Labels We Love – Island

King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic

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  • The band’s superb 1973 release makes its modern Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Bass and body are key to the best pressings, along with Prog Rock energy, and here you will find plenty of all three
  • A powerful, dynamic recording, yet the Island Tubey Magical Richness and Smoothness are always there to keep the proceedings from getting out of hand.
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit, working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor.”

NOTE: This copy has a label misprint – Side 1 has a Roxy Music Avalon label even though it’s a King Crimson Record, while Side 2 has the correct label.

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, the first half-inch of Track 1, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part One, is moderately ticky.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing King Crimson music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


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…)

Steve Winwood – Back In The High Life

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  • Both sides of this UK copy of Steve Winwood’s Solo Masterpiece earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER
  • This early British pressing is guaranteed to be dramatically bigger, richer, fuller and smoother than anything you’ve heard
  • Higher Love with better than Double Plus sound? You’re gonna love it! And there’s really not a bad track on the album
  • “The first undeniably superb record of an almost decade-long solo career … the passion long smoldering in his finest work explodes in the album-opening duet with Chaka Khan, Higher Love…” — Rolling Stone

On the best copies, the sound is spacious and high-resolution. The bright, dry, grainy, analytical sound is replaced with something warmer, richer, fuller, sweeter, smoother — in other words, more ANALOG sounding. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Stand Up

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  • An outstanding UK import LP with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish — exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is a True Tull Classic – my favorite by the band – and a VERY tough record to come by with this kind of sound and surfaces this quiet, as quiet as any copy we have ever played
  • Both of these sides give you richness, Tubey Magic, clarity and resolution few copies can touch – these are the Hot Stampers, folks
  • “Stand Up! has great textural interest, due, in part, to a more sophisticated recording technique, in part to the organ, mandolin, balalaika, etc., which Anderson plays to enrich each song. The band is able to work with different musical styles, but without a trace of the facile, glib manipulation which strains for attention.”

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Island pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here. We must give thanks to the brilliant engineer Andy Johns. (more…)

Jethro Tull – This Was

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  • A KILLER copy of Tull’s debut with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • 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

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Cat Stevens – Catch Bull At Four

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this very specific UK pressing is STUNNING from start to finish
  • Bigger, more dynamic, more lively, more present and just plain more EXCITING than anything we heard – that’s why it won our shootout
  • Hard to believe, but it’s true: there is only one stamper that consistently wins shootouts, and the unfortunate fact of the matter is that it took us twenty years to discover it, ouch
  • This British pressing with the right stamper – can show you the sweeter, tubier Midrange Magic that we is the hallmark of all the best Cat Stevens’ recordings
  • “Though some of the lyrics retain Cat’s fanciful imagery… he shows a new emotional directness, especially on side two, the albums “down” side. This is reflected in Cat’s singing, which becomes more assured and more emotive with each album.”

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King Crimson – The Young Persons’ Guide To King Crimson

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  • Outstanding sound for this British Island original with all FOUR sides earning sonic grades of Double Plus (A++) or close to them
  • Forget the Polydor and EG reissues (and anything that’s come along lately) – these early British pressings are the only way to hear this album sound the way it should
  • Contains the rare pre-Crimson Robert Fripp demo of I Talk To The Wind, recorded with a female lead vocalist [which can be found at the end of side one]
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…rounded up an excellent, if somewhat idiosyncratic, survey of the group’s seven years together, its contents ranging from the unimpeachable classics to unimaginable rarities… the definitive study of the original King Crimson.”

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Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

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  • This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best
  • We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG
  • Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault – thanks Eddie and Jimmy!
  • “Winwood is simply incredible. He has a top group of musicians with him and they have made an album which is one of the best from any contemporary group.” – Rolling Stone, 1968

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

Fairport Convention – What We Did On Our Holidays

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  • An outstanding UK copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it, and the first copy to hit the site in years – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of that “you-are-there-immediacy” of ANALOG that set the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else you care to name
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… more than simply being a collection of good songs, it allowed Fairport to achieve its greatest internal balance, and indeed one of the finest balances of any major folk-rock group.”

The “haunting, ethereal” vocals of the lovely Sandy Denny (or Alexandra Elene McLean Denny as she’s listed on the sleeve) are sublime here. Some of you may recognize her voice from a ditty called ‘Battle of Evermore’, found on a grayish ’70s rock album that no one even bothered to give a name. Wonder what ever became of that group? No doubt by now their story is lost to the sands of time. I have to say I thought the music was pretty good though.

This vintage Island pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, 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 are now revealed as never before 
  • 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
  • “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This one has it ALL going on — all the tubey magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high resolution yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings. (more…)

McDonald and Giles – McDonald and Giles

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  • You’ll find incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this very well recorded proggy album
  • These early UK pressed sides are full of the kind of Tubey Magic that makes us (and other right-thinking audiophiles) swoon – thanks Brian Humphries!
  • If you like early King Crimson – they were in the band don’t you know – you will surely get a big kick out of this one-of-a-kind sleeper from 1970
  • 4 stars: “The main attraction is really the performances turned in by McDonald and the Giles brothers — they all sound fabulous…”

Brian Humphries engineered the album, and although you may not be all that familiar with his name, if you’re an audiophile you know his work well. Take a gander at this group:

  • Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
  • Black Sabbath – Paranoid
  • Traffic – The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys
  • Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Two are of course on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, and all four — five if you count McDonald And Giles — qualify as State of the Art Rock Recordings from the era. (more…)