Thelma Houston – I’ve Got The Music In Me

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  • This Sheffield direct-to-disc pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Loads of presence, with richness and fullness that showed us just how good the Direct to Disc medium at its best can be. It had everything going for it from top to bottom, with big bass, dynamics, clarity, top end extension (so silky up there!) and ENERGY
  • Make no mistake, this here is a real Demo Disc. The sound is Wall to Wall!
  • Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings this album actually contains real music worth listening to

In our recent Shootout this wonderful pressing sounded far better than most other copies we played. It fulfills the promise of the direct to disc recording approach in a way that few direct to disc pressings do. To be honest, most copies of this title were quite good. Few didn’t do most things at least well enough to earn a Hot Stamper grade. This has not been the case with many of the Sheffield pressings we’ve done shootouts for in the past. Often the weaker copies have little going for them. They don’t even sound like Direct Discs!

Some copies lack energy, some lack presence, most suffer from some amount of smear on the transients. But wait a minute. This is a direct disc. How can it be compressed, or lack transients? Aren’t those tape recorder problems that are supposed to be eliminated by the direct to disc process?

“Supposed to be eliminated” is a long way from “were eliminated.” Even though the mastering is fixed at the live event, there are many other variables which affect the sound. The album is pressed in three different countries: the United States, Japan and Germany. Many mothers were pulled from the plated acetates (the “fathers”) and many, many stampers made from those mothers.

Bottom line? You got to play ’em, just like any other record. If no two records sound the same, it follows that no two audiophile records sound the same, a fact that became abundantly clear very early on in the listening. Of course not many audiophiles are in a position to shootout eight or ten copies of I’ve Got The Music In Me, and I’m not sure most audiophiles would even want to. Here at Better Records we have a whole system set up to do exactly that, so we waited until we had a pile of them gathered together, cleaned them all up, and off to the races we went.

What the best sides of I’ve Got the Music in Me have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
  • 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 1975
  • 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

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.

Good Music

Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings this album actually contains real music worth listening to — but only when the pressing lets the energy of the musicians through, with some sort of fidelity to the sounds of their instruments. Brass without bite is boring. Drummers who drum too delicately will bore you to tears.

Talk about DYNAMIC VOCALS. To Know You Is to Love You has the potential to come right at you in a truly shocking way. She can get LOUD. It sounds like there is virtually no compression on Thelma’s vocals at all. There has to be a limiter of some kind, but when she starts really belting it out you will not believe how powerfully she can sing. Might just give you goosebumps.

This could easily be the most dynamic vocal recording you have ever heard. It’s right up there at the top for us too.

Two Killer Sides

Loads of presence, with richness and fullness that showed us just how good the Direct to Disc medium at its best can be. It had everything going for it from top to bottom, with big bass, dynamics, clarity, top end extension (so silky up there!) and ENERGY. Make no mistake, this here is a real Demo Disc. The sound is Wall to Wall.

What We’re Listening For on I’ve Got the Music in Me

  • 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 guitars, 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.

Believable Brass

One thing Sheffield got right is tonally-correct, realistic, believable brass in a natural acoustic space. This is precisely where For Duke fails so miserably, although no one ever seems to notice or bothers to write about it. To me that dead acoustic is like fingernails on a blackboard, completely inappropriate to the sound. In real life you would never hear a jazz band like that play in a dead room like that, so why on earth would you want to record one that way? It’s just plain dumb, no matter how good your mics are or how clean your signal path might be.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

I’ve Got the Music in Me
Reggae Tune
To Know You Is to Love You
Pressure Cooker

Side Two

Don’t Misunderstand
Step in Time
Dish Rag
Got to Get You into My Life / I’ve Got the Music in Me

AMG  Review

Thelma Houston teamed with the band Pressure Cooker in the early ’80s, doing a fusion/instrumental pop/R&B/soul work for Sheffield Labs. That affiliation ensured that it would be brilliantly engineered, and it sounded spectacular, especially for an early ’80s release