More Country and Country Rock
- This STUNNING copy of the band’s sophomore release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
- This vintage pressing has huge amounts of Tubey Magic, a strong bass foundation, and plenty of space around the guitars and voices – man, that is our sound!
- This is the second-best sounding Eagles record of all time, no doubt thanks to their brilliant engineer and producer, Glyn Johns
- “A solid country-rock classic… the music stands the test of time, especially when Desperado is heard in its entirety, from start to finish.”
Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.
This vintage Asylum pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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 Desperado 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 1973
- 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 space of the studio
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 Desperado
Too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange during the loudest passages. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, there will be too many elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space in the upper area of the midrange, causing congestion and a loss of clarity.
With the smoother, 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 and vocals (lead and backing) comfortably, without having to pile them up one on top of another as is so often the case with densely mixed pop recordings. On the better copies, the upper midrange does not get overwhelmed and congested with too many elements fighting for too little space.
What We’re Listening For on Desperado
- 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 —Glyn Johns in this case — 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.
A True Super Disc (Second Only to the First Album in that Respect)
Of course, the best sound on an Eagles record is found on the first album. For whatever reason, that record was left off the TAS Super Disc list, even though we feel that both musically and sonically it beats this one by a bit.
On the TAS Super Disc List, Harry Pearson recommends the British SYL pressings for this album. SYL pressings can sound very good; we’ve previously found one that rated a Double Plus on both sides. But our champions for both sides were both domestic, both this time and last time.
Does that mean the best domestics will always beat the best SYL pressings? Not at all. Only critical listening can separate the superb pressings from the typical ones. After playing more than a dozen copies of this album this week, we can definitively tell you that there are FAR more mediocre copies of this record — both domestic and import — than truly exceptional ones. The typical pressing of this album, whether the domestic or SYL, falls far short of belonging on a Super Disc List.
There are killer domestic copies AND killer SYL imports out there, and the only way to know which ones sound good is to collect ’em, clean ’em, and play ’em. Remember: TAS List doesn’t guarantee great sound, but Better Records does — if you don’t think a record sounds as good as we’ve stated, we’ll always happily take that record back and refund your money. Good luck getting ol’ Harry to send you a check when the TAS-approved pressings you pick up don’t deliver.
Mint Minus Minus 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.
The following is a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice. Other records with track breakdowns can be found here.
This wonderful song is a great test track for side one. Typical pressings of this album tend to be dark and lack extension up top. When you have no real top end, space, detail and resolution suffer greatly. You need to be able to appreciate each of the stringed instruments being played — guitar, banjo, dobro — and the top end needs to be extended and correct for you to be able to do that.
When the vocals on this track sound natural with lots of breathy texture, and the cymbal crashes ring cleanly, you know you’ve got a good copy on your hands.
A fairly tough track to get right. This song can sound great, but on a lower resolution copy it will often sound a bit smeared. When the top end is correct, the clarity and detail usually fall right into place.
Out of Control
Certain Kind of Fool
This song has some very sweet vocal harmonies that are reminiscent of CSNY. You’ll need a transparent copy to allow you to pick out the individual voices. When you’re able to, this track can be magical.
A solid country-rock classic. It’s hard to deny the talent this band had; all highly proficient musicians who could sing and write great songs on album after album… the music stands the test of time, especially when Desperado is heard in its entirety, from start to finish. This stands as a sort of concept album, with an interesting flow from the softer/slower tracks, to the mid-tempo rockers, and back and forth. The acoustic nature of this, the Eagles’ second album, is what creates a classic western atmosphere.
This could almost be a soundtrack to a variety of Old West film vignettes. Each song has its own little story (even the instrumentals, if you use your imagination), and yet a common thread strings the themes together, sometimes lyrically, sometimes musically.
I like to think Desperado is a soundtrack to a timeless Saturday night in a southern U.S. roadhouse:
Doolin Dalton guides you into the evening while you’re sipping your first drink, playing some cards for low stakes, before the crowd arrives. The shuffle-boogie fun of Twenty-One gets things going a bit as fellow drinkers enter the bar. Moods lift with rounds of drinks and the rousing Out of Control on the jukebox. One of the Eagles’ best-known ballads, Desperado, prompts some of the couples to slow dance. The rest of ’em drink a little harder now, don’t they? Some fleet-fingered banjo picking, followed by the heavier Outlaw Man, gets heads nodding and toes tapping again. Then Saturday Night, a slower, gentler number, gives the ladies a chance to sing along. The evening winds down with a last round and the strains of Bitter Creek, swelling with trademark Eagles vocal harmonies. The Doolin Dalton/Desperado reprise wraps things up quietly, as folks wander out to their bikes and pickups, ending the evening at the bar.
Of course, after the drinkers get home, a party or two may take them into the wee hours.
But enough of all this “drink” talk – Desperado is among the best Eagles albums, even if it doesn’t rate as high for me as Hotel California, for example.