The Cars: The Cars
Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2162
One of the most successful and enjoyable débuts in history, The Cars doubles as a greatest-hits collection. That’s because not one song here is unrecognized or unknown. A huge reason why the Boston quintet became America’s most popular new-wave band, The Cars launched eight tracks still regularly heard on radio stations everywhere. Consider the hit list: “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight.” “Good Times Roll.” “Just What I Needed.” “Moving in Stereo.” “My Best Friend’s Girl.” “Don’t Cha Stop.” If you’re a fan of pop music, this album is mandatory. Just call it the best new-wave rock album ever made.
Led by Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr, The Cars managed to unite then-disparate styles: bubblegum pop melodies, angular art rock, progressive arrangements, and terse minimalism. Orr’s low, understated singing and Ocasek’s cool, detached vocals lend shades of doubt and double meaning to the lyrics, which are further counterbalanced by orchestral keyboard flourishes and electronic beats. The brilliant arrangements also benefit from a laidback cool and understated irony that remain uncommon in the over-the-top world of mainstream music. Obsessed with incorporating the latest technologies and sounds into its palette, the band spiced its tunes with delightfully quirky accents—country-tinged guitar fills, echoing Syndrums, reggae splashes, hard-rock tones, robotic pulses.
The results are the sounds of a creative landmark. At once accessible and eccentric, edgy and catchy, The Cars explodes with emotion, energy, and hooks. It’s impossible not to get caught up humming and singing along to every song, an appeal that comes courtesy of Roy Thomas Baker’s stellar production. The legendary producer, best known for his work with Queen, ensured that the record seamlessly packed a smooth midrange, spacious imaging, and call-and-answer choruses in one tight package. Baker’s trademark touches with harmony vocals abound.
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Review by Rick Kosmick - September 18, 2016
The year is 1978 and a new group, The Cars, literally explodes on the musical pop/rock landscape. The band was planted in ‘power pop’ with strong melodies, clear vocals and well-built vocal harmonies that were combined with the latest in electronic technology. Their debut self-titled album played like a breathe of fresh air. With a composition of nine great songs all proving to be radio friendly, it is considered a masterpiece of rock classics that stands at No. 284 in Rolling Stones ‘The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time’.
The production work by Roy Thomas Baker is exceptional. It is a polished creation that fits exceedingly well with the quirky yet catchy songs written by chief songwriter Ric Ocasek. The band members are all excellent musicians and their vocals and harmonies are perfectly suited to the clean production. “The Cars” album seems like a perfect candidate for a SACD release and as a result, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab’s (MFSL) impeccable reputation for using original master tapes makes it a stunning audio experience.
In listening to “The Cars”, I was struck by the ‘detail in sound’. The vocals are exceptionally clear. The instruments are noticeably transparent with excellent separation. The drums are punchy and the bass has a very deep tone. It is obvious these songs were well recorded which is directly attributable to the original recording engineer Geoff Workman. For this MFSL release, Shawn Britton has done a superb job as mastering engineer. The dynamics of these recordings on SACD are remarkable and the soundstage is wall-to-wall with nice height projection.
As part of the production, each track concludes without interruption as it segues into the next song that provides a sense of theme and flow to the album although the songs are not directly related. On track 5 “ Don‘t Cha Stop“, it closes out by seguing to pounding tom-tom drums played by David Robinson as the intro to the song “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight”. The robust backing vocal harmonies merge with these drums followed by lead vocals from Ric Oscasek sung in an edgy, urgent manner. Elliot Easton’s lead guitar fills are interwoven with Ocasek’s vocals and Greg Hawkes layered keyboards.
The next track “Bye Bye Love” starts as a continuum against a backdrop of thundering drums. Benjamin Orr plays a tight bass noticeable by it’s rich tone as he takes on lead vocals. His voice maintains a smooth, relaxed style yet projects a high energy level as Hawkes comparably energetic keyboards take on prominence as a lead instrument with a keyboard solo mid-song. Easton again plays excellent guitar fills with exemplary separation from other instruments. This energy flows directly into next track “Moving in Stereo”.
Opening to the flourish of synthesizer, “Moving in Stereo” follows immediately with Easton’s stinging lead guitar from the right channel. Orr’s lead vocal quickly commences by panning from left to right on the word ‘stereo’ and returns in a pan to the left on the word ‘tremolo’. Yes it is a gimmick but it is highly effective as a biting auditory outcome (it stills sends up chills for me). The lead vocals in mid-song start in the left channel and pivot to the right before moving effectively to a phantom centre with striking clarity. The song has a bouncy mid-tempo character marked by a nice airy quality. The dynamics, particularly the mid-range, are excellent as typified on other tracks from this album.
“The Cars” is a magnificent piece of work built upon flawless performances. Outstanding Production plus Excellent Recording/Engineering plus Original Master Tapes equals a Demonstration Quality SACD. Another distinguished release from MFSL.
Copyright © 2016 Rick Kosmick and HRAudio.net