- This early Kirshner pressing was doing just about everything right, with both sides earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- One of the better copies from our most recent shootout – the sound is big, full and lively with real Prog Rock Energy and a huge, punchy bottom end
- Kansas’s most consistent and engaging album, their true masterpiece by our lights – a copy as good as this will show you the awesome ENERGY the band brought to their music
- “Undoubtedly their finest album, Leftoverture warrants Kansas a spot right alongside Boston and Styx as one of the fresh new American bands who combine hard-driving group instrumentation with short, tight melody lines…” – Rolling Stone
On the hottest of our Hot Stampers the recording is a glorious example of the Big Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling barely begins to do it justice. Like so many of the great rock recordings we offer, when you play one of our Hot Stampers, the sound commands your attention.
This vintage Kirshner 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 Leftoverture 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 1976
- 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.
What To Listen For (WTLF)
Most copies, like so many rock records from the era, are veiled and smeary. Often they lack extension at one or both ends of the frequency spectrum, usually up top, which results in harshness and shrillness — not the sound you want on a Kansas record!
Another tough test: the vocals on the first track. They can sound strained right from the get go. In fact it’s the rare copy that doesn’t show some strain on those first four lines. Sometimes the sound is so strained it’s game over after the first thirty seconds. Who can listen to that kind of sound? Hot Stampers are all about finding the copies that don’t have that problem, along with a host of others.
The higher the grade, the fewer the sonic problems.
Watch Yer Guitars
The better copies get rid of a problem that quickly becomes irritating as you play track after track: a certain squawky, pinched sound to the guitars. Bad copies of the album have that sound through and through, along with excessive amounts of grain and grunge. The guitars are very prominent in the mix on practically every song here, so when the guitars sound sour, the track as a whole does too.
The mastering and pressing problems of the average copy make the overall sound unmusical. The way we found that out was simple enough — we cleaned and played lots of copies, and every once in a while we heard one that allowed the music to breathe, open up, sound balanced, make sense and become much more enjoyable.
Those copies showed us a Leftoverture we had never heard and gave us a goal to shoot for with all the other copies we played.
Size = Power
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.
And most of the time those very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different — and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
Carry On Wayward Son
What’s on My Mind
Miracles Out of Nowhere
Questions of My Childhood
Magnum Opus: Father Padilla Meets the Perfect Gnat, etc.
Rolling Stone Rave Review
Undoubtedly their finest album, Leftoverture warrants Kansas a spot right alongside Boston and Styx as one of the fresh new American bands who combine hard-driving group instrumentation (with a dearth of flashy solos) with short, tight melody lines and pleasant singing. Each song on side one of Leftoverture is strong, especially the opener, “Carry On Wayward Son,” which is blessed with a tough melody line and strong vocals by Steve Walsh.