- On the better pressings you get something approaching the warmth and unforced clarity of analog we audiophiles crave
- Some of Bruce’s best material is here: the title track and One Step Up are two of our favorites
- “Bruce Springsteen followed the most popular album of his career, Born in the U.S.A., with [a] low-key, anguished effort, Tunnel of Love.”
As is the case for the Bob Clearmountain mix of Born in the USA, the sound is not exactly vintage analog at its best, but at least on vinyl you get more analog qualities than would otherwise be possible. This is 1987, not 1967 and not even 1977. That said, the copies that earned the better grades were big and rich, with plenty of studio space and nicely present vocals.
Mostly what they do well is that they fill out the sound and take the edge off of it without losing musical information, dynamics or energy. Not many copies managed that feat but this one did.
What the Best Sides of Tunnel of Love 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 1987
- 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 Tunnel of Love
- 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.
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.
Ain’t Got You
Tougher Than The Rest
All That Heaven Will Allow
Walk Like A Man
Tunnel Of Love
One Step Up
When You’re Alone
Just as he had followed his 1980 commercial breakthrough The River with the challenging Nebraska, Bruce Springsteen followed the most popular album of his career, Born in the U.S.A., with another low-key, anguished effort, Tunnel of Love. Especially in their sound, several of the songs, “Cautious Man” and “Two Faces,” for example, could have fit seamlessly onto Nebraska, though the arrangements overall were not as stripped-down and acoustic as on the earlier album.
While Nebraska was filled with songs of economic desperation, however, Tunnel of Love, as its title suggested, was an album of romantic exploration. But the lovers were just as desperate in their way as Nebraska’s small-time criminals. In song after song, Springsteen questioned the trust and honesty on both sides in a romantic relationship, specifically a married relationship.
Since Springsteen sounded more autobiographical than ever before (“Ain’t Got You” referred to his popular success, while “Walk Like a Man” seemed another explicit message to his father), it was hard not to wonder about the state of his own two-and-a-half-year marriage, and it wasn’t surprising when that marriage collapsed the following year.
Tunnel of Love was not the album that the ten million fans who had bought Born in the U.S.A. as of 1987 were waiting for, and though it topped the charts, sold three million copies, and spawned three Top 40 hits, much of this was on career momentum. Springsteen was as much at a crossroads with his audience as he seemed to be in his work and in his personal life, though this was not immediately apparent.