- With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a superb Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy of Supertramp’s Masterpiece will be very hard to beat
- Ken Scott engineered this one to have Cinerama-sized height, width and depth to rival the best rock albums you’ve ever heard
- Clearly their Magnum Opus, a great leap forward and a permanent member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 Album List
- “The tuneful, tightly played songs, pristine clarity of sound, and myriad imaginative sound effects, helped create an album that Sounds magazine likened to ‘Genesis, The Beach Boys…a smattering of [Pink] Floyd.'”
CONDITION NOTES: A mark at the start of track two makes about twenty light to very light intermittent ticks, with a few a bit louder.
This is engineer Ken Scott’s (and the band’s) MASTERPIECE, but the average copy sure can’t get your blood pumping the way this one will. We’ve long recognized that Crime of the Century is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock recordings, a member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 list right from the get go.
When you hear the guitars come jumping out of your speakers on School or Bloody Well Right you can be sure that you’re playing a very special pressing of a very special recording indeed. (Yes, you need both. That’s why we’re here.)
This vintage A&M 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 Crime of the Century 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 1974
- 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.
The Seventies – What a Decade
Piano and guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. The harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every note.
This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Yes, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and far too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.
Big Production Tubey Magical British Prog Rock just doesn’t get much better than Crime of the Century.
To Quote The Rutles, Let’s Be Natural
Case in point: The vocals here sound natural and correct. Even the best MoFi copies are going to sound a bit phony when played against a copy such as this. Of course, it’s a high-definition, high-resolution tape, cut with super low distortion equipment; it has to be to sound this good. Folks, this copy lets you appreciate every last detail of the recording without hitting you over the head with “sonic effects.” It’s musical in a way that no audiophile pressing ever seems to be.
And of course the bass is AWESOME. Loud levels and big woofers will have your house quaking. Add to that the kind of ENERGY that the best pressings have in their grooves and you have an album that is guaranteed to bring the average audiophile system to its knees, begging for mercy. This is The Audio Challenge before you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, steer clear of Crime of the Century. It wants to rock your world, and that’s exactly what Hot Stamper pressings like this one are here to do.
What We’re Listening For on Crime of the Century
- 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 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.
The Most Successful Rock Concept Album of All Time
We consider Crime of the Century one of the most incredible musical and sonic journeys your audio system can take you on. It’s also the Most Successful Concept Album of all time in our opinion. Dark Side of the Moon or The Yes Album are two other Big Rock Productions that rise to this level, and as much as I love those albums I actually think this is the best of the three, if for no other reason than that the tragedy of the story here is more emotionally compelling.
It’s also AN AUDIOPHILE’S DREAM COME TRUE (to quote the motto of a famous audiophile label mentioned above). The creation here of a huge Cinerama-like soundscape is on a scale that few recording engineers would ever attempt, let alone achieve with such success.
We admit to being overly impressed with the MoFi back in the ’80s and the Speakers Corner pressing in the ’00s. Our Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to handily beat either one and any domestic or import pressing you care to put to the test as well.
Those of you who’ve watched the site over the years know this, but it bears mentioning — we rarely had Hot Stamper copies of this album available before 2011. The first White Hot Stamper copy went up back in 2008 and that was it until 2011 (!). Here’s what we wrote in 2008.
We actually attempted an all-day shootout late in 2007 that we had to abandon after every copy we played — without exception mind you — either sounded bad or was too noisy to sell. We must have tried at least ten good looking British pressings only to come up empty handed at the end of the day. The Speakers Corner pressing beats the average original, I can tell you that without fear of contradiction. (Of course all SC copies are going to sound different; perhaps our review copy is one of the Hot ones.)
(The bit about the Speakers Corner pressings sounding different has now been proven beyond any doubt; the copy we cracked open for this shootout didn’t sound nearly as good as the one we played in 2007.)
We played a KILLER MoFi pressing a few years back. (Yes, we admit it. As much as we dislike most of their records, the truth is the truth. Some can actually sound good. You can count them on the fingers of one hand, but they do exist.) This bit of commentary from the Hot Stamper MoFi shootout we had done previously discusses some of its characteristic traits:
How About the Brit Copies?
If one were to pick some nits, one could say that it’s still a tiny bit hot around 6k. The reason I know that is because the early British pressings have a smoother midrange compared to practically anything else out there. You may have noticed that good British copies never make it to the site, and there’s a simple explanation for that. Most early British copies (and later ones too) just do not sound good. On top of that, they are rarely quiet enough to play and enjoy. I can’t tell you how many British COTC pressings I’ve heard in the last 5 years that didn’t sound good or were noisy and groove damaged. But it’s a lot.
We get these MoFis in on a regular basis, and they usually sound as phony and wrong as can be. They’re the perfect example of a hyped-up audiophile record that appeals to people with lifeless stereos, the kind that need amped-up records to get them going.
Listen to the vocals at the end of Dreamer. If they are bright, the bells at the end of the song sound super-extended and harmonically rich. But at what price? The vocals are TOO BRIGHT. Which is more important: good vocals or good bells? There has to be a BALANCE. This is something audiophiles and audiophile labels — even worse, they should know better — often have trouble understanding.
In 2008 I had the opportunity to hear Ken Scott speak the night before at an AES meeting here in Los Angeles. This is the man who recorded some of the All Time Great Rock Albums, the likes of Ziggy Stardust, The White Album, Honky Chateau, All Things Must Pass, Son Of Schmilsson, America’s debut … this is one seriously talented guy! (I won’t bore you by trying to recap his talk, but if it ever comes out on youtube or the like, you should definitely check it out. The Behind-The-Scenes discussion of these artists and their recordings was a thrill for someone like me who has been playing and enjoying the hell out of most of his albums for more than thirty years.)
A Must Own Rock Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Bloody Well Right
Hide in Your Shell
If Everyone Was Listening
Crime of the Century
AMG 4 Star Review
[Editor’s note: Supertramp’s masterpiece is not Breakfast in America, it’s this album, followed by Crisis, What Crisis?, followed by Breakfast. So there.]
Supertramp came into their own on their third album, 1974’s Crime of the Century, as their lineup gelled but, more importantly, so did their sound. The group still betrayed a heavy Pink Floyd influence, particularly in its expansive art rock arrangements graced by saxophones, but Supertramp isn’t nearly as spooky as Floyd — they’re snarky collegiate elitists, an art rock variation on Steely Dan or perhaps a less difficult 10cc, filled with cutting jokes and allusions, best heard on “Bloody Well Right.” This streak would later flourish on Breakfast in America, but it’s present enough to give them their own character… it’s still a huge leap forward for the group and their most consistent album outside of that 1979 masterwork, Breakfast in America.
Michael Heatley, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.
By the time Supertramp convened for their third album, the writing was on the wall. The whole band had quit after 1971’s Indelibly Stamped, leaving the creative hub of Roger Hodgson and Rick Davies needing to regroup and write a masterpiece to save their A&M recording contract. This was especially important after Dutch millionaire benefactor Stanley Miesegaes also abandoned ship, having written off $90,000 worth of loans. Supertramp had been so broke they had even backed Chuck Berry for cash!
Fortunately the fruits of a mammoth writing session in a Somerset farmhouse from November 1973 to Februrary 1974 — Crime of the Century — changed the picture entirely. The tuneful, tightly played songs, pristine clarity of sound (courtesy of Ken Scott, who had worked on Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust), and myriad imaginative sound effects, helped create an album that Sounds magazine likened to “Genesis, The Beach Boys…a smattering of [Pink] Floyd.” The success of intense, keyboard-driven single “Dreamer” helped Crime… pay by sending the album all the way to UK No. 4.
The distinctive cover, designed (but not produced) as a gatefold sleeve, was created by graphic artist Paul Wakefield after exposure to the completed album. Reminiscent of Traffic’s Shootout At The Fantasy Factory, its “prison bars” have become an iconic image.
Supertramp had arrived in the spotlight long enough before punk to allow them to launch a career, even if post-new wave this was to be sustained mostly abroad. Crime… was its foundation, and provided the backbone to their set for many years.