Tom Petty – Hard Promises – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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The best copy we’ve heard in years, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides — “The Waiting” sounds superb. You get incredible energy and presence, full extension up top and real weight down low. Many copies can get thin and edgy — especially on the vocals — but not this one.

This pressing had sound on BOTH sides we never expected to hear on Hard Promises, an album that’s typically bright, thin, edgy, pinched and gritty — radio friendly, maybe, but not especially audiophile friendly.

We hate that sound but we are happy to report that some copies manage to avoid it, and this is one of them. Is that richer, fuller sound the sound of what’s on the master tape or did the mastering engineer “fix” it? We’ll never know, now will we? What we can know is the sound of the pressings we actually have to play, so let’s get right to it.

Side One

This side one was present and BIG, with tight, defined bass and breathy vocals. On the good copies the echo trail on the vocals really comes out, and this one has echo for days!

Side Two

Big and clear like side one, with the same hi-rez vocals.

The First Two Albums

His first two albums are also classics, IMHO, and we’ve done Hot Stamper shootouts for both. You’re Gonna Get It, his second release, is my personal favorite. After Hard Promises I kind of gave up on him as an album artist: a few tracks here and there sparkle but mostly what I hear is variations of his earlier and better material, with brighter and brighter, thinner and thinner sound.

The MCA Half-Speed

By the way, the MCA Half-Speed of this album is horrendous and should be avoided at any price, even the few bucks you might find it for in a used record store. Don’t throw your money away. The same goes for Damn the Torpedoes on half-speed, which is even brighter than the regular MCA copies — which I suppose is possible, but just barely.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Waiting 
A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me)
Nightwatchman 
Something Big 
Kings Road

Side Two

Letting You Go 
A Thing About You 
Insider 
The Criminal Kind 
You Can Still Change Your Mind

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

… a reaffirmation that Damn the Torpedoes wasn’t a fluke… filled with great songwriting, something that’s as difficult to achieve as a distinctive sound… The opener, “The Waiting,” became the best-known song on the record, but there’s no discounting “A Woman in Love (It’s Not Me),” “Nightwatchman,” “Kings Road,” “Insider,” and “The Criminal Kind,” album tracks that would become fan favorites… it has a tremendous set of songs and a unified sound that makes it one of Petty’s finest records.