Genre – Rock – Art Rock

Jethro Tull – Aqualung

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

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  • Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • The vinyl is quite good on side one, but side two is its usual crackly self in the quieter passages — at least no marks play
  • The sound is KILLER from start to finish – big, punchy, present, tubey and bursting with Rock and Roll energy
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that still floors us on the better copies, with sound that will jump right out of your speakers (which is exactly the sound the modern Heavy Vinyl pressings cannot give you)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the most astonishing progressions in rock history… the degree to which Tull upped the ante here is remarkable… Varied but cohesive, Aqualung is widely regarded as Tull’s finest hour.”

Folks, for hard-rockin’, Tubey Magical, ’70s Arty Proggy Rock in ANALOG, it just does not get much better than Aqualung. You need the right pressing to bring it to life though, and this one is certainly up to the task. (more…)

Electric Light Orchestra – ELO 2

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  • This British Harvest pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of the “you-are-there-immediacy” of ANALOG that sets the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else you care to name
  • “It was as personal an effort as Lynne had ever made in music, showcasing his work as singer, songwriter, guitarist, sometime synthesizer player, and producer, and it is more focused than its predecessor but also retains some of the earlier album’s lean textures… the album holds up well, and it and the single [Roll Over Beethoven] did go a long way toward getting them the beginnings of an audience in America.” – All Music

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Peter Gabriel / Security

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  • One of the most important records in the Peter Gabriel canon, original and influential on so many levels
  • With the benefit of today’s technology, on a copy this good you hear into the soundfield in a way never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of multi-tracked choruses
  • “Security remains a powerful listen, one of the better records in Gabriel’s catalog, proving that he is becoming a master of tone, style, and substance…”

Man, does this album sound better than I remember it from back in the ’80s when I first played it. Stereos have come a long way since then, along with a host of other things that help records sound better, such as cleaning fluids, room treatments and all the rest. Now you can really hear INTO the soundfield in a way that simply was never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of PG’s multi-tracked choruses. On the best pressings, both sides are huge, and the music jumps out of the speakers. The balance is perfection.

This is not an easy album to find good sound for. Most copies are thick, opaque, turgid, veiled — pick your favorite adjective for mud, most copies fit the profile. When you find one like this, that has some real space and clarity, it’s amazing how much more sense the music makes.

The best copies have the kind of qualities that are not difficult to recognize:

  • presence, putting PG front and center;
  • dynamics, both micro and macro;
  • energy, allowing the rhythmic elements to bring out the life in the music;
  • transparency, so that we can hear all the way to the back of the studio; and
  • ambience, the air that surrounds all the players and their instruments

And of course we played the album VERY LOUD, as loud as we could. It’s the only way to get the massive drumming to sound right. (more…)

Genesis – Wind and Wuthering

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  • Wind and Wuthering finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, and lovely analog warmth
  • Their Masterpiece is still A Trick of the Tail, the album that came out before this one, but Wind and Wuthering certainly has much to offer in the same vein
  • 4 stars: “Wind & Wuthering followed quickly on the heels of A Trick of the Tail and they’re very much cut from the same cloth, working the same English eccentric ground that was the group’s stock in trade since Trespass.”

We have struggled like crazy to find copies of the album that are able to present the music as well as this one does. Most of the pressings we’ve gotten our hands on were a disaster, and that includes everything that does not say Made in England on the label.

These UK sides are livelier, more dynamic, more transparent and more present than practically any other copy we played. (more…)

Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

  • This KILLER pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES
  • An album that’s nearly impossible to find with good sound – this UK copy is guaranteed to kill any pressing you’ve ever heard or ever will hear
  • Considered by many the high point of Peter Gabriel’s tenure with the band
  • 5 stars: “In every way, it’s a considerable, lasting achievement and it’s little wonder that Peter Gabriel had to leave the band after this record: they had gone as far as they could go together, and could never top this extraordinary album.”

Stunning sound on all four sides! This album — and Genesis in general — can be difficult to find good sound for. Most copies struggle — or make you struggle — to get the sense of the material and what the band is trying to accomplish, but when you find a killer pressing such as this one, the complexity and theatricality of the music really WORKS.

Bigger and more present, richer and fuller, with more space and transparency, this copy is doing everything we want the album to do.

Certain tracks — particular the more rocking, guitar-heavy material — are often going to get a little hard in the midrange, but on a good copy the issue is much less apparent and doesn’t get in the way of the music. And the more open, spacious keyboard-based and acoustically driven songs which comprise the bulk of the album can sound really wonderful.

Latest Finding

We came across an original British pressing, Porky/Pecko and everything, that was a major letdown sonically. Yes, folks, some pressing that are supposed to be good just aren’t. You got to play them to which is which, and that’s where we come in.

We never assume anything about a record. We play it and find out for a fact how good it sounds. Any other approach will be too error prone to be of any real use, assuming you set high standards for the sound of your records. (more…)

Tears For Fears – Songs From The Big Chair

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  • An outstanding early British pressing, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Rich, spacious and lively, with an open, extended top end – this is the sound you want from Tears for Fears
  • More great songs than practically anything from the ’80s – Shout, Everybody Wants To Rule The World and Head Over Heels, just to name a few
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It is not only a commercial triumph, it is an artistic tour de force. And in the loping, percolating “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears for Fears perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-’80s while impossibly managing to also create a dreamy, timeless pop classic. Songs From the Big Chair is one of the finest statements of the decade.”

This is a CLASSIC in the Tears for Fears canon, probably the album most people regard as their best. I myself prefer Seeds of Love, which should take nothing away from Big Chair — both are exceptional productions from the ’80s no matter how you look at them.

SFTBC went to Number One on the charts for a reason. There’s really not a bad song on either side and mostly absolutely brilliant ones. (more…)

Talking Heads – True Stories

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this superb pressing
  • Here’s the midrange magic that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • This is that rare copy with top quality sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl – it plays Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, as quiet as they ever do
  • “Despite its perfunctory nature, however, True Stories is not without its charms… ‘Dream Operator’ is one of the most affecting tunes Talking Heads ever recorded; the closing-credits theme ‘City of Dreams’ is similarly touching.”

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David Bowie – Scary Monsters

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

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  • An outstanding original UK pressing of Scary Monsters with Double Plus (A++) sound from on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • 5 stars: “Reworking glam rock themes with avant-garde synth flourishes, and reversing the process as well, Bowie creates dense but accessible music throughout Scary Monsters.”

This original RCA 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. (more…)

Mike Oldfield / Tubular Bells – A Record We May Never Shootout Again

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records never justified the time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them in order to make it worth our while to do another shootout for them. This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

 

  • This British Virgin LP has an incredible Triple Plus (A+++) side one backed with an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The space, the richness and the clarity all combine to make this a powerful listening experience
  • It’s incredibly hard to find good sounding copies of this record – this is only the second White Hot copy to hit the site in a long time
  • “Mike Oldfield’s groundbreaking album Tubular Bells is arguably the finest conglomeration of off-centered instruments concerted together to form a single, unique piece. A variety of instruments are combined to create an excitable multitude of rhythms, tones, pitches, and harmonies that all fuse neatly into each other, resulting in an astounding plethora of music.”

These sides sounds good from top to bottom — the top end extension brings out the harmonics in the bells, and the deep bass really brings the organ to life. Many copies are smeary and veiled, but this one has no such problems.

There is a lot going on here, and unless you have a clear and transparent copy like this one it just turns into a mess. This one has all the presence and space required to bring this music to life, with no attendant sacrifice in richness or Tubey Magic.

What makes this copy better than the others we played? An extended top end; spaciousness and transparency; richness and fullness, and so much more.

Many copies were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two excellent sides such as these. (more…)

10cc’s Brilliant Second Album – Sheet Music

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  • This copy of Sheet Music boasts KILLER Shootout Winning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full and balanced with plenty of deep bass and Arty Rock energy, this is a Truly Amazing Demo Disc
  • Bassist Graham Gouldman calls it “the definitive 10cc album” and he’s probably right about that (although we love The Original Soundtrack that came out a year later)
  • “Three hit singles spun off the record, and most of the other tracks could have followed suit; it says much for Sheet Music’s staying power that, no matter how many times the album is reissued, it has never lost its power to delight, excite, and set alight a lousy day.”

Sheet Music is in our opinion the most consistently well written and produced 10cc album, with every track performed with heart and recorded with exquisite attention to detail. Each song flows into the next and there is simply not a dull moment to be found. Sheet Music is arguably the best record they ever made, although I’m such a fan, I think they’re all great. (The first five albums anyway.) (more…)