Sonic Grade: D
Ran across this listing from all the way back in 2005. It takes shots at Badly Half-Speed Mastered records like this awful CBS audiophile pressing of Silk Degrees, as well as the audiophiles who complained about plain old domestic pressings at the time. I should know; I was one of them. Ouch.
Old customers know that we have been relentlessly anti-audiophile-LP for years, since the early ’90s in fact, when those awful Acoustic Sounds jazz records first started coming out.
Hey, here’s a question for you. When was the last time that anybody mentioned a word about those Heavy Vinyl Disasters, badly mastered by Doug Sax with no presence and bloated bass? They’ve rather fallen from favor, have they not? I wonder why. Could it be because they were as ridiculously bad as I said they were, and it just took the rest of the world a little longer to recognize that fact? Perhaps most audiophiles are making progress. It’s just taking them a long long time.
Here are the relevant remarks from our Hot Stamper listing:
So what do you hear on this copy? Well, the first thing you hear is a rich, solid piano, one that’s missing from the CBS Half-Speed and 90% of the reissues. The second thing you hear is a smooth, sweet top end, which is likewise missing from the above mentioned pressings. This album, like so many recordings from the ’70s, is surprisingly natural sounding for a pop record. I’ve had the same experience with a lot of Billy Joel records from this period — I was surprised to hear how well recorded they were after I stopped listening to the Half-Speed and the Import pressings and just went back and played good original domestic copies. When you get the right ones, they’re fabulous.
And these were all the records that we audiophiles were complaining about! We lamented the fact that these pressings weren’t audiophile quality, like the best MOFIs and Japanese pressings! Can you imagine?! This is how bad even good equipment was back then. Of course we got what we deserved. We got lots of phony, hyped-up pressings to fool us into thinking we were hearing better sound, when in fact the opposite was true. (I regret to say that nothing has changed — most pressings aimed at audiophiles are still junk.)
Hot Stamper Commentary from 2005!
Hot Stampers finally discovered! This is the SWEEETEST, RICHEST, MOST TONALLY CORRECT COPY I have ever heard.
This album has a long history here at Better Records. I used to complain about the CBS Half-Speeds being too bright.
The typical domestic copies were no better and usually much worse. Then Simply Vinyl did a version that was about as awful as one could imagine — so aggressive it was virtually unplayable.
But I kept buying copies of this record in the hopes that someday I would find one that sounded good. I remember playing this record when it came out in ’76 and thinking that it sounded very good. So how is it that all the copies I’m playing sound so bad, or at the very least, wrong?
Well, the answer to that question is not too complicated. When you get the right pressing, the sound is excellent.
I must have had a good one 20+ years ago, and that’s why I liked the sound. The exact same thing happened to me with both Deja Vu and Ambrosia’s first album. The copy I had picked up at random when I bought the album just happened to have Hot Stampers. (When you consider that Hot Stampers for both of those records are pretty unusual, I would say I was very lucky to get good sounding copies of those two masterpieces while everyone around me was buying crap.)
Whether Silk Degrees is music you want to listen to is the question before the house. As the old saying goes, “there is no disputing matters of taste.” Maybe Boz Scaggs is not your thing. But I can tell you this — you will have a hard time finding a better sounding copy than this one!