- A superb pressing with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from top to bottom – just shy of our Shootout Winner
- Forget the cardboardy reissues and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl pressing they’re making now – if you want to hear all the Tubey Magic and energy of these recordings, you need a vintage Hot Stamper pressing like this one
- Black Water was the big hit on their breakthrough fourth album, and it sounds wonderful here – Eyes of Silver and Another Park, Another Sunday are killer too
- “The Doobies team up with the Memphis Horns for an even more Southern-flavored album than usual…”
These songs sound every bit as good now as they did thirty-plus years ago when they came out. Better, because we can clean these old records and play them so much better than we could back then. I’ll be the first to admit that back in the day I was a bit of a snob when it came to bands like this. Too mainstream. Too radio-friendly.
Now I realize that the best of this kind of pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is good music that belongs in your collection.
What the Best Sides of What Were Once Vices… 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 1974
- 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 Copies
This mass-produced stuff is pretty lame most of the time. Actually, that’s not really fair; the specialty audiophile limited edition pressings of most records are even worse, so the production numbers really don’t have much to do with the final product, now do they? They made millions of copies of this album, and heavy vinyl pressings are made in the thousands, but which would you rather play? I’ll take good old thin vinyl from the ’70s over that heavy stuff any day of the week.
But I digress. Most copies — like most modern heavy vinyl pressings — simply lack energy. They’re flat and compressed and no matter how loud you turn them up the band never seems to be all that into the songs they’re playing.
Ah, but the good pressings show you a band that’s on fire, playing and singing their hearts out. Such are the vagaries of record production. Who can explain it or even understand it? All we know is what the finished product sounds like. The rest is guesswork, entertaining for idle minds and forum posters but of little value to those of us who play records for enjoyment and want to hear the music we love with the best sound we can find.
What We’re Listening For on What Were Once Vices
- 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.
Watch Out For
Tipped up top end, plain and simple. A little extra up top and the guitars sparkle and Johnston’s voice gets a little hi-fi-ish. On the most ridiculously tipped-up copies, you could easily mistake such a pressing for a MoFi half-speed mastered LP. That sparkle used to thrill us forty years ago. Now it makes us roll our eyes — what the hell were they thinking, boosting the hell out of the top end like that?
And why can’t so many audiophiles today, still in thrall to that sound, recognize how unnatural it is and was? Simple answer: Vintage Audio equipment needs that extra kick. Most audiophiles have not taken advantage of the Revolutions in Audio of the last ten or so years and so must find records that give them the boost their bad audio systems need.
Those of us — and that includes many of you or you wouldn’t be spending all your money on Hot Stampers — have systems that find dramatically more information in the grooves of our records than we ever dreamed was there. We then get that information to go through our electronics and come out of our speakers with far more energy and far less distortion than we could back in the day.
Lee Herschberg, Engineer Extraordinaire
One of the top guys at Warners, Lee Herschberg recorded What Once Were Vices… (along with Donn Landee, who recorded their previous album and would take over the engineering duties on subsequent releases) as well as the first Doobie Brothers album. You’ll also find his name in the credits for many of the best releases by Ry Cooder, Randy Newman, Gordon Lightfoot, and Frank Sinatra, albums we know to have outstanding sound (potentially anyway; if you’re on this site you know very well that you have to have an outstanding pressing to hear outstanding sound).
And of course we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the album most audiophiles know all too well, Rickie Lee Jones’ debut. Herschberg’s pop and rock engineering credits run for pages. Won the Grammy for Strangers in the Night in fact.
The most amazing jazz piano trio recording we know of is Herschberg’s as well: The Three (with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown, and Joe Sample).
Song to See You Through
Pursuit on 53rd St.
Eyes of Silver
You Just Can’t Stop It
Tell Me What You Want (And I’ll Give You What You Need)
Down in the Track
Another Park, Another Sunday
Daughters of the Sea
The Doobies team up with the Memphis Horns for an even more Southern-flavored album than usual… By this time, Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, and company had pretty well inherited the mantle and the core (and then some) of the audience left behind by Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty, with Johnston songs like “Pursuit on 53rd Street,” “Down in the Track,” and “Road Angel” recalling pieces like “Travelin’ Band,” while Simmons’ “Black Water” (their first number one hit) evoked the softer side of the “swamp rock” popularized by CCR.