Genre – Rock – Punk Rock / New Wave

Talking Heads’ Masterpiece – More Songs About Buildings and Food

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of More Songs.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

I don’t think these guys (and gal) ever put together a better group of songs. The ultimate pressings of Little Creatures go a step further sonically, but the best copies of this one can sound incredible, if not quite Demo Disc worthy.

We’re huge fans of late ’70s / early ’80s Art Rock and New Wave music, and these guys are obviously some of the best in the biz. I’d be hard pressed to name another act from the era who put out so many good records.

Along with this album, More Songs About Buildings And Food, Fear Of Music, and Little Creatures are all works of genius. ’77 is full of good ideas, but it doesn’t sound like a fully realized work of art the way the next four albums did.

Key Test Tracks

With Our Love turned out to be one of the better tests for side one. The picking of the rhythmic guitar in the intro told us just about everything we needed to know about smear, veiling and resolution. On most copies the instrument is simply blurry, the notes mashed together. When you get a copy with its transients intact, resolving properly and clearly right there in front of you, you have the makings of a Hot Stamper side one.

My other test track for side one was Warning Signs. This is a great track for evaluating transparency and bass. On the average copy you’d never know how much ambience exists around the drums. Hint: it’s a lot.

Our favorite copies have a fair amount of WHOMP down low, giving the bass guitar that rich, beefy sound that we’re simply crazy for here at Better Records. Once you’ve heard a copy with well-defined, note-like bass, nothing less will do.

Artists Only

A great test track for side two is Artists Only. The guitars in the intro section are almost unbearable to listen to on most copies. I recognize that I am somewhat sensitive to harsh high frequencies, but I’m literally in pain when I listen to an overly compressed, overly midrangy copy. There’s got to be a better way!

Wait, there is. Find a copy that actually has a sweet top end. It makes all the difference.

Take Me to the River

One of the best sounding tracks on the album is the awesome cover of Al Green’s Take Me To The River. Most copies are very skimpy with the amount of bottom end information you get.

Pay attention to the opening before the keys start. The best pressings give you texture on the bass that you won’t find on most. When everything’s working right you’ll also hear ambience around the organ that’s nowhere to be found on the average pressing.

The bass should be tight, punchy, and fairly deep. We wouldn’t mind if some of the tracks were mixed with a bit more punch to the bottom end, but far be it from us to tell Brian Eno and Rhett Davies how to do their jobs. At least on some copies the bass has the kind of power that brings a song like Take Me To the River to heights you probably never imagined it could go.

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Eurythmics – Touch

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  • The Eurythmics third studio album was their breakthrough, and here it is with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound
  • This copy was surprisingly rich, smooth and analog sounding, with an especially nice weighty quality to Lennox’s powerful vocals
  • Includes some of the most memorable synth-pop anthems of the era – “Here Comes The Rain Again,” Who’s That Girl?” and more
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The cool, sophisticated musical experimentalism all over Touch cemented Eurythmics’ reputation as one of the most innovative duos of their time… Touch is a testament to what Eurythmics were at the height of their electronic-techno phase and, without doubt, is a milestone in 1980s pop music.”
  • If you’re a Eurythmics fan, this title from 1983 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1983 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We’ve tried a fair number of this band’s albums and to be honest, every one but this one has had horribly bright, overly-processed, distorted sound, even on import vinyl.

Until we run across something a lot better than what we have been auditioning, this will be the only title we can offer as a Hot Stamper from Eurythmics. (more…)

Pretenders – Pretenders II

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  • The right original British pressings are an audiophile dream when they have this kind of punchy bass and pile-driving energy
  • Bill Price engineered and Chris Thomas produced, brilliantly of course – you know them from the Sex Pistols’ debut and The Clash’s London Calling
  • 4 stars: “What’s more the unique American voice of Hynde matched with the tribal beat of Martin Chambers and spangly guitar of Honeyman-Scott was as close to perfect as a band could get in the late 70s.”
  • If you’re a fan of these hard-rockin’ Brits (with an American frontwoman), this classic from 1981 surely belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1981 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

If any of this commentary looks familiar there’s a simple explanation for that fact; it’s lifted practically wholesale from our listings for the first Pretenders album.

The two albums are twins, with the same engineer, the same producer, even the same band members, something that was regrettably and tragically to change soon enough. (more…)

The Cars – Panorama

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  • Panorama makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound here is rich and full-bodied with much less grain and much more Tubey Magic than most of the other copies we played
  • A tough title to find these days — it took us years to get this shootout going
  • “While it’s true that Panorama may be the work of a band in transition, taking baby steps in new directions, it’s also the work of a band that couldn’t help but make great music regardless. . . The production, too, is just as striking as it is on previous efforts, as are the performances.”

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U2 – October

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  • Outstanding sound throughout with both sides rating a strong Double Plus (A++) for their big, bold sound
  • Balanced, musical and full throughout – this pressing is a big step up from many of the other originals that we played
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl, with each side playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “… when U2 marry the message, melody, and sound together, as on “Gloria,” “I Threw a Brick Through a Window,” and “I Fall Down,” the results are thoroughly impressive.”
  • If you’re a U2 fan, a killer copy of their classic album from 1981 belongs in your collection

Recordings from the ’80s are always a bit tricky in terms of their sound quality, and U2 is not a band we have ever associated with the highest audiophile-quality sonics. We’ve been through a number of their albums now, including War, The Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree, and while Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, we’ve at least found a handful of pressings that do a much better job of communicating their music than others, and certainly a great deal better than any Heavy Vinyl reissue or digital source.

It’s not often that we come across audiophile-quality sound for U2’s early titles. The average copy of this record sounds as dry and flat as a cassette. Not this one, or to be more precise, not this pressing. (more…)

Duran Duran – Rio

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  • Stunning sound throughout this EMI UK import pressing
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings with their boosted mids – this is the way the album is supposed to sound, and the difference is not a small one
  • This kind of record often shows up from overseas in beat to death shape – few survived, and that reality is compounded by the fact that even fewer record dealers know how to properly grade their records (hence our prices)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The original Duran Duran’s high point, and just as likely the band’s as a whole, its fusion of style and substance ensures that even two decades after its release it remains as listenable and danceable as ever… From start to finish, a great album that has outlasted its era.”

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The Clash – Combat Rock

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  • Both the two big jammers are on this killer side one: Should I Stay or Should I Go and Rock the Casbah – you’ve never heard them sound like this!
  • Glyn Johns produced and mixed Combat Rock, so its sonic credentials are certainly in order
  • If you’re a fan of meaty bass, grungy guitars and punchy drums, this is the copy for you
  • …its finest moments — “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” “Rock the Casbah,” “Straight to Hell” — illustrate why the Clash were able to reach a larger audience than ever before with the record.”

Full and natural, energetic and high-res, no other copy came close. A stunning copy, absolutely as good as it gets for this punk classic.

Most of the other copies we played failed in one of two ways: if they weren’t too bright, they were dead as a doornail. But this copy knocked them all out with correct tonal balance and tons of energy. (more…)

My Aim Is True Can Really Rock – If You Have the Speaker System to Play It

Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

There is a line in the Hot Stamper commentary on the site concerning driving punk rock bass. Man, this record lives or dies by your ability to reproduce the powerful bottom end that propels this music.

Pardon me for cueing up a broken record again, and with all due respect to the things they do well — they must do something well, right? People keep buying them — small speakers and screens are not going to cut it on My Aim Is True. This is precisely the kind of album they don’t do well. (more…)

Elvis Costello / My Aim Is True

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

  • The sound is lively, punchy, and powerful – with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have
  • A massive step up sonically from most domestic pressings, early or otherwise, and guaranteed to handily beat the imports as well
  • 5 stars: “A phenomenal debut, capturing a songwriter and musician whose words were as rich and clever as his music.”

Yes, it’s lively and has that driving punk rock bass, but what sets this copy apart from the average pressing is the top end — it’s extended, silky and correct. As a consequence, the vocals end up being much more present and natural, with almost none of the grit and spit common to most of the copies anyone is ever likely to come across. (more…)

Blondie – Parallel Lines

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Reviews and Commentaries for Parallel Lines

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Parallel Lines
  • The energy and enthusiasm of the band on this Retro Power Pop Classic really comes through here, and that’s not a claim you can make about very many copies
  • There’s not a bad song to be found anywhere, and lots of great ones: One Way Or Another, Heart Of Glass, Hanging On The Telephone, etc.
  • 5 stars: “Blondie’s best album,” which is actually a bit of an understatement – it’s by far their best album

All the Blondie magic you could ever want is in these grooves. The truly powerful sound of this Power Pop Classic really comes through on this bad boy — and that’s simply not a claim you could make about too many copies out there in record land, which tend to be flat, opaque and compressed. Not so here. This one just plain ROCKS.

Can this kind of music get any better? This album is a MASTERPIECE of Pure Pop, ranking right up there with The Cars first album. I can’t think of many albums from the era with the perfect blend of writing, production and musicianship under the guidance of producer Mike Chapman (The Knack) Blondie achieved with Parallel Lines.

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album such as Parallel Lines eventually you will stumble upon The One, and boy did we ever. The very best copies in our recent shootout were OFF THE CHARTS with presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums. On top of that they were positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air. (more…)