Labels We Love – Chrysalis

Peter Gabriel Names a Third Record After Himself

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  • It’s been quite a few years since our last shootout – finding clean, quiet, early pressings of this album has been especially difficult for many years and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier
  • A Must Own for Gabriel fans, this album is widely considered his breakthrough work as a solo artist
  • Listen closely and you’ll recognize Phil Collins’ now-signature (but at the time revolutionary) drum sound on several of the tracks, including “Intruder,” one of the best tracks on the album
  • 5 stars: “Generally regarded as Peter Gabriel’s finest record, his third eponymous album finds him coming into his own, crafting an album that’s artier, stronger, more song oriented than before.”
  • If you’re a fan, this is a Peter Gabriel classic from 1980 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1980 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

With this, his third release, Gabriel established himself as a true force in the rock world. (more…)

Robin Trower / Bridge of Sighs – A Demo Disc for Size and Space 

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Reviews and Commentaries for Robin Trower and Procol Harum

A Demo Disc for Size and Space 

  • An outstanding copy of Trower’s amazingly well recorded Psych masterpiece with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This early UK pressing is huge, rich and punchy, with guitar solos that soar like few others you’ve heard
  • The title track is on this killer side one – you have never begun to hear it sound like this!
  • Brilliant engineering by Geoff Emerick at George Martin’s AIR studios – maybe the best sounding album Emerick ever made
  • Top 100 and 4 1/2 stars on AMG: “…his most stunning, representative, and consistent collection of tunes. Bridge of Sighs holds up to repeated listenings as a timeless work, as well as the crown jewel in Trower’s extensive catalog.”

We’d been wandering around in the dark for more than a decade with Bridge of Sighs — that is, until about 2015 when we finally stumbled upon a certain UK Chrysalis pressing in audiophile playing condition.

Now we know just how good this album can sound. How good? Astonishingly good. The three-dimensional space is positively breathtaking on the best UK copies.

There is a substantial amount of Tubey Magic and liquidity on the tape, recalling the kind of hi-rez vintage analog sound that makes the luminous A Space in Time (1971) such a mind-expanding experience. Both albums have the kind of High Production Value sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records.

You can find many of our favorites in our Rock and Pop Top 100, and if we can find more of this title, it will surely be on the list as well. (more…)

Jethro Tull – This Was

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thiswas

  • We’ve only had a handful of copies go up since 2013 – it’s tough to find these vintage UK pressings in clean condition with this kind of sound
  • Guaranteed to soundly trounce any Pink Label Island original you may have heard – these are the Hot Stampers and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it
  • Melody Maker thoroughly recommended the album in 1968 for being “full of excitement and emotion” and described the band as a blues ensemble “influenced by jazz music” capable of setting “the audience on fire.” Wikipedia
  • If you’re a fan of Ian and his band, this UK reissue originally recorded in 1968 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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Peter Gabriel – Self-Titled 2 (Scratch)

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  • This UK Charisma pressing has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this Mad Hatter label copy had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most others we played
  • 4 stars: “‘On the Air’ and ‘D.I.Y.’ are stunning slices of modern rock circa 1978, bubbling with synths, insistent rhythms, and polished processed guitars, all enclosed in a streamlined production that nevertheless sounds as large as a stadium.”

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Steeleye Span – We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing!

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Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs . The second track on side two, Demon Lover, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is.

The sad fact of the matter is that most mixes for rock and pop recordings are much too safe. The engineers believe that the mixes have to be for the average (read: crap) stereo to be able to play the record.

We like when music gets loud. It gets loud in live performance. Why shouldn’t some of that energy make it to the record? It does of course, especially in classical music, but all too rarely even then.

We happened to do the shootout for Thick as a Brick the same week as Commoner’s Crown, and let us tell you, those are two records with shockingly real dynamics in the grooves of the best copies. If you like your music loud — which is just another way of saying you like it to sound LIVE — then the better copies of either album are guaranteed to blow your mind with their dynamic energy and power.

It’s the Engineer?

That can’t be a coincidence, can it? Well, it can, but in the case of these two albums it seems it isn’t. The engineering for both records was done by none other than Robin Black at Morgan Studios. Robin co-produced Commoner’s, takes the main engineering credit, and is solely credited with the mix. He is the sole engineer on TAAB (along with lots of other Tull albums, including Benefit and Aqualung).

Apparently he has no problem putting the dynamic contrasts and powerful energy of the live performance into his recordings and preserving them all the way through to the final mix. God bless him for it.

Thrills

We admit to being thrillseekers here at Better Records, and make no apologies for it. The better the system and the hotter the stamper, the bigger the thrill. It’s precisely the dynamic sound found on these two albums that rocks our world and makes our job fun. It makes us want to play records all day, sifting through the crap to find the few — too few — pressings with truly serious Hot Stamper sound. (There is, of course, no other way to find such sound, and, of course, probably never will be.)

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Blondie / Parallel Lines – We Broke Through in 2016

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Reviews and Commentaries for Parallel Lines

Can this kind of music get any better? This album is a MASTERPIECE of Pure Pop, ranking right up there with The Cars first album. I can’t think of many albums from the era with the perfect blend of writing, production and musicianship Blondie achieved with Parallel Lines.

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album like this one, sooner or later you will stumble upon The One, and boy did we ever.

This side two had OFF THE CHARTS with presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums. It was positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air.

There was not a trace of grain, just the silky sweet highs we’ve come to expect from analog done right. 

Gone is the compressed muck of the MOFI (and most domestic pressings, to be fair). In its place is the kind of clarity, transparency and pure ROCK AND ROLL POWER previous pressings only hinted at. I became a giant fan of this album the moment I heard it back in 1978, but the sound always left much to be desired.

So many copies were thick and compressed; the music was cookin’ but the sound seemed to be holding it back.

But there are good sounding pressings, and we know which ones they are.


FURTHER READING

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

New to the Blog? Start Here

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Huey Lewis and The News – Fore!

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  • The band’s 1986 follow-up to Sports finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • The open, spacious soundstage and full-bodied tonality here are obvious for all to hear – huge, punchy, lively and rockin’ throughout
  • This copy will show you just how big, lively and POWERFUL this music can be on the right pressing
  • “This is by far one of the absolute best releases by Huey Lewis & the News. Powerful, hard-hitting, and quite emotional. . . for those of you who like hard-hitting, powerful rock music from the ’80s era.”

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Steeleye Span / Commoners Crown – A Masterpiece of English Folk Rock

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Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

  • Incredible sound for this early British pressing, with huge and dynamic Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The Tubey Magical Richness of this recording must be heard to be believed
  • Some of the best English Folk Rock Music ever recorded on analog tape and preserved on this lovely vinyl disc!
  • Allmusic gives it 4 1/2 stars: “Now a full-fledged rock group, competing with the likes of Jethro Tull and pumping out higher amperage than Fairport Convention, Steeleye engages in heavy riffing, savage attacks on their instruments, and generally kicks out the jams on this album.”

This original Porky/Pecko mastered British Chrysalis pressing has insanely good sound on both sides and, even more importantly, some of the best English Folk Rock Music ever recorded on analog tape (and preserved on this lovely vinyl disc!).

I grew to love this album back in the ’70s; the stereo store I worked at used it as a Demo Disc, so I heard it on a regular basis. Rather than getting sick of it, I actually bought a copy for my own collection to play at home. (Not sure if I managed to get an import, not sure if I would even have been able to hear the difference.)

Things have changed as we never tire of saying here at Better Records, but in a way you could say they have stayed the same. This used to be a Demo Disc, and now it’s REALLY a Demo Disc. You will have a very hard time finding a record with a richer, fuller, better-defined, dare I say “fatter” bottom.

Both sides have practically everything we look for in a Hot Stamper British Folk Rock Album — this copy is stunningly dynamic; has really solid bass; lovely transparency, incredible presence; tons of space and ambience; you name it, this copy has it. It does it all. (more…)

Genesis – Trespass

Hot Stamper Pressings of Genesis Available Now

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this UK Charisma pressing – it’s guaranteed to beat any Heavy Vinyl (or other) pressing you may have
  • The sound here is rich and Tubey Magical, which is the only way this music makes any sense at all
  • Probably for the more serious fan, but Melody Maker found it “…tasteful, subtle and refined.”
  • “… cannot find many ‘modern’ acts that can even come close to the brilliance demonstrated in these six songs… cannot recommend this album enough.”

Take it from us, the guys who play every kind of pressing we can get our hands on, the UK pressings are the only way to go on Trespass. (more…)

Blondie – Parallel Lines

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Parallel Lines
  • The energy and enthusiasm of the band on this Retro Power Pop Classic really comes through here, and that’s not a claim you can make about very many copies
  • There’s not a bad song to be found anywhere, and lots of great ones: One Way Or Another, Heart Of Glass, Hanging On The Telephone, etc.
  • 5 stars: “Blondie’s best album,” which is actually a bit of an understatement – it’s by far their best album
  • More Reviews and Commentaries for Parallel Lines

All the Blondie magic you could ever want is in these grooves. The truly powerful sound of this Power Pop Classic really comes through on this bad boy — and that’s simply not a claim you could make about too many copies out there in record land, which tend to be flat, opaque and compressed. Not so here. This one just plain ROCKS.

Can this kind of music get any better? This album is a MASTERPIECE of Pure Pop, ranking right up there with The Cars first album. I can’t think of many albums from the era with the perfect blend of writing, production and musicianship under the guidance of producer Mike Chapman (The Knack) Blondie achieved with Parallel Lines.

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album such as Parallel Lines eventually you will stumble upon The One, and boy did we ever. The very best copies in our recent shootout were OFF THE CHARTS with presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums. On top of that they were positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air. (more…)