During the shootout for this record a while back [the late 2000s would be my guess], we made a very important discovery, a seemingly obvious one but one that nevertheless had eluded us for the past twenty plus years (so how obvious could it have been?). It became clear, for the first time, what accounts for the wide disparity in ENERGY and DRIVE from one copy to the next. We can sum it up for you in one five letter word, and that word is conga.
The congas are what drive the high-energy songs, songs like Tuesday’s Dead and Changes IV.
Here is how we stumbled upon their critically important contribution.
We were listening to one of the better copies during a recent shootout. The first track on side one, The Wind, was especially gorgeous; Cat and his acoustic guitar were right there in the room with us. The transparency, tonal neutrality, presence and all the rest were just superb. Then came time to move to the other test track on side one, which is Changes IV, one of the higher energy songs we like to play.
But the energy we expected to hear was nowhere to be found. The powerful rhythmic drive of the best copies of the album just wasn’t happening. The more we listened the more it became clear that the congas were not doing what they normally do. The midbass to lower midrange area of the LP lacked energy, weight and power, and this prevented the song from coming to LIFE the way the truly Hot Stampers can and do.
For twenty years Tuesday’s Dead has been one of my favorite tracks for demonstrating what The Big Speaker Sound is all about. Now I think I better understand why. Big speakers are the only way to reproduce the physical size and tremendous energy of the congas (and other drums of course) that play such a big part in driving the rhythmic energy of the song.
In my experience no six inch woofer — or seven, or eight, or ten even — gets the sound of the conga right, from bottom to top, drum to skin. No screen can do it either. It’s simply a sound that large dynamic drivers reproduce well and other speaker designs do not reproduce so well.
Since this is one of my favorite records of all time, a true Desert Island Disc, I would never want to be without a pair of big speakers to play it, because those are the kinds of speakers that play it well.
Not Even the Same Recording
One of our good customers sent us these comments about the Hot Stamper copy we sold him a while back:
Wow! You definitely are right when you claim this to be one of the best pop recordings extant. When the drums in Changes IV come in I was amazed at how much they sound like a live drum kit. Cat’s voice is eerily present, guitars have both pluck and body, bass drums have that sock-in-the-gut impact, and the soundstage is huge and transparent.
Like a lot of other hot stampers, it almost seems as if it is another recording altogether, so much more alive and dynamic. At the end of Morning Has Broken you can hear the pianist step off the piano foot pedal–never heard this before outside of the piano in our living room.
Demo Quality Cat Stevens Magic
So if you’re looking for an amazing demo quality recording, you’ve come to the right place. If you want a timeless Classic Rock recording, it’s here too. They just don’t make them like this anymore and those of you who are waiting for audiophile vinyl reissues of records like this, with the kind of magic found on these originals, will be in your graves long before it ever comes to pass.