Top Artists – The Pretenders

The Pretenders – Get Close

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  • Get Close returns to the site with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them throughout this vintage WEA import pressing
  • These sides are energetic, clear and full-bodied, with Chrissie Hynde’s vocals front and center where they belong
  • If all you know are audiophile or domestic pressings, you should be prepared for a mind-blowing experience with this German-pressed copy
  • It takes years to get a shootout for this album going – three to five is my best guess, so get while the gettin’s good if you’re as big a fan of the album as we are
  • “Hynde’s voice is in great form throughout, and when she gets her dander up, she still has plenty to say and good ways to say it; ‘How Much Did You Get for Your Soul?’ is a gleefully venomous attack on the musically unscrupulous; ‘Don’t Get Me Wrong’ is a superb pop tune and a deserved hit single; and the Motown-flavored ‘I Remember You’ and the moody ‘Chill Factor’ suggest she’d been learning a lot from her old soul singles.”

Get Close has long been a personal favorite of mine. Side one starts off with a bang with “My Baby,”” one of the best tracks this band ever recorded. Of course at this point it’s hard to call The Pretenders a band as it is pretty much Chrissie Hynde’s show. She continues to mature as a songwriter, and the arrangements and production value are excellent as well, with heavy hitters such as Steve Lillywhite, Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Iovine involved.

(more…)

The Pretenders / Why Are We Guessing (Again)?

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German Pressings? Why Not British?

We discovered that only the best German pressings convey the energy and enthusiasm of the band while avoiding the grunge, flatness and hardness that make the typical pressing all but unlistenable at loud volumes.

Isn’t this a British band that just happens to be led by an American? And wasn’t the album produced by the clearly British Chris Thomas and recorded at George Martin’s AIR studios in London? How is it possible that the best German pressings consistently sound better than the best British pressings?

Your guess is as good as mine. And, if you stop to think about it, who in his right mind would think that any answer they might give to such a question is anything other than a guess?

But that’s not the half of it. It’s not simply the fact that the Germans seem to be the only ones able to work their magic on this title. Most German pressings are not nearly as good sounding as this one. It is only this specific German pressing that does everything right. It has won every shootout for the last five years if that tells you anything.

What to Listen For

In the chorus of Time the Avenger, the better copies do not get as harmonically distorted, edgy and hard as most. The best really “bloom,” but they are few and far between.

A Top Pretenders Title

This is where Chrissie Hynde matured into a top class songwriter; every track is good and many are brilliant. With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band, this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song. Great songs and great guitar work — what more do you need in a rock record?

Think of Middle of the Road — everything that’s good about this band on this album is there in that song: it’s uptempo, with a driving beat, a rock solid rhythm section and a beautifully distorted guitar out front and high up in the mix.

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Pretenders – Pretenders II

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  • The right original British pressings are an audiophile dream when they have this kind of punchy bass and pile-driving energy
  • Bill Price engineered and Chris Thomas produced, brilliantly of course – you know them from the Sex Pistols’ debut and The Clash’s London Calling
  • 4 stars: “What’s more the unique American voice of Hynde matched with the tribal beat of Martin Chambers and spangly guitar of Honeyman-Scott was as close to perfect as a band could get in the late 70s.”
  • If you’re a fan of these hard-rockin’ Brits (with an American frontwoman), this classic from 1981 surely belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1981 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

If any of this commentary looks familiar there’s a simple explanation for that fact; it’s lifted practically wholesale from our listings for the first Pretenders album.

The two albums are twins, with the same engineer, the same producer, even the same band members, something that was regrettably and tragically to change soon enough. (more…)

The Pretenders / Self-Titled

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  • An outstanding UK pressing of the band’s debut studio album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows, and clear, open, extended highs that let this Pretenders Classic come to life, and beat the pants off the dubby domestic pressing, and anything else you care to put up against it
  • One of engineer Bill Price’s better efforts behind the boards, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art
  • 5 stars: “Few rock & roll records rock as hard or with as much originality as the Pretenders’ eponymous debut album. A sleek, stylish fusion of Stonesy rock & roll, new wave pop, and pure punk aggression, Pretenders is teeming with sharp hooks and a viciously cool attitude.”

Forget the dubby domestic vinyl, these Brit pressings are the only way to go. (more…)

The Pretenders – Learning To Crawl

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  • A superb pressing of the band’s third studio album with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It takes years to get a shootout for this album going – three to five is my best guess, so get while the gettin’s good if you’re a fan of the most muscular rock album this band ever recorded
  • Both sides of this (very specific and hard to find) import pressing were richer, clearer and more energetic than virtually any of the others we played
  • With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band, this is first and foremost a guitar rock record – his brilliant, jangly, grungy riffs drive every song
  • 5 stars: “Three albums into her recording career, Chrissie Hynde found herself having to put the past to bed and carve out a new beginning for herself with Learning to Crawl, but she pulled it off with a striking mixture of courage, strength, and great rock & roll; with the exception of the instant-classic debut album, it’s the Pretenders’ finest work.”

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The Pretenders on Nautilus Half-Speed – Ouch!

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Top Producers – Chris Thomas

Top Engineers – Bill Price

Top Engineers – Steve Nye

Hall of Shame pressing and another Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile Pressing reviewed and found wanting.

This pressing is completely lifeless. Nautilus took all the rock out of this rock and roll band.

Another ridiculous joke played on a far-too-credulous audiophile public.  

But look who’s talking? I bought plenty of Nautilus pressings in the ’70s and ’80s, some good ones, some not so good. And some of them I liked well into the 2000s. What’s my excuse?

Even as recently as, say, fifteen years ago, I still had yet to achieve much of the progress in audio I would need to achieve in order to get past the last of the audiophile pressings I still clung to.

And there’s still one that just cannot be beat, even now.

Keep in mind I had been heavily into audiophile equipment and high quality records for thirty years at that point.

Which is simply more proof that audio is hard and that your progress in audio is most likely going to be slow, the way mine was.

 

The Pretenders / Get Close – What to Listen For

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Take it from us, it is the rare pressing that manages to get rid of the harshness and congestion that plague so many copies.

Look for a copy that opens up the soundstage — the wider, deeper and taller the soundstage the better the sound — as long as the tonal balance stays right.

When you hear a copy sound like this one, relatively rich and sweet, the minor shortcomings of the recording no longer seem to interfere with your enjoyment of the music. Like a properly tweaked stereo, a good record lets you forget all that audio stuff and just listen to the music as music. Here at Better Records we — like our customers — think that’s what it’s all about.

And we know that only the top copies will let you do that, something that not everyone in the audiophile community fully appreciates to this day. We’re doing what we can to change that way of thinking, but progress is, as you may well imagine, slow.

What to Listen For

The best copies have superb extension up top, which allows the grit and edge on the vocals to almost entirely disappear. Some of it is there on the tape for a reason — that’s partly the sound they were going for, this is after all a Bob Clearmountain mix and a Jimmy Iovine production — but bad mastering and pressing adds plenty of grit to the average copy, enough to ruin it in fact.

You can test for that edgy quality on side one very easily using the jangly guitar harmonics and breathy vocals of My Baby.

If the harmonic information is clear and extending naturally, in a big space, you are more than likely hearing a top quality copy.

The Domestic LP and CD

The domestic LP is pretty awful, and the domestic CD is even worse, practically unlistenable in fact. I have one in my car; only the judicious use of the treble control, set steeply downwards, makes the sound even tolerable.

But the album rocks — it’s great driving music.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

My Baby
When I Change My Life
Light of the Moon
Dance!
Tradition of Love

Side Two

Don’t Get Me Wrong
I Remember You
How Much Did You Get for Your Soul?
Chill Factor
Hymn to Her
Room Full of Mirrors

AMG  Review

Get Close is never less than solid as a work of craft, and guitarist Robbie McIntosh, drummer Blair Cunningham, and bassist T.M. Stevens deliver tight and emphatic performances throughout…

While Hynde always dominated the Pretenders, by this time it was obvious that this was fully her show, and if she felt less like rocking and more like exploring her emotions and thoughts about parenthood on midtempo pop tunes, no one in the group was going to prod her into doing otherwise; the presence of a large number of additional session players further buffs away any of Get Close’s potential sharp edges.

Despite all this, Hynde’s voice is in great form throughout, and when she gets her dander up, she still has plenty to say and good ways to say it; “How Much Did You Get for Your Soul?” is a gleefully venomous attack on the musically unscrupulous; “Don’t Get Me Wrong” is a superb pop tune and a deserved hit single; and the Motown-flavored “I Remember You” and the moody “Chill Factor” suggest she’d been learning a lot from her old soul singles.

The Pretenders – Get Close

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More of the Music of The Pretenders

Reviews and Commentaries for The Pretenders

The best copies have superb extension up top, which allows the grit and edge on the vocals to almost entirely disappear. Some of it is there on the tape for a reason — that’s partly the sound they were going for, this is after all a Bob Clearmountain mix and a Jimmy Iovine production — but bad mastering and pressing adds plenty of grit to the average copy, enough to ruin it in fact.

You can test for that edgy quality on side one very easily using the jangly guitar harmonics and breathy vocals of My Baby. If the harmonic information is clear and extending naturally, in a big space, you are more than likely hearing a top quality copy.

Size Matters

Take it from us, it is the rare pressing that manages to get rid of the harshness and congestion that plague so many copies.

Look for a copy that opens up the soundstage — the wider, deeper and taller the soundstage the better the sound — as long as the tonal balance stays right.

When you hear a copy sound like this one, relatively rich and sweet, the minor shortcomings of the recording no longer seem to interfere with your enjoyment of the music. Like a properly tweaked stereo, a good record lets you forget all that audio stuff and just listen to the music as music. Here at Better Records we — like our customers — think that’s what it’s all about.

And we know that only the top copies will let you do that, something that not everyone in the audiophile community fully appreciates to this day. We’re doing what we can to change that way of thinking, but progress is, as you may well imagine, slow.

Get Close has long been a personal favorite of mine. Side one starts off with a bang with the song My Baby, one of the best tracks this band ever recorded. Of course at this point it’s hard to call The Pretenders a band as it is pretty much Chrissie Hynde’s show. She continues to mature as a songwriter, and the arrangements and production value are excellent as well, with heavy hitters such as Steve Lillywhite, Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Iovine involved.

The Domestic LP and CD

The domestic LP is pretty awful, and the domestic CD is even worse, practically unlistenable in fact. I have one in my car; only the judicious use of the treble control, steeply downwards, makes the sound even tolerable.

But the album rocks — it’s great driving music.