Supertramp – In 2012 We Finally Beat the Audiophile Pressing We Used to Like

More of the Music of Supertramp

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

This listing is from 2012. Since that time we have been able to find and play a great many British pressings of the album, and they tend to win our shootouts.

But the domestic pressings can also do very well, just not well enough to win shootouts these days, a clear case of Live and Learn.

Our Understanding from 2012

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including an A+++ SIDE ONE! It’s not the A&M Half Speed, and it’s not a British pressing either. It’s domestic folks, your standard plain-as-day A&M pressing, and we’re as shocked as you are. Hearing this copy (as well as an amazing Brit; they can be every bit as good, in their own way of course) was a THRILL, a thrill that’s a step up in “thrillingness” over our previous favorite pressing, the A&M Half Speed.

The best of the best domestics and Brits are bigger, livelier, punchier, more clear and just more REAL than the audiophile pressing something we knew had to be the case if ever a properly mastered non-Half Speed could be found. And now it has. Let the rejoicing begin!

This is only the second White Hot Stamper copy of Crisis to come to the site, and it’s not the A&M Half Speed. It’s an AMAZING sounding British copy. The only other copy that we have ever heard sound this good was the domestic copy we put up a few weeks back.

The best of the best domestics and Brits are bigger, livelier, punchier, more clear and just more REAL than the audiophile pressing — something we knew had to be the case if ever a properly mastered non-Half Speed could be found.

Our previous commentary for our domestic pressings noted:

We’d love to get you some great sounding quiet British copies, but we can’t find any. They either sound bad (most of them) or they’re noisy (the rest). It is our belief that the best Hot Stamper pressings of this Half-Speed give you the kind of sound on Crisis? What Crisis? you can’t find any other way, not without investing hundreds of dollars and scores of hours of your time in the effort. Wouldn’t you just rather listen to the record?

Why did we think Jack Hunt‘s mastering approach for the A&M Half Speed was the right one?

Simple. Our man Jack here is the only guy that seems to know how to master this record in America. His cutting sounds just like the amazing British copy we keep as a reference, the only British copy I’ve ever liked by the way: it’s so RICH and TUBEY MAGICAL you can hardly believe it. But this is Ken Scott behind the board, the man who recorded Ziggy Stardust., Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, A Salty Dog, Magical Mystery Tour, America and more. He knows a thing or two about Tubey Magic! The best copies of this album have the richest, ripest keyboard sound you have ever heard.

But the domestic engineers practically erase that sound from the record! They lean out the lower midrange / upper-bass until all that wonderful richness is just a shadow of the sound we know. Then they brighten up the upper midrange and add some top end, the result of which is an earbleed-inducing assault in the most sensitive range of the spectrum, of the most unpleasant kind imaginable. You think CDs are bright and harsh? Play a domestic copy of this record to hear how bright and harsh bad analog can sound.

And the crazy thing is that all of the above is true, except for the last line. If you amend the last line to read original domestic pressing, then it too is true. It’s the original pressings that are bright and harsh, and the worst offenders are the early stampers that start with an M. All the white label promos I’ve ever seen are either M1 or M2, and they are godawful.

Original is better? Don’t get me started. That kind of thinking is best left to the hearing-challenged record collectors of the world and their Technics turntables, not us audiophiles.

So the best copies are the reissues, which, unless you know your A&M stampers well are going to be very hard to spot. And of course most of the reissues are awful as well; you really need to have just the right ones. No surprise there, right?

Which is precisely what we have to offer on this very copy — the right stampers, pressed right and cleaned right. Side one is White Hot and side two is not far behind. No clean copy fared better and we had more than twenty five to start with. (Lucky for us the domestic pressings are fairly cheap and plentiful.)

Side One

A+++ White Hot all the way. 

The overall sound is as big and bold as it gets, with huge amounts of difficult-to-control, or perhaps we should say difficult-to-reproduce, upper midrange musical information. Layer upon layer of multi-tracked guitars, voices, keyboards, percussion instruments and more build up in the loudest and most dynamic passages. The good copies keep it all clean, separate and undistorted, and the bad copies make a hash of it.

And boy does this record get LOUD when it wants to. One pop record out of a hundred has dynamics like those found on the best pressings of CWC. Dark Side of the Moon has them. Blood Sweat and Tears has them. Thick as a Brick too. We love that sound but we sure don’t hear it that often. When we do we sit up and pay attention!

And when it gets this loud, it had better be mastered and pressed right or it will tear your head off. Only the best copies get better as they get louder.

Side Two

A++, with really excellent sound! Most pressings are painfully thin and harsh, but this one has the rich, full, MUSICAL tonality we just don’t hear often enough. 

The Music

I am a huge fan of this album. It was the first Supertramp record I ever bought and I promptly went overboard and played it every day back in 1975 shortly after its release. It’s produced and engineered by Ken Scott, one of the all time greats. He also did Crime Of The Century, if that tells you anything, and I hope it does — that one-two punch is hard to beat. This was the last album he made with Supertramp, which is a shame because nothing they did after this sounded as good, and one could even make a case that the music went downhill as well.

There are really only two Must Own Supertramp albums that are brilliant from first note to last, this one and Crime of the Century. Breakfast in America we can all agree is excellent and a lot of fun, but it’s not nearly as powerful nor as consistent as the two we would rank above it as their best.

Vinyl Issues

Few copies in our shootout played better than Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, and most copies had noisy edges on both sides (especially side one which has a quiet intro). Click on the Sonic Grade tab to read about the specific playing condition of this copy.

Check out this cool poster offer that I found in an original British pressing jacket. It’s the only one I’ve ever seen.

AMG Review

The songwriting is sharp, attentive, and passionate, and the lyrics showcase Supertramp’s ease at invoking emotion into their music, which would be taken to even greater heights in albums to come. Even simple tracks like “Lady” and “Just a Normal Day” blend in nicely with the album’s warm personality and charmingly subtle mood. Although the tracks aren’t overly contagious or hook laden, there’s still a work-in-process type of appeal spread through the cuts, which do grow on you over time.

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