More Arty Rock Albums
- This UK import copy was doing just about everything right, earning superb Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
- Most pressings are painfully thin and harsh, but this one had much more of the richness and smoothness we were looking for, miles away from the painfully bad original domestic pressings we know to avoid
- Credit the man behind the board, Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, A Salty Dog, Magical Mystery Tour, America and more), who knows a thing or two about Tubey Magic
- A Desert Island Disc for TP, from all the way back in 1975 when I first gave it a spin on my Ariston RD 11 turntable
- Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
- “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.”
This vintage UK 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 Crisis? What Crisis? 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 1975
- 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.
In a previous commentary we noted:
We’d love to get you some great sounding quiet British copies, but we can’t find any.
(This copy being one of the rare and notable exceptions, of course….)
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 we 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. 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.)
What We’re Listening For On Crisis? What Crisis?
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
That Big, Bold Supertramp Sound
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.
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.
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.
A Must Own Pop Record
Crisis? What Crisis? is a recording that belongs in any serious Popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Easy Does It
Ain’t Nobody But Me
A Soapbox Opera
Another Man’s Woman
Just A Normal Day
Two Of Us
Nestled between the accomplished Crime of the Century album and 1977’s Even in the Quietest Moments, Crisis? What Crisis? may not have given the band any chart success, but it did help them capture a fan base that had no concern for Supertramp’s commercial sound. With Rick Davies showing off his talent on the keyboards, and Roger Hodgson’s vocals soaring on almost every track, they managed to win back their earlier progressive audience while gaining new fans at the same time. Crisis received extensive air play on FM stations, especially in Britain, and the album made it into the Top 20 there and fell just outside the Top 40 in the U.S. “Ain’t Nobody But Me,” “Easy Does It,” and the beautiful “Sister Moonshine” highlight Supertramp’s buoyant and brisk instrumental and vocal alliance, while John Helliwell’s saxophone gives the album even greater width. 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.