- Superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout this Classic of Electric Blues Guitar – reasonably quiet vinyl too
- A copy like this one soars above the pack with its hard-rockin’ energy, rich, solid bass, open top end, and freedom from congestion
- This is one of the better copies to hit the site in years – good SRV albums are getting tough to find nowadays
- “[SRV] wanted to add soul and R&B inflections to his basic blues sound, and Soul to Soul does exactly that. [T]he Curtis Mayfield-inspired closer, ‘Life Without You,’ captures Vaughan at his best as a composer and performer. It’s such a seductive number — such a full realization of his soul-blues ambitions…”
Vaughn’s guitar playing is as fiery as ever, and the addition of keyboards and saxophone here gives the music broader scope and range than was possible on his previous albums.
Messy But Real
These killer sides get Stevie’s room-filling guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as a recording of it can. When playing this record, first make sure the volume is up good and high. Now close your eyes and picture yourself in a blues club, with the volume ten times louder than your stereo will play. Electric Blues played at loud levels in a small club would sound pretty much like this album does, a bit messy but also real.
If you’re one of those audiophiles who insists on precise soundstaging, with layered depth and pinpoint imaging, forget it. That’s not in the cards. The producers and engineers were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one (and most of his other albums it seems), which means it’s a bit of a jumble image-wise.
But that’s the way you would hear it performed live in a club, so where’s the harm?
This Vintage Epic pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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 Stevie and 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 Soul to Soul 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 even as late as 1985
- 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 to Listen For on Stevie Ray’s Albums
Number one by far: Too many instruments jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, or too much smear, there will be too many elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space in the upper area of the midrange, causing congestion and a noticeable loss of clarity.
With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich; above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments comfortably, without having them sound like they are all piled up on top of one another as is often the case. With more space and less compression and smear the upper midrange does not sound overstuffed and overwhelmed with musical information.
Number Two: edgy vocals, which is related to Number One above. Almost all of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s recordings seem to have some edge to his vocals — the man really belts it out on his albums, it’s what he does — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.
What We’re Listening For on Soul to Soul
- 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.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Lookin’ Out the Window
Look at Little Sister
Ain’t Gone ‘n’ Give Up on Love
You’ll Be Mine
Come On (Part III)
Life Without You
By adding two members to Double Trouble — keyboardist Reese Wynans and saxophonist Joe Sublett — Stevie Ray Vaughan indicated he wanted to add soul and R&B inflections to his basic blues sound, and Soul to Soul does exactly that. It’s still a modern blues album, yet it has a wider sonic palette, finding Vaughan fusing a variety of blues, rock, and R&B styles.
Most of this is done through covers — notably Hank Ballard’s “Look at Little Sister,” the exquisitely jazzy “Gone Home,” and Doyle Bramhall’s impassioned soul-blues “Change It” — but Vaughan’s songwriting occasionally follows suit, as well. Even if only the tortured blues wailer “Ain’t Gone ‘n’ Give Up on Love” entered his acknowledged canon, he throws in some delightful soul-funk touches on “Say What!,” the instrumental wah-wah workout that kicks off the album, and the Curtis Mayfield-inspired closer, “Life Without You,” captures Vaughan at his best as a composer and performer. It’s such a seductive number — such a full realization of his soul-blues ambitions…
… his originals are sturdy, and there’s not a bad performance here, so Soul to Soul… clearly points the way to his 1989 masterpiece, In Step.