Is the Domestic Original Better? Not on this Supertramp Album It Sure Ain’t

This is an older listing that illustrates how We Was Wrong when we thought the best domestic copies were not competitive with the A&M Half-Speed or better British pressings.

We touch on other much-loved themes in this commentary, such as the myth that the original pressing is going to be better than a reissue or later stamper. On this album that is definitely not the case.

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including an A+++ SIDE ONE! It’s not the A&M Half Speed, and it’s not a British pressing either. It’s domestic folks, your standard plain-as-day A&M pressing, and we’re as shocked as you are. Hearing this copy (as well as an amazing Brit; they can be every bit as good, in their own way of course) was a THRILL, a thrill that’s a step up in “thrillingness” over our previous favorite pressing, the Half Speed.

The best of the best domestics and Brits are bigger, livelier, punchier, more clear and just more REAL than the audiophile pressing — something we knew had to be the case if ever a properly mastered non-Half Speed could be found. And now it has. Our previous commentary noted:

We’d love to get you some great sounding quiet British copies, but we can’t find any. They either sound bad (most of them) or they’re noisy (the rest). It is our belief that the best Hot Stamper pressings of this Half-Speed give you the kind of sound on Crisis? What Crisis? you can’t find any other way, not without investing hundreds of dollars and scores of hours of your time in the effort. Wouldn’t you just rather listen to the record?

Why did we think Jack Hunt’s mastering approach for the A&M Half Speed was the right one?

Simple. Our man Jack here is the only guy that seems to know how to master this record in America. His cutting sounds just like the amazing British copy we keep as a reference, the only British copy I’ve ever liked by the way: it’s so RICH and TUBEY MAGICAL you can hardly believe it. But this is Ken Scott behind the board, the man who recorded Ziggy Stardust., Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, A Salty Dog, Magical Mystery Tour, America and more. He knows a thing or two about Tubey Magic! The best copies of this album have the richest, ripest keyboard sound you have ever heard.

But the domestic engineers practically erase that sound from the record! They lean out the lower midrange / upper-bass until all that wonderful richness is just a shadow of the sound we know. Then they brighten up the upper midrange and add some top end, the result of which is an earbleed-inducing assault in the most sensitive range of the spectrum, of the most unpleasant kind imaginable. You think CDs are bright and harsh? Play a domestic copy of this record to hear how bright and harsh bad analog can sound.

And the crazy thing is that all of the above is true, except for the last line. If you amend the last line to read original domestic pressing, then it too is true. It’s the original pressings that are bright and harsh, and the worst offenders are the early stampers that start with an M. All the white label promos I’ve ever seen are either M1 or M2, and they are godawful.

Original is better? Don’t get me started. That kind of thinking is best left to the hearing-challenged record collectors of the world and their Technics turntables, not us audiophiles.

So the best copies are the reissues, which, unless you know your A&M stampers well are going to be very hard to spot. And of course most of the reissues are awful as well; you really need to have just the right ones. No surprise there, right?

Which is precisely what we have to offer on this very copy — the right stampers, pressed right and cleaned right. Side one is White Hot and side two is not far behind. No clean copy fared better and we had more than twenty five to start with. (Lucky for us the domestic pressings are fairly cheap and plentiful.)

The Music

I am a huge fan of this album. It was the first Supertramp record I ever bought and I promptly went overboard and played it every day back in 1975 shortly after its release. It’s produced and engineered by Ken Scott, one of the all time greats. He also did Crime Of The Century, if that tells you anything, and I hope it does — that one-two punch is hard to beat. This was the last album he made with Supertramp, which is a shame because nothing they did after this sounded as good, and one could even make a case that the music went downhill as well.

There are really only two Must Own Supertramp albums that are brilliant from first note to last, this one and Crime of the Century. Breakfast in America we can all agree is excellent and a lot of fun, but it’s not nearly as powerful nor as consistent as the two we would rank above it as their best.

See more entries in our Originals vs. Reissues series