- We’ve only had a handful of copies go up since 2013 – it’s tough to find these vintage UK pressings in clean condition with this kind of sound
- Guaranteed to soundly trounce any Pink Label Island original you may have heard – these are the Hot Stampers and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it
- Melody Maker thoroughly recommended the album in 1968 for being “full of excitement and emotion” and described the band as a blues ensemble “influenced by jazz music” capable of setting “the audience on fire.” Wikipedia
- If you’re a fan of Ian and his band, this UK reissue originally recorded in 1968 belongs in your collection
- The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here
This vintage UK 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 This Was 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 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.
Tull Records Are Tough To Cut
It’s very common for Jethro Tull records to lack bass or highs, and more often than not they lack both. (Think of your typical copies of Aqualung and Stand Up, for example.) The bass-shy ones tend to be more transparent and open sounding — of course, that’s the sound you get when you take out the bass. (90 plus percent of all the audiophile stereos I’ve ever heard were bass shy, no doubt for precisely that reason: less bass equals more detail, more openness and more transparency. Go to any stereo store or audiophile show and notice how bright the sound is. Ugh.)
Just what good is a British Classic Rock Record that lacks bass? It won’t rock, and if it don’t rock, who needs it? You might as well be playing the CD.
The copies that lack extreme highs are often dull and thick, and usually have a smeary, blurry quality to their sound. When you can’t hear into the music, the music itself quickly becomes boring.
If I had to choose, I would take a copy that’s a little dull on top as long as it still had a meaty, powerful, full-bodied sound over something that’s thin and leaned out. There are many audiophiles who can put up with that sound — I might go so far as to say the vast majority can — but I am not one of them. Small box speakers and screens are not for me. Those systems don’t do a very good job with bands like Jethro Tull, and a stereo that can’t play Tull is not one I would be very likely to own.
Of course one of the key elements to any Jethro Tull record is the sonic quality of the flute. You want it to be airy and breathy — like a real flute — and some copies will give you that, but keep in mind there are always trade-offs at work on old rock records like this. It’s a full-bodied, rich sounding recording. Make sure your system is playing it that way before you start to focus on the flute, otherwise you are very likely to be led astray.
We Was Wrong in 2008 About Tull
We listed a White Hot copy of This Was in 2008 on the Island Pink label, and noted at the time:
Be forewarned: this ain’t Stand Up or Aqualung. I don’t think you’ll be using any copy of This Was to demo your stereo because the recording has its share of problems. That said, this record sounds wonderful from start to finish and will make any fan of this music a VERY happy person. We guarantee you’ve never heard this album sound better, or your money back.
Now we know a couple of things that we didn’t back in 2008:
1) This album is a lot better sounding than we gave it credit for years ago. It’s not perfect by any means but it is much better than the above comments might lead you to believe.
We chanced upon an exceptional sounding copy of the album a couple of years back, and that taught us something new about the record:
2) The Pink Label pressings are not the best way to go on this album.
Once we heard the exceptional copy alluded to above, we played it against our best Pink Label copies and it was simply no contest.
The Pink Label original British pressings can be good, but they will never win a shootout up against copies with these stampers (assuming you have more than one copy – any record can have the right stampers and the wrong sound, we hear it all the time).
What We’re Listening For on This Was
- 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.
My Sunday Feeling
Someday the Sun Won’t Shine for You
Move on Alone
Serenade to a Cuckoo
Dharma for One
It’s Breaking Me Up
A Song for Jeffrey
This Was received generally favourable reviews and sold well upon its release.
Melody Maker review thoroughly recommended the album in 1968 for being “full of excitement and emotion” and described the band as a blues ensemble “influenced by jazz music” capable of setting “the audience on fire”.
Allen Evans of New Musical Express wrote in his review that the album “sounds good and has a lot of humour about it” and that the band “play jazz really, in a soft, appealing way, and have a bit of fun on the side with tone patterns and singing”.
Sid Smith of BBC Music wrote that “what made Tull stand out from the great-coated crowd (of touring bands) was the high-visibility of frontman Ian Anderson’s on-stage Tourette’s-inspired hyper-gurning and Mick Abraham’s ferocious fretwork.”
An AllMusic reviewer remarked how Jethro Tull on their vinyl debut appeared “vaguely reminiscent of the Graham Bond Organization only more cohesive, and with greater commercial sense”.