A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
This is a classic case of Live and Learn. We were wrong about At the Speed of Sound as a recording. As to whether or not there are great sounding pressings of it, having just done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are.
Previously we had written:
I can’t even begin to convey to you what a rough shootout this was. Copy after copy bored us to tears and most of them were too noisy. It was one of those shootouts that almost just defeated us, but we persevered and managed to find a few Hot Stampers. They didn’t do miracles and turn Speed Of Sound into a stunning Demo Disc, but they sounded musical, correct and enjoyable, and that seems to be all you can ask for on this album.
This is not true. We played a copy that we awarded our very special grade of Four Pluses to (on one side, two sides would be too much to ask for) because it showed us an At the Speed of Sound that we had no idea could possibly exist, this after having played them by the dozens for years.
It was DRAMATICALLY bigger and more transparent, with no sacrifice in richness or smoothness.
What you see below is still true in general and specifically about the copy we played. We just had no idea how high to set the bar. Now we know to set the bar much higher than before. We also know what stampers to look for, so future pressings are likely to be very, very good sounding if everything goes the way we hope it will.
This is a RIDICULOUSLY tough album to find good sound for, which is why until very recently you’d never seen a Hot Stamper copy on the site. We went through dozens of pressings — imports, promos, standard domestics, whatever we could get our hands on — and most of them were god awful. Here’s a copy that does nearly everything right and will let you appreciate the music without mediocre sound taking away all the fun.
The best copies like this one had what we would describe as a “cinematic” quality. The Hot copies were just plain bigger, with more depth to the soundfield and stronger dynamics. Those qualities make a track like Let ‘Em In come to life and give you a taste of that ol’ Paul McCartney magic.
Import Vs. Domestic
We’ve played plenty of both and in our experience the domestic pressings are clearly superior.
We have a number of entries in our new Import Versus Domestic series, in which we debunk the conventional wisdom concerning which country’s records are the best sounding for specific artists and titles.
Here are some commentaries on a subject near and dear to all of us, namely Record Collecting.
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.
Let ‘Em In
The Note You Never Wrote
She’s My Baby
Beware My Love
Silly Love Songs
Cook of the House
Time to Hide
Must Do Something About It
San Ferry Anne
Warm and Beautiful
After a series of concerts in Australia in November 1975, Wings took a break from the tour to spend the holidays with their families and in January 1976 booked time at Abbey Road Studios in London to record Wings at the Speed of Sound. It was the first time McCartney had recorded an album in England since Red Rose Speedway. Due to the tour commitments, Wings were not afforded the opportunity to record in another locale. By the end of February, the album was complete, and Wings went back on the road.
The album went to number 2 in the United Kingdom (and was the 4th best-selling album of 1976). It became McCartney’s most successful American chart album, spending seven unconsecutive weeks at number 1 throughout the summer (and blocking the Beatles’ then-new compilation Rock ‘n’ Roll Music, which reached number 2).
Much of the album’s success can be attributed to its two smash singles. “Silly Love Songs”, a response to his critics and one of McCartney’s biggest hits, followed the album in April, and became one of 1976’s biggest-selling singles. This was followed in July with “Let ‘Em In”, which also scaled the singles charts.
Amid all this, Wings finally went to North America for the Wings Over America Tour, playing McCartney’s first shows there in ten years (after The Beatles’ last tour in 1966) to euphoric reaction; a few selections from Speed of Sound were included.
Engineer Peter Henderson later commented, “I remember one of my first engineering jobs, working with Paul McCartney on Wings at the Speed of Sound — he’d do two vocal takes and ask, ‘Which is the better one?’ And when he played guitar, he’d really lean into it and give it everything he got.” – Wikipedia