ronstheart

The Worst Mistake You Can Make in Record Collecting

More of the Music of Linda Ronstadt

Reviews and Commentaries for Heart Like a Wheel

To be clear, it’s only a mistake if you are looking for top quality sound.

If, however, you are a record collector who doesn’t care about the sound of your records and is just looking for music to play, you may want to consider the very real possibility that you are on the wrong site.

Do you know many audiophiles who own multiple copies of the same album?

Some? Okay. How many of them are still hunting around for more?

I’ve been buying duplicate copies of my favorite albums for more than three decades, but I’m not exactly your average audiophile record collector.

Fortunately for me, with the advent of Better Records in 1987, I’ve had an outlet for the second- and third-rate pressings I chose not to keep. (What’s left of my audiophile pressings are being sold on ebay these days. Good riddance!)

A few audiophile friends have multiple copies, but most audiophiles I know usually stop after one, or at most two or three.

At least they know not to make the worst mistake of them all: buying an audiophile pressing and figuring that that’s the one to keep. Tossing out their vintage pressings, or never bothering to buy vintage pressings in the first place guarantees you will never have an especially good sounding collection of records to play.

Those of you who take the time to read our Hot Stamper commentary, whether you buy any of our special pressings or not, no doubt know better. At least I hope you do.

The only way to understand this Hot Stamper thing is to hear it for yourself, and that means having multiple copies of your favorite albums, cleaning them all up and shooting them all out on a good stereo.

Nobody, and we mean nobody, who takes the time to perform this little exercise can fail to hear exactly what we are on about.

If that’s too much trouble, you can join the other 99% of the audiophiles in the world, the ones who don’t know just how dramatic pressing variations for records and CDs can be. Probably a fairly large percentage of that group also doesn’t want to know about any such pressing variations and will happily supply you with all sorts of specious reasoning as to why such variations can’t really amount to much — this without ever doing a single shootout!.

Such is the world of audiophiles. Some audiophiles believe in anything — you know the kind — and some audiophiles believe in nothing, not even their own two ears.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Linda Ronstadt – An Album You Need to Hear

More of the Music of Linda Ronstadt

Reviews and Commentaries for Heart Like a Wheel

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.

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.

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

More of the Music of Linda Ronstadt

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Linda Ronstadt

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.

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Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel

More Linda Ronstadt

More Women Who Rock

  • 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.

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Listening in Depth to Heart Like a Wheel

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.

In-Depth Track Commentary

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.

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Letter of the Week – “wow what a difference! – it thoroughly blew away the Cisco…”

More of the Music of Linda Ronstadt

Reviews and Commentaries for Linda Ronstadt

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

Sometime ago I received a very decent copy of Heart Like a Wheel from Better Records, (in fact two copies each with different sounding sides)……..then a while later up came a sealed Cisco 180g reissue, so I grabbed it thinking how nice it would be – a fresh copy, clean and quiet…

The other night I played the Cisco, and sure it is quiet, and smooth, but it just seemed generally lacking somehow, so I put on one of the Better Records copies – wow what a difference! The old copy has tons of clarity, detail, life and punch – it thoroughly blew away the Cisco – perhaps no surprise to you, but it once again reinforces my belief in Better Records!

Jason B.

Letter of the Week – “What you are doing is not just selling great records, but teaching the LP buying community the secrets to great LP listening.”

More Linda Ronstadt

Reviews and Commentaries for Linda Ronstadt

Hey Tom,   

I have been reading your website for the last few months, and I have become totally inspired to find great LPs… I finally decided to dip my toe into the Hot Stampers and bought a copy of Heart Like a Wheel… everything that you say is true!! I was amazed when I found an old original that was barely listenable (to compare)!

I am a convert. What you are doing is not just selling great records, but teaching the LP buying community the secrets to great LP listening.

Joel S.

Linda Ronstadt / Heart Like A Wheel – Cisco Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

More Linda Ronstadt

Reviews and Commentaries for Linda Ronstadt

[This review was written many years ago in 2006. I doubt I would consider this record a service to the audiophile community these days.]

Sonic Grade: C

This pressing beats the typical crappy Capitol LP in some ways, which is typically an aggressive, grainy piece of crap. Take my word for it: I easily have 30-40 copies of this album, and I can tell you from years of experience that it is extremely difficult to find good sounding pressings of this music. Cisco has done a service to the audiophile community by producing a very enjoyable LP of this, Linda’s masterpiece. It’s music that belongs in your collection. (If you have the bread, check out our Hot Stamper copies, guaranteed to kill any modern pressing — including this one — or your money back.) 

Cisco’s version is completely free from compression of any kind, and sometimes that works in favor of the overall sound and sometimes it doesn’t. I may have additional commentary discussing these issues down the road, but for now let’s just say you will have a hard time finding a better copy of Heart Like A Wheel on vinyl. And of course, virtually no Capitol pressing is ever going to be as quiet as one of these lovely 180g RTI LPs.

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