Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley

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Island Is One of Our Favorite Labels

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for the most part too, although one mark is a problem
  • Rich, smooth, Tubey Magical sound is what makes these wonderful import pressings win our shootouts – that and lots of funky bass
  • The best album Robert Palmer ever made – with Little Feat and The Meters helping out, it had to be
  • 4 stars: “While the music is tight and solid, it is Robert Palmer’s voice that is revelatory — he sounds supremely confident among these talented musicians, and they seem to feed off his vocal intensity. Fans of the Meters or people who want to discover the funky side of Robert Palmer should check this one out.”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 14 moderate to loud pops at the end of Track 3, Through It All There’s You. Thankfully that is the last song on the side.

This vintage Island pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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.

What the Best Sides of Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley 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 1974
  • 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 a Backing Band!

No doubt this is the best album Robert Palmer ever made. With Lowell George’s unmistakable slide guitar and members of the Meters providing backup, as well as the amazing Bernard Purdie on drums, it’s the only Robert Palmer release that consistently works all the way through as an album. The entire first side is excellent from top to bottom, with the title track being our favorite RP song of all time.

If you love the funky stylings of Little Feat, this surprisingly fun and engaging album should be right up your alley. We could play it every day for a month and never tire of it. The New Orleans-style groove of syncopated funk these guys lay down on practically every track is exactly what Robert Palmer needs to work off of as a vocalist.

Sneakin’ Sally is the closest thing to classic Little Feat — outside of the band itself in its heyday, pre-Times Loves a Hero — that we know of.

The sound on the best copies is superb as well; our old friend Rhett Davies engineered some of it — who knows what part, they don’t break it down — but the other engineers must have done a great job as well as the sound is some of the best analog from the Classic Era, in this case 1974.

What We’re Listening For on Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley

  • 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.

Domestics or Imports?

No domestic pressing could touch our better British imports I’m sorry to say, and I’m sorry to say that because finding the right British pressings in audiophile playing condition is an expensive proposition. (Notice we did not say original pressings, because some of the early reissues can be quite good, although the Pink Rim originals always seem to win the shootouts.)

The early Island domestic pressings, as well as those to follow, are clearly made from copy tapes, not masters, and have the same smeary, veiled, ambience-challenged sound we have come to recognize when the real tapes are not used.

This is, of course, the sound of most Heavy Vinyl pressings, and the reason we don’t like those either.

We pay much too much to get a fairly high percentage of noisy, heavily-played and just plain worn out old records shipped to us from overseas. People seemed to like the record and played it lot, and who can blame them? But when the sound and the music are this good, we make the effort and pay the price. To us it’s worth it.


Side One

Sailin’ Shoes
Hey Julia
Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley
Get Outside

Side Two

How Much Fun
From a Whisper to a Scream
Through It All There’s You

AMG 4 Star Review

Before becoming a slick, sharp-dressed pop star in the 1980s, Robert Palmer was a soul singer deeply rooted in R&B and funk. Those influences are on full display on his debut album Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley. With a backing band including members of Little Feat and the Meters, the music has a laid-back groove whether Palmer’s covering New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint (the title track) or singing originals (“Hey Julia,” ” Get Outside”).

While the music is tight and solid, it is Robert Palmer’s voice that is revelatory — he sounds supremely confident among these talented musicians, and they seem to feed off his vocal intensity. Fans of the Meters or people who want to discover the funky side of Robert Palmer should check this one out.