- An outstanding early pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
- One of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums – the instruments and voices seem to be right in your listening room
- The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction – thanks Ken Scott!
- “America’s debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg…”
This is clearly America’s best album, and on some of the better pressings like this one the sound is worthy of Demo Disc status. You’ll find the kind of immediacy, richness and harmonic texture that not many records (and even fewer CDs) are capable of reproducing.
The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction. As it says down below, most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. On many copies they will sound veiled and dull, and on a copy with a bit too much up top, they will have an unfortunate hi-fi-ish sparkle.
A Clear Picture
The best copies are of course wonderfully transparent; they just seem to give you a clearer picture of all the instruments in the soundfield. They’re also better defined and localized in space. The bass on the better copies is more note-like and less blurry. These Hot Stamper qualities are simply the result of higher resolution pressing and mastering, for people who appreciate the higher resolution of analog.
Note that some good sounding Palm Tree label pressings of this album do exist, but as a rule those pressings do not have much of the Tubey Magic and sweetness found on the green labels.
What to Listen For on Side One
The key song on side one that we test with is Three Roses. It’s also my favorite song on side one. There are three separate individuals playing six string acoustics, and when this side is cut right they sound just gorgeous: sweet, and complete with all their harmonic structures intact. The bongos in the right channel are a great test for resolution. Often they are buried in the mix. On the good copies they can be heard clearly, complete with a subtle amount of reverb.
What to Listen For on Side Two
The real test on side two is the song Rainy Day. Lots of guitars, and when the close miked descending guitar figure comes in after the first few couplets, if it’s too bright, you’re going to know it. This song is the hardest one to cut and almost never sounds right.
On the best copies, Rainy Day is Demo Disc material — they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like that anymore. You have to go back to 35-year-old records like this one to find that sound. Of course, many records that are 35 years old are beat to death, and many of them didn’t sound good when they were new anyway. It’s no mean feat to find superb pressings of an album like this, but you can be sure that Better Records is up to the job.
A Horse With No Name
The version we are offering here has the song A Horse With No Name. Some copies without that song can sound very good as well, but with grades these good this copy is going to be very hard to beat.
Interestingly, A Horse With No Name never sounds quite as good as the rest of the album. It was recorded after the album came out in 1971 and added to later pressings starting in 1972. Unlike the rest of the album, it was not engineered by Ken Scott at Trident, but by a different engineer at Morgan Studios.
The engineer of that song took a different approach than Ken Scott did, and we leave it to you to decide how well that approach worked.
Warner Brothers Green Label Originals – What to Listen For
These green label Warner Brothers originals — like most records — are sonically all over the map. The biggest problem these pressings suffer from is a lack of extreme top to provide harmonics for the guitars. On the average copy the guitars are somewhat veiled and dull.
Equally problematic is smear, which we define as the loss of transient information. The best copies have guitars that are being played by fingers, with the plucking of the strings being followed by the notes or chords those strings produce. So many copies just present you with the notes. You don’t really notice what’s missing until you hear a good pressing and suddenly you are aware of the players and their fingers making these sounds. This is one of the main qualities that we listened for in order to separate the winners from the also-rans.
America’s debut was engineered by the amazing Ken Scott, the man behind classics such as Ziggy Stardust., Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, A Salty Dog, Magical Mystery Tour, All Things Must Pass and too many more to list.
A Horse With No Name
I Need You
Never Found the Time
America’s debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg… Chart hits from this album include the spectrally loping “A Horse with No Name,” the squarishly tuneful “I Need You,” and the nervously dour “Sandman.” Other highlights include the buoyantly charming “Three Roses,” the yearningly lovely “Rainy Day,” and the quietly ringing “Clarice”… this platter is very highly recommended.