- This Shootout Winning copy has Triple Plus (A+++) Demo Disc Linda Ronstadt sound throughout, and some of her biggest hits to boot!
- Both sides are rich, Tubey Magical and spacious – Linda’s vocals on Alison are breathy and present like nothing else we played
- Smokey Robinson’s “Ooh Baby Baby” with blistering sax work by David Sanborn has to be the highlight of the album for us
Do you have a copy that’s hard and lean in the midrange, lacking in bass down low and Tubey Magic everywhere else? We do too, more than one in fact.
Ah, but the good copies are rich, smooth, sweet and clear, precisely the kind of sound we’ve come to expect from the team of Val Garay and Peter Asher in the ’70s. The bass is deep and punchy, the keyboards tubey rich, and the whole of the ensemble displays both energy and conviction on this top quality batch of songs.
Check out the best of them, tracks that still get airplay today:
Back in the U.S.A.;
Just One Look;
All That You Dream;
Oh Baby Baby;
Blowing Away and
Love Me Tender.
That’s a lot of great songs on one album!
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 in 1978
- 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.
Val Garay Is The Man
Kudos once again must go to Val Garay, the co-engineer here with Dave Hassinger (who owns The Sound Factory where the album was recorded). Garay is the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor’s JT (a Top 100 title), Simple Dreams (also a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc. They all share his trademark super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound. With BIG drums — can’t forget those. (To be clear, only the best copies share it. Most copies only hint at it.)
I don’t think Mr Garay gets anything like his due with audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them. This is a shame; the guy makes Demo Disc Quality Pop Records about as good as those kinds of records can be made. If you have a Big System that really rocks you owe it to yourself to get to know his work. This is truly a KNOCKOUT disc if you have the equipment for it. We do, and it’s records like this that make the effort and expense of building a full-range dynamic system so rewarding.
What We’re Listening For on Living in the USA
- 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.
- 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 would put them.
Back in the U.S.A.
When I Grow Too Old to Dream
Just One Look
White Rhythm & Blues
All That You Dream
Oh Baby Baby
Love Me Tender
Review and Background
By the late ’70s, Linda Ronstadt had left herself with a pretty tough act to follow, scoring a series of platinum-selling, chart-topping LPs that helped turn her into one of the defining artists of the decade. But with 1978’s Living in the USA, she managed to raise the bar for commercial success all over again.
Living in the USA was a smash hit even before it arrived in stores on Sept. 19, 1978. Given Ronstadt’s incredible streak of five million-selling albums, retailers couldn’t wait to pre-order the new disc; as a result, it reached the shelves as the first album in history to earn double-platinum status prior to its official release.
A number of tracks from the album latched onto the airwaves over the coming months, including the Top 20 title track (a cover of the Chuck Berry hit), the Top 10 “Ooh Baby Baby” (written and originally recorded by Smokey Robinson), and Ronstadt’s version of Elvis Costello‘s “Alison.”
Although her unparalleled gifts as a vocal interpreter were never in question, Ronstadt also received a lot of attention for her image, and by the time Living in the USA was released, her looks were almost as much of a draw as the music. In fact, the knee-socks-and-roller-skates combo she wore on the cover helped spark a national skating resurgence. (As People put it the following year, “Anyone who gave Linda Ronstadt her first pair of roller skates deserves a place in this decade’s social history.”)
It was ultimately the music that mattered most, however, and Living in the USA delivered, matching its impressive sales with a round of positive reviews.