Emerson Lake & Palmer – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

[Much of this commentary is somewhat outdated. We prefer the best UK Island pressings overall, although the bass on the top domestic copies is still hard to beat.]

TWO SUPERB SIDES! We just finished a MAJOR shootout for this great album, and this Top Copy is going to make an AMAZING Demo Disc for the Lucky Man who takes it home! If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the bass power this album demands, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually WILL rock your world. 

The sound is as BIG, as BOLD, and as DYNAMIC as recorded rock music gets. The presence and immediacy are off the charts! The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is strong and solid. You’re going to have a hard time finding another copy so open, spacious, and transparent. Side one rates A++, beating all but the very best Pink Label Brit copies, and side two is As Good As It Gets (beating all comers for whomp factor).

The Power Of Analog

Folks, this is ANALOG at its tubey magical finest. You ain’t never gonna play a CD that sounds like this as long as you live. I don’t mean to rain on your parade but let’s face it, digital media are pretty much incapable of reproducing this kind of sound. There are nice sounding CDs in the world but there aren’t any that sound like this, not in my experience anyway. If you are thinking that someday a better digital system is going to come along and save you the trouble and expense of having to find and acquire these expensive original pressings, think again. Ain’t gonna happen. This is the kind of record that shows you what’s wrong with your BEST sounding CDs. (Let’s not even talk about the average ones in our collections; the less said the better.)

The Brit copies may take top honors for side one (“sweetness, openness, tubey magic, correct tonality, presence without aggressiveness, well-defined note-like bass, extended airy highs”) but the Hot Stamper Cotillion copies KILL on side two. They really ROCK, with greater dynamic contrasts and seriously prodigious bass, some of the best ever committed to vinyl.

The Brits tend to be a bit too “pretty” sounding. They’re too polite for this bombastic music. This music needs the whomp down below and lots of jump factor to work its magic. The Brits are super-low distortion, with a more open, sweeter sound, especially up top, but the power of the music is just not as powerful as it can be on these very special Cotillions.

This Cotillion on side one is a rare gem indeed, one of the best domestics we’ve ever heard. It’s not quite as smooth and sweet as some, but it’s every bit as good in most other areas, and better in the bass. The Cotillion pressings of this album have bass that puts 99% of all the rock records in the world to shame. (And 100% of the half-speed mastered records!)

This is a case where, to get the ultimate sound, you not only need two copies, you need two copies made in different countries! 

Not Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

The organ that opens side two is always going to break up a tiny bit. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. In fact, if it DOESN’T break up for you, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that either your copy or your stereo is too smooth. We played somewhere between two and three dozen copies this week, and you just can’t find a hot copy without at least a hint of distortion on the organ.

Near The Top Of The List!

Without a doubt this record belongs in the Top Rock section. I’d even say it belongs in the Top Ten. It is one of the most dynamic and powerful rock recordings ever made. The organ on this album is wall to wall and floor to ceiling. The quiet interlude during Take A Pebble is about as quiet as any popular recording can ever be — the guitar is right at the noise floor. It’s amazing! (Which explains why so many domestic copies have groove damage. The record is just too hard to play for the average turntable. Hell, it’s hard to play with an audiophile turntable.)