Our last shootout for Stand Up was over a year ago, early in 2008. By some good fortune we have been able to find a number of fairly clean early British pressings, with both Pink and Sunray labels, as well as some very good sounding domestics. (Yes, they are out there. Few and far between and probably not the ones you would think to buy but out there nonetheless. Buy enough of them and clean them right and you will find some too.)
We did make one very important discovery this time around. We found a Pink Label copy with a side two that beat all three of the Sunray pressings we had on hand, a copy that made us lower the grade of this very record to Two and a Half Pluses after playing it. Here is our now somewhat mistaken commentary from the last listing we did for a $750 Hot Stamper:
The Sunray copies CAN and DO beat the best British originals when you get a good one, and this is a very good one. In our many (25+) years of experience with Stand Up vinyl we can tell you categorically that there is no earlier import pressing, no later import pressing, and no domestic pressing of any era that can compete with the sound of this LP. It was well over a year ago that we found the last one that sounded like this, and we don’t expect to find another one anytime soon. They’re a fluke. There are many sonic problems with this recording, but most of them disappear when you get a truly Hot Stamper copy like this one.
Perhaps categorically was poorly chosen. One should rarely be categorical about record pressings, since one is in no position to play them all or to have perfect equipment with which to play them.
Let’s not worry about that now. Let’s talk about this copy. The sound is amazingly dynamic and powerful, yet overflowing with tubey magic. We played almost ten different copies of this record this week (February 2009), every domestic Reprise label variation and close to a half dozen Pink and Sunray label British imports. (No more German pressings for us; they never seem to cut it so we are giving up on that country for Jethro Tull. Pink Floyd and The Beatles, yes, German pressings can be amazing. But for Island label records, Gemany was just not getting good tapes, if our experience is any guide.)
This copy was CLEARLY the best of the batch. Side one just JUMPS TO LIFE right out of the gate. Master Tape Sound is the only way to describe it. You will simply be amazed at how good this record can sound. It belongs in our Top 100 with sound like this.
Side two got off to a weak start; the first track was a bit thin and I was afraid the whole side would have that “modern” sound. Of course it’s super clear and clean, with obviously much to recommend it. Our favorite copies have that rich, fat, full-bodied sound that works so well for this music, and we knew we weren’t hearing it. But somewhere during the first track that sound started to appear; by track two the tubey magic and richness were back. And by track three we knew how magical the side really was. Just a hair away from the best on side two (a Pink label that you can read about won top honors), but overall the King of the Hill.