I remember several friends buying the single "Best Friend's Girl" as much because it was a picture disc retailing at normal price as for the quality of the record. I was hooked more by the follow-up, "Just What I Needed", a record topped off by a memorable guitar solo. But I waited for the album instead.
Hearing the singles on the radio never conveys how good the production on this album is. When the keyboards flood the opening track they reveal a Spectorish wall of sound, an influence most pointed during the album's final track. This record was made a few years before digital techniques strangled the live elements of recorded music. Compare the sound on this to the dead notes that make up the band's hugely successful "Heartbeat City" album. This is an album you live through, a drive through a twinkling, night-time city, as opposed to the barren landscape of the later album. It helps that the songs are good of course but the material on "Heartbeat City" is pretty decent too.
The final masterstroke here is the climax to the album with the creepy "Moving In Stereo" segueing into "All Mixed Up". This is one of the classiest pop albums of the 1970s, better than anything else this band ever did.
on 15 February 2016
This is the way to do it! Already an amazingly good debut and generally one of the best albums of the late 70s, this new 2016 vinyl edition not only lets you appreciate just how good it is but also just how satisfying an experience it is to hear the vinyl format when it's done right. Being from the original vinyl era I have my reservations about the resurgence in popularity of vinyl, mainly because it's popularity is seemingly fuelled by a generation of immature wannabes who think a bunch MP3 files constitutes a music collection and wouldn't know decent sounding music if it came up and pulled on their scruffy hipster beards.
For those of us that DO understand why vinyl is the most pleasurable way of hearing vintage music and have the means to do it justice (sorry folks but that doesn't include those USB turntables you can get from Tesco) then you really will not be disappointed with this version of The Cars fine debut. Mastered at Capitol (who know a thing or two about good sound) it's apparent that much care has been taken in the cutting of this record. I have a 1980s German pressing and it sounds awful. This new version has a wonderful warm sound and a real depth that puts even the 1999 HDCD remaster to shame. It's an album layered with detail and the production always made maximum use of the stereo soundstage with sounds bouncing to and fro between left and right. Roy Thomas Baker's production here had a lot of the hallmarks he used so successfully with Queen, another band who always played around with the mix and made it interesting. The 3 well known tracks kick off the album but i've always had a preference for Side 2 which shows the real creativity of the music. The way the 4 songs flow seamlessly into each other, kind of like a suite. It truly has to be one of the most enjoyable sides of a record I can think of.
Pressed on translucent blue vinyl, it looks as good as it sounds. Much like the recent white vinyl pressing of Love's Forever Changes, this is an Elektra classic that has certainly been done justice by the folks at Rhino.
on 8 August 2007
Where do I start with this fantastic body of work? I remember many moons ago, my dad playing this album and the opening bars of "Good Times Roll" stuck in my head and it wasn't all that long ago when those bars came back to me but I couldn't remember which album it was. So I went through all those vinyl albums he had and finally found it and straight away bought it on CD. Now about the album itself. "Good Times Roll" is my favourite track has it holds the most memories for me. "My Best Friends Girl" is a track that I can't imagine anyone not liking, a classic single. "Just What I Needed" is also one of my favourites off this album and was also a single. "I'm In Touch With Your World" is yet again one of my favourites and it's a real shame that it doesn't get the exposure that some of the more well-known tracks get. "Don't Cha Stop" and "You're All I've Got Tonight" are both great tracks (love that drum sound on the intro of the latter). "Bye Bye Love" is another solid track which leads into another one of the albums best. "Moving In Stereo" does exactly what it says on the tin with the vocals shifting from one speaker to the other back and forth. For 1978 I consider this track ahead of it's time. And finally "All Mixed Up" is a great closer to a damn fine album with some nice sax playing by the brilliant Greg Hawkes. I highly recommend this album so do yourself a favour and buy it you won't be disappointed. Sadly in 2000 bassist Benjamin Orr died of cancer so I would like to say thank you Ben for the great music you have left us R.I.P. you are sadly missed.
on 1 September 2014
Cracking debut album. Fairly short but a breeze to listen to in one sitting, and good enough to repeat back to back. Just what I needed, You're all I've got tonight and My best friend's girl...all great songs and great guitar solos. All good on this album though. Recommended if you like the Cars!
on 18 September 2006
The music magazine Q recently compiled a list of the 100 best debut albums ever. The Car's debut was NOT on that list. It was, however, on the Top 10 Debuts We Love To Hate list. From my standpoint, they were in good company among artist such as Queen, Dire Straits and Boston. Being a British magazine, Q may have simply missed the influence this album generated since it wasn't that big in the UK (#29). My Best Friend's Girl (#3) became a major hit but in great part due to the single being among the first singles (if not the very first) released as a picture disc (shaped like a car). Just What I Needed (#17) barely crawled into the top 20 and that was practically it for the Cars until they stroke gold internationally with songs from their Heartbeat City album.
In the States this album would hardly be treated similar compilations. My Best Friend's Girl (#27), Just What I Needed (#35) & Good Times Roll (#41) became radio staples and really much more popular than their Billboard top 100 rankings indicate. During its release it was still common on late night radio shows to play whole sides. The three songs already being hits on side A, side B became a popular choice for such occasions. The album didn't set the charts on fire, barely sneaking in the top 20 (#18). With continuous airplay of many of the album's tracks sales were consistent, which in the States matters much more than in most other territories. It wound up being among the top 30 sellers of the decade, selling 6 million copies, an incredible achievement for an album not even close to cracking the top 10. The Cars, both band and album, thus became huge in the States.
There are a few things special about this album. At the time of its release, 1978, its producer, Roy Thomas Baker, was in huge demand, mainly due to his work with Queen. With Queen, the production was full of sound effects and bombastic vocalizations (Bohemian Rhapsody is a prime example). The production on The Cars is, however, sparse on most of the album (the intros of My Best Friend's Girl and Just What I Needed are especially good examples). This made the use of synthesiser more prominent in a sense. The texts were filled with Ric Ocasek's irony which he delivered in a dead panned way; along with the late Benjamin Orr's more emotional approach in singing. In between this sparse production came forceful harmonies, e.g. on You're All I've Got Tonight and Good Times Roll. Combined, this gave the Cars a punkish feel, what today would be labelled as post-punk rock. This sounded very fresh from the typical rock sound which at that point dominated the airwaves as some kind of alternative to balance the popularity of disco.
Actually, it is remarkable how fresh the music still sounds today, more than 25 years after its release. Many groups today are basically doing similar things but now it is viewed as being retro. There is, however, one major drawback on buying this CD (meaning 4 instead of 5 stars). The sound quality is below par, which becomes more evident listening to their Just What I Needed Anthology. Despite being 10 years old, the re-mastering job on that release draws forth the sloppy transfer to CD. The sound is very low although not being muddled as many other badly transferred records. This album really could use some re-mastering (there is one available, a deluxe version from 1990 with an extra demo disc; there have, however, been many albums re-mastered originally released later with clearly audible results so that version does not cut it in my books). Given the sonic achievements that have been done with old Queen releases (the recent 25th anniversary edition of A Night at the Opera could have been recorded yesterday), this album should have tremendous potential in being a major re-release. Not only would a re-mastering job be welcome but a hybrid SACD version would have the potential of making these classics fresher than ever.
Ric, are you reading this?!
on 18 March 2005
I've been listening to this album since I was ten years old and there isn't another record I can say I still love with as much justification. For a debut, it's frighteningly well produced and musically informed but its slickness doesn't detract from the immediacy and rock n' roll simplicity of songs like "Best Friends Girlfriend" and "Just What I Needed". The guitar virtuosity and proggy keyboard interludes conjure a pre-punk west coast pop thing but with the sorta-ironic enthusiasm you'd expect of skinny-jeaned, high-topped new wavers. If Elastica had just ripped off Wire they'd have got nowhere. The smart move was ripping off this lot. Helpfully, the final track, "All Mixed Up", demonstrates how awful the whole thing ought to be. As a final encouragement I can promise that every time someone buys this record, "Drive" fades further from the collective memory.