Sonic Grade: F
At the time of our last shootout in 2014 I still had the MoFi pressing of Powerful People in my personal, very small (at this point) record collection. Almost all the best sounding records from my collection had long ago been sold off, going to good homes that I can only assume would play them more than I had in the last ten years. If it’s a record you see on our site, chances are good I have listened to it until I’d practically turned blue in the face.
But I had kept my Powerful People half-speed these 30+ years because the domestic pressings I’d played were just too damn midrangy to enjoy. At least the MoFi had bass, top end and didn’t sound squawky or hard on the vocals.
Well, let me tell you, played against the best domestic pressings, of which this is one, the MoFi is laughable. (In that respect it shares much with the current crop of audiophile reissues.) It’s unbelievably compressed, a problem that is easily heard on the biggest, most exciting parts of the tracks — they never get remotely as big or as loud on the MoFi as they do on the lowly A&M originals.
It’s also sucked out in the midrange, like most MoFis, and, like most MoFis and half-speeds in general, the bass is not punchy, nor does it go very deep. There is also the issue of the MoFi 10k boost on the top end — it’s clearly audible and as bothersome as ever.
In summation, like most of the better audiophile records — from long ago as well as those being produced today — the most you can hope for from these reissues is that they can fix a few problems you might be saddled with on the particular pressing you own. But if you work at it, the “right” plain old record, properly cleaned and played, will show you sound that the audiophile edition can barely begin to reproduce. Having auditioned by the thousands the kinds of records you see on the site, the reality of this truth is irrefutable to us now, and has been for a very long time. Our customers know exactly what we are talking about; they’ve heard it for themselves.
The rest of the world seems content with the junk vinyl being produced today, which strikes us as sad, very, very sad. But, hey, as long as we don’t have to listen to that shite, why should we care? Good pressings are out there. You can ignore them, or you can seek them out. After all, it’s a free country.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
Rich keys — there are organs and electric pianos and other keyboards creating the soundscapes for every song. The Tubey Magical richness of that sound is key to practically every track.
Lots of percussion too. Graham Lear is a fabulous drummer who would go on to work with Santana on his amazing Inner Secrets. There are congas and bongos and bells all over these songs, and for us audiophiles what could be better?
The entries linked here may help you gain a better understanding of the issues surrounding Hot Stampers.
And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.
Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.
People Gotta Move
Son of a New York Gun
The Work Verse
Poor Happy Jimmy
Storm at Sunup
The story below revolves around Storm at Sunup, the first Vannelli album I fell in love with. That said, in my opinion it applies equally well to Powerful People. Now, so many years and gray hairs later, I actually prefer Powerful People to Storm at Sunup. It’s much jazzier and the material is stronger, tighter and more heartfelt.
Storm at Sunup is my all time favorite Gino Vannelli album. I used to play it all the time back in the ’70s. It was one of a handful of recordings that made me want to pursue audiophile equipment in the hopes that better equipment would be able to reproduce its sound even bigger and better.
Right around that very same time, I got my first audiophile tube preamp, the Audio Research SP3A-1, which replaced a Crown IC-150. Playing this album through that tube preamp was a revelation, as you can no doubt imagine (especially if you know the IC-150). After that there was no looking back. I started spending all my money on better and better equipment and more and more records, and I haven’t stopped yet.
This is also the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring the dynamics of this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments you hear to match their real life counterparts. For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for about forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so.)
The Big Sound is the only sound that I can stand, to tell you the truth. Anything less is just not for me.