- Full-bodied, smooth analog sound is the key to the best Van Halen pressings, and here both sides have it
- One of our favorite engineers, Donn Landee, worked his magic here (together with Ted Templeman) and the results are superb
- 4 1/2 stars: “After two pure party albums, the inevitable had to happen: it was time for Van Halen to mature, or at least get a little serious … This is the first Van Halen album to consist entirely of original material and there’s some significant growth here to the writing…”
This vintage Warner Brothers white label 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 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 Women and Children First 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 1980
- 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 We’re Listening For on Women and Children First
- 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 for the guitars and drums, 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, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Credit Donn Landee (and producer Ted Templeman as well) with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies of Women And Children First. He’s recorded or assisted on many of our favorite albums here at Better Records.
Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; all of the good Van Halens of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.
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 later 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 that is a key part of the appeal 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.
And The Cradle Will Rock…
Everybody Wants Some!!
Loss Of Control
Take Your Whiskey Home
Could This Be Magic?
In A Simple Rhyme
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
After two pure party albums, the inevitable had to happen: it was time for Van Halen to mature, or at least get a little serious. And so, Women and Children First, a record where the group started to get heavier, both sonically and, to a lesser extent, thematically, changing the feel of the band ever so slightly.
Where the first two records were nothing but nonstop parties, there’s a bit of a dark heart beating on this record, most evident on the breakneck metal of “Romeo Delight,” but also the pair of opening party anthems, “And the Cradle Will Rock” and “Everybody Wants Some!!,” which don’t fly quite as high as “Dance the Night Away” or “Runnin’ with the Devil” because of the tense, roiling undercurrents in Eddie’s riffs, especially the thudding, circular keyboard riff propelling “And the Cradle Will Rock.”
This is the first Van Halen album to consist entirely of original material and there’s some significant growth here to the writing, evident in the winding, cynical neo-boogie “Fools” and also in the manic “Loss of Control,” which gallops by with the ferocity of hardcore punk. These, along with all previously mentioned songs, are the heaviest music Van Halen has made (or would ever make), but as the album rushes toward the end Diamond Dave pulls them toward his country-blues jive fixation with “Take Your Whiskey Home” and the all-acoustic “Could This Be Magic?” giving the album a dose of levity that is welcome if not necessarily needed.
Then, before the album comes to a close, the band unleashes its first stab at a power ballad with “In a Simple Rhyme,” where the group’s attempts at melodic grace are undercut by their compulsion to rock. This may not make for a full-fledged power ballad, but this tension between the two extremes — by their increasing songcraft and their unhinged rock & roll — makes for dynamic music, and captures all the contrasting glories of the album in one song.