- 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…)
- 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.”
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…)
- One of the best copies to ever hit the site, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to it on both sides
- This original UK Island pressing is bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, clearer, and with better bass – it knocked us out
- Outside of the first three Roxy albums, there is simply no recording by the band that as good as the first three Bryan Ferry solo projects
- “Ferry for the most part looked to America, touching on everything from Motown to the early jazz standard that gave the collection its name… Wrapping up with a grand take on “These Foolish Things” itself, this album is one of the best of its kind by any artist.” – All Music
We had a nice stack of British copies to play and are happy to report that this one had an unbeatable Triple Plus (A+++) side two backed with a killer Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, both on very quiet vinyl. Anyone who digs Roxy Music or Bowie’s Pin-Ups is going to find a lot to like here. Check out the cool cover of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall that kicks off side one!
The sound positively JUMPS out of the speakers and fills the room. There’s loads of Tubey Magic, big punchy drums, and depth to the soundfield. (more…)
We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries.
Where Do the Children Play?
Hard Headed Woman
This is a song that has evolved dramatically over the last 20 years. If you’ve been making regular upgrades to your equipment and taking advantage of all the new technologies available at the front end, such as: vibration control, electromagnetic stabilization, better arms, better cartridges, better phono stages, better motors, fly wheels, Synchronous Drive Systems, better power cords, better power conditioning, to name just a few, you are no doubt able to reproduce this song much better than you were in the old days. I used to think that Cat’s voice got hard and harsh when he got loud on the passage that starts with “I know…many fine feathered friends…”. Now he gets even louder, the drums are much more powerful, and yet he still sounds like a real person, not an overdriven recording of one.
Modern front ends, properly tweaked and set up, can handle the kind of energy found on this song in a way that wasn’t possible before. I like to say that if your turntable is more than 5 years old and you haven’t done much to your front end since then, you are living in the vinyl stone age. There have been a number of revolutions in the area of LP playback, not the least of which are the cleaning fluids we tout so obsessively, all of which have allowed us to reproduce familiar records in a startlingly realistic way never before possible.
Miles from Nowhere
But I Might Die Tonight
With this song, you hear into the music on the best copies as if you were seeing the live musicians before you. The violinist is also a key element. He’s very far back in the studio. When he’s back where he should be, but the sound of the wood of his violin and the rosin on the strings is still clearly audible, without any brightness or edginess to artificially create those details, you know you are hearing the real thing.
On the Road to Find Out
Father and Son
Tea for the Tillerman
Tea for the Tillerman was the story of a young man’s search for spiritual meaning in a soulless class society he found abhorrent. He hadn’t yet reached his destination, but he was confident he was going in the right direction, traveling at his own, unhurried pace. The album’s rejection of contemporary life and its yearning for something more struck a chord with listeners in an era in which traditional verities had been shaken. It didn’t hurt, of course, that Stevens had lost none of his ability to craft a catchy pop melody; the album may have been full of angst, but it wasn’t hard to sing along to. As a result, Tea for the Tillerman became a big seller and, for the second time in four years, its creator became a pop star.
Is the Pink Label Island original pressing THE way to go? That’s what Harry Pearson — not to mention most audiophile record dealers — would have you believe.
But it’s just not true. And that’s good news for you, Dear (Record Loving Audiophile) Reader.
HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY FROM JOHN BARLEYCORN
Since that’s a Lee Hulko cutting just like Tea here, the same insights, if you can call them that, apply. Here’s what we wrote: (more…)
- 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…)
Sonic Grade: F
A Hall of Shame pressing.
I remember years ago (1986 to be exact) when Acoustic Sounds was selling the then in-print 25th Anniversary Island pressing (10U, as I recall) for $15, claiming that it was a TAS List Super Disc. If you’ve ever heard that pressing, you know it has no business going anywhere near a Super Disc List. It’s mediocre at best and has virtually none of the magic of the good original pressings. I refused to sell it back in those days, for no other reason than it’s far from a Better Record. I don’t like misrepresenting records and I don’t like ripping off my customers. That pressing was a fraud and I was having none of it. (more…)
- This killer early British Island import pressing had two amazing sides, each rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it
- This one is simply bigger, richer, more clear and more Tubey Magical than almost every other copy we heard in our shootout
- As quiet as any Island original we’ve ever heard – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus – they don’t come quieter
- AMG raves that “…Country Life finds Roxy Music at the peak of their powers, alternating between majestic, unsettling art rock and glamorous, elegant pop/rock. Roxy Music rarely sounded as invigorating as they do here.”
Many of the best songs Bryan Ferry ever wrote and Roxy Music ever played are on this album. Musically it’s right up there with the first album and Siren. All three represent the high watermark of early- to mid-’70s Arty Rock. (more…)