A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
Forget the dubby domestic pressings. Like so many British bands on the A&M label, when it came time to master the album for the domestic market, the people in charge (whoever they may have been) took the easy way out and simply ordered up a dub of the master tape to cut the album from.
Spooky Tooth, Procol Harum, Fairport Convention, (my beloved) Squeeze and too many others to think about all had their records ruined by sub-generation masters.
But this is the real British-pressed vinyl from the real master tape, and that makes all the difference in the world.
The legendary Geoff Emerick engineered (along with John Mills) at Apple Studio, which explains why the sound is so good on these import pressings. The album went on to receive the European Edison Award for recording excellence, whatever that is).
Tubey Magic Is Key
This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What to Listen For (WTLF)
Here are some of the things we specifically listen for in a Folk Rock record.
Our hottest Hot Stamper copies are simply doing more of these things better than the other copies we played in our shootout.
The best copies have:
- Greater immediacy in the vocals (most copies are veiled and distant to some degree);
- Natural tonal balance (many copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; those with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);
- Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);
- Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);
- Tubey Magic, without which you might as well be playing a CD;
- And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sometimes simple, sometimes complex and sophisticated recording.
Stuck In The Middle With You
I Get By
Outside Looking In
Next To Me
Gets So Lonely
You Put Something Better Inside Me
Ultimately, this very solid outing casts a somber shadow because of unfulfilled expectations. And any record this carefully crafted doesn’t deserve to languish in the bins of obscurity, but such seems to be the fate of Stealers Wheel. At least the band will always be remembered through the cinematic revival of that supreme FM staple “Stuck in the Middle With You.”