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McDonald, Michael - If That's What It Takes - Super Hot Stamper

The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.

Super Hot Stamper

Michael McDonald
If That's What It Takes

Regular price
$149.99
Regular price
Sale price
$149.99
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per 
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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish for Michael McDonald's Masterpiece
  • One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records (with the equally amazing Steve Gadd handling the other tracks)
  • Some of the best Pop Rock engineering of all time, courtesy of Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic - more importantly, this is a dramatically better album than anything the Doobies ever released

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This vintage Warner Bros. 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 Outstanding Sides Such as These 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 1982
  • 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.

Drum Boogie

Let us not forget that this is also one of the All-Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records. His work here on tracks 2, 6, and 8 is pure genius. Play this album against Katy Lied: I think you will find the comparison instructive. If That's What It Takes and Katy Lied are the pinnacle of achievement for Jeff on the drums.

Drumming for the other six tracks is ably handled by the amazingly talented Steve Gadd, whose drum work on the title track off Aja is the stuff of legend (love that improvised click of the sticks!).

What We're Listening For on If That's What It Takes

  • 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.

Engineer Extraordinaire

One of the top guys at Warners, Lee recorded and mixed this album as well as several others by Ry Cooder, The Doobie Brothers, Gordon Lightfoot and Frank Sinatra, albums we know to have outstanding sound (potentially anyway; you have to have an outstanding pressing to hear outstanding sound).

The one album that gets my vote for Herschberg's Pop Engineering Masterpiece would have to be Michael McDonald's If That's What It Takes. On the best copies, the sound is out of this world.

And of course, we would be remiss if we didn't mention the album most audiophiles know all too well, Rickie Lee Jones' debut. Herschberg's pop and rock engineering credits run for pages. Won the Grammy for Strangers in the Night even.

The most amazing jazz piano trio recording we know of is Herschberg's as well: The Three (with Shelly Manne, Ray Brown, and Joe Sample).

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus 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.

Side One

  • Playin' By The Rules
  • I Keep Forgettin'
  • Love Lies
  • I Gotta Try
  • I Can Let Go Now

Side Two

  • That's Why
  • If That's What It Takes
  • No Such Luck
  • Losin' End
  • Believe In It

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

As the lead singer of the Doobie Brothers from 1975-1980, Michael McDonald's soulful voice and skilled writing gave the group classics like "Minute by Minute," "Real Love," and the perfect "What a Fool Believes." ... 1982's If That's What It Takes is McDonald's first solo effort, and was recorded at the great recording studios like Warner Bros. and Sunset Sound and was co-produced by Ted Templeman and Lenny Waronker.

... The album's biggest hit, the moody and sleek "I Keep Forgettin'," continues McDonald's unflinching look at heartbreak, and it is more R&B-influenced than the previous Doobie Brothers work. The buoyant "I Gotta Try," co-written by Kenny Loggins, perfectly captures the early-'80s L.A. pop sound. While McDonald's pop acumen is no surprise, If That's What It Takes also offers McDonald the chance to do ballads. The poignant and spare "I Can Let Go Now" has some of his best lyrics. "Losin End," which first appeared on 1976's Takin' It to the Streets, gets recast as an even bleaker rumination with a suitably sorrowful solo from Tom Scott. The melodically complex "Believe in It" has McDonald doing some great, offhanded gospel-tinged vocals. This debut juggles tracks of merit and those of less distinction, but the bright spots make this essential.