Credit must go to the amazing engineering skills of ROY HALEE. He may not be very consistent (Graceland, Still Crazy After All These Years) but on this album he knocked it out of the park. With the right copy playing on the right stereo, the album has the potential to sound like LIVE MUSIC.
You don’t find that on a record too often, practically never in fact. I put this record at the top of The Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time.
Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie (1st & 2nd Movements)
The song is always going to be plagued with a certain amount of surface noise. A solo guitar opening on a pop record pressed on Columbia vinyl from the ’60s? A brand new copy would have surface noise, so it’s important to not get too worked up over surfaces that are always going to be problematical.
Sometimes in Winter
This shootout taught me a lot about this track. There is a huge amount of bass which is difficult to reproduce; the best copies have note-like, controlled (although prodigious) bass which is a very tough system test.
Having said that, what separates the killer copies from the merely excellent ones is the quality of the flute sound. When you can hear the air going through the flute, and follow the playing throughout the song, you have a superbly transparent copy with all the presence and resolution of the best. If the flute sounds right, Katz’s voice will too. The sound will be Demonstration Quality of the highest order. Want to shoot out two different copies of this album on side one? Easy. Just play this track and see which one gets the flute right.
By the way, we LOVE the version of this song that Sergio Mendes does on Stillness. Eric Katz is a decent singer; the two girls in Brazil ’66 are SUPERB singers. The fact that they are female, that there are two of them and that they can harmonize as beautifully as any two singers you’ve ever heard allows their version of the song to have qualities far beyond the boys in Blood Sweat and Tears. But the BS&T guys make up for it by being REAL JAZZ MUSICIANS. Most of this album is real jazz played by top notch players. No other successful pop album to my knowledge can make that claim. In that sense it’s sui generis. But it’s unique in other ways as well, not just that one.
More and More
And When I Die
One of the best sounding tracks on side one and a fantastic Demo Track. When the song breaks into the latin flavored instrumental part at the end it should positively blow your mind.
God Bless the Child
Another Demo Track. Listen for the Most Obvious Edit of All Time towards the end of this one.
Side two starts off with a bang; note that the piano has real weight right from the git go. When the cowbell comes in it should not sound muffled in any way (it’s a bell, don’t you know), quickly followed by the solid-as-a-rock-snare (the best on record.)
On the killer copies that first blast of brass will be completely free of grain or grunge, yet the brass instruments themselves (trumpets and trombone) have all their leading edge transients, their “bite”, fully intact. They’re not in any way muffled or smeared, yet the sound is never aggressive. If anything, the brass is so free from distortion and so tonally correct it should actually sound smooth.
Some of the vocals on side one can have a bit of honk or edge, but not here. They are smooth, rich and sweet as any you will find.
Play your own copy. Everything you need to know about the sound of your side two can be heard in the first thirty seconds. On the Hot Stampers it’s all there. On most copies, however, the reverse is true: Problems raise their ugly heads right off the bat. Thinness, grain, smearing, bloat, edginess — all the failings that records are heir to will be thrown in your face if your copy is not up to snuff, and not many of them are.
You’ve Made Me So Very Happy
The Blues, Pt. 2
Again, this is a song that’s custom made for big speakers. When that first blast of brass comes here the effect is one of the most startling and powerful I’ve ever heard. One of the reasons I own the equipment I do – in other words, make the trade-offs I do — is to play this album and others like it.
Other stereos — especially other speakers — do many things better than my system; I don’t argue that for a second. But no stereo, especially no other speaker, that I’ve ever heard can play a record like this at serious volume levels like the Legacy Whisper. To reproduce brass you need to move lots of air, and eight fifteen inch woofers playing well into the midrange is a very good way to do it.
Not the only way. Of that I’m sure. Just the only way I’ve ever heard.
Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie (1st Movement)
As I’ve noted before, this record is a milestone in the history of popular music.
Not only is it The Most Successful Fusion of Rock and Jazz Ever.
It’s also One of the Finest Recordings of Popular Music Ever.
The sound is nothing short of amazing. Just the drums alone are enough to win awards: the kick drum has real kick, the snare may actually be the best rock snare ever recorded, the cymbals shimmer like real cymbals; almost everything is right with this record. Especially the music.
Good Demo Disc, Good Test Disc Too
This is the kind of record that doesn’t fall into the “Good Demo Disc, Bad Test Disc” trap. It’s both a good Demo Disc and a good Test Disc; not too many records can make that claim. (Especially the kinds of records audiophiles tend to like.) The good copies of this album sound good on almost any system. But the better systems reveal qualities to this recording that you are very unlikely to have ever heard on another record. That’s the Demo side.
On the Test side, no matter what level your system is at, any change you make will be instantly obvious on this recording, for good or bad. Nothing can fool it. It’s too tough a test, the toughest I know of bar none. For this record to sound right, truly right, every aspect of its reproduction has to be at the highest level. Any shortcoming will be glaringly obvious. The record may still sound good, but it won’t really sound right. (Knowing what “right” means in this context makes all the difference in the world.)
If you want to improve your stereo, this is the record that will show you whether or not you’re making progress.
As you can see from the pictures, we had more than forty copies to work with, the majority of them originals with the right stampers. After doing this shootout and hearing some truly amazing copies, I can honestly say I’ve never heard better sound in my life.