The true test for side two was the second track, the old blues song Early In The Morning.
It’s by far the best sounding track on the album, with huge space, rich bass, a fat snare and Tubey Magic to die for. This is the kind of sound that only the likes of Glyn Johns can get down on tape, live in the studio no doubt, and it made it easy to do the shootout for side two. The bigger, the richer, the tubier, the more transparent the better. It’s THE track to demo with.
Both sides have rich, smooth, clear sound. Listen for the guitars on the first track on side one; the grungier the better. Punchy bass too.
Here are some other albums with specific advice on What You Should Be Listening For.
Turn It Up and Let It Rock
The typical pressing of Backless, much like the typical pressing of Slowhand, is just too thick, dull, compressed and veiled to be much fun. At the very least you need to turn this album up good and loud to get it to do anything.
The copies that are solid and weighty love getting loud; the copies that are thin and bright only get worse as the level goes up, a sign that they leave a lot to be desired. This is a rock album after all.
We had top quality copies on both domestic and British vinyl. Both were cut here in L.A.. It makes sense that either can be good.
Learning About Backless
For our shootout we had at our disposal a variety of pressings we thought should have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for sides two, three and four.
If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the other pressings do not do as well, using a few carefully chosen passages of music, it quickly becomes obvious how well a given copy can reproduce those passages. You’ll hear what’s better and worse — right and wrong would be another way of putting it — about the sound.
This approach is simplicity itself. First you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle — or fail — to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
It may be a lot of work but it sure ain’t rocket science, and we never pretended it was. Just the opposite: from day one we’ve explained step by step precisely how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection.
Do It Again
As your stereo and room improve, as you take advantage of new cleaning technologies, as you find new and interesting pressings to evaluate, you may even be inclined to do the shootout all over again, to find the hidden gem, the killer copy that blows away what you thought was the best.
You can’t find it by looking at it. You have to clean it and play it, and always against other pressings of the same album. There is no other way to go about it if you want to be successful in your hunt for the Ultimate Pressing.
For the more popular records on the site such as the Beatles titles we have easily done more than twenty, maybe even as many as thirty to forty shootouts.
And very likely learned something new from every one.
Walk Out In The Rain
Watch Out For Lucy
I’ll Make Love To You Anytime
Tell Me That You Love Me
If I Don’t Be There By Morning
Early In The Morning
Rolling Stone Review
Eric Clapton must want to be the Mississippi John Hurt of his generation: a sweet-tempered old soul who can communicate great pleasure and great pain in a mumble. The surprise is that he gets away with it so easily.
In its way, Backless is a seductive record, if you’re attracted to the interplay of Clapton’s dolorous voice and Marcy Levy’s raspy backup vocals, George Terry’s slide guitar and Glyn Johns’ pristine production. It’s disheartening only if you’re still looking for a Clapton album with a hint of the power and fire he brought to his best work — from Bluesbreakers to Layla. Me, I made my peace with great expectations a while back.