- Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and the first to hit the site in many years
- This UK Original Plum and Orange pressing is by far the best way to hear the album, but finding a clean one was no walk in the park
- “In an era when psychedelic meanderings were the order of the day, Yes delivered a surprisingly focused and exciting record that covered lots of bases…” – All Music
I wish I could say that this was the sonic (or musical) equivalent of Fragile of The Yes Album — or even the second album, Time and a Word — but that’s simply not the case. Still, there’s a lot to like here and it’s fun to hear the band developing their style and growing into the pop-prog behemoth they would become with their third release.
What shootout winning sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above.
Beyond and Before
I See You
Yesterday and Today
Every Little Thing
Yes’ debut album is surprisingly strong, given the inexperience of all those involved at the time. In an era when psychedelic meanderings were the order of the day, Yes delivered a surprisingly focused and exciting record that covered lots of bases… it is with the second number, a cover of the Byrds’ “I See You,” that they show some of their real range. The song is highlighted by an extraordinary jazz workout from lead guitarist Peter Banks and drummer Bill Bruford that runs circles around the original by Roger McGuinn and company.
Learning the Record
For our shootout for Yes we had at our disposal a variety of UK pressings we thought should have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. (The domestic pressings have always sounded dubby to us so we had long ago given up on them,)
We cleaned the records carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for sides two, three and four.
If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the other pressings do not do as well, using a few carefully chosen passages of music, it quickly becomes obvious how well a given copy can reproduce those passages. You’ll hear what’s better and worse — right and wrong would be another way of putting it — about the sound.
This approach is simplicity itself. First you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle — or fail — to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
It may be a lot of work but it sure ain’t rocket science, and we never pretended it was. Just the opposite: from day one we’ve explained step by step precisely how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection.
Do It Again
As your stereo and room improve, as you take advantage of new cleaning technologies, as you find new and interesting pressings to evaluate, you may even be inclined to do the shootout all over again, to find the hidden gem, the killer copy that blows away what you thought was the best.
You can’t find it by looking at it. You have to clean it and play it, and always against other pressings of the same album. There is no other way to go about it if you want to be successful in your hunt for the Ultimate Pressing.
For the more popular records on the site such as the Beatles titles we have easily done more than twenty, maybe even as many as thirty to forty shootouts.
And very likely learned something new from every one.