Genre – Rock – Prog Rock

King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic

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  • The band’s superb 1973 release makes its modern Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Bass and body are key to the best pressings, along with Prog Rock energy, and here you will find plenty of all three
  • A powerful, dynamic recording, yet the Island Tubey Magical Richness and Smoothness are always there to keep the proceedings from getting out of hand.
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit, working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor.”

NOTE: This copy has a label misprint – Side 1 has a Roxy Music Avalon label even though it’s a King Crimson Record, while Side 2 has the correct label.

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, the first half-inch of Track 1, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part One, is moderately ticky.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing King Crimson music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Like any KC record, this album alternates its soft parts and its heavy parts. The soft parts sound oh so sweet and delicate, each intricacy revealed to perfection by the out-of-this-world recording quality, while the heavy parts sound big and bold, augmented by Fripp’s meaty, fuzzed-out guitar and Bill Bruford’s savage percussion.

What’s uncanny about this pressing is how the softness and heaviness play off each other, transitioning into one another, WITHOUT LOSING A THING. With most prog rock records, once the bombast starts kicking in, all the intricacies of the midrange and top end get washed out. But when this pressing’s rockin’, the subtle contribution of the mellotron in the background can still clearly be recognized, floating above the clouds, tying everything together, with all of Bill Bruford’s intricate percussion effects along for the ride. (more…)

Two of Robin Black’s Engineering Masterpieces

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Albums Engineered by Robin Black

Recordings with Exceptionally Tubey Magical Guitars

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Thick As A Brick is quite possibly the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever made. It’s dynamic; has really solid, deep punchy bass; transparency and sweetness in the midrange; Tubey Magical acoustic guitars and flutes; in other words, the record has EVERYTHING that we go crazy for here at Better Records. I can guarantee you there is no CD on the planet that could ever do this recording justice. The Hot Stamper pressings have a kind of MAGIC that just can’t be captured on one of them there silvery discs.

We play quite a few original British and domestic copies of this record when we do these shootouts and let me tell you, the sound and the music are so good I can’t get enough of it. Until about 2007 this was the undiscovered gem (by me, anyway) in the Tull catalog. The pressings I had heard up until then were nothing special, and of course the average pressing of this album is exactly that: no great shakes. But with the advent of better record cleaning fluids and much better tables, phono stages and the like, some copies of Thick As A Brick have shown themselves to be AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUNDING. Even the All Music Guide could hear how well-engineered it was.

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Genesis – Foxtrot

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  • An outstanding copy of this early Peter-Gabriel-led Genesis album from 1972 with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • One of the tougher Genesis albums to find with good sound – this British Charisma LP is much more impressive than most of what we’ve played over the years, and is guaranteed to trounce any domestic or Heavy Vinyl pressing you may have heard
  • 5 stars: “Foxtrot is where Genesis began to pull all of its varied inspirations into a cohesive sound — which doesn’t necessarily mean that the album is streamlined, for this is a group that always was grandiose even when they were cohesive, or even when they rocked, which they truly do for the first time here. This is the rare art-rock album that excels at both the art and the rock, and it’s a pinnacle of the genre because of it.”

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Styx – The Grand Illusion

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  • This phenomenal pressing of The Grand Illusion boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Both sides are big, full, punchy, energetic, spacious, and they even have a healthy amount of Tubey Magic (which came as quite a surprise)
  • 4 stars: “Other than being their first platinum-selling album, The Grand Illusion led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock. Built on the strengths of Come Sail Away’s ballad-to-rock metamorphosis, which gained them their second Top Ten hit, and on the high harmonies of newcomer Tommy Shaw throughout Fooling Yourself, The Grand Illusion introduced Styx to the gates of commercial stardom.”

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Genesis – Seconds Out

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  • You’ll find superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on three sides and outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on the fourth, giving you very impressive live Genesis sound
  • This is an excellent set of songs and a surprisingly good recording
  • After suffering through so much bad Genesis sound over the years — their pressings are all over the map — it was a real treat to hear the better copies of this one let these classic songs really come to life
  • “Indeed, part of the beauty of this album is the sheer flexibility of the band during this period — in addition to superb vocals by Collins throughout, the drumming by Chester Thompson is at least a match for Collins’ best playing.”

This live album from 1977 has some of the best Genesis sound we’ve heard. Their studio recordings are often a bit flat and dull, so it’s really a treat to hear those songs with this kind of big, open, dynamic sound! Phil Collins handles the lead vocals here, but he does a great job even on the Peter Gabriel material.

This vintage British Charisma 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. (more…)

Kansas – Listen to the Difference Up High and Down Low

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

UPDATE 2014

Just played the record again and can say without fear of contradiction that the two easiest ways to recognize that the polarity is wrong are these:

  • The record is simply far too bright without the polarity reversed. It’s an interesting sound — I myself like a lot of top end — but switching back and forth it’s clear that the highs are overdone until you reverse the polarity. Once corrected they sound like the highs should sound on a ’70s Big Rock record.
  • Even more telling: the BASS. Reverse the polarity, then listen for the kick, the toms and the bass guitar. Assuming you have a good copy they’re full-bodied, punchy and solid. Now put the polarity back to “normal” and hear how hollowed-out the bass sounds. The kick and the toms don’t punch through the way they should. It’s obviously worse and obviously wrong. The evidence down low is incontrovertible in my opinion.

With all that in mind, the first track still sounds good even when the polarity is wrong. It just sounds better when it’s right. (more…)

King Crimson – The Young Persons’ Guide To King Crimson

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  • Outstanding sound for this British Island original with all FOUR sides earning sonic grades of Double Plus (A++) or close to them
  • Forget the Polydor and EG reissues (and anything that’s come along lately) – these early British pressings are the only way to hear this album sound the way it should
  • Contains the rare pre-Crimson Robert Fripp demo of I Talk To The Wind, recorded with a female lead vocalist [which can be found at the end of side one]
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…rounded up an excellent, if somewhat idiosyncratic, survey of the group’s seven years together, its contents ranging from the unimpeachable classics to unimaginable rarities… the definitive study of the original King Crimson.”

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McDonald and Giles – McDonald and Giles

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  • You’ll find incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this very well recorded proggy album
  • These early UK pressed sides are full of the kind 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
  • 4 stars: “The main attraction is really the performances turned in by McDonald and the Giles brothers — they all sound fabulous…”

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. (more…)

Rush – Power Windows

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  • Power Windows makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy rocks like crazy with serious weight down low, huge size and space, and plenty of driving energy
  • “Rush remains faithful to vintage progressive aesthetics but has accepted the challenge of the postpunk upheaval and made notable adjustments… Power Windows may well be the missing link between Yes and the Sex Pistols.”

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Phil Manzanera – Diamond Head – A Truly Awesome Feat of Engineering by Rhett Davies

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You may recall reading this bit about RHETT DAVIES engineering on Dire Straits’ debut:

“…until something better comes along, THIS IS HIS MASTERPIECE. It has to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, with Tubey Magic mids, prodigious bass, transparency and freedom from hi-fi-ishness and distortion like few rock recordings you have ever heard.”

Well, something better has now come along, and it’s called Diamond Head.

It has some of the BIGGEST, BOLDEST SOUND we have ever heard. Diamond Head isn’t known as an audiophile album but it should be — the sound is GLORIOUS — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and as rich and dynamic as it gets.

It’s clearly a BIG SPEAKER album. Play it one as loud as you can. The louder you play it the better it sounds.

The best copies have ROOM SHAKING DEEP BASS with the kind of WHOMP FACTOR that can drive this music to practically unexplored heights.

It’s also super TRANSPARENT, with a large, deep soundfield that really allows you to hear INTO the music and the studio space in which it was created. The clarity is SUPERB with all the detail and texture one could hope for, but the real kicker is the amount of ENERGY and musical DRIVE that this side has going for it. This is what the Master Tape is really capable of — Mind Bogglingly Good Sound.

Looking for TUBEY MAGIC? Rhett Davies is your man. Just think about the sound of the first Dire Straits album or Avalon. The best pressings of those albums — those with truly Hot Stampers — are swimming in it. (more…)