Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

More Arlo Guthrie


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  • These rare, original Tri-Color Reprise pressings are practically impossible to find with surfaces this quiet, but we found this one, don’t ask me how
  • The 18 minute plus title song sounds wonderful here – natural, Tubey Magical, and tonally correct, as befits any top quality vintage pressing, especially one with Lee Herschberg handling the engineering duties
  • 4 stars: “… provide[s] an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.”

This vintage Reprise 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 Alice’s Restaurant 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 1967
  • 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.

Engineering Excellence

One of the top guys at WarnersLee Herschberg recorded this album. You’ll also find his name in the credits for many of the best releases by Ry Cooder, The Doobie Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot, Randy Newman and Frank Sinatra, albums we know to have outstanding sound. (Potentially anyway; 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 even.

What We’re Listening For on Alice’s Restaurant

  • 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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Alice’s Restaurant Massacree

Side Two

Chilling of the Evening
Ring Around a Rosy Rag
Now and Then
I’m Going Home
The Motorcycle Song
Highway In the Wind

AMG 4 Star Review

Although he’d been a fixture on the East Coast folk circuit for several years, Arlo Guthrie did not release this debut album until mid-1967. A majority of the attention directed at Alice’s Restaurant focuses on the epic 18-plus-minute title track, which sprawled over the entire A-side of the long-player. However, it is the other half-dozen Guthrie compositions that provide an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.

Although arguably not 100 percent factual, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” — which was recorded in front of a live audience — is rooted in a series of real incidents. This decidedly anti-establishment saga of garbage dumps closed on Thanksgiving, good ol’ Officer Obie, as well as Guthrie’s experiences with the draft succeeds not only because of the unusual and outlandish situations that the hero finds himself in; it is also his underdog point of view and sardonic delivery that maximize the effect in the retelling. In terms of artistic merit, the studio side is an equally endowed effort containing six decidedly more traditional folk-rock compositions.