Labels We Love – EMI/Harvest

Ravel / Karajan Conducts Ravel – Karajan / Orchestre de Paris

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Minty looking EMI LP with quiet vinyl (for EMI anyway) and EXCELLENT SOUND!

I recently purchased a large number of EMI classical pressings from the ’70s, many of which had disappointing sonics. Without paying any attention to this particular record, I threw it on and was pleasantly surprised — it really sounded good! Checking the back of the cover (the old fold-over flap kind) I noted that this recording was from 1963 — of course it sounds great! EMI from that period is often AMAZING. It’s only later, when they got into quadraphonic, that their sound becomes vague, diffuse, hard and even sour. Some of the EMI records on the TAS List can sound that way, which is a real scandal in my opinion.

As for the performances, they are wonderful. This is not a german orchestra. The french know how to play their own music!

This record includes alborada de gracioso, rapsodie espagnole, valses nobles et sentimentales and more.

Gustav Holst – The Planets / Previn

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sonic grades or BETTER on both sides, this early EMI pressing is guaranteed to be the best copy of Holst’s Magnum Opus, The Planets, you have ever played
  • Orchestral power like practically no other music on vinyl you may have heard, and Previn’s and the LSO’s performances are without peer in our estimation
  • These sides are rich, clear and dynamic, with weighty brass, and the kind of dynamic power that lefts the energy level right into space
  • A TAS List Super Disc, with a performance that’s as spectacular as the recording by the two Christophers

These sides have some of the best sound we have ever heard for the work, and that’s saying something considering the scores of recordings we have played of this famous and famously well-loved piece.

Fortunately for audiophiles who love The Planets but are disappointed by most performances, a group that includes us to be sure, the amazing sound found on this copy is coupled with a superb performance.

As you might imagine, on a big system this would make for a powerful listening experience, which is exactly the experience we ourselves had during our recent shootout. This copy actually deserves its place on the TAS List.

Both sides earned strong grades for their powerful energy and orchestral excitement, especially from the brass section, a subject we discuss at length below. (more…)

David Gilmour – David Gilmour

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  • You’ll find superb nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides of this wonderful pressing – just shy of our Shootout Winner – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The bass is killer, tight with real weight, and the drums are punchy – exactly like the better Pink Floyd albums
  • For my money, this is a better sounding recording than The Final Cut or the Roger Waters solo debut
  • “By the time of Gilmour’s solo debut, he had not only established himself several times over as an underrated, powerful guitarist in Pink Floyd, but as a remarkably emotional singer…”

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Grace Williams / Fantasia On Welsh Nursery Tunes / Groves – Reviewed in 2012

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Super Hot Stamper sound for this TAS List title, containing the most famous piece for which Grace Williams is known. The sound is BIG and RICH, two adjectives we rarely apply to a ’70s EMI. Big maybe — lots of EMI’s are big, but the reason you see so few EMI Hot Stampers on our site is that they are usually big in a vague, phasey way, which is a sound I frankly have never seen the need to take seriously, TAS Listing or no TAS Listing. (Screen speakers tend to sound that way to me, and I’ve never been a fan of them either.)

But rich — now that’s a sound we do like! It’s also not shrill and hard like most EMI’s. Instead it’s transparent, lively and tonally correct from top to bottom.

Add it all up and you have a very special EMI record that qualifies for Super Hot Stamper status. You will have a very hard time finding a copy of the album that sounds like the side one here. (more…)

Holst and Previn – A Planets for the Ages

More on The Planets

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

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  • After a lengthy shootout hiatus we proudly present the best side two of this album to hit the site since 2013
  • Out Of This World sound on side two, where it earned a Four Plus sonic grade for its MINDBLOWING orchestral power
  • Side one earned a seriously good grade of Double Plus (A++) – it’s rich, clear and dynamic, with weighty brass
  • A TAS List Super Disc, with a performance by Previn and the LSO that’s as spectacular as the sound
  • This copy has some condition issues – those of you looking for a quiet copy will have to wait for the next shootout in 2018 or thereabouts

This copy has a side two that is so off the charts we ended up giving it Four Pluses. A Four Plus copy has to meet a standard higher than our regular top grade, and we define that standard as “better than we ever imagined any copy could ever sound.” (more…)

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

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  • Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound on side one – this Triple Plus (A+++) side had more energy and snap than practically any we played
  • Side two was not especially good, but that’s really not a problem since side one has by far the better music – it’s where the most exciting, most percussive movements can be found
  • To be honest, the copy I owned for years still had a pristine side two, mostly because I never bothered to play it much
  • When you come to the end of side one you will not be wanting more – you will have heard everything that’s good about this remarkable composition
  • This gloriously exciting and fun music belongs in any audiophile’s collection

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Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 1 ’Winter Dreams’ – Muti – Reviewed in 2009

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EMI Postage Stamp pressing with EXCELLENT SOUND and a remarkably energetic and nuanced performance. This is the first recording of this symphony that I’ve ever liked. Muti gets it! And the sound is actually quite good for EMI in this period, 1976.

Stuart Eltham is the recording engineer and he is to be commended for getting some real dynamics and power into the grooves of this record.

Vivaldi – Cello Concertos — Paul Tortelier – Reviewed in 2011

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This is a minty EMI British Pressing from 1981 featuring Paul Tortelier on the cello. The sound is very good in the EMI tradition, but even better, the music is WONDERFUL. These Vivaldi concertos are lovely. I was unfamiliar with them, so discovering this music today was a joy. 

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Saint-Saens – Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”) / Fremaux

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  • For the first time in three years, one of Saint-Saens’ greatest masterpieces returns to Better Records with truly superb nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too, the quietest copy to ever hit the site
  • Clear and transparent and natural – your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all
  • What this copy did better than practically any other was show us just how rich, smooth and Tubey Magical 1973 EMI sound could be
  • “The whole work is a magnificent and fantastical symphonic machine that’s an apotheosis of the orchestral technology of the late 19th century.”

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Paganini – Violin Concertos 1 & 2 / Menuhin / Erede

The Music of Paganini Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Paganini

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  • A superb UK pressing with a Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, mated to a very good sounding side two – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • Two of the truly great virtuoso/romantic violin concertos, boasting superb 1961 EMI Golden Age Analog Sound
  • The complete first Violin Concerto on this vintage LP has killer sound, right up there with our Shootout Winner from the last go around
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than most others
  • The best balance of orchestra and soloist we know of for both works, with sound to rival the greatest concerto recordings we’ve played

Another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, in this case 1961, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40 years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today.)

This combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on this wonderful copy.

The sound of the best copies is transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. (more…)