- This outstanding copy of Before And After Science on the Island Black Label boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
- Here you will find that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end, with huge amounts of space in the middle, three qualities among many that make this album an especially magical listening experience
- I know whereof I speak- I must have played this album at least two hundred times in the 43 years that have passed since I first bought a copy
- If you’re a fan of Art Rock or Prog Rock or just like something a little different, this is an album that belongs in your collection
- 5 stars: “Despite the album’s pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream. The music on Before and After Science at times resembles Another Green World (“No One Receiving”) and Here Come the Warm Jets (“King’s Lead Hat”) and ranks alongside both as the most essential Eno material.”
*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 1 loud stitch followed by 1 moderate pop one-quarter inch from the end of Track 3, Kurt’s Rejoinder. On side two, a mark makes 1 moderate, then 1 moderately light, stitch a quarter inch from the end of Track 1, Here He comes.
Side one, the rock side, strongly relies on its deep punchy bass to make its material come to life and rock (or should we say art rock?). Eno’s vocals are clear and present with virtually no strain. Phil Collins’ drumming is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work.
Rhett Davies engineered, brilliantly as always.
This vintage Island pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the best sides of Before and After Science have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1977
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
This album often suffers from a severe case of rolled-off highs, compounding the problems in the midrange: veiled and smeary vocals. Most copies are thick, muddy and congested, lacking the kind of transparency and clarity that makes it possible for the listener to hear into Eno’s dense mixes and make musical sense of them.
Partly this is Eno’s fault. He overloads his recordings. Played The Joshua Tree lately? It has some of the same sonic shortcomings, (exacerbated by Direct Metal Mastering).
Critical Listening Exercise
The test for how good this record can sound when it’s not too dense is the song Energy Fools the Magician. It’s clear and open the way nothing else on side one is. It almost sounds as if there is a room full of musicians (magicians?) playing live.
Take special note of the bell in the left channel; it’s key to the sound of the whole side. If you have a few copies, listen to the bell on each of them (after a good cleaning of course). The presence and harmonics of that bell will never be exactly the same on any two copies. We played many more than that and every time the sound of the bell was clearly different.
What We’re Listening For on Before and After Science
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Rhett Davies in this case — would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
A Real Desert Island Disc
This is one of my all-time favorite records — a real Desert Island disc. Before and After Science and Taking Tiger Mountain are Must Own albums for those of us who grew up on and still appreciate the better Art Rock of the ’70s (Roxy Music, 10cc, Talking Heads, etc.).
Side Two is very ethereal. “Julie With…” is one of my all-time favorite Eno tracks. It’s one of the most sublimely hypnotic songs I have ever heard in my thirty-plus years of serious record listening. It alone is worth the price of the album. If you like this album, be sure to check out the early Roxy Music pressings and 801 Live, which are also masterpieces.
AMG gives this album Five Stars and I couldn’t agree more. If you’re a fan of Art Rock or Prog Rock or just like something a little different, this is an album that belongs in your collection.
And with Hot Stamper sound like this you can actually hear it right, something you can be sure the reviewer for AMG listening to the CD (or worse!) can’t begin to claim.
No One Receiving
Energy Fools the Magician
King’s Lead Hat
Here He Comes
By This River
Through Hollow Lands
Spider and I
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Before and After Science is really a study of “studio composition” whereby recordings are created by deconstruction and elimination: tracks are recorded and assembled in layers, then selectively subtracted one after another, resulting in a composition and sound quite unlike that at the beginning of the process.
Despite the album’s pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream. Eno also experiments with his lyrics, choosing a sound-over-sense approach. Before and After Science opens with two bouncy, upbeat cuts: “No One Receiving,” featuring the offbeat rhythm machine of Percy Jones and Phil Collins (Eno regulars during this period), and “Backwater.” The last five tracks (the entire second side of the album format) display a serenity unlike anything in the pop music field. These compositions take on an occasional pastoral quality, pensive and atmospheric.
The music on Before and After Science at times resembles Another Green World (“No One Receiving”) and Here Come the Warm Jets (“King’s Lead Hat”) and ranks alongside both as the most essential Eno material.