Steely Dan – “This is the best sounding LP I have ever heard…”

“I Took Tom’s Advice and Played It Real Loud.”

One of our newest Hot Stamper converts, John R., a customer only since February, has already managed to acquire about a dozen of our best Hot Stamper LPs to the tune of many thousands of dollars. As we like to say, the best copies may not be cheap, but here at Better Records you most certainly get what you pay for. Just ask John. If I read him right what he got for his 650 clams was something that exceeded any expectation he might have had for it. Like we say ourselves sometimes: Who knew? How would anyone know this album could so this good? The average copy barely hints at the sound the engineers recorded.

Anyway, that’s our story. Now here’s John’s.

Tom,

This is the best sounding LP I have ever heard including all the ones I have bought from you or ever heard in my life at a show etc. Holy Shit! This is a GREAT LP – sound and music. I must confess, I never heard this LP before – even once. I did recognize the lead song though having heard it on the radio several times. MY GOD! I listened to it twice over both sides. This is fantastic. The music slayed me.

I took Tom’s advice and played it real loud. Once I turned it up hard – well it got even better and better and better. Wow! You can’t have this one back. Every single song on both sides is a winner. I especially got a kick out of the last song on side one – which is an old fashioned instrumental that got me jumping all over the place.

Todd – one of the great things about doing business with you guys is that you know and love your music. This means I get good advice and direction about what LPs are great music and about the performers. This means I can get great stuff that not only I know I love but stuff I don’t know yet that I will love. Wow – there just is no way to be able to buy that. No way at all. Thanks so very much. Please tell Tom that I am really happy with this LP. Katy Lied now has to be on my short list to get soon.

I think I jumped on another good one tonight. I also am not familiar with this LP or this group Return to Forever. But the description had me salivating to listen to it.

Regards,
John

John,

Thanks so much for your enthusiastic letter. We were pretty crazy about that copy of Pretzel Logic (and the music of course) ourselves, as you can see from our commentary below.

We love turning people on to the records we’ve known and loved for years. Countdown to Ecstasy was the first Steely Dan album I ever bought, thought it was pretty good at first, not much more than that really, but I kept playing it and playing it and it wasn’t long before it became one of my favorite albums and Steely Dan one of my favorite bands. I had a Top Five back then and if I remember correctly it was Steely Dan, Roxy Music, Supertramp, Ambrosia and 10cc. (Yes, no Beatles, hadn’t come back around to them yet, I needed the MoFi Beatles Box and what I thought was its superior sound in order to fall in love with their music all over again. Little did I know…)

Then Pretzel Logic was released. I was living in San Diego at the time and I used to go into my local Tower Records across from the Sports Arena as often as I could, just to see what might have come out that week. There they were; they had boxes full of them, laid out on the floor in front of the cash registers. I grabbed a copy, sped home and threw it on the turntable, where as you can imagine it proceeded to blow my mind, as Katy Lied and The Royal Scam and Aja would when they came out each of the following years.

Records Like These

And it’s records like these that make us want to improve our stereo systems. I used to play the song Pretzel Logic to demo my system, but I can assure you that there is no way in the world I was reproducing the information on that record even a tenth as well I can now. 

This is precisely what is supposed to drive this hobby — the plain and simple desire to get the music you love to sound better than it used to so that you can enjoy it more. If you’re an audiophile then by definition you love good sound. Pretzel Logic is a very well recorded album and it can have WONDERFUL sound. Finding a copy of the album that was mastered and pressed properly is not easy. Learning how to really get the LP clean and putting together the kind of stereo that can play such a complicated recording right are also quite hard. All three things combined require the expenditure of tens of thousands of dollars of money and the investment of many thousands of hours of time if the result is to be truly satisfying. Our track commentary for the song has more along the same lines:

The title track here is one of my all time favorites. I’ve often used it in the past to demonstrate my system. The sound is wall to wall and big as life on the best copies. I’m a big speaker guy and this song is custom made to show what a powerful full range big speaker system can do. (Keep in mind that the individual drivers must be large as well, 12″ and up, to allow the voices to sound like they are full-size human beings, not shrunken toy people. I positively hate that sound. 

The multi-tracked vocals in the choruses present one of the biggest challenges for any copy of the LP. The choruses need to get very loud, as loud as anything on the side, with plenty of presence, yet not go over the edge into aggressiveness or harshness the way they do on so many copies. If the midrange is smooth and full-bodied, and the top end is extended and sweet, it makes all the difference; the sound will tend to be balanced and free from hi-fi-ishness.

Any grit or grain will show itself here, big time, especially if you like to play this album as loud as I do, which is LOUD. The power of all those voices singing at the top of their lungs should give you chills.

At moderate levels chills are hard to come by. Most audiophiles play their music much too quietly. Sometimes this is due to obvious system limitations, but often it seems to be merely a preference.

I want to have a powerful emotional experience when playing an album like this. I want to be THRILLED. That just isn’t possible at the kind of comfortable listening levels most audiophiles prefer. This music heard live would be very loud, because rock concerts are very loud. Why wouldn’t we want to reproduce the sound of the live event? (Within reason of course. One must make adjustments for the size of one’s listening room. But you get the point. Turn it up man!)

Shortcuts One and Two

We have been known to remark that there are no shortcuts in audio. You have to put in years, even decades, of often tedious work to get your stereo and room to reproduce music properly. But this is one very obvious shortcut in audio, and another sort-of shortcut, that will allow you to get much better sound than you could on your own without putting in the huge amounts of time that would normally be required.

The first one is a Hot Stamper pressing. We’ve already found the record of your dreams for you. This saves you an awful lot of time — time we think you’ll agree is better spent listening to records rather than digging through dusty record bins in dingy record stores trying to find them.

The other is record cleaning. After years of experimentation we’ve got the science of record cleaning down to a T. It’s partly why our records sound so good; they’ve been cleaned right. We have everything you need — machines, fluids, etc. Alll you have to do is come up with the money to buy the stuff and the discipline to use it.

So two shortcuts out of three, not bad when you stop to think about it. On that note we will close for the day. Thanks to Robert for his letter and all of you out there for taking the time to read this far.
Best,
TP

AMG  Review

Instead of relying on easy hooks, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen assembled their most complex and cynical set of songs to date. Dense with harmonics, countermelodies, and bop phrasing, Pretzel Logic is vibrant with unpredictable musical juxtapositions and snide, but very funny, wordplay. Listen to how the album’s hit single, “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number,” opens with a syncopated piano line that evolves into a graceful pop melody, or how the title track winds from a blues to a jazzy chorus — Becker and Fagen’s craft has become seamless while remaining idiosyncratic and thrillingly accessible… Steely Dan made more accomplished albums than Pretzel Logic, but they never made a better one.

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