance. All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find.
Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.
Not only is it hard to find great copies of this album, it ain’t easy to play ’em either. You’re going to need a hi-res, super low distortion front end with careful adjustment of your arm in every area — VTA, tracking weight, azimuth and anti-skate — in order to play this album properly. If you’ve got the goods you’re gonna love the way this copy sounds. Play it with a budget cart / table / arm and you’re likely to hear a great deal less magic than we did.
Welcome To The Club
All Night Laundry Mat Blues
Turn To Stone
Help Me Thru The Night
Song For Emma
Joe Walsh’s catalog by this point was two albums strong and of a consistently high quality. Despite a change of lineup for So What — a wide range of musicians is used, including the Eagles’ Don Henley — the sound is very similar to previous releases.
A number of classic Walsh tracks are featured, including a more polished version of “Turn to Stone,” originally featured on his debut album, Barnstorm, in a somewhat more riotous style. “Help Me Thru the Night,” Walsh’s mellowest song to date, is helped along by some fine lead and backing vocals from the band.
So What sees Walsh in top form as a guitarist. Most of the nine tracks feature solos of unquestionable quality in his usual rock style. The classic rock genre that the man so well defined with his earlier albums is present here throughout, and it is pulled off with the usual unparalleled Joe Walsh ability.
Difficulty of Reproduction
A word of caution: Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems . Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.
This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).
Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale
This recording ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.
It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, involving, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively. It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.
As we’ve said before about these kinds of recording, they are designed to bring an audio system to its knees. If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .
…along these lines can be found below.
This listing will help you to Get the Most Out of Your Hot Stampers.
This listing will help you to Get Rid of Grit and Grain the Right Way.
You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in The Four Pillars of Success.
Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.