Gerry Rafferty – City To City

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this early British pressing of Rafferty’s Must-Own Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • City to City is truly an Undiscovered Gem – no right-thinking audiophile can fail to be impressed by the songwriting and production of Rafferty’s Masterpiece of British Folk Pop
  • You won’t believe how rich, Tubey Magical, big, undistorted and present this copy is (until you play it anyway)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Rafferty’s turns of phrase and tight composition skills create a fresh sound and perspective all his own… resulting in a classic platter buoyed by many moments of sheer genius.”

Here you will find the kind of rich, sweet, classically British Tubey Magical sound that we cannot get enough of here at Better Records.

This vintage import has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

We are especially delighted to report that not only is the sound better than ever, the music is too. The album as a whole, unlike so much of what came out in 1978 (Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? asks Rod Stewart, followed by stony silence) does not seem to have dated in the least.

What the best sides of City to City have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
  • 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 1977
  • 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

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.

Listening Tests

Listen to the chorus on the first track, The Ark. On the best copies, it really gets loud without becoming harsh or shrill. So many popular albums have choruses (and guitar solos) that are no louder, and sometimes not even as loud, as the verses, which rob the songs of any real drama or power. This recording has the potential to give you a dramatic, powerful, loud chorus and it’s a thrill when you find a pressing that delivers on that promise.

(One way we know to listen for these volume changes is that we actually play our records good and loud. When a dynamic recording such as this comes along, we have to watch our levels, otherwise, the chorus will overwhelm the system and room. When playing this copy, be sure to set the level for the chorus of the first track. Everything should play just fine once that setting is correct, as the artist intended.)

The double-tracked vocals on Whatever’s Written in Your Heart are a good test for resolution and Tubey Magic. There should clearly be two voices heard without having to sacrifice the wonderful richness of the better copies for the clarity that makes hearing both voices possible.

What We’re Listening For on City to City

  • 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.
  • 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.

The Truly Awful MoFi Half-Speed Mastered Pressing

Their remastered pressing of this album is a complete disaster — it’s fat, muddy and compressed. It was mastered by Jack Hunt, a man we know to be responsible for some of the thickest, dullest, deadest MoFi recuts to be found in their shameful catalog.

With mastering credits on this album, Michael McDonald (149) and Blondie (050), you have to wonder how this guy kept getting work.

Reviews

Click on the Rave Reviews tab above to read an excellent review from 1978 that ran in Rolling Stone. They worry that such a great record might not find an audience. Fortunately it did, rocketing to Number One and selling millions on the strength of the hit single Baker Street.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Ark
Baker Street
Right Down the Line
City to City
Stealin’ Time

Side Two

Mattie’s Rag
Whatever’s Written in Your Heart
Home and Dry
Island
Waiting for the Day

Rolling Stone Rave Review

Even in his mother’s womb, Gerry Rafferty must have expected the worst. This Scotsman entitled his melancholy 1971 solo album Can I Have My Money Back? (the answer was “No!”). And when Stealers Wheel, the group he subsequently formed with Joe Egan, became an overnight success with the hit single “Stuck in the Middle with You,” only to lapse into morning-after obscurity, he probably said, “I told you so.” On City to City, his first LP in three years, Rafferty sticks grimly to his guns. Not only does he use the same producer (Hugh Murphy) and several of the same musicians, but a similar un-self-pitying fatalism pervades the record.

However, there is a slight but significant change for the better that makes City to City as eloquently consoling as the spirituals Rafferty echoes in “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart.” Indeed, there’s a prayerful quality to the entire LP, a quality reminiscent of the dim dawn after a dark night of the soul. “The Ark” begins as a Highland death march, complete with doleful bagpipes, but swells into a stirring hymn to love. And, after etching a relationship stalemated by the inability of two lovers to express their feelings, the somber “Whatever’s Written in Your Heart” (whose only instruments are a piano and a hushed sythesizer) concludes with a coda of vocal harmonies that sing of sublime forgiveness.

Hope, in almost all these songs, lurks on the horizon. And when it springs fully into view — as on “City to City,” with its rollicking train tempo, and on the jaunty “Mattie’s Rag” — the music almost burbles with anticipation.

Gerry Rafferty still writes with the sweet melodiousness of Paul McCartney and sings with John Lennon’s weary huskiness, and his synthesis of American country music, British folk and transatlantic rock is as smooth as ever. But his orchestrations have acquired a stately sweep. For all their rhythmic variety — from the suave Latin lilt of “Right down the Line” to the thump of “Home and Dry” — these are uniformly majestic songs. The instrumental refrain on one of the best of them, “Baker Street,” is breathtaking: between verses describing a dreamer’s self-deceptions, Rapheal Ravenscroft’s saxophone ballons with aspirations only to have a sythesizer wrench it back to earth with an almost sickening tug. If City to City doesn’t rise to the top of the charts, its commercial failure will be equally dismaying. And our loss will be greater even than Rafferty’s. After all, when was the last time you bought an album boasting more than fifty minutes of music? And great music at that.

– Ken Emerson, Rolling Stone, 1-15-78.

AMG Review

Rafferty’s turns of phrase and tight composition skills create a fresh sound and perspective all his own. Any diverse style (and he attempts many) filters through his unique mindset, resulting in a classic platter buoyed by many moments of sheer genius. “Whatever’s written in your heart, that’s all that matters.