This listing for our first ever Hot Stamper was written in 2004, the year we officially made Hot Stamper pressings available through our website. It’s a fairly accurate reflection of our understanding of the album at the time. In the ensuing years we would learn a great deal more about Teaser and the Firecat and overturn many of our mistaken beliefs from 2004.
We felt the need to address some issues at the time, notably the price of the record. (More on pricing here.)
Before we start discussing this record, let’s talk about the price for a moment. I have never put a used rock record on this site at this price. I’ve sold other records directly to my best customers for this kind of money, but this is the first $500 rock record of its kind to go on this website. This is the result of three factors.
First, it’s the best sounding copy of this record I have ever heard (on side two anyway).
Second, this is Teaser and the Firecat, one of the most important recordings in the history of popular music.
Third, it’s amazingly quiet. The confluence of these three factors makes this copy practically unique.
For years I have been telling people that one day I would put up on the Web site some Hot Stamper copies of Cat Stevens greatest albums. Today is that day.
Before I get further into the sound of this record, let me preface my remarks by saying this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made two records which belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folky pop, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.
The above comments were written for the last Hot Stamper which went up early in 2005, and of course, my sentiments have not changed. Not only do I think this record can’t be bettered, I have now found copies that are superior to even the best pressing I had heard back then.
Of course, I own a much better stereo than I did in 2005. I’m now using the Dynavector 17D3 cartridge, which is more correct than the 20X I had before. Also, I’ve improved phono stages quite a bit, incorporating the EAR 834P (and a very special vintage tube complement which makes ALL the difference in the world) into the system, balancing tubey magic with the speed and dynamics of the best transistor systems.
I’ve been acquiring and evaluating copies of this album for a couple of years now, waiting for just the right time and the right stereo to shoot them out with. The changes I mention above gave me the confidence to tackle this project.
I can tell you in all honesty that I have NEVER heard better sound than I heard last night while doing these comparisons. It is my contention that there is no audiophile pressing on the face of the Earth that can compete with the best sounding original Teaser and the Firecats. Of ANY music. This is a sound I simply don’t experience when playing modern mastered records. There is a magic in these grooves that seems to be impossible to recapture. Perhaps one day I’ll be proven wrong, but that day is not upon us yet. Until then, this is the king.
Last night I listened to at least fifteen of the best pressings of this album that I had available to me — we’re talking some heavy hitters here, all top quality British and American original pressings — and this pressing took top honors. In my opinion, it’s one of a handful of the best records we have EVER put up on the site. It is without a doubt the best sounding record I have ever played.
As I have remarked previously about pricey records such as this, if nobody cares to spend the money, this album has a happy home here at Better Records. It’s the benchmark against which the best copies would be judged, so in that respect, it has a utilitarian value. And if nobody loves this record as much as I do it’s not a problem. I’m happy to keep it and enjoy it for the rest of my life. This album will always have a happy home here at Better Records.
Let’s talk about this specific copy:
The key track I played on side two is Tuesday’s Dead. There is a group of singers behind Cat Stevens that back him up when he says “whoa.” What separates the best copies from the also-rans is how clearly all those singers can be heard, assuming the tonal balance is correct. This copy is so transparent, I could hear the individual singers more clearly than ever before. After playing fifteen suberb copies, this was the one that allowed me to hear INTO the music in a way that no other copy could. Some were close, but this one simply could not be beat. The ENERGY and LIFE of the music were found on side two of this pressing were unequaled by any other copy. I could go on for days about the sound, but suffice to say, this will be the best sounding pop record you will ever play, or your money back.
Side one is very quiet and has silky, transparent, smooth vocals to rival the best. I did find one copy that was about two to three percent better on side one. I would be shocked if that were not the case because, in my experience, the ultimate sides can never be found on the same record.
Speaking of stereo improvements, a record like this is the reward for for the endless hours of effort and huge expense an audiophile must invest over the course of years — if not decades — to achieve the kind of reproduction a recording like this demands.
This record, on the right system, is a thrill that cannot be experienced any other way.
This is an Original Island Sunray pressing. As good as the best domestic originals are, none of them could compete with the amazing British copies that I played. I can’t explain it, but that’s the way it worked out.