Labels We Love – Island

Fairport Convention – What We Did On Our Holidays

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

This RARE Island Sunray British Import LP has Super Hot Stamper sound, full of the Tubey Magic you expect from a British Folk album in 1969 (and the unavoidable sonic shortcomings you should expect if you know much about this band and their records). It’s without a doubt the nicest copy we have ever seen, the acquisition of which was purely a matter of luck, as early pressings are virtually impossible to find in anything but beat-to-death condition.  (more…)

Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy

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

This is Eno’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly. On the right pressing this is a Twisted Pop Demo Disc like nothing you have ever heard. If you have a big speaker and the kind of high quality playback that is capable of unraveling the most complicated musical creations, with all the weight and power of live music, this is the record that will make all your audio effort and expense worthwhile.

That’s the kind of stereo I’ve been working on for forty years and this album just plain KILLS over here.

Art Rock

That being said, it may not be the kind of thing most music loving audiophiles will be able to make much sense of if they have no history with this kind of Art Rock from the ’70s. I grew up on Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, The Talking Heads, Ambrosia, Supertramp, Yes and the like, bands that wanted to play rock music but felt shackled by the chains of the conventional pop song. This was and still is my favorite kind of music. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Catch Bull At Four Magic Stampers

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  • With two shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this early UK pressing is As Good As It Gets!
  • Bigger, more dynamic, more lively, more present and just plain more EXCITING than anything we heard – that’s why it won our shootout  
  • This one can show you the sweeter, tubier Midrange Magic that we is the hallmark of all the best Cat Stevens’ recordings
  • Many of Cat’s best songs are here – Can’t Keep It In, Angelsea, 18th Avenue, Freezing Steel and more
  • “Celebrated and adored for his sanguine lyrics and irresistible hooks, Cat Stevens was one of the rare singer-songwriters capable of composing genuinely optimistic songs that didn’t leave a sappy residue in listeners’ ears.”

The Magic Stampers

As is sometimes the case, there is one and only one set of stamper numbers that consistently wins our Catch Bull At Four shootouts. We stumbled upon an out-of-this-world copy of the right pressing about two years ago, a copy took the recording to a level we had no idea could even be possible. (We were going to give it Four Pluses, and probably should have, but cooler heads prevailed.)

Since then we have had many copies come in, but none that could compete with the Magic Stamper pressings. And the best part of this story is that, no, the best stampers are not 1U, or 2U, or even 3U. In other words they are far from the stampers found on the earliest pressings. That’s one reason it took us so long to discover them, because they are much less commonly found than pressings with the earlier stampers. By the time these later pressings were mastered, pressed and released, the album’s biggest selling days were over. For all we know this cutting may have been done just to keep the record in print, possibly undertaken many years after its initial release. (more…)

U2 – Boy

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  • We here present the best sounding copy of U2’s debit we’ve ever played, our Shootout Winner with Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides
  • The sound is bigger and richer, as well as more present and lively, than any other copy that’s ever hit our turntable
  • The vinyl is quiet for an Island pressing from 1980, with each side playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “From the outset, U2 went for the big message — every song on their debut album Boy sounds huge, with oceans of processed guitars cascading around Bono’s impassioned wail. It was an inspired combination of large, stadium-rock beats and post-punk textures.”

Recordings from the ’80s are always a bit tricky in terms of sound quality, and U2 is not a band we have ever associated with the highest audiophile-quality sonics. We’ve been through quite a number of their albums now, including War, The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree.

While Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, over the years we’ve stumbled upon (stumbling being the only way to go about it) pressings that are much better at communicating their music than others, and certainly a great deal better than any Heavy Vinyl reissue or digital source. (more…)

Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley – His Best Album By Far

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

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES on this British Sunray Island pressing. SSTTA is very hard to find nowadays, but we managed to put together a big enough stack to make a shootout possible, and this copy acquited very well indeed — it was miles ahead of the typical pressing. As is usually the case with these originals, the vinyl is a bit noisier than ideal at Mint Minus Minus.

No doubt this is the best album Robert Palmer ever made. With Lowell George’s unmistakable slide guitar and members of the Meters providing backup, as well as the amazing Bernard Purdie on drums, it’s the only Robert Palmer release that consistently works all the way through as an album. The entire first side is excellent from top to bottom, with the title track being our favorite RP song of all time.  (more…)

Bryan Ferry – Another Time, Another Place

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  • Triple Plus (A+++) on side two, Double Plus (A++) on side one, this is one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • The British Island originals are the only way to go, and this one just plain trounced most of the others we played
  • Tubey Magical, rich, smooth, sweet – everything that we listen for in a great record is on display for everyone to hear
  • Allmusic: “Ferry and company, plus various brass and string sections, turn on the showiness enough to make it all fun.”

Both sides of this record are just as rich and relaxed as you would expect. The balance is correct, which means the top is there as well as the bottom, with good vocal presence throughout. (more…)

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…)