Top Artists – Andrew Gold

Andrew Gold / Self-Titled – A Fab Favorite from the Day I Bought Mine in 1975

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Asylum – A Label We Love

  • A STUNNING sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • These sides are dripping with Analog magic — transparent, sweet and rich from beginning to end and the bass is especially meaty and well-defined
  • Those of you who have tried our Hot Stampers of JT will know exactly what to expect; Garay LOVES BASS and so do we
  • “An abundance of riches can be heard in Andrew Gold’s first solo album. There are great Beatlesque melodies here, as well as heartfelt love songs that are Gold’s specialties. Playing nearly all of the instruments himself makes this a truly “solo” effort.” – All Music, 4 Stars

As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. My comments for this copy note how spacious and present and full of energy it is. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not.

As with any pop album there are always some tracks that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material. This Hot Stamper copy brings Andrew Gold’s music to LIFE.

This record is dripping with Analog Tubey Magic. It’s transparent, sweet and rich from beginning to end. The bass is especially meaty and well-defined. Val Garay puts plenty on his recordings, one of the reasons we love listening to them. The vocals are present and clear, the studio is huge, and the snare is FAT the way it always is on Val’s recordings. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt / Heart Like A Wheel – Does Bernie Ever Get Bored?

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Linda Ronstadt

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Years ago we wrote:

One thing we noted with interest while doing this shootout was how compressed the first track is. When the chorus comes in, and Linda seems to be singing louder — should be singing louder, with a substantial coterie of vocalists backing her up — the volume is actually lower. In the verse immediately following you can hear that not only is she singing louder, but the amount of dynamic contrast in her voice is greater. Go figure.

The compression also means that that song will never sound the way we would wish it to. But that doesn’t mean it won’t sound good. It means it will sound good in more of a radio-friendly way. On a good copy, one with relatively little grain and plenty of bass, the music can still be very enjoyable, and that includes a Number One Pop Hit like “You’re No Good.”

Do we still see things this way? Well, yes and no. It’s not exactly that we were wrong, but that better cleaning and better playback (all that revolutions in audio stuff) have now allowed us to hear that some copies are actually much more dynamic on this track than others. Quite dynamic in fact.

Think about it. Bernie Grundman is going to cut this record many, many times, maybe more times than he wants to. Is he always going to apply exactly the same amount of compression to each cutting, or is he going to experiment a bit and see what works better over time? Or maybe he just learned a thing or two as he went along.

Which is pretty much what we do when playing copy after copy. The best pressings show us precisely what it is they are doing when they actually work. We can’t know that in advance; we’re learning on the job so to speak. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Prisoner In Disguise

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this copy of Prisoner, the followup to Linda’s Masterpiece, Heart Like a Wheel
  • This is an amazing recording, but it takes a special copy like this one to reveal all the magic that we know must be on the tape
  • 4 1/2 stars – Love Is a Rose, Tracks of My Tears and Heat Wave were hits, but Linda really pours her heart into Hey Mister, That’s Me up on the Jukebox
  • Andrew Gold (so critical to the success of HLAW) is still heavily involved, along with Emmylou Harris, James Taylor, Lowell George, David Lindley, JD Souther, and of course Peter Asher

The soundfield has a three-dimensional quality that was nonexistent on some of the other copies we played. Drop the needle on Many Rivers To Cross and check out the amazing sound of the organ coming from the back of the room. Only the highest resolution copies give you that kind of soundstage depth.

The piano sounds natural and weighty. The fiddle on The Sweetest Gift (played by our man David Lindley) is full of rosiny texture.

Emmylou Harris, dueting here with Linda, sings beautifully.

All in all, you will find truly Demonstration Quality Sound on the best copies. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel

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  • With two outstanding sides, this vintage Capital pressing was giving us the sound we were looking for on Linda Ronstadt’s Best Album
  • “You’re No Good” was the hit but “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” “Faithless Love” and “The Dark End of the Street” are every bit as good – and that’s just side one!
  • A Must Own Classic, the best album Ms Ronstadt ever made, and a True Country Rock Masterpiece practically without peer and
  • 5 stars: “What really makes HLAW a breakthrough is the inventive arrangements that producer Peter Asher, Ronstadt, and the studio musicians have developed. …[they] help turn Heart Like a Wheel into a veritable catalog of Californian soft rock, and it stands as a landmark of ’70s mainstream pop/rock.”
  • If you’re a Country Rock fan, then Linda’s Masterpiece from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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.

Heart Like A Wheel

I’ve been playing HLAW since the year it came out, roughly 48 years by my calculation, and I can tell you it is no easy task to find this kind of smooth, sweet, analog sound on the album. Folks, we heard it for ourselves: the Heart Like A Wheel magic is here on practically every song.

Pay special attention to Andrew Gold’s Abbey Road-ish guitars heard throughout the album. He is all over this record, playing piano, guitar, percussion and singing in the background. If anybody deserves credit besides Linda for the success of HLAW, it’s Andrew Gold.

A key test on either side was to listen to all the multi-tracked guitars and see how easy it was to separate each of them out in the mix. Most of the time they are just one big jangly blur. The best copies let you hear how many guitars there are and what each of them is doing.

What The Best Sides Of Heart Like A Wheel 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 1974
  • 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 Heart Like A Wheel

  • Less grit — Smoother and sweeter sound, something that is not easy to come by on Heart Like A Wheel.
  • A bigger presentation — More size, more space, more room for all the instruments and voices to occupy. The bigger the speakers you have to play this record the better.
  • More bass and tighter bass — This is fundamentally a pure rock record. It needs weight down low to rock the way the engineers wanted it to.
  • Present, breathy vocals — A veiled midrange is the rule, not the exception.
  • Good top-end extension to reproduce the harmonics of the instruments and details of the recording including the studio ambience.
  • Last but not least, balance — All the elements from top to bottom should be heard in harmony with each other. Take our word for it, assuming you haven’t played a pile of these yourself, balance is not that easy to find. Our best copies will have it though, of that there is no doubt.

Not only is it hard to find great copies of this album, it ain’t easy to play ’em either. You’re going to need a hi-res, super low distortion front end with careful adjustment of your arm in every area — VTA, tracking weight, azimuth and anti-skate — in order to play this album properly. If you’ve got the goods, you’re gonna love the way this copy sounds. Play it with a budget cart / table / arm and you’re likely to hear a great deal less magic than we did.

Track Commentary

The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What To Listen For advice. Other records with track breakdowns can be found here.

A Must Own Pop Record

Linda’s Masterpiece, and a recording that should be part of any serious Popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

You’re No Good

Right from the git-go, if the opening drum and bass intro on this one doesn’t get your foot tapping, something definitely ain’t right. Check to make sure your stereo is working up to par with a record you know well. If it is, your copy of HLAW belongs on the reject pile along with the other 90% of the copies ever pressed.

It Doesn’t Matter Anymore

Amazing acoustic guitars! Lots of tubey magic for a mid-’70s pop album. And just listen to the breathy quality of Linda’s voice. She’s swimming in echo, but it’s a good kind of echo. Being able to hear so much of it tells you that your pressing is one of the few with tremendous transparency and high resolution.

Faithless Love

Another superb arrangement with excellent sound. The banjo that opens this track is key — the picking should have a very strong plucky quality, with lovely trailing harmonics, even some fret buzz. So many copies are veiled or blunted sounding; this clearly demonstrates a lack of transient information. The copies without the trailing harmonics lack resolution. Once you hear either of these problems on the banjo, you can be sure to find them on the voices and guitars throughout the side.

That the Cisco pressing doesn’t do a very good job with the banjo should be clear for all to hear. If you want the sound of the real thing only the best Capitol pressings are going to give it to you.

The Dark End of the Street

We love the meaty, dark and distorted guitars at the opening of this one; really sets the tone.

Heart Like a Wheel

Side Two

When Will I Be Loved?

This presumptive Hit Single has lots of multi-tracked instruments crammed into its mix, a mix which is ready for radio and plenty processed and compressed to suit the Top 40 format. What that means for us audiophiles is not that the sound will be bad, rather that it will have a set of sonic characteristics in common with most of the original pressings: a little grit, yes, that is to be expected, but what one hears more often than not is a murky, dark, muddy quality to the midrange.

It’s the rare copy that presents a breathy, present , clear Linda Ronstadt on this track. Which is why it’s a great test track. If this track sounds right you can be pretty sure that everything that follows will too (up to a point naturally).

Willin’
I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You)

This track has the lovely and talented Emmylou Harris on harmony vocal. Between her and Linda cthere is a great deal of midrange and upper midrange energy on this track which will tend to strain on most copies.

Is that strain the result of bad mastering? Bad pressing quality? Bad vinyl? Some combination of all three? No one can say, and what difference does it make anyway? The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The proof of a good sounding side two is right there on track three. If there’s anything unnatural in the midrange, this song will not be a pleasant listening experience for you, dear reader.

Keep Me from Blowing Away

Linda’s voice here is sweet as honey. On the best copies this one should sound transparent and quite natural. Linda excels at this kind of song, but she stopped doing material like this soon after this album came out. That’s about the time I lost interest in her.

You Can Close Your Eyes

This is one of my all time favorite James Taylor songs. Linda does a lovely version of it here over a superb arrangement with top quality audiophile sound to match. What a great ending for the album, with her old buddies The Eagles backing her up. It takes this brilliant album out on a high note.

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Following the same formula as her early records, Heart Like a Wheel doesn’t appear to be a great breakthrough on the surface. However, Ronstadt comes into her own on this mix of oldies and contemporary classics. Backed by a fleet of Los Angeles musicians, Ronstadt sings with vigor and passion, helping bring the music alive.

But what really makes Heart Like a Wheel a breakthrough is the inventive arrangements that producer Peter Asher, Ronstadt, and the studio musicians have developed. Finding the right note for each song — whether it’s the soulful reworking of “When Will I Be Loved,” the hit “You’re No Good,” or the laid-back folk-rock of “Willing” — the musicians help turn Heart Like a Wheel into a veritable catalog of Californian soft rock, and it stands as a landmark of ’70s mainstream pop/rock.

Jennifer Warnes – Shot Through The Heart

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  • Shot Through The Heart makes its Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • 4 stars: ” Jennifer Warnes took charge of the recording of [this] her second Arista album, co-producing it and writing three songs, including the title track… On her own, her taste was impeccable… She proved an adept producer, achieving a smooth pop/rock sound… With session stars like Andrew Gold aboard, Warnes succeeded in making what sounded like the great lost Linda Ronstadt album.”

(more…)

Linda Ronstadt / Prisoner In Disguise – Give It Up Again For Val Garay

The soundfield has a three-dimensional quality that was pretty much nonexistent on most of the other copies we played. Drop the needle on Many Rivers To Cross and check out the amazing sound of the organ coming from the back of the room. Only the highest resolution copies give you that kind of soundstage depth.

The piano sounds natural and weighty. The fiddle on The Sweetest Gift (played by our man David Lindley) is full of rosiny texture.

Emmylou Harris, dueting here with Linda, is SUPERB, with truly Demonstration Quality Sound on the best copies.

The acoustic guitars are tonally Right On The Money throughout — the transient information is captured perfectly. Listen to the opening guitar in the right channel of The Sweetest Gift; we used it as a test track and when that guitar is RIGHT THERE you know you have a copy with Hot Stampers.

What We Learned

Here’s what we learned when doing this shootout. So many copies sounded like they were half-speed mastered. They had a little something phony added to the top of Linda’s voice, they had a little bit of suckout right in the middle of the midrange, the middle of her voice, and they had a somewhat diffuse, vague quality, with sound that lacked the SOLIDITY we heard on the best pressings. These hi-fi-ish qualities that we heard on so many copies reminded us of the kind of audiophile sound we decry at every turn. We’ve played literally hundreds and hundreds of MoFis and other half-speed mastered records over the course of the last twenty years, and one thing we know well is That Sound.

But think about it. What if you only had one copy of the album — why would you have more than one anyway? — and it had that Half-Speed Sound? You would simply assume the recording had those qualities, assuming you could even recognize them in the first place. (Let’s face it, most audiophiles can’t, or all these companies would have gone out of business and stayed out of business, and their out of print records would sell for peanuts, not the collector prices they bring on ebay and audiophile web sites.)

(more…)

The Asylum Sound We Love – Great in the Seventies, Gone by the Eighties

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Superb engineering by Greg Ladanyi (Toto 4, The Pretender, El Rayo-X, demo discs one and all).

If you know the “Asylum Sound” — think of the Tubey Magical Analog of The Eagles first album and you won’t be far off — you can be sure the best copies of All This and Heaven Too have plenty of it. Rarely do we run into recordings from the mid- to late-’70s with richer, fuller sound. The bass on the best copies is always huge and note-like. In the ’80s the very engineer for this record, Greg Ladanyi, would produce solo albums for the likes of Don Henley with no bass. How this came to be I cannot begin to understand, but record after record that we play from that decade are bright and thin like a transistor radio. This accounts for why you see so few of them on the site.

But Andrew Gold’s albums from the later ’70s are amazingly rich and tubey. That sound never went out of style with us. In fact albums with those sonic qualities make up the bulk of our sales, from The Beatles to The Eagles, Pink Floyd to Elton John, Simon and Garfunkel to Graham Nash. In our world the more “modern” something sounds the lower the grade.

Listening in Depth to Heart Like a Wheel

Click on this link to the

Classic Tracks

entry for the album to read about it in real  depth

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A key test on either side was to listen to all the multi-tracked guitars and see how easy it was to separate each of them out in the mix. Most of the time they are just one big jangly blur. The best copies let you hear how many guitars there are and what each of them is doing.

Pay special attention to Andrew Gold’s Abbey Road-ish guitars heard throughout the album. He is all over this record, playing piano, guitar, percussion and singing in the background. If anybody deserves credit besides Linda for the success of HLAW, it’s Andrew Gold. (more…)

Andrew Gold – All This and Heaven Too

Superb engineering by Greg Ladanyi (Toto 4, The Pretender, El Rayo-X, demo discs one and all). Contains the monster hit Thank You for Being a Friend. AllMusic gives this one 4 1/2 Stars. It’s also the last good album our fab friend made.  

Andrew Gold is another talented popster who got little respect from the critics, or the public for that matter. His music has a lot of the same qualities as Buddy Holly’s: simple catchy tunes about love, with clever lyrics and tons of hooks.

If you know the “Asylum Sound” — think of the Tubey Magical Analog of The Eagles first album and you won’t be far off — you can be sure the best copies of All This and Heaven Too have plenty of it. Rarely do we run into recordings from the mid- to late-’70s with richer, fuller sound. The bass on the best copies is always huge and note-like. In the ’80s the very engineer for this record, Greg Ladanyi, would produce solo albums for the likes of Don Henley with no bass. How this came to be I cannot begin to understand, but record after record that we play from that decade are bright and thin like a transistor radio. This accounts for why you see so few of them on the site.

But Andrew Gold’s albums from the later ’70s are amazingly rich and tubey. That sound never went out of style with us. In fact albums with those sonic qualities make up the bulk of our sales, from The Beatles to The Eagles, Pink Floyd to Elton John, Simon and Garfunkel to Graham Nash. In our world the more “modern” something sounds the lower the grade. (more…)

Andrew Gold – What’s Wrong With This Picture?

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Asylum – A Label We Love

The best copies of Gold’s sophomore release are incredibly rich, sweet and Tubey Magical. They also have tons of deep punchy bass and wonderfully breathy vocals.

If you own many Asylum records, you know this title is yet another example of classic Asylum Analog. Think of the sound of the Eagles first album and you won’t be far off.

AAndrew Gold is another talented popster who got little respect from the critics, or the public for that matter. His music has a lot of the same qualities as Buddy Holly’s: simple catchy tunes about love, with clever lyrics and tons of hooks. He covers one of Holly’s songs on this very album. (more…)