Month: August 2016

Andre Previn, Roy DuNann and Howard Holzer Are Hard to Beat in 1957

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More Andre Previn

The piano sounds uncannily lifelike right from the start, a beautiful instrument in a natural space, tonally correct from top to bottom. I can’t think of many records off the top of my head that get a better piano sound than this one.

Both sides are rich and Tubey Magical in the right way, because they’re still clear and reproduce the space of the room.

Warmth turned out to be key to the sound of the best copies. When the piano sounds warm and smooth everything else in the recording seems to fall into place. That was the problem with the OJC pressing we played — we found it to be a bit on the thin and brittle side, not remotely the right sound for a vintage Contemporary recording.

With tight, deep bass and an extended top, both sides are analog at its best.

Like we said, ROY DUNANN and HOWARD HOLZER in 1957 are hard to beat.

1986 – Not a great year for recording quality!

1986 – Not the best year for recording quality

More Crowded House

This original domestic pressing offers two superb sides for Crowded House’s wonderful debut.

Note that this copy won our shootout on side one, and since side one has the best batch of songs here, that works out well for everyone who loves great sounding sophisticated pop music, a group that includes us to be sure.

Sonically Speaking

1986 – Not a great year for recording quality!

  • Exhibit A: Paul Simon’s Graceland.
  • Exhibit B: Peter Gabriel’s So.

I rest my case. Fortunately for us audiophiles, Crowded House’s debut here is big, rich, smooth, natural and, above all, ANALOG. (I really don’t know if it is actually is analog or not, but it sounds like analog, and that’s really all that matters.)

Musically Speaking

Musically side one is absolutely brilliant from first note to last. Crowded House may have wanted to be the New Beatles, but those are some pretty big shoes to fill. They fell a bit short — who can compete with The Beatles? — but in their heyday, 1985-1993, they were better at making intelligent, original, melody-driven pop than practically any other group I was listening to at the time.

(We love Squeeze’s albums from this period as well but the ’80s sound is just too processed and artificial on even the best pressings to be enjoyed on modern high-resolution audiophile equipment.)

When people ask me what kind of music I like, a common question from non-audiophiles seeing a house full of records and a custom sound room stuffed with equipment and room treatments, Crowded House is one band I’m happy to namecheck (10cc and Roxy Music and Little Feat being a bit too obscure for most people by now).

Sophisticated Pop Albums with Audiophile Quality Sound make up a large part of my record collection, with Crowded House taking its place up near the top, not on the same plane as The Beatles, say, but not that far below either. (Woodface is an album that I have played many hundreds of times over the course of the last twenty years and have yet to tire of.)

The first Crowded House album is a record that belongs no less in your collection than it does in mine. Their songs still get played on the radio and to these ears they’re holding up just fine. (more…)

Argybargy Rocks on UK Vinyl

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Our Shootout Winner from 2016

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

If you think you might enjoy the mashup of Pub Rock and New Wave that this group unleashed on the pop music scene of the ’70s and ’80s I could not recommend any album of theirs more highly than Argybargy.

Squeeze’s prime period with Jools Holland on keyboards encompasses four albums, any of which is worth owning. The band really gets going with their second album, Cool for Cats (1979), pulls it all together and takes it to another level for their breakthrough third, Argybargy (1980), and produces two more of high quality, East Side Story (1981, produced mostly by Elvis Costello) and the darker but equally brilliant Sweets from a Stranger (1982).

I’m a huge fan of all four, as well as two from their later days, the amazing-to-this-day Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985) and the weaker but enjoyable Babylon and On (1987). I play all of them on a regular basis.

If you’re a fan of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson and probably quite a few other lesser-knowns from this era, Squeeze is the band for you. I put them right up there with Elvis Costello and Peter Gabriel in the pantheon of British Pop Music of the era.

The Sound

There’s plenty of Tubey Magical richness and smoothness on the best British pressings — such as this one — qualities the domestic pressings are sorely lacking. If you want to hear this music right, on vinyl it’s British or nothing, and with one of our White Hot Stamper pressings it’s British and everything — everything that’s good about this recording is captured on this very side two. And side one is awful good as well.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Extension up top was hard to come by on most pressings. When you hear those lovely hights you can hear how much they add to the sound.

The overall sound is rich and tubey, not dry, thin or modern. Clarity and space are nice but not if they come at the expense of the smooth, rich, natural sound of tubes (whether there are tubes in the chain or not).

Track Commentary

The Track Listing tab above has background on a few of the songs that may be of interest to you, courtesy of Wikipedia.


This is one of the band’s Masterpieces as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so memorably wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, said record: 1) must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio enthusiast been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music”; 2) my sixty year old self must currently respect the album, and; 3) I must think I will want to listen to the music fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles are coming online as time permits.