- This early Atlantic pressing was clearly bigger, smoother and more open than practically any other copy we played – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- By far the best sounding record these guys ever made, and for our money nothing in their recorded canon can touch it
- A Better Records favorite, a longtime member of our Top 100, and an absolute thrill when it sounds like this
- The early 4 Digit pressings are the only way to go on this one — all the reissues (including the worst reissue of them all, the MoFi) are terrible sounding
- 5 stars: “Abandoned Luncheonette, Hall & Oates’ second album, was the first indication of the duo’s talent for sleek, soul-inflected pop/rock. It featured the single ‘She’s Gone,’ which would become a big hit in 1975 when it was re-released following the success of ‘Sara Smile.'”
We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.
The list is purposely wide-ranging. It includes some famous titles (Tumbleweed Connection, The Yes Album), but for the most part I have gone out of way to choose titles from talented artists that are less well known (Atlantic Crossing, Kiln House, Dad Loves His Work), which simply means that you won’t find Every Picture Tells a Story or Rumours or Sweet Baby James on this list because masterpieces of that caliber should already be in your collection and don’t need me to recommend them.
Which is not to say there aren’t some well known masterpieces on the list, because not every well known record is necessarily well known to audiophiles, and some records are just too good not to put on a list of records we think every audiophile ought to get to know better.
Out of the thousands of records we have auditioned and reviewed, there are a couple of hundred that have stood the test of time for us and we feel are deserving of a listen. Many of these will not be to your taste, but they were to mine.
Don’t write these guys off as some Top 40 blue-eyed soul popsters from the ’70s that time has forgotten. They are all of the above, but they don’t deserve to be forgotten, if only on the strength of this album. Without question this is their masterpiece. We also consider it a Desert Island Disc and a true Demo Disc.
If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, look no further. This record is ALIVE! Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track popular recording, this is about as good as it gets. It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth — most of the time (although the multi-tracked vocals might be a little much on some songs, depending on your front end) — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.
This vintage Atlantic 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 Abandoned Luncheonette 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 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.
The Sound of Tubes
This is the sound of TUBES. I’m sure the album was recorded with transistors, judging by the fact that it was made in 1973 after most recording studios had abandoned that “antiquated” technology, but there may be a reason why they were able to achieve such success with the new transistor equipment when, in the coming decades, they would produce one failure after another. In other words, I have a theory.
They remember what things sounded like when they had tubes in their chain. Most modern engineers have forgotten that sound. They have no reference for Tubey Magic.
A similar syndrome was then operating with the home audio equipment manufacturers as well. Early transistor gear by the likes of Marantz, McIntosh and Sherwood, just to name three I happen to be familiar with, still retains much of the rich, natural, sweet, grain-free sound of the better tube equipment of the day. I used to have a wonderful Sherwood receiver that you would swear has tubes in it, when in fact it’s simply an unusually well-designed transistor unit. No one listening to it would ever know that it’s solid state. It has none of the sound we associate with solid state, and for the most part that’s a good thing.
What We’re Listening For On Abandoned Luncheonette
- 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.
What A Recording
If you have a copy or two laying around, there is a very good chance that side two will be somewhat thinner and brighter than side one. That has been our experience anyway, and we’ve been playing batches of this album for well over a decade.
To find a copy with a rich side two is not that easy.
Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars and mandolins that feature so prominently in the mixes.
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 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.
On the better copies practically every track on this side will have killer sound.
When the Morning Comes
Had I Known You Better Then
Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)
I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)
In our experience only the best copies (and the best stereos) can make sense of this track.
Wall to wall, floor to ceiling multi-track ANALOG MAGIC.
Everytime I Look at You
The FUNKIEST Hall and Oates track ever. Bernard Purdie on the drums! And who’s that funky rhythm guitarist with the Motown Sound? None other than John Oates hisself. If you hear echoes of Motown throughout this record, you’re hearing what we’re hearing. Who doesn’t love that sound? (If we could only find real Motown records that sound like this one…)
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Abandoned Luncheonette, Hall & Oates’ second album, was the first indication of the duo’s talent for sleek, soul-inflected pop/rock. It featured the single “She’s Gone,” which would become a big hit in 1975 when it was re-released following the success of “Sara Smile.”