Blondie – Parallel Lines

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Parallel Lines
  • The energy and enthusiasm of the band on this Retro Power Pop Classic really comes through here, and that’s not a claim you can make about very many copies
  • There’s not a bad song to be found anywhere, and lots of great ones: One Way Or Another, Heart Of Glass, Hanging On The Telephone, etc.
  • 5 stars on Allmusic: “Blondie’s best album,” which is actually a bit of an understatement – it’s by far their best album

All the Blondie magic you could ever want is in these grooves. The truly powerful sound of this Power Pop Classic really comes through on this bad boy — and that’s simply not a claim you could make about too many copies out there in record land, which tend to be flat, opaque and compressed. Not so here. This one just plain ROCKS.

Can this kind of music get any better? This album is a MASTERPIECE of Pure Pop, ranking right up there with The Cars first album. I can’t think of many albums from the era with the perfect blend of writing, production and musicianship under the guidance of producer Mike Chapman (The Knack) Blondie achieved with Parallel Lines.

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album such as Parallel Lines eventually you will stumble upon The One, and boy did we ever. The very best copies in our recent shootout were OFF THE CHARTS with presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums. On top of that they were positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air.

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 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.

What We’re Listening For on Parallel Lines

  • 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.
  • 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.

LIFE Is Grand

At the risk of being definitive about things that are better left ill-defined, I would say that the Number One quality we look for in a pressing is that element of Life or Energy. We can put up with a great many shortcomings, including even some tonality problems, but when a record fails to convey the spirit and enthusiasm of the musicians, it’s pretty much over.

Gone is the compressed muck of the MoFi (and most domestic pressings, to be fair). In its place is the kind of clarity, transparency and pure ROCK AND ROLL POWER previous pressings only hinted at. I became a giant fan of this album the moment I heard it, but the sound always left something to be desired. So many copies were thick, smeary, opaque and compressed. The music was cookin’ but the sound always seemed to be holding it back.

And like an idiot I’m sure I traded my original domestic pressing in for the MoFi when it came out in the early ’80s, the kind of dumbass audiophile move I made again and again until I wised up years later.

Now we know better. At least if you’re on this site you do.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Hanging on the Telephone 
One Way or Another 
Picture This 
Fade Away and Radiate 
Pretty Baby 
I Know But I Don’t Know

Side Two

11:59
Will Anything Happen? 
Sunday Girl 
Heart of Glass 
Gonna Love You Too 
Just Go Away

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Blondie turned to British pop producer Mike Chapman for their third album, on which they abandoned any pretensions to new wave legitimacy (just in time, given the decline of the new wave) and emerged as a pure pop band. But it wasn’t just Chapman that made Parallel Lines Blondie’s best album; it was the band’s own songwriting, including Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, and James Destri’s “Picture This,” and Harry and Stein’s “Heart of Glass,” and Harry and new bass player Nigel Harrison’s “One Way or Another,” plus two contributions from nonbandmember Jack Lee, “Will Anything Happen?” and “Hanging on the Telephone.”

That was enough to give Blondie a number one on both sides of the Atlantic with “Heart of Glass” and three more U.K. hits, but what impresses is the album’s depth and consistency — album tracks like “Fade Away and Radiate” and “Just Go Away” are as impressive as the songs pulled for singles. The result is state-of-the-art pop/rock circa 1978, with Harry’s tough-girl glamour setting the pattern that would be exploited over the next decade by a host of successors led by Madonna.

Music and Lyrics

Music critic Robert Christgau called Parallel Lines a pop rock album in which Blondie achieved their “synthesis of the Dixie Cups and the Electric Prunes”.

According to Rolling Stone magazine’s Arion Berger, Parallel Lines eschewed “cartoonish postmodernist referencing” of Blondie’s previous new wave songs for a “romantic fatalism” that was new for the band.

In a retrospective review for Blender magazine, Robert Christgau said that Parallel Lines was “a perfect album in 1978” and remains so with “every song memorable, distinct, well-shaped and over before you get antsy. Never again did singer Deborah Harry, mastermind Chris Stein and their able four-man cohort nail the band’s signature paradoxes with such unfailing flair: lowbrow class, tender sarcasm, pop rock.”

Q magazine called the album “a crossover smash with sparkling guitar sounds, terrific hooks and middle-eights more memorable than some groups’ choruses.” Christian John Wikane of PopMatters called it “a creative and commercial masterpiece by Blondie” and “indisputably one of the great, classic albums of the rock and roll era.”

Wikipedia

Mike Chapman, Producer

In a retrospective review for Blender magazine, Robert Christgau said that Parallel Lines was “a perfect album in 1978” and remains so with “every song memorable, distinct, well-shaped and over before you get antsy. Never again did singer Deborah Harry, mastermind Chris Stein and their able four-man cohort nail the band’s signature paradoxes with such unfailing flair: lowbrow class, tender sarcasm, pop rock.”

Q magazine called the album “a crossover smash with sparkling guitar sounds, terrific hooks and middle-eights more memorable than some groups’ choruses.” Christian John Wikane of PopMatters called it “a creative and commercial masterpiece by Blondie” and “indisputably one of the great, classic albums of the rock and roll era.”

Sasha Frere-Jones, writing in Spin, said that it may have been “the perfect pop-rock record”. Pitchfork Media’s Scott Plagenhoef credited the album for popularizing “the look and sound of 1980s new wave”.

Parallel Lines was ranked at number 140 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, number 18 on NME’s 100 Best Albums of All Time, and number 7 on Blender’s 100 Greatest American Albums of All Time. Rolling Stone wrote that the album was “where punk and New Wave broke through to a mass U.S. audience”. The album was also ranked at number 94 by Channel 4’s list of 100 greatest albums of all time.

Wikipedia

Mike Chapman, Producer

Wikipedia recounts that Chapman relished the praise heaped on his work on Parallel Lines, commenting soon after its release:

There’s loads of hits, it’s a great album, but who gives a fuck. It’s easy, you see. When we go into the studio, we go in and make hit records, and it just happens. We don’t think about it. If you’re going to be in the music business, you gotta make hit records. If you can’t make hit records, you should fuck off and go chop meat somewhere.

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