A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES of the TAS List SuperDisc! We just finished a big shootout for this album, and this knockout copy took top honors on both sides with A+++ sound from start to finish. Drop the needle on any track for some of the best sounding synthesizers you’ll ever hear!
Eno fans should get a lot out of this one, as should anyone who digs the crazy sound of analog synthesizers of the ’70s and early ’80s. The Bowie track (Cat People) is great, of course, but you won’t find anything else resembling a pop song here — just a bunch of dark, trippy soundscapes with animal noises and some wild sound effects.
It isn’t easy to find clean copies of this one anymore. Much like Sergio Mendes’ Stillness, there are passages on here that are being sampled and turned into rap songs. Hey, with all these wild synth sounds, plus the funky Lee Sklar handling bass duties, who can blame ’em?!
Side One jumps out with BIG and BOLD sound with big time presence. On this hot stamper you get more texture to the synths than the typical veiled copy. It’s sweet up top and rockin down low. No other copy had as much powerful WHOMP. There is tons of ambience around the snare that gives the crisp attack plenty of room to shine.
The transparency is uncanny on Side Two. It’s open, airy, and spacious up top. All of the ambience and presence we require are here in spades. The tight punchy bass is tight, puncy, and right on the money. The energy of this music wasn’t captured by any of the average copies we played in our shootout — and the extension on both ends of the frequency spectrum is OFF THE CHARTS!
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of original pressings of these kinds of albums.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.
TAS List Thoughts
It’s time to trot out our thoughts on the TAS List once again. Those of you who have been following the site for a long time may know these lines by heart by now, so feel free to sing along!
There’s a reason this record is on the TAS list, but you’d never know it by playing the average Columbia pressing. Most copies of this record would never be considered a Super Disc. You would never even know how magical this recording is by playing a copy that for all intents and purposes appears to be the pressing that Harry Pearson is recommending on his Super Disc list. The catalog number is the same; the sound is not. Unless you have at least a dozen copies of this record, you have very little chance of finding even one exceptional side.
This has always been the problem with the TAS list. The pressing variations on a record like this are HUGE and DRAMATIC. There is a world of difference between this copy and what the typical audiophile owns based on HP’s list. I’ve been complaining for years that the catalog number Harry supplies has very little benefit to the typical audiophile record lover. Without at least the right stampers, the amount of work required to find a copy that deserves a Super Disc ranking is daunting, requiring the kind of time and effort that few audiophiles could ever devote to such a difficult and frustrating project.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.