Labels We Love – RCA

David Bowie’s Young Americans – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The average RCA copy of this album is bright, grainy and hard to some degree, like most RCA pressings I come across. If you’ve been stuck with an average copy, you’re not going to believe how smooth and sweet the best ones sound. 

This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.

Both sides here are AGAIG — As Good As It Gets, Master Tape Sound. The overall sound is open, spacious, and transparent with lots of DEEP bass. You can easily pick out all the background vocals, and Bowie’s voice sounds just right. The strings have amazing amounts of texture — you can really hear the sound of the rosin on the bow. The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is punchy and powerful. You won’t believe how superb the cymbal crashes sound — you’re right there in the room with these guys! (more…)

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World

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  • This UK RCA copy is out of this world with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Big space, breathy vocals, grungy guitars and the Tubey Magic is luscious throughout
  • Pretty darn quiet throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • As it says on the back of the jacket, “Many thanks to our engineer Ken (Scott, one of our favorites).”

Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides. The sound is rich and full, just the way the Brits like it. The heavy compression that both Bowie and Scott favor works its magic at every turn, adding fatness and richness and lovely harmonics to the guitars and the drums.  (more…)

David Bowie’s Low – Another Bowie Art Rock Masterpiece

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  • This outstanding copy of Low boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from beginning to end
  • Huge amounts of studio space can be heard on this copy, along with the Tubey Magical richness only the best Brit copies can offer
  • These British pressings (not originals by the way) play about as quietly as records from the era ever do 
  • 5 stars on Allmusic for this groundbreaking album recorded with Eno — “Low is a dense, challenging album that confirmed his place at rock’s cutting edge…”

I’ve said it on the site numerous times: I spent a good portion of the ’70s playing Art Rock records like Taking Tiger Mountain, Siren, Crime Of The Century, Deceptive Bends and scores of others. I remember being blown away when Low came out, and with this shootout we had a blast hearing just how good a killer Hot Stamper pressing can sound on the much more highly-evolved stereo system (equipment, room, set-up, tweaks, electricity, etc.) we have today.  (more…)

Stockhausen / Noda – Zyklus & Eclogue on Direct to Disc (Reviewed in 2011)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This RCA 45 RPM Direct-to-Disc fulfills the promise of both the direct to disc recording medium AND the 45 RPM cutting speed so much in vogue these days. As with the Virtuoso Guitar record we listed today, the sound is simply SUPERB — open, dynamic and distortion free. This is a real DEMO DISC, no doubt about it.

I’ve known this record had top quality sound for decades; we started way back in 1987 selling these kinds of audiophile pressings and this one was clearly a Top Title even back then. I’m happy to say that, unlike most of the audiophile pressings we used to sell, this title has actually gotten BETTER with time.  (more…)

Beethoven / ‘Appassionata’ / Kamiya – Reviewed in 2010

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A distinguished member of our Better Records Hall of Fame.

A famous resident of the TAS list, this album mixes beautiful music with lovely, solid piano tone, the best of both worlds for audiophiles. A friend of mine tells me that Kamiya plays this piece exactly the way Horowitz did, and that’s probably a good thing. Good luck finding a Horowitz recording that sounds like this.

You will have a hard time finding a better recording of solo piano than this. It’s one of the all time great Direct-to-Disc recordings.

Lou Reed – Transformer

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  • Excellent sound for Lou Reed’s Glam Rock Classic, Transformer — Double Plus (A++) or BETTER on both sides
  • Here is an import pressing with the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • Transformer is an absolute tour de force of ’70s Glam Rock / Classic Rock / Alternative Rock
  • “… Bowie and Ronson gave their hero a new lease on life — and a solid album in the bargain.” – All Music

Transformer is an absolute tour de force of ’70s Glam Rock / Classic Rock / Alternative Rock. You’ve got Lou Reed teamed up with David Bowie (in the producer’s chair!), Mick Ronson, Herbie Flowers and Klaus Voorman, and on top of that the album was recorded at Trident and mixed by the great Ken Scott. (more…)

David Bowie – Station To Station

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  • This Bowie Art Rock Classic from 1976 boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound and reasonably quiet vinyl on both sides
  • This is a dense, difficult recording to get to sound right, which means you really need Hot Stampers on Station to Station to enjoy it
  • Superb presence and energy – the title cut and Golden Years sound wonderful here, as does the classic, radio-friendly TVC 15
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… its epic structure and clinical sound were an impressive, individualistic achievement, as well as a style that would prove enormously influential on post-punk.”

Full, punchy and present with a wide open soundstage and powerful dynamics, this is the right sound for this album, and the kind of sound that is not easy to find. (more…)

Forget Stage, This Is Bowie’s Greatest Live Album

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  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) grades on all four sides of this Bowie classic
  • One of our favorite live recordings – a great overview of Bowie’s career through 1974
  • 1984, Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me come alive in performance
  • A-List players of the day deliver sonic treats, including multiple horn players, multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the searing fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, and the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass

When you listen to an incredible of this Bowie classic, you will have no trouble picturing yourself front row center. And the great thing about a record like this is that you can be in the front row of this very concert whenever you want!

The other top live album is, of course, Waiting For Columbus, and the two have much in common. Most importantly, the songs played live on both albums are consistently better than their studio versions. (This is especially true on the Little Feat album. Little Feat was not a studio band and their live arrangements — with the Tower of Power horns — just murder the studio ones.) (more…)

David Bowie – Young Americans – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Young Americans  
Win

My favorite track on the album, an undiscovered gem in the Bowie catalog. (more…)

Another Harry Nilsson Must Own Album (Which Makes Four for Those of You Keeping Score at Home)

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  • Amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) As Good As It Gets sound on both sides – maybe the best copy to ever hit the site
  • You can thank Ken Scott for his Tubey Magical engineering and Richard Perry for his Big As Life production approach – this is our kind of sound!
  • It’s one of Harry Nilsson’s four Must Own albums – for both sonics and music this copy is going to be very hard to beat
  • “… a fantastic set of songs that illustrate what a skilled, versatile songsmith Nilsson was… if you appreciate Nilsson’s musicality and weirdo humor, he never got any better.” – All Music

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