- Both sides of this outstanding original 360 pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound and play reasonably quietly, all things considered
- The only versions of the album we sell are the 360 originals, but most of the dozens plus stamper numbers we know cannot hold a candle to this pressing
- The sound is HUGE, rich, dynamic and POWERFUL – BS&T is a permanent member of our Top 100 and a Demo Disc par excellence
- This is surely Roy Halee’s engineering masterpiece, and here’s the kind of pressing that, given the right equipment, room, and setup, can really make our case
- 4 1/2 stars: “Their finest moment and a testimony to the best of the jazz/rock movement … The album is bold, brassy and adventurous.”
NOTE: *A mark makes 6 light stitches on track 5.
Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.
It is our considered opinion that this is the BEST SOUNDING rock record ever made. I may be biased by the fact that I like the music so much; nevertheless, on a big stereo, a Hot Stamper pressing like the one we are offering here is nothing less than ASTOUNDING. It has the power of LIVE MUSIC. You don’t find that on a record too often, practically never in fact. I put this record at the top of The Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time List for good reason — It’s in a class of its own.
This vintage Columbia 360 pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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 Blood, Sweat & Tears 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 1968
- 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 space of the studio
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.
What do we love about these very special Hot Stamper pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The unique sound of every instrument is reproduced with remarkable fidelity. That’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi,” not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity in some circles. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange.
This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this record up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.
What We’re Listening For on Blood, Sweat & Tears
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- 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 for the guitar, horns and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie (1st & 2nd Movements) Track Commentary
The one is always going to be plagued with a certain amount of surface noise. A solo guitar opening on a pop record pressed on Columbia vinyl from the ’60s? Ouch! A brand new copy would have surface noise, so it’s important not to get too worked up over surfaces that’s are always going to be somewhat problematical.
Which is why, after doing the big shootout over the course of two days, we decided we had better rescrub the edges of both sides of the hottest copies and listen to them again to make sure the opening moments weren’t too noisy.
Upon dropping the needle on the Super Hot Copy, we immediately heard something we hadn’t been listening for during the shootout: the amazing flute sound we discuss below under Sometimes in Winter: “…what separates the killer copies from the merely excellent ones is the quality of the flute. When you can hear the air actually blowing through the flute… you no doubt have a superbly transparent copy with all the presence and texture of the best…”
Of course, there’s a lot more to this record than the sound of a flute and the kind of Magical Midrange that brings it out. The best copies also have explosive dynamics and rock solid bass, neither of which will be obvious by playing an arrangement of Satie’s music for solo guitar and flute.
In fact, when we finally got around to playing the MOFI we were initially quite impressed with the first track; it was very transparent and tonally correct, based on the sound of those two acoustic instruments, which is all we had to judge by. Of course the MOFI falls apart as soon as the brass comes in, congested and washed out, followed by the typically sloppy MOFI bass and their patented Overall Lifeless Sound Quality. (I’ve already apologized once for recommending this record back in the day; please, people, let me move on!)
Sometimes in Winter Track Commentary
This shootout taught me a lot about this track. There is a huge amount of bass which is exceptionally difficult to reproduce. The best copies have note-like, controlled (although no less prodigious) bass, which is a very tough test for any system.
Having said that, what separates the killer copies from the merely excellent ones is the quality of the flute. When you can hear the air actually blowing through the flute, and follow the playing throughout the song, you have a superbly transparent copy with all the presence and texture of the best. If the flute sounds right Katz’s voice will too. The sound will be Demonstration Quality of the highest order. Want to shoot out two different copies of this album on side one? Easy. Just play this track and see which one gets the flute right.
By the way, we LOVE the version of this song that Sergio Mendes does on Stillness. Eric Katz is a decent singer; the two girls in Brazil 66 are SUPERB. The fact that they are female, that there are two of them and that they can harmonize as beautifully as any two singers you’ve ever heard, allows their version of the song to have qualities far beyond the boys in Blood Sweat and Tears. But the BS&T guys make up for it by being REAL JAZZ MUSICIANS. Most of this album is real jazz played by top notch players. No other successful pop album to my knowledge can make that claim. In that sense it’s sui generis. But it’s unique in other ways as well, not just that one.)
More and More
And When I Die Track Commentary
One of the best sounding tracks on side one and a fantastic Demo Track. When the song breaks into the latin flavored instrumental part at the end it should positively blow your mind.
God Bless the Child Track Commentary
Another Demo Track. Listen for the Most Obvious Edit of All Time towards the end of this one.
Spinning Wheel Track Commentary
Side two starts off with a bang; note that the piano has real weight right from the git go. When the cowbell comes in it should not sound muffled in any way (it’s a bell, don’t you know), quickly followed by the solid-as-a-rock-snare (the best on record.)
On the killer copies that first blast of brass will be completely free of grain or grunge, yet the brass instruments themselves (trumpets and trombone) have all their leading edge transients, their “bite”, fully intact. They’re not in any way muffled or smeared, yet the sound is never aggressive. If anything, the brass is so free from distortion and so tonally correct it should actually sound smooth.
Some of the vocals on side one can have a bit of honk or edge, but not here. They are smooth, rich and sweet as any you will find.
Play your own copy. Everything you need to know about the sound of your LP can be heard in the first thirty seconds of side two. On the Hot Stampers it’s all there. On most copies, however, the reverse is true: Problems raise their ugly heads right off the bat. Thinness, grain, smearing, bloat, edginess — all the failings that records are heir to will be thrown in your face if your copy is not up to snuff, and not many of them are.
And don’t forget that there is a tremendous amount of bottom end throughout the song. It’s the very foundation of the music, and it needs to be reproduced properly, no ifs, ands or “but I only have a small speaker”. To play this song you need big woofers and lots of them! Small speakers simply make a mockery of this music. If you’ve every heard big band up close, you know that there is not a speaker in the world that can fully do justice to that sound. It’s too big and it’s too powerful.
But some speakers do more justice than others, and in my experience those speakers tend to have large cabinets with plenty of dynamic drivers. If you have a system built around such speakers there is a very good chance that this will be the best sounding record you have ever heard.
You’ve Made Me So Very Happy
Blues, Pt. 2 Track Commentary
Again, this is a song that’s custom made for big speakers. When that first blast of brass comes here the effect is one of the most startling and powerful I’ve ever heard. One of the reasons I own the equipment I do – in other words, make the trade-offs I do — is to play this album and others like it.
Other stereos — especially other speakers — do many things better than my system; I don’t argue that for a second. But no stereo, especially no other speaker, that I’ve ever heard can play a record like this at serious volume levels like the Legacy Whisper. To reproduce brass you need to move lots of air, and eight fifteen inch woofers playing well into the midrange is a very good way to do it.
Not the only way. Of that I’m sure. Just the only way I’ve ever heard.
Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie (1st Movement)
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Their finest moment and a testimony to the best of the jazz/rock movement. Created by the legendary Al Kooper, the band was one of the major attractions throughout 1969. The album is bold, brassy and adventurous. Interpretations of Eric Satie music are followed by Traffic’s “Smiling Phases.”
Hit singles galore were culled from this record–“Spinning Wheel,” “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy,” and “And When I Die,”–not to forget a superb rendition of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless The Child.” Sadly BST and their magnificent early catalogue has fallen from favour. And where is the superb voice of David Clayton-Thomas to be found today?
It was recorded at the then state of the art CBS Studios in New York City. The studio had just taken delivery of one of the first of the model MM-1000 16-track tape recorders, built by Ampex. The new technology allowed for far more flexibility in overdubbing and mixing than the 4- and 8-track tape recorders which were standard in 1968. The album was among the very first 16-track recordings released to the public
The Learning Curve
In our most recent shootout all the best qualities of the best copies stayed the same; this is to be expected. If records you know well over a long period of time suddenly start to sound different, you can be pretty sure that you’ve made an audiophile error in your system somewhere. You need to find it and figure out how to fix it as fast as possible, although as a rule this process can turn out to be very time consuming and difficult.
The first place I would look is to any changes in wiring, whether speaker, interconnect or power cord. It has been my experience that this is where most of the bad sound in audiophile systems comes from. Much commentary to that effect can be found in our Audio Issues section. After that I would look to power conditioning if you have any. Most of the conditioners I’ve heard do more harm than good.
This is the kind of record that doesn’t fall into the “Good Demo Disc, Bad Test Disc” trap. It’s both a good Demo Disc and a good Test Disc; not too many records can make that claim. (Especially the kinds of records audiophiles tend to like.) The good copies of this album sound good on almost any system. But the better systems reveal qualities to this recording that you are very unlikely to have ever heard on another record. That’s the Demo side.
On the Test side, no matter what level your system is at, any change you make will be instantly obvious on this recording, for good or bad. Nothing can fool it. It’s too tough a test, the toughest I know of bar none. For this record to sound right, truly right, every aspect of its reproduction has to be at the highest level. Any shortcoming will be glaringly obvious. The record may still sound good, but it won’t really sound right. (Knowing what “right” means in this context makes all the difference in the world of course.)
If you want to improve your stereo, this is the record that will show you whether or not you’re making progress.