Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Reference 160M Amplifier (February 2019)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Livio Cucuzza on Audio Research's Industrial Design (November 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)

BMG 538243611 LC19813
Format: CD

Musical Performance

Sound Quality

Overall Enjoyment

Chrissie Hynde released her first solo album, Stockholm, two years ago, but of the many records released under the Pretenders name since 1980, she’s the only constant. Hynde is the only original Pretender on Alone, but the album rocks as hard and tough as those from the band’s peak years, in the 1980s. Fellow Ohioan Dan Auerbach, of the Black Keys, produced Alone, and he gives it a vintage rock feel that ends up sounding utterly fresh.

The title track’s crunchy guitars and cocky attitude have the punch of early Pretenders records, but Leon Michels, one of three players Auerbach brought along from his side project, the Arcs, adds a great rock’n’roll piano line that gives it the feel of the ’70s Stones. But even with Auerbach’s distinctive, overdriven rhythm guitar, the album’s focus is Hynde’s singing -- with Auerbach’s help, she sounds like a rocker again.

Hynde’s voice is unmistakable, and when she utters an expletive near the end of “Alone,” it echoes “Precious,” the first song on the Pretenders’s first album, of 36 years ago. But Alone doesn’t only cover old ground. The pedal steel guitar in “Roadie Man,” courtesy Russ Pahl, is unique for the Pretenders, but the song’s low-end guitar riff and throbbing chords give it a solid pedigree of rock’n’roll.


“Gotta Wait” also sounds like a track from Pretenders, thanks to Richard Swift’s slamming drums and a slashing solo from Auerbach, but many of the songs on Alone capture the spirit of that great band without merely copying them. The mid-tempo ballad “Never Be Together” is built around an ear-catching chord progression, and a terrific guitar line -- played by Duane Eddy, who’s now 78 -- that gives it the friendliness of old-time AM radio. Auerbach and guitarist Kenny Vaughan add echo-heavy slide guitars, and Eddy’s simply stated solo is movingly evocative.

Hynde wrote or co-wrote many of the songs on Alone, and “Let’s Get Lost” is a good example of what Auerbach’s production contributes to them. The swirling guitars and haunting pedal steel give this ballad an emotional heft that brings out a stirring, sincere performance from Hynde. In another track, the mostly acoustic “Blue Eyed Sky,” Michels plays an organ line that suffuses this ballad with an undercurrent of ’60s soul that keeps it from cloying.

“Death Is Not Enough” is yet another beautifully presented ballad, this one by Marek Rymaszewski, but Alone is not a mellow record. “Chord Lord” is full of cutting guitar chords and hard-thumping drums, “I Hate Myself” has a ’50s rock’n’roll vibe that Hynde pulls off with aplomb, and “Holy Commotion” is an odd, bouncy pop track with an oscillating synth and snaky guitars. Throughout Alone, Hynde is in strong, recharged voice, singing memorable songs that play to her vocal versatility.

Auerbach likes a big sound, and I had some problems with the last Black Keys disc, Turn Blue. Alone has plenty of grunge and bottom end, but Brian Lucey’s well-balanced mastering brings out the drive and excitement of the rockers while letting the subtleties of the ballads come through.

Stockholm was nicely presented but ultimately tame, and seemed to suggest that Chrissie Hynde was settling into a comfortable late career. Alone is a return to form, and the best Pretenders record since Learning to Crawl -- from 1984.

. . . Joseph Taylor