Labels We Love – Island

Cat Stevens Albums – Lee Hulko Cut Them All – Good, Bad and Otherwise

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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…)

King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Larks’ Tongues In Aspic

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

For King Crimson, it doesn’t get much better than this original Island SUNRAY Label British Import LP. It sounds great in all aspects — quiet, TRANSPARENT, DYNAMIC and full of energy. The sound JUMPS right out of the speakers practically the instant the needle hits the groove. (You better watch your volume knob if you value your equipment!) 

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…)

Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

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The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

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  • This is an outstanding Island Sunray domestic pressing offering spacious Tubey Magical Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Low Spark is clearly one of the best sounding Proggy/Arty Rock records ever made – the space it recreates in your listening room is HUGE 
  • A Better Records Top 100 album and a real Demo Disc on a pressing that sounds as good as this one does
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The commercial and artistic apex of the second coming of Traffic… The standout was the 12-minute title track, with its distinctive piano riff and its lyrics of weary disillusionment with the music business. “

After doing the shootout for John Barleycorn recently, a record we love in spite of its problematic sound, this album was truly a breath of fresh air. I can honestly and enthusiastically say that the sound we heard on the best pressings was OUT OF THIS WORLD. This album is a permanent member of our Rock And Jazz Top 100, that’s how good it is. (more…)

Traffic – Traffic – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Traffic – Traffic

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

UNBELIEVABLE! Here’s an Island Pink Label pressing of Traffic’s self-titled second album that has a STUNNING side one, a GREAT side two, and plays close to Near Mint! It has been YEARS since we’ve had such a beautiful Pink Label copy, and I doubt we’ve ever heard a pressing on any label that could better this side one. The sound is as close to PERFECTION as we ever expect to hear for this music — super tubey magical, unbelievably transparent and tonally correct from top to bottom.  (more…)

801 Live – It’s All About the Bass (Except for that One Time When It Wasn’t)

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What’s especially interesting about this copy is that we went crazy for it even though it did not have the best bass of the copies we played, which, as you will see below, clearly contradicts what we had previously written. We thought that the copies with the best bass had the best everything else too, but that was not what we heard this time around.

THIS copy got the music to work its magic, and it did it with most, but not all, of the bass of the best. Not sure how to explain it. Rules were made to be broken maybe?  (more…)

Spooky Tooth – It’s All About – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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It’s All About

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

This lovely Island Sunray British Import LP has some of the BEST SOUND I’ve ever heard for this band. Glyn Johns has done it again! Side one is amazing — super sweet and spacious, OVERFLOWING with tubey magic. If you love trippy pop as much as we do here at Better Records — think Dark Side of the Moon, Taking Tiger Mountain, Ambrosia, Magical Mystery Tour, Thick As A Brick and the like — you may find this one right up your alley.

The sound by Glyn Johns absolutely blew us away; not many records in the last thirty years have been recorded this well. (more…)

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Tarkus – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This British Island Sunray pressing has EXCELLENT A++ SOUND on BOTH SIDES. If you prog rock junkies are looking for your next fix, this killer copy is the hot ticket! Both sides have got it going on; you won’t find this kind of energy, transparency, or presence on most copies out there! This one is full of tubey magic on both sides, yet clean, clear, and open throughout. The transparency is OFF THE CHARTS. 

The domestic copies we’ve played aren’t even in the same arena, and the typical Brit copies tend to be a bit turgid. (more…)

Emerson Lake & Palmer – Trilogy – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This British Island Sunray LP has THE BEST SOUND WE’VE EVER HEARD for this album; it ranks right up there with the best sounding copies of the first album, a Top 100 Demo Disc! From The Beginning has the kind of analog magic that made it a staple in practically every stereo store I walked into throughout the ’70s. (Even if the crappy speakers they were demonstrating didn’t have much bass, this record had the kind of bottom end that would make you think they did.)  (more…)

Traffic – Last Exit – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Last Exit

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

This QUIET British Import Island Sunray (Pink Rim) pressing has THE BEST SIDE TWO WE’VE EVER HEARD, which is where the two extended live cuts are found. We played a bunch of these recently (nothing but Brits, the only way to go for this album) and no side two could keep up with this one. It’s got more extension up top, more weight down low, and more energy than we heard anywhere else.  (more…)

Traffic – Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory

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Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory

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

Import versus domestic? You would be hard pressed to find better sound than on the best of these DOMESTIC pressings, and that includes Low Spark of High Heeled Boys!

We just finished a huge shootout for this album and didn’t find a copy that could hold a candle to this one in the huge stack we played. This may not be the best Traffic album ever, but on a copy that sounds this good it’s very enjoyable and certainly an impressive sonic spectacular. 

Side one earned an A+++ grade and side two was close behind at A++. The vocals sound just right and the percussion is full of energy, which really kicks up the excitement here. Check out how open, spacious and transparent the soundfield is, letting you appreciate everything that’s going on musically. (more…)