Sonic Grade: F
The remastered Abraxas never got past the first elimination round; it had to have been one of the worst half-speeds I have ever heard. Dead dead dead as a doornail.
Santana’s first album on MoFi is a record we admit to having liked a bit when it first came out. Since then we have changed our minds. It’s just too damn compressed and lifeless. The Whomp Factor on this pressing is Zero. Since whomp is critical to the sound of Santana’s music, it’s Game Over for us. The review below is exactly what we wrote at the time the record came in. We tried to like it, but it’s clear to us now that we tried to like it too hard. Please accept our apologies.
I noted in my old blog: “But now I would have to say that the MoFi LP is far too lifeless to be acceptable to anyone, even those with the worst kinds of audiophile BS systems.”
We also mentioned a while back (4/29/08) on our blog how bad the latest crop of MoFi vinyl was, with the heading: “Mobile Fidelity, Ouch.
On another note, we played some godawful sounding MOFI pressings over the last few weeks: Linda Ronstadt (which appears to be out of phase, more on that down the road); Metallica (with blobby bass at 45 RPM no less; only half-speed mastering can guarantee muddy bass under any and all circumstances!); and Rush (nothing even resembling a top end. How do these things happen?).
These three albums have to be some of the worst sounding vinyl I have ever heard in my life. I won’t waste any more of your time or mine talking about them. Buy them if you feel the need, and if you like what you hear, drop us a line. Maybe the copy we cracked open was a “bad” one, unrepresentative of the general pressing run in the same way that the latest Crisis half-speed was.
Well, maybe so, but we are going to have to leave that conundrum unsolved for the time being. To crack open more copies to see if they are all as bad as the first one we played is not something we are particularly inclined to do. We call that throwing good money after bad around here at Better Records.
This is a label making some seriously bad records these days.
But why single them out? They all are.
We Get Letters
Our good customer Dan wrote to tell us he was positively astounded by our Hot Stamper pressing of Abraxas. We told Dan to listen to this record as loud as his ears could take it. Take it from the man himself: “As you suggested, I played this album as loud as my ears could tolerate and the result was astounding.”
Today I was blown away by yet another Hot Stamper I bought from your store: Santana’s Abraxas. Now, I have always been in awe of the musicianship of the band’s first three albums, but it was not until I heard the grooves in this Hot Stamper that I realized they are geniuses. Santana’s guitar is scorching on this record! Those leads just burst out of the musical soundscape that’s behind him. But it never sounded like that in the hundreds of times I’ve heard it. Sure, his leads always stood out, but they didn’t leap out.
As you suggested, I played this album as loud as my ears could tolerate and the result was astounding. Though my stereo is still short of being able to reproduce a live concert (for now!), it felt pretty damn close to that experience with this record! Mike Shrieve’s drums positively exploded with power after that organ intro on “Hope You’re Feeling Better”. There’s no denying it, playing this music at a polite volume would be a sin, and one I happily did not commit. This record is just poppin’ all over the place with dynamics, and the only way to hear everything is to set the dial to 11.
On a similar topic, I recently purchased the Mofi pressing of Santana’s first album and later stumbled upon your commentary on it. It is indeed good, but no nowhere near alive. My hot stamper of “Abraxas” gives me an excellent reference point for the Santana sound, and I can see just how much is missing now from Mofi’s pressing of their debut.
Anyhow, just wanted to say thank you again a keep up the great work at Better Records!
Dan, I’m glad to see you hadn’t wasted your money on the awful MoFi pressing of Abraxas, which, as I pointed out in my blog, is so bad (compressed to death, whomp factor = zero) we refused to carry it. The first album barely made the cut, and part of the reason we let that questionable sounding pressing onto the site is that the originals are almost always noisy, and the reissues lean and flat sounding, so what’s an audiophile to do? Our Hot Stampers for the first album are killer, but the last time around they ranged in price from $200 to $500, not exactly chump change. Down the road, if you want a first album that kills the MoFi, we would be more than happy to get you one.
Like Abraxas, when you play a Hot Stamper copy good and loud, you find yourself marvelling at the musicanship of the group — because the Hot Stamper pressings, communicating all the energy and clarity the recording has to offer, let you hear what a great band they were. On badly mastered records, such as the MoFi or CBS Half-Speed, the music lacks the power of the real thing. I want to hear Santana ROCK. Only the best pressings let me do that. Dan, you heard one of them; you know what i’m talkin’ about.
Folks, next time we do a shootout for this album (or the first album) you owe it to yourself to hear what a great band Santana were back in the day. If you’ve got the stereo that can play live rock and roll, we’ve got the record that sounds like Santana live. It is truly a thrill.
Dan, thanks again for your letter. Enjoy your album!