Genre – Rock – Prog Rock

King Crimson – In The Wake Of Poseidon – Heavy on the Mellotron

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  • King Crimson’s second studio album debuts on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This pressing is Big and Tubey, with clear, breathy vocals, especially critical to the success of the a capella opening track, “Peace – A Beginning”
  • This lovely original Island Pink Label British Import LP has a beautiful textured cover and plays as quiet as we can find them, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The record…, however, has made an impressive show of transmuting material that worked on stage (“Mars” aka “The Devil’s Triangle”) into viable studio creations, and “Cadence and Cascade” may be the prettiest song the group ever cut.”

If you love the sound of a vintage All Tube recording of the mellotron — whether by Led Zeppelin or The Moody Blues — you will find that Robin Thompson has got hold of a very good sounding one here. Thompson is of course the engineer for the first King Crimson album, so his recording skills as regards the instrument are well established.

Note that the British Island pressings for this album as well as the first are by far the best sounding, assuming you have a good one. What is interesting about early Island LPs is just how bad some of them are. And let me tell you, we’ve paid the price in time and money to find out just how bad some Island Pink Labels can sound. (more…)

King Crimson – Lizard – Heavy on the Mellotron

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  • An excellent sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Every bit the sonic equal of the first album, if you colorful Big Production Jazzy Prog Rock (with mellotron!) is your thing you can’t go wrong here
  • This early UK pressing plays as quietly as any we have ever heard – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Lizard is very consciously jazz-oriented — the influence of Miles Davis (particularly Sketches of Spain) being especially prominent — and very progressive, even compared with the two preceding albums.”

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The Young Persons’ Guide To King Crimson – Surprisingly Good Sound

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

No doubt one can find original British copies of the albums from which these songs are taken that sound better, but they tend to be quite expensive and extremely hard to find in clean condition. This gets you most of the more important King Crimson material in one handy 2 LP album. 

The Polydor reissues we’ve played were passable at best, and the Editions EG recut is a complete disaster. I’m sure the cassette produced back in the day had better fidelity. (more…)

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King – A Good Pressing from Mobile Fidelity

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

The MoFi pressing shown here is surely one of their best. Unfortunately we have little tolerance for the dynamic compression, overall lifelessness and wonky bass heard on practically every record they ever remastered. One of the reasons your MoFi might not sound wrong to you is that it isn’t really “wrong.” It’s doing most things right, and it will probably beat most of what you can find to throw at it. But it’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing, even one as good as MoFi’s.

But it’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing of In The Court Of The Crimson King, even one as good as MoFi’s.

Side by side the comparison will surely be striking. How much energy, size and power and passion is missing from the record you own? There’s only one way to find out, and it’s by playing a better copy of the album. 

Size and Space

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 of the soundfield.

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.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation. (more…)

Roundabout Vs. South Side of the Sky

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Fragile.

This shootout taught us that track one is not as well recorded as the rest of side one. On copy after copy, and there were well over a dozen, it was the other big track on side one, South Side of the Sky, that had consistently better sound. You really hear it in the choruses, where the voices are so full-bodied, powerful, rich and energetic on that fourth track, and less of all of these qualities on the first.

You really hear it in the choruses, where the voices are so full-bodied, powerful, rich and energetic on that fourth track, and less of all of these qualities on the first. We play both songs, but we play them in reverse order, knowing that the mind-boggling sound is really going to be on South Side, not so much Roundabout.

This record should give any record you own a run for its money. It’s as BIG and as BOLD a statement about raising the bar for rock recordings as any I know. Without a doubt one of the Best Rock Recordings of all time.

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McDonald and Giles – A Sleeper Prog Album from 1970

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this very well recorded proggy album, with each side rating a solid Double (A++) Plus 
  • These early UK pressed sides are are full of the kinid of Tubey Magic that makes us (and other right-thinking audiophiles) swoon – thanks Brian Humphries!
  • If you like early King Crimson – they were in the band don’t you know – you will surely get a big kick out of this one-of-a-kind sleeper from 1970
  • “The main attraction is really the performances turned in by McDonald and the Giles brothers — they all sound fabulous…” – All Music

Brian Humphries engineered the album, and although you may not be all that familiar with his name, if you’re an audiophile you know his work well. Take a gander at this group:

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
Black Sabbath – Paranoid 
Traffic – The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys 
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Two are of course on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, and all four — five if you count McDonald And Giles — qualify as State of the Art Rock Recordings from the era.

Demo Disc Quality Sound

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good the best early Island Label recordings can sound, this killer copy should do the trick. (more…)

John Barleycorn Must Die – Listen for Winwood’s Left Hand

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For.

We learned something new a few years back about John Barleycorn while playing an especially TRANSPARENT copy. This pressing made it clear — really, for the first time — exactly what Winwood was doing with his left hand on the piano during the song Glad.

There are two musical figures that alternate: one involving the lower notes, which tend to be blurry, obscured and murky on most pressings, followed by two, the right-handed higher notes, which are usually much more clear and audible in the mix.

Only the very best copies let us “see” the bass notes of the piano so clearly and correctly. Next time you’re in the mood to compare different pressings of Barleycorn, pay special attention to the lower notes of the piano on Glad. It is our contention, backed by mountains of evidence, that no two copies of the album will get that piano to sound the same. (It will also help if you have large dynamic speakers with which to do the test.)

What to Listen For (WTLF) – Side Two

The toughest test on side two is the first track. Getting the voices right is practically impossible. If the voices are full, smooth, yet breathy and clear, you have that rare copy that actually gets the midrange right. Not many do. (more…)

Genesis Nursery Cryme – Another Misfire from Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

The Classic Heavy Vinyl pressing is a smeary lifeless mess next to the better British pressings.   

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Genesis – Abacab on Simply Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Simply Vinyl pressing debunked.

Dreadful sound.

Check out our Rock and Jazz Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers. 

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Tarkus – The Brits Really Rock

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  • Triple Triple (A+++) – this shockingly good copy had Shootout Winning sound on BOTH SIDES and plays as quietly as any copy ever will
  • Our monster Tarkus shootout produced exactly one amazing sounding British pressing of this quality, this one, guaranteed to rock your world
  • Eddie Offord’s trademark Tubey Magic, energy, resolution, whomp factor and dynamics are all over this phenomenal recording
  • “More accomplished than the trio’s first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.” 

This killer copy features some of the more intense prog rock sound to hit our table in quite some time. This is a true Demo Disc LP, one of the most dynamic and powerful rock recordings ever made.

The organ captured here by Eddie Offord (of Yes engineering fame, we’re his biggest fans) and then transferred so well onto our Hot Stamper pressings will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big Bombastic Prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually does rock your world. (more…)