Labels We Love – A&M

The Police – Ghost in the Machine

Reviews and Commentaries for Ghost in the Machine

More Sting and The Police

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides, this vintage UK pressing sounds rich, smooth and sweet – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the band’s most sophisticated hits: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Invisible Sun, Spirits In The Material World, and more
  • Hugh Padgham took over engineering duties for Ghost and The Police’s next album, resulting in a dramatic improvement in the quality of their recordings
  • “This album has more variety than the menu in a Bangkok brothel. In particular, Sting’s voice has taken on a new depth and fresh maturity. The opening song, ‘Spirits In The Material World’, may have what sounds like a dumb title, but the song is a dream of close harmonies and nicely understated drums.” Record Mirror

If you’re looking for big hits, this is the album for you. I mean, get three tracks in and you’ve already heard Spirits In The Material World, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Invisible Sun — not a bad way to get things started!

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Herb Alpert / Whipped Cream & Other Delights – Top End Extension Is Key

More Sixties Pop Recordings

More 5 Star Albums

The better pressings have the kind of Tubey Magical, big-bottomed, punchy, spacious sound that we’ve come to expect from Larry Levine‘s engineering for A&M. If you have any Hot Stamper pressings of Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66’s albums, then you know exactly the kind of sound we’re talking about.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack the full complement of harmonic information.

In addition, when the top end is lacking, the upper midrange and high frequencies get jammed together — the highs can’t extend up and away from the upper mids.

This causes a number of much-too-common problems that we hear in the upper midrange of many of the records we play: congestion, hardness, harshness, and squawk.

Painstaking Vertical Tracking Angle adjustment is absolutely critical if you want your records to play with the least amount of these problems, a subject we discuss in the Commentary section of the site at length.

Full-bodied sound is especially critical to the horns.

Any blare, leanness or squawk ruins at least some of the fun, certainly at the louder levels the record should be playing at.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve).

Most records (like most audiophile stereos) are designed to sound correct at moderate levels. Not this album. It wants you to turn it up. Then, and only then, will everything sound completely right musically and tonally from top to bottom.

Herb Alpert – South of the Border

More Herb Alpert 

More Sixties Pop

  • Tubey Magical, punchy, spacious, natural sound – these sides have plenty of what we love most about Larry Levine’s engineering
  • Not many audiophiles know how well recorded some of these early Herb Alpert albums were, but we count ourselves among the ones that do, going back more than twenty years
  • 4 stars: “…the rise of Alpert’s approach in arranging familiar melodies in fresh, creative settings…[is] pronounced…in the horn-driven updates of several then-concurrent chart hits. [T]he mod sonic wrinkle in ‘Girl from Ipanema’ emits a darkness veiled in mystery, directly contrasting the light buoyancy of ‘Hello! Dolly’ or the footloose feel of the Beatles’ ‘All My Loving.'”
  • If you’re a fan of the music of Herb Alpert, this title from 1964 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1964 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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The Police – Reggatta de Blanc

More Sting and The Police

  • A vintage A&M British import pressing with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Much of the stuff we manage to acquire from overseas is in less-than-audiophile playing condition – these were popular records in their day, and they got played plenty, so the clean condition of this pressing came as a very pleasant surprise
  • Sting’s pulsing bass lines and the massive assault of Copeland’s kick really come to life here – you won’t believe how BIG and powerful the bass is on this record
  • Along with Ghost in the Machine, we think this album captures The Police at their songwriting and performing peak
  • “Reggatta de Blanc stands the test of time as one of the greatest albums of the post-punk and new wave era, improving in almost every way upon The Police’s debut album.”

This A&M LP has a very PUNCHY LOW-END, the kind you need to drive this rhythmically charged music.

Though it lacks some of the midrange “prettiness” of the half-speed, it’s obvious that this copy presents the music much more correctly.

This is Reggae-Rock; it needs good tight bass and plenty of it to propel the music and keep the rhythm on pace, and half-speed mastered records never get the bass to sound deep, solid and punchy the way full-speed-mastered records do.

This and Ghost In The Machine are my two favorite Police albums. Reggatta, like Ghost, is consistently good from start to finish. It also has the distinction of being the only Police album that has a real Guitar Solo, heard on the song “It’s Alright For You.” With a seriously blistering guitar break that really kicks the song into high gear, you have to wonder why Andy Summers chose to play that way so rarely.

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Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

More Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Mona Bone Jakon

  • This copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you before are now front and center
  • When you play “I Wish, I Wish” and “I Think I See The Light” on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • One of the most underrated titles on the site – you owe it to yourself to see just how good the album that came out right before Tillerman can be when it sounds this good
  • 4 stars: “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Red Clay is a good example of a record most audiophiles may not know well but should.
  • If you’re a fan of Folky Pop, this Cat Stevens album from 1970 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This side one has it ALL going on — all the Tubey Magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high-rez yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings, especially the reissues on the second label.

Right off the bat, I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of Folk Pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other Folk Pop recordings that are as good but we know of none that are better.

Mike Bobak was the engineer for these sessions from 1970. He is the man responsible for some of the best sounding records from the early ’70s: The Faces’ Long Player, Rod Stewart’s Never a Dull Moment, The Kinks’ Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One, (and lots of other Kinks albums), Carly Simon’s Anticipation and more than his share of obscure English bands (of which there seems to be a practically endless supply).

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with the richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and remasterings). (more…)

The Tubes – Self-Titled

More of The Tubes

More Glam Rock

  • The Tubes’ self-titled debut returns to the site with KILLER Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This copy is simply bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than practically all others we played
  • Their music is definitely not for everyone – I saw them live many years ago and they did put on one helluva show, but you have to be a fan of eccentric pop or none of it will make any sense
  • “Produced by Al Kooper, this debut by the notorious San Francisco group is best known for the blazing anthem ‘White Punks on Dope.’ Although the Tubes’ raison d’être was their shock-rock stage dynamic, Bill Spooner, Fee Waybill, and company could, on occasion, deliver some offbeat pop splendor.”

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Humble Pie / Performance – Rockin’ The Fillmore

More Humble Pie

More Peter Frampton

  • This original pressing on the custom A&M label is ROCKIN’ with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Performance is one of the best sounding – perhaps even THE best sounding – Hard Rock concert albums we’ve ever heard
  • Engineered by the legendary Eddie Kramer, what other live rock record sounds this good?
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… [O]ne of the classic double-live albums of the ’70s: a two-LP set from a band that were earning a reputation as in-concert monsters, grinding out a living on a circuit that brought them from coast to coast in America… this was heavy, improvised blues rock where live moments trumped the studio… “
  • A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

Can you imagine if Frampton Comes Alive sounded like this? If you want to hear some smokin’ Peter Frampton guitar work from when he was in the band, this album captures that sound better than any of their studio releases, and far better than Comes Alive on even the best copies.

Grungy guitars that jump out of the speakers, prodigious punchy deep bass, dynamic vocals and drum work — the best pressings of Rockin’ The Fillmore have more live FIREPOWER than any live recording we’ve ever heard. Who knew?

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Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis?

More Supertramp

More Arty Rock Albums

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this early domestic (!) A&M copy
  • Most pressings are painfully thin and harsh, but this one had much more of the richness and smoothness we were looking for, closer to the Brit Shootout Winner and miles away from the painfully bad original domestic pressings we know to avoid
  • Credit the man behind the board, Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, A Salty Dog, Magical Mystery Tour, America and more), who knows a thing or two about Tubey Magic
  • A Desert Island Disc for TP, from all the way back in 1975 when I first gave it a spin on my Ariston RD 11 turntable
  • “Even simple tracks like ‘Lady’ and ‘Just a Normal Day blend in nicely with the album’s warm personality and charmingly subtle mood. Although the tracks aren’t overly contagious or hook laden, there’s still a work-in-process type of appeal spread through the cuts, which do grow on you over time.”

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Peter Frampton – Frampton’s Camel

The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now

Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • On his second album, Frampton fronts a real rock band, playing his unique style of rock and pop, electric and acoustic, with consummate skill – if you’re a Frampton fan this is a record that belongs in your collection
  • Superb engineering from Chris Kimsey and Eddie Kramer at Olympic and Electric Lady Studios
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Named after Frampton’s touring band at the time, Frampton’s Camel has a harder-rocking feel than its predecessor Wind of Change, with Mick Gallagher’s percussive electric piano and organ taking a prominent position in the mix and Frampton getting a harder sound from his electric guitars (though his acoustic playing is so lush and lyrical that it dominates the album here and there in its quiet way).”
  • If you’re a Frampton fan — I sure am — then this title from 1973 comes highly recommended.
  • All titles from 1973 we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Stillness

More Sergio Mendes

More Bossa Nova

  • An early A&M pressing of this incredibly well-recorded and criminally-overlooked LP, with STUNNING Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Side two of the best sounding copies will always be out of polarity – for those of you who cannot reverse your polarity, we will have some second-tier copies coming to the site soon
  • The soundfield has a three-dimensional quality that will absolutely blow you away (assuming you have big speakers and like to turn them up good and loud)
  • Wonderfully present and breathy vocals from the lovely ladies in Sergio’s band – they’re the audiophile (and sex) appeal, and we know of nothing else like them on record
  • A permanent member of our Top 100 and Demo Disc par excellence,
  • 4 stars: “Stillness is a concept album — the title tune opens and closes it in moody stillness — and a transition piece all at once…. Overlooked in its day, Stillness is the great sleeper album of Sergio Mendes’ first A&M period.”

We figure we’re about due for a thank you note from Mr. Mendes, because we’ve turned a huge number of audiophiles into die-hard fans of this album. It’s easy to see why when you play a copy that sounds like this. All of the qualities we look for on this album are right here.

If you are looking for DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND with music every bit as wonderful, look no further — this is the record for you.

If I had one song to play to show what my stereo can really do, “For What It’s Worth” on a Hot Stamper copy would probably be my choice. I can’t think of any material that sounds better. It’s amazingly spacious and open, yet punchy and full bodied the way only vintage analog recordings ever are. This one being from 1970 fits the bill nicely.

Side two of this album can be one of THE MOST MAGICAL sides of ANY record — when you’ve got a killer copy. I don’t know of any other record like it. It seems to be in a class of its own. It’s an excellent test disc as well. All tweaks and equipment changes and room treatments must pass the Stillness test.

To fail to make this record sound better is to fail completely. The production is so dense, and so difficult to reproduce properly, that only recently have I begun to hear just how good this record can sound. There is still plenty to discover locked in these grooves, and I enthusiastically accept the challenge to find all the sounds that Sergio created in the studio, locked away in the 50+ year old vinyl.

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