More of The Cars
- Panorama makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
- The sound here is rich and full-bodied with much less grain and much more Tubey Magic than most of the other copies we played
- A tough title to find these days — it took us years to get this shootout going
- “While it’s true that Panorama may be the work of a band in transition, taking baby steps in new directions, it’s also the work of a band that couldn’t help but make great music regardless. . . The production, too, is just as striking as it is on previous efforts, as are the performances.”
This vintage Elektra pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 Panorama 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 Panorama
- 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.
Touch And Go
Gimme Some Slack
Don’t Tell Me No
You Wear Those Eyes
Running To You
Up And Down
After releasing two albums, one a perfect pop/rock-meets-new wave classic, the other a very good follow-up, the Cars were game to try things a little differently on their third album Panorama. With longtime collaborator Roy Thomas Baker behind the boards, the band decamped to the Power Station in New York City and began working on a set of songs that were a little less poppy, both structurally and sonically. While the studio wasn’t to their liking and they went back to the scene of Candy-O in California, they didn’t forsake the more experimental aspects they had begun adding.
Lead-off track “Panorama” features vocoder providing backing vocals, burbling synth sounds, and a song that’s more about creating a mood of unease than it is knocking the listener over the head with a big, shiny hook, which had been their M.O. to that point. That they follow that with the lead single and catchiest song “Touch and Go” shows that the band wasn’t quite ready to forsake the pop side of the fence. The pumping synths, stuttering rhythms, and a painfully needy vocal from Ric Ocasek give way to some wonderfully corny cowboy-style guitar picking and a swooning chorus that was the equal of anything they’d done to that point. The rest of the album mostly sticks to catchy new wave pop with the occasional weird synth here and odd texture there. Tracks like the moody “Don’t Tell Me No,” the jumpy Ben Orr-sung “Down Boys,” or “Running to You” could have easily fit in on either of their first two albums; the slightly less immediate songs (“Misfit Kid,” “Getting Through”) are still fine modern rockers that any second-string band on a major-label would have been glad to call their best effort, and the nocturnal ballad “You Wear Those Eyes” is a lovely precursor to “Drive.”
While it’s true that Panorama may be the work of a band in transition, taking baby steps in new directions, it’s also the work of a band that couldn’t help but make great music regardless. “Touch and Go” may be the song that people remember, but another spin or two will reveal a wealth of songs that are just as strong. The production, too, is just as striking as it is on previous efforts, as are the performances. Put it all together and it’s difficult to understand why some people consider Panorama a weak link in the band’s otherwise stellar early career. It may pale a little in comparison to The Cars and Candy-O, but it’s still first-rate modern pop.