The Cars – Heartbeat City

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  • KILLER sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, or ever will hear
  • If you have big dynamic speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong with a killer Hot Stamper of Heartbeat City
  • 5 Stars “… a gleaming pop masterpiece. The producer’s golden touch, the strength of the songs Ric Ocasek wrote, and the stunning vocal performance both he and Benjamin Orr deliver make the album one of the best of the ’80s and something that still sounds perfect many years later.”

 

Roy Thomas Baker is out, Robert John “Mutt” Lange is in, but the sound of The Cars really isn’t all that different from the likes of Shake It Up. On this title the critical listener should be on the lookout for edgy sound and hard vocals; we heard a lot of both in our shootout and took off serious points for each. The better copies tend to have more extended highs, smoother vocals, and a richer, tubier sound, without the all-important punchy rock elements suffering. This may be a New Wave Pop Album full of synths and keyboards, but it still has to rock.

What amazing 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 even as late as 1984
  • 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.

The Cars

This band made some great-sounding records — the self-titled album is on our Top 100 and Candy-O used to be — with more Big Rock Sound than you would expect to hear in the late-’70s.

If you have big dynamic speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong with a Hot Stamper of Heartbeat City. Neil Young albums have the Big Rock sound, and if you’re more of a Classic Rock kind of listener, that’s a good way to go. We’re behind you all the way, just check out the commentary for Zuma.

For a band with thin ties, leather jackets, jangly guitars, synths and monstrously huge floor toms that fly back and forth across the soundstage, Heartbeat City — on the right pressing — is going to be the record for you, no doubt about it.

And who says you can’t like both? We sure do. Love ’em both in point of fact.

You Heard It Here First!

The first two Cars albums were both in The Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100 at one time, with good reason: they’re superb recordings. The Cars have been in “heavy rotation” on my system since the albums came out in the late ’70s. We started doing shootouts for both albums right around 2006 or 2007 and they continue to be a regular feature of our Rock Hot Stamper section, not to mention some of the most fun shootouts we do in any given week.

Before then had you ever read a word in any audiophile or record collecting publication about how amazing the originals can sound? Of course not. These people wouldn’t know a good record from a hole in the ground. If anything the typical audiophile probably has one or both of the disastrous Nautilus half-speed mastered versions, and, having played them, would not be inclined to think highly of the sound.

We knew better than to waste our time with that muck. Recently Mobile Fidelity has taken upon itself to remaster a selection of the band’s titles with the same flawed half-speed mastering approach. We haven’t played any of them and don’t intend to. We know that sound and we don’t like it.

Our point, other than to bash a record we have never played, is simply this: if you have any of those MoFi versions we would love to send you a copy of the album so that you can hear for yourself what it’s really supposed to sound like.

What We’re Listening For on Heartbeat City

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • 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 –– Robert John “Mutt” Lange in this case — would have put them.
  • 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.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Hello Again
Looking for Love
Magic
Drive
Stranger Eyes

Side Two

You Might Think
It’s Not the Night
Why Can’t I Have You
I Refuse
Heartbeat City

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Coming off the less-than-classic Shake It Up, the Cars decided again to change things up, this time moving from their home studio in Boston to London to record with Mutt Lange. The producer was coming off a string of sleek modern hits, most recently Def Leppard’s Pyromania, and the Cars put themselves in Lange’s capable and demanding hands. They spent six months in the studio painstakingly putting the album together, sometimes spending days getting the right bass sound or vocal take.

This sounds a bit like the recipe for a airless, stale album, but much like Pyromania, Heartbeat City is a gleaming pop masterpiece. The producer’s golden touch, the strength of the songs Ric Ocasek wrote, and the stunning vocal performance both he and Benjamin Orr deliver make the album one of the best of the ’80s and something that still sounds perfect many years later.

Credit Lange’s production savvy, Ocasek’s songwriting genius, or the band’s dedication to adding just what each song needed; when you combine them all it makes for brilliant pop and one of the landmark albums of the era.

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