The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)
- 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
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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 the best sides of Prisoner In Disguise 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 1975
- 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 Prisoner In Disguise
- 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.
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 businesss, and their out of print records would sell for peanuts, not the collector prices they bring on ebay and audiophile web sites.)
It's Not Really That Hard to Tell One from the Other
Fortunately our customers recognize those phony qualities and are willing to pay top dollar for copies that don't have those phony audiophile BS colorations. If you have a good stereo and two working ears it's not hard to hear right from wrong. It's not rocket science. The records that sound right to us we call Hot Stampers. They're the ones that get all the energy into the grooves, with correct tonality from top to bottom. Audiophile records are the ones that compress the shit out of the sound and have colorations and problems everywhere you look. It's really not that hard to tell one from the other, for us and our Hot Stamper fans anyway. The rest of the world has a way to go in this respect, but we're doing our best to convert them, one audiophile at a time.
What A Supporting Cast!
Check out all the cool cats and hip chicks who worked on this record:
You see those same names all over our site! Perhaps it is time to rethink the conventional wisdom that says Linda Ronstadt's records are not for audiophiles. Those people are involved with some of our all-time favorite records, and their contributions really help this music to achieve audiophile quality sound.
Another Ignored Gem From Linda
I confess to never having taken this album seriously (much like Simple Dreams, an album I now LOVE), dismissing it as a commercial collection of pop hits with as much depth as the L.A. river, but I was wrong wrong WRONG. This is a great album on the right LP, not the compressed piece of grainy cardboard we're used to.
The typical pressing barely hints at the tremendous energy and top-quality musicianship that characterizes practically every track on this wonderful record.
Give It Up Again For Val Garay
Kudos must go to Val Garay, the man behind one of our favorite recordings, James Taylor's JT, with which this album shares much in common. That same super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound is everywhere on his records.
I don't think Mr. Garay gets anything like his due with audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them. This is a shame. The guy makes Top Quality Pop Records about as good as they can be made, and if you have the kind of Big System that can really rock out, you owe it to yourself to get to know his work.
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 later 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 originals.
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.
Love Is a Rose
Hey Mister, That's Me up on the Jukebox
Roll Um Easy
The Tracks of My Tears
Prisoner in Disguise
(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave
Many Rivers to Cross
The Sweetest Gift
You Tell Me That I'm Falling Down
I Will Always Love You
Linda Ronstadt followed the commercial and critical breakthrough success of Heart Like a Wheel with Prisoner in Disguise... it's thoroughly enjoyable, highlighted by sturdy remakes of the Motown classics "Tracks of My Tears" and "Heat Wave.
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