Dire Straits / Love Over Gold – What to Listen For

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MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This copy is a FLUKE — we guarantee you have never heard a copy sound even remotely this good. We sure haven’t, and we’ve probably played fifty or more. This copy found itself running way ahead of the pack and never looked back. Two A+++ sides back to back — what are the chances?

Telegraph Road does something on this LP that you won’t hear on one out of twenty pressings: It ROCKS. It’s got ENERGY and DRIVE.

Need evidence to back up such a claim? Not a problem; just listen to how hard Allan Clark bangs on the piano on side one — he’s pounding that piano with all his might. No other copy managed to get the piano to pop the way it does here, clear and solid. Wow, who knew? Maybe this is the reason HP put the record on the TAS Super Disc List. (I rather doubt he’s ever heard a copy this good, but who’s to say?)

Side Two

Side two is as good as side one, White Hot! It’s amazingly clear and transparent, with a more extended top than any other copy we played. You HEAR INTO the soundfield on this copy, on both sides, in a way that is almost shocking. After more than a dozen copies it was almost hard to believe that it could really sound this much better, but it did!

Best test for side two? The snare drum on Industrial Disease. Play five copies of the album and listen for how much snap there is to the snare on each of them. It will be obvious which ones get the transient attack right and which ones don’t. (If none of them do try five more copies!)

One Way To Know

This modern album (1982) can sound surprisingly good on the right pressing. On most copies the highs are grainy and harsh, not exactly the kind of sound that inspires you to turn your system up good and loud and get really involved in the music. I’m happy to report that both sides here have no such problem – they rock and they sound great loud.

We pick up every clean copy we see of this album, domestic or import, because we know from experience just how good the best pressings can sound. What do the best copies have? REAL dynamics for one. And with those dynamics you need rock solid bass. Otherwise the loud portions simply become irritating. A lack of grain is always nice — many of the pressings we played were gritty or grainy. Other copies that were quite good in most ways lacked immediacy and we took serious points off for that.

The best copies of Love Over Gold are far more natural than the average pressing you might come across, and that’s a recognizable quality we can listen for and weight in our grading accordingly. It’s essential to the sound of the better pressings, which means in our shootouts it’s worth a lot of points. Otherwise you might as well be playing the CD.

Domestics or Imports?

Both can be good. The good copies tend to be good in the same way, and the bad copies, domestic or import, are likewise bad in the same way. It just goes to show, once again, that the only way to know how a record will sound is to play it.

If I had only one or two copies to judge by, I might have preferred an import over a domestic or vice versa. In the old days (before the advent of Hot Stamper shootouts) I would probably have drawn some surely erroneous conclusion concerning the relative merits of one or the other. Small sample sizes are the primary cause of these mistaken judgments. Unless you have a big batch of copies to play you really can’t be sure about the sound of a recording.

And If I’m not mistaken, aren’t all the original copies, imports and domestics, mastered here in the states at Masterdisk, some by RL, some by BK (Bill Kipper) and some by HW (Howie Weinberg)? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all three sets of initials in the dead wax of the copies we played over the years.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Telegraph Road
Private Investigations

Side Two

Industrial Disease
Love Over Gold
It Never Rains

AMG Review

Adding a new rhythm guitarist, Dire Straits expands its sounds and ambitions on the sprawling Love Over Gold. In a sense, the album is their prog rock effort, containing only five songs, including the 14-minute opener “Telegraph Road.” Since Mark Knopfler is a skilled, tasteful guitarist, he can sustain interest even throughout the languid stretches…

Rolling Stone Review

By David Fricke
November 11, 1982

Love Over Gold is not just the title of Dire Straits’ fourth album, it is a statement of purpose. In almost suicidal defiance of commercial good sense, singer-songwriter-guitarist Mark Knopfler has chosen to follow his muse, fashioning a collection of radically expanded epics and evocative tone poems that demand the listener’s undivided attention. Certainly a quantum leap from the organic R&B impressionism of the band’s early LPs (Dire Straits and Communique) and the gripping short stories of Making Movies, its 1980 best seller, Love Over Gold is an ambitious, sometimes difficult record that is exhilarating in its successes and, at the very least, fascinating in its indulgences.

Two drastically different moods dominate the new album. One is sharp and fiery (like the bolt of lightning on the cover); the other is soft and seductive. That dichotomy is particularly explicit in “Private Investigations,” a long, unorthodox ballad in which Knopfler plays a private detective hardened by a life of combing through other people’s dirty laundry. Over a discreet synthesizer ring, gurgling marimba and a delicately plucked acoustic guitar, he grumbles into his whiskey glass like Bob Dylan in a trench coat: “You get to meet all sorts in this line of work Treachery and treason There’s always an excuse for it,” he recites in a raspy nicotine snarl. Then John Illsley sounds a quiet warning with a stalking bass line before the song erupts in dramatic bursts of guitar gunfire and tragic-sounding piano playing.

At times, Mark Knopfler, who also plays producer here, seems to try too hard. “It Never Rains” is a harsh chip off the “Like a Rolling Stone” block. And nearly all the songs end in guitar solos, as if he had too many ideas and was unsure how to reconcile them. But in a period when most pop music is conceived purely as product, Love Over Gold dares to put art before airplay.

Transparency

If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in their presence in the studio, this is the record for you. If you exclusively play modern repressings of original 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 new records do not, practically not ever.

What is lost in these newly remastered recordings? Lots of things, but the most obvious and bothersome is TRANSPARENCY.

Modern records are just so damn opaque. We can’t stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a group — including those that pass themselves off as champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills.

It is our contention that no one alive today is capable of making records that sound as good as the vintage ones we sell.

Once you hear this Hot Stamper pressing, those 180 gram records you own may never sound right to you again. They sure don’t sound right to us, but we are in the enviable position of being able to play the best properly-cleaned older pressings (reissues included) side by side with the newer ones. This allows the faults of the current reissues to become much more recognizable, to the point of actually being quite obvious. When you can hear the different pressings that way, head to head, there really is no comparison.

FURTHER READING

Records that sound best this way:

Records that Sound Best on the Right Early Pressing 

Records that Sound Best on the Right Import Pressing 

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