By the time the guitars at the end of the title track fade out you will be ready to take your heavy vinyl Classic Record pressing and ceremoniously drop it in a trashcan. (Actually, the best use for it is to demonstrate to your skeptical audiophile friends that no heavy vinyl pressing can begin to compete with a Hot Stamper from Better Records. Not in a million years.)
We Was Wrong on All Counts
Over the course of the last 25 years we was wrong three ways from Sunday about our down-and-out friend Aqualung here.
We originally liked the MoFi from the early ’80s. Wrong. Proof positive that In the early ’80s I didn’t have good reproduction or know much about records, but I sure thought I did!
When the DCC 180g came along in 1997 we liked that one better. Wrong again. It didn’t have MoFi’s usual midrange suckout and sloppy bass, but it was bad in so many other ways that it is hard for me to believe I ever liked it. But I did, to some degree anyway.
And a few years back I was briefly enamored with some original British imports. Wrong for the third time.
After playing more than two dozen pressings of Aqualung in our recent [circa 2010] shootout, it’s pretty clear that the right early Reprise pressings KILL any and all contenders. Forget all the Green Label Chrysalis pressings. Forget the reissues. Forget the imports. It’s original domestic Reprise or nothing when it comes to Aqualung.
More Classic bashing? Of course! We take them to task at every turn when the opportunity presents itself — but not out of spite or vindictiveness (moi?!). We do it for the purest of reasons: as a service to you, dear customer. Where else can you turn for the straight scoop?
And unlike the reviewers, the forum posters and the audiophile man in the street, we offer more than just opinion. We offer the record that proves our case. If your pockets are deep enough, we will happily show you the difference between The Real Thing and The New Wannabe.
The Classic — 200 Grams Aren’t Enough to Hold the Whomp?
Is the New Classic really all that bad? Not at all; it’s actually pretty good for a Heavy Vinyl reissue, considering how dreadful most of them are. It’s tonally correct from top to bottom, with almost none of the boosted upper midrange vocal presence we have come to expect from Classic Records — the bad EQ that ruins so many great Zep albums for example.
But it suffers from problems endemic to these modern remasterings, released on practically any label you care to name:
The lack of resolution is of course the most obvious. So many fine instrumental details simply go missing on most of these new pressings. The subtle harmonics of the gently strummed acoustic guitar at the opening of My God. The air in Anderson’s flute throughout the album. The snap to Bunker’s snare.
And how about all the fuzz on Martin Barre‘s fuzzed out guitar on the song Aqualung? Sure, there’s guitar fuzz on the Classic, but there’s SO MUCH MORE on the real thing. When you hear it right, the sound of that guitar makes you really sit up and take notice of how amazing Barre’s solos are. The guy is criminally underrated as both an innovator and technically accomplished guitarist.
The distortion is perfection and so is the playing. This is what a Hot Stamper is all about: more life, more energy, more character to the music, all brought about by better sound.
That Aqualung Feeling
The Classic is not a bad record. But it can’t ROCK. It lacks whomp. It’s clean and clear; it’s made from the real tape, of that I have no doubt.
Without real weight from about a hundred cycles down, the kind found only on the real thing (domestic, by the way; no import had it, a somewhat shocking finding), no matter how loud you play the new one, you can’t get that Aqualung feeling, the one you had when you first heard this music blasting out of your car radio or from your old JBLs.
The music simply has no POWER on the new Classic.
I have to admit I liked it at first. I didn’t hear anything wrong with it. It was only when I started pulling out the good originals that it became clear what was missing. Most audiophiles will find the Classic acceptable for this very reason: they have nothing better to compare it to.
The MOFI is a disaster, with the murky, bloated DCC even worse. The original Brits we played were pretty hopeless too: tubey magical but midrangy, bass-shy and compressed.
A tough nut to crack?
Nope, just another day’s work at Better Records once we had put in the 30 years it took to research the available pressing options.