- An excellent copy that earned Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides – it’s big, rich and solid
- Exceptionally quiet vinyl too – we can’t find them any quieter
- The best songs here can hold their own with anything from Minute by Minute and Takin’ It to the Streets
- A sophisticated, soulful pop album from the Michael McDonald era with far too many great songs to list
- 4 stars: “Some of the most challenging and well-developed music of the band’s career.”
If you’re a fan of this brand of sophisticated, soulful pop music, this is as good an album as any from the Michael McDonald era. We think the best songs here can hold their own with anything from Minute by Minute and Takin’ It to the Streets. And with Hot Stamper sound, now you can actually enjoy the album as an audiophile quality recording.
Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? Not us! We’ve been buying copies with different stampers for years with virtually nothing to show for it. That’s why you haven’t seen a Hot Stamper hit the site until relatively recently.
That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, murky, dark sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobie Brothers albums may be the rule, but this pressing is the exception. The average copy of this record is such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that too many audiophiles would have taken it seriously over the years. They should — the band cooks on practically every track, with strong songwriting that holds up to this day.
Why go to all the trouble to find great sounding copies? Because this is a good album! Side one is strong from start to finish, and side two has its own share of top quality material and musicianship. If you don’t know the album this is your chance to rectify that oversight.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- 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
- 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 1977
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 Livin’ On The Fault Line
- 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.
You’re Made That Way
Echoes of Love
Little Darling (I Need You)
You Belong to Me
Livin’ on the Fault Line
Nothin’ But a Heartache
There’s a Light
Need a Lady
Larry the Logger Two-Step
Livin’ on the Fault Line fell between two of the Doobie Brothers’ biggest-selling records. The album had no hit singles, and one-time leader Tom Johnston kept a markedly low profile (this would be his last record with the group, not including a later reunion). Despite this, Livin’ on the Fault Line contains some of the most challenging and well-developed music of the band’s career, with Patrick Simmons and Michael McDonald really stepping to the fore.
There’s a vague mood of melancholia running through the songs, as well as a definite jazz influence. This is most obvious on the title track, which has several instrumental passages that showcase the guitar abilities of Simmons and Jeff Baxter. Similarly, “Chinatown” is a spooky mood piece not unlike the smooth fusion of late-period Steely Dan or Little Feat. But “Echoes of Love” and “Nothin’ But a Heartache” are both intelligent, glistening pop songs that confirm Simmons and McDonald as first-rate tunesmiths.