- This superb pressing boasts insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
- Clear, rich, present vocals, tons of Tubey Magic, and a solid bottom end; this quintessential 60’s pop album really comes to life here
- 4 stars: “Sometimes art and events, personal or otherwise, converge on a point transcending the significance of either… For the Mamas & the Papas, it happened twice, with their first album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, and, on a more complex level, with this album.”
This album is ridiculously difficult to find good sound for, but this pressing finally hit the mark! While we have to wade through dozens of copies to find one this impressive, we’re happy to do it because we love records and we love the music of The Mamas and the Papas.
Unfortunately, most copies of this album sound like distorted cassettes. They’re clearly made from tapes that are at least one and probably more like two or three generations down from the master two-track mix.
The CD that Hoffman cut for MCA back in the day can be quite good, and the Creeque Alley double CD set sounds fine to these ears as well. But they’re CDs. They won’t satisfy the serious analog devotee.
Enough about that stuff. Let’s talk about the sound of the best pressings.
What the best sides of The Mamas & The Papas 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 1966
- 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.
Finding the Best Sound
Most copies have some congestion and edge to the vocals at least somewhere on each side. The number of bounce downs required to get this complicated music onto a mere four tracks is sizable. Extension on the top end helps to keep the vocals from being gritty and harsh.
Fullness, richness and Tubey Magic will always be in good supply on the best copies. It’s what makes a record sound like a record and not a CD.
That said, clarity and transparency are important too. The best copies really let you hear into the space of the studio. On the super high-definition copies those long reverb trails can really be a kick.
What We’re Listening For on The Mamas & The Papas
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- 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 common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- 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 — the legendary Bones Howe in this case — would put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
No Salt on Her Tail
Trip, Stumble and Fall
Words of Love
My Heart Stood Still
Dancing in the Street
I Saw Her Again
Strange Young Girls
I Can’t Wait
Even If I Could
That Kind of Girl
Once Was A Time I Thought
AMG 4 Star Review
Sometimes art and events, personal or otherwise, converge on a point transcending the significance of either — a work achieves a relevance far beyond the seeming boundaries of the creation at hand. During the 1950s and 1960s, in music, it used to happen occasionally for Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan, once or twice for the Byrds, and a few times for the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones. For the Mamas & the Papas, it happened twice, with their first album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, and, on a more complex level, with this album.