The wind is at your back here because this is one seriously well-recorded album. If this copy doesn’t wake up your stereo nothing will.
Like its brother, 801 Live, this album is an amazing sonic blockbuster, with sound that positively leaps out of the speakers. Why shouldn’t it? It was engineered by the superbly talented Rhett Davies at Island, the genius behind Taking Tiger Mountain, the aforementioned 801 Live, Avalon, Dire Straits’ first album and many many more.
If we could regularly find copies of this Audiophile Blockbuster (and frankly if more people appreciated the album) it would definitely go on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List. In fact, it would easily make the Top Twenty from that list, it’s that good.
Looking for Tubey Magic? Rhett Davies is your man. Just think about the sound of the first Dire Straits album or Avalon. The best pressings of those albums — those with truly Hot Stampers — are swimming in it.
Big Speakers Wanted
This isn’t known as an audiophile album but it should be — the sound is GLORIOUS — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and as rich and dynamic as it gets. It’s also a big speaker album. Play this one as loud as you can. (801 Live is exactly the same way and needs high volumes to come to life.)
A Personal Favorite
This album basically became the set list for 801 Live, the concert collaboration between Eno, Manzanera and their fellow travelers. That album is one of my all time favorites too, and a Must Own for anyone who likes British Art Rock from the ’70s.
What both of these albums share is amazing guitar work. Manzanera was the guitarist for Roxy Music, and this album can be enjoyed simply as an exercise in hearing every possible kind of sound the guitar can make. It also helps to have Eno doing electronic treatments for the instrument and coming up with a whole new sound.
One listen to a song like Diamond Head is all it should take to make you a fan. If that song doesn’t do it for you, the rest of the album won’t either, but I can’t imagine how that could be.
Check ‘Em All Off
Looking at the Hot Stamper checklist below, it occurs to me that the best copies of this album excel in every area we mention. It’s energetic, dynamic, the sound just jumps out of the speakers, there’s tons of bass, it’s smooth — in short, it’s doing it all.
Domestic pressings suck. German pressings too. Don’t waste your money. We’ve never heard a good one. (And most of the British pressings you can find won’t hold a candle to this one.)
It’s clear to us that our stereo system loves this record. Let’s talk about why we think that might be.
Our system is fast, accurate and uncolored. We like to think of our speakers as the audiophile equivalent of studio monitors, showing us to the best of their ability exactly what is on the record, no more and no less.
When we play a modern record, it should sound modern. When we play a vintage Tubey Magical Living Stereo pressing such as this, we want to hear all the Tubey Magic, but we don’t want to hear more Tubey Magic than what is actually on the record. We don’t want to do what some audiophiles like to do, which is to make all their records sound the way they like all their records to sound.
They do that by having their system add in all their favorite colorations. We call that “My-Fi”, not “Hi-Fi”, and we’re having none of it.
If our system were more colored, or slower, or tubier, this record would not sound as good as it does. It’s already got plenty of richness, warmth, sweetness and Tubey Magic.
To take an obvious example, playing the average dry and grainy Joe Walsh record on our system is a fairly unpleasant experience. Some added warmth and richness, with maybe some upper-midrange suckout thrown in for good measure, would make it much more enjoyable. But then how would we know which Joe Walsh pressings aren’t too dry and grainy for our customers to enjoy? We discussed some of these specific issues in another commentary:
We’ve put literally thousands of hours into our system and room in order to extract the maximum amount of information, musical and otherwise, from the records we play, or as close to the maximum as we can manage. Ours is as big and open as any system in an 18 by 20 by 8 room I’ve ever heard.
It’s also as free from colorations of any kind as we can possibly make it. We want to hear the record in its naked form; not the way we want it to sound, but the way it actually does sound. That way, when you get it home and play it yourself, it should sound very much like we described it.
If too much of the sound we hear is what our stereo is doing, not what the record is doing, how can we know what it will sound like on your system? We try to be as truthful and as critical as we can when describing the records we sell. Too much coloration in the system makes those tasks much more difficult, if not a practical impossibility.
We are convinced that the more time and energy you’ve put into your stereo over the years, decades even, the more likely it is that you will hear this wonderful record sound the way we heard it. And that will make it one helluva Demo Disc in your home too.