Richard & Linda Thompson / Shoot Out The Lights – The Best Sounding Record of the Decade?

More of the Music of Richard Thompson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Richard (and Linda) Thompson

Without a doubt this is the best record Richard and Linda Thompson ever made together, possibly the best record Thompson was ever involved with, but it also holds one other important distinction, one of great interest to us audiophiles: it’s the BEST SOUNDING record he (they) ever made as well.

As I was playing the finalists for side two (at ear-splitting levels I might add) an odd thought crossed my mind. Where had I heard this kind of monstrous, punchy bass and these soaring, perfectly distorted guitars, so big and so powerful, before? There was something about the sound – the awesome energy, the freedom from compression or spatial restraint of any kind – that was strangely familiar from another shootout.

After a minute’s deliberation the answer came to me: I was remembering the feeling I got from the White Hot Stamper of Led Zeppelin II we played not long ago.

Yes, that’s the album that it most closely resembles. As outlandish as it may seem, the rock power of Shoot Out the Lights has much more in common with the rock power of Zep II than any other record I can think of.

To be sure, the vast majority of people, including the vast majority of audiophiles, have never heard a top quality RL Zep II played at extremely loud levels on a big speaker system in a dedicated room. Nor in all probability will they ever have the chance.

But I sure have, quite a few in fact. If anyone knows that sound I do. I’ve dedicated the past forty years of my efforts in audio to reproducing records with the Big Rock Sound like Zep II. There’s really none bigger in my opinion.

Shoot Out the Lights on this [White Hot] side two has that sound, the sound of a White Hot Zep II. It’s positively uncanny, and it’s surely the best sounding record we’ve heard in months, and clearly the best sounding record made in the decade of the ’80s. What other record from the ’80s would even come close? Back in Black? The Sky Is Crying? Yeah, maybe, close — but no cigar.

Is It Live?

The sound is so dynamic, the soundstage so HUGE, the size and weight is so good it just makes you want to turn your stereo up as loud as it will go. In that sense, it has some of the qualities of “live” music, because live music is loud.

With constant improvements to the system Shoot Out is now so powerful a recording that we had no choice but to add it to our Top 100 list in 2014, but we would go even further than that and say that it would belong on a list of the Top Ten Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time. The guitars are HUGE — they positively leap out of the speakers on the title cut, freeing themselves from a studio that seems to already be the size of a house.

Not long ago we played an amazing copy of The Sky Is Crying, one of the biggest — and by that we mean tallest, widest and deepest — sounding records we have ever heard. This album is every bit as big. It’s nothing less than astounding.

There is the kind of solid, powerful kick to the drums on every track that only the best of the best rock records ever display, the Back in Blacks and Zep IIs, with deep punchy bass augmenting the drums, just as it does on the Hot Stamper pressings of those two titles.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this record should put to shame 99% of all the rock records you have ever heard.