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Why Can't We Be Friends

Super Hot Stamper

War
Why Can't We Be Friends?

United Artists LP
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$149.99
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$149.99
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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus*

  • An outstanding copy of the band's 1975 release, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • One of our favorite albums here at Better Records and clearly the band's Masterpiece - the bass and dynamics on the better pressings make this a Demo Disc on the right system
  • 4 stars [but we give it 5]: "Cut from the same cloth as the band's 1973 Deliver the Word LP, War's 1975 Why Can't We Be Friends? is a masterpiece in its scope and breadth. [It] remains one of War's truly outstanding efforts, and has become an integral part of the funk genre's landscape. It also remains the nightcap of their finest hour."
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NOTE: On side two, a group of marks/scuffs makes a few light crackles on the intro and outro of track 2, So, and 3 moderate crackles at the beginning of track 3, Low Rider.

Engineered by the brilliant Chris Huston, this recording displays all his trademark gifts. His mixes feature lots of bass; huge, room-filling choruses that get loud without straining or becoming congested; and rhythmic energy that few pop recordings could lay claim to in 1975.

Low Rider sounds AWESOME on this one. This is the kind of record you can take to any stereo store or audiophile friend's house and bring their stereos to their knees. Audiophile systems are rarely designed to play this kind of music at the levels it demands, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be. Records like this are the challenge we audiophiles need to make our stereos even better. When the music is this good it's worth the effort.

What the best sides of Why Can't We Be Friends 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.

Tonality Is Key

Tonality is key to the sound of any Hot Stamper, and this is no exception. The vocals are rich and full -- so important! -- with airy extension on the percussion that brings out all the harmonics and gets them right to boot. (Proper tape hiss is a dead giveaway for that quality.) The sound of the cowbells and timbales driving so much of the beat here are about as well recorded as any I have heard on a pop record. If you need more cowbell, this record has what you're looking for.

If you have a Hot Stamper pressing of course. If you don't, you still get tons of bass; almost every copy had plenty of bottom end. It might not be as note-like or punchy as the bass on the best copies, or go as low, but it's good enough to get the job done.

But what exactly is The Job that needs doing? What is the record trying to do? What happens on the killer pressings that doesn't on all the others?

Shootouts Tell You What to Listen For

As usually happens in these shootouts, we learned that there's so much more to this album than just big bass. What really makes this music come alive on the best copies was the result of two qualities we found were in fairly short supply:

(1) Richness (2) Transparency

When the vocals sound thin and pinched as they do on so many copies of this album, possibly the result of the grainy crap vinyl UA is infamous for, that sour sound takes all the fun out of the music. Many tracks have group vocals and choruses, and the best copies make all the guys sound like they are standing in a big room, shoulder to shoulder, belting it out live and in living color. These are not classically trained singers. These are guys who love their music, who make up in enthusiasm what they lack in polish. I say more power to them. Smoke 'em if you got 'em and turn it up!

The good copies capture that energy and bring it into the mix with the full-bodied sound it no doubt had live in the studio. When the EQ or the vinyl goes awry and their voices start to take on a lean or gritty quality, the party's over. (Seriously; this album has a party atmosphere; it's overflowing with fun energy. If you can't play it loud enough to rock because the sound is fighting you with every click of the volume knob, what is the point of playing it all?)

What We're Listening For on Why Can't We Be Friends?

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • 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 for the guitars and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Transparency and the Feeling of Reality

That's one thing we learned from our shootout. The other was the importance of TRANSPARENCY. Of course this has to be a multi-miked, multi-tracked, overdubbed pop record -- they don't make them any other way -- but it doesn't have to FEEL like one.

When you get a good copy it feels like all these guys are live in the studio. They may have their own mics, and are certainly being placed artificially in the soundfield to suit the needs of the track (kick drum here, timbales over there), but the transparency of the killer pressings makes them sound like they are all in the same room playing together. You hear their grunts and laughter way back in the mix, just as if you were at one of their concerts. (Which, considering all the drums and percussion, must have been an absolute blast!)

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 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 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

Don't Let No One Get You Down

This track has a fairly quiet intro, just guitar and bass, which is not exactly an ideal match with the UA vinyl that these original LPs are pressed on. There will always be some surface noise at the start, but once the rest of the band comes in, there's so much going on that the surfaces are no longer much of a problem.

Lotus Blossom
Heartbeat
Leroy's Latin Lament: Lonnie Dreams
The Way We Feel
La Fiesta
Lament

Side Two

Smile Happy
So
Low Rider
In Mazatlan
Why Can't We Be Friends?

AMG 4 Star Review

(By the way, we agree with practically every word of praise here. This guy is a fan and so are we!)

Cut from the same cloth as the band's 1973 Deliver the Word LP, War's 1975 Why Can't We Be Friends? is a masterpiece in its scope and breadth. And, emerging as the last work the band would do for its longtime label, United Artists, it became a fitting swansong, powering up the charts and giving War its fourth and final number one hit.

In recent years, the album has been overshadowed by the monstrously popular bass-beating and bright brass of its singular hit, "Low Rider." Indeed, the song would become the band's signature theme, as the Latino street-cruiser jam quickly became a live set staple and, much later, was reinvigorated through sampling on songs by the Beastie Boys, Stereo MC's, and Offspring.

However, that one track, iconographic as it is, is by no means the only treat onboard Why Can't We Be Friends? There are far more interesting and superb treats roiling in the wake of "Low Rider." The snappy title track, which poses the question of the decade and, oddly, closes the album, is a feel-good thumper. Its bright brass punctuation and rakish vocals are wonderfully combined with an absolutely contagious reggae beat.

Then, add the doesn't-get-much-better-than-that medley "Leroy's Latin Lament." Divided into four "songs," the music swings from the smart vocal opening "Lonnie Dreams" to the effervescent Latin jam of "La Fiesta." And, of course, where there's War, there's funk — this time on the seven-plus minute"Heartbeat." Wrap it all up with the poignant ballad "Lotus Blossom," and the result is pretty much perfection. Why Can't We Be Friends? remains one of War's truly outstanding efforts, and has become an integral part of the funk genre's landscape. It also remains the nightcap of their finest hour. War's ill-timed move to MCA changed the energy and focus of the band forever.