Labels We Love – Island

U2 – October

More U2

More New Wave Recordings

  • Outstanding sound throughout with both sides rating a strong Double Plus (A++) for their big, bold sound
  • Balanced, musical and full throughout – this pressing is a big step up from many of the other originals that we played
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl, with each side playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “… when U2 marry the message, melody, and sound together, as on “Gloria,” “I Threw a Brick Through a Window,” and “I Fall Down,” the results are thoroughly impressive.”
  • If you’re a U2 fan, a killer copy of their classic album from 1981 belongs in your collection

Recordings from the ’80s are always a bit tricky in terms of their sound quality, and U2 is not a band we have ever associated with the highest audiophile-quality sonics. We’ve been through a number of their albums now, including War, The Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree, and while Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, we’ve at least found a handful of pressings that do a much better job of communicating their music than others, and certainly a great deal better than any Heavy Vinyl reissue or digital source.

It’s not often that we come across audiophile-quality sound for U2’s early titles. The average copy of this record sounds as dry and flat as a cassette. Not this one, or to be more precise, not this pressing. (more…)

McDonald and Giles – McDonald and Giles

More Prog Rock

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

  • You’ll find incredible 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…”
  • If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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…)

Bryan Ferry – Let’s Stick Together

More Bryan Ferry

  • A KILLER pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • For material and sound I consider this to be the best of Bryan Ferry’s solo albums – it’s a blast from start to finish
  • The energy, presence, bass, and dynamic power (love that horn section!) place it well above his other side projects
  • 4 Stars: “The title track itself scored Ferry a deserved British hit single, with great sax work from Chris Mercer and Mel Collins and a driving, full band performance. Ferry’s delivery is one of his best, right down to the yelps, and the whole thing chugs with post-glam power.”

We shot out a number of other imports and this killer copy is As Good As It Gets. The presence, bass, and dynamics place it head and shoulders above the competition. It has what we like to call Master Tape Sound — right in every way.

As for material, he covers some early Roxy songs (brilliantly I might add); Beatles and Everly Bros. tunes; and even old R&B tracks like ‘Shame, Shame, Shame’. Every song on this album is good, and I don’t think that can be said for any of his other solo projects. Five stars in my book. (more…)

Jethro Tull – This Was

More Jethro Tull

More British Blues Rock

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

(more…)

Traffic / Mr. Fantasy – We Was Wrong

xxxxx

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.

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…)

The Dirty Little Secret of the Record Biz Part 3

More Traffic

More Steve Winwood

Hits That Are Made from Dub Tapes

The sound of some songs on some greatest hits albums can be BETTER than the sound of those very same songs on the best original pressings.

How can that be you ask, dumbfounded by the sheer ridiculousness of such a statement? Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. It’s a dirty little secret in the record biz that sometimes the master for the presumptive Hit Single (or singles) is pulled from the album’s final two track master mix tape and used to make the 45 single, the idea being that the single is what people are going to hear on the radio and want to buy, or, having heard it sound so good on the radio, go out and buy the album.

One way or another, it’s the single that will do the selling of the band’s music. This is clearly the case with the albums of Traffic.
(more…)

King Crimson – The Young Persons’ Guide To King Crimson

More King Crimson

More Prog Rock

  • 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.”

(more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

More Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Mona Bone Jakon

xxxxx

  • 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 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, Cat Stevens’ Mona Bone Jakon, 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…)

Bob Marley – Live!

More Bob Marley

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

xxxxx

  • This Killer Island British import copy of Live! boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • As you can imagine, any Reggae Island UK import is very hard to come by – not to mention expensive – with audiophile playing surfaces, but here’s one
  • You won’t believe how big and rich this music can sound (especially if all you know is domestic or modern pressings)
  • Recorded in 1975 and released between Natty Dread (1974) and Rastaman Vibration (1976), Marley was at the peak of his powers at the time
  • A real contender to make the next update of our Top 100 list – it’s that impressive
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the most memorable concert recordings of the pop music era.”

This copy gives you EXCELLENT LIVE SOUND, not to mention KILLER PERFORMANCES of many of Bob Marley and the Wailers’ reggae classics. We were absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the sound of the better copies. The Hot Stamper pressings we found were so darn good that this title almost made our Rock and Pop Top 100 list.

Audiophiles don’t seem to be much into reggae, but we had a blast doing shootouts for some of the classic Marley albums. The music is wonderful (check out the All Music Guide review, where they call this “one of the most memorable concert recordings of the pop music era”) and the sound on the best pressings can be truly spectacular.

None of us here had any idea what an amazing live recording this album was until we threw a copy on the table just for kicks and heard an extremely well-recorded live reggae concert jumping out of the speakers.

The domestic pressings are not bad, but they are clearly made from copy tapes and can’t hold a candle to the better imports from across the pond. (more…)

Richard and Linda Thompson – Hokey Pokey

More Richard Thompson

  • Excellent sound for this classic Richard and Linda Thompson album with both sides earning seriously good grades of Double Plus (A++) or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Clearly one of the better copies in our shootout – much more body, punchier bass and more detail than most pressings
  • Everything you want in the sound of a good British Folk Rock album is here in abundance – enjoy!
  • Allmusic 4 Stars: “The Thompsons, from the opening Irish fiddle derivation of a Chuck Berry riff, through Linda’s exquisite performance of “A Heart Needs a Home,” to their cover of Mike Waterson’s “Mole in a Hole” which closes the record, once again create a timeless amalgam of folk and rock…”

This is one of Richard and Linda Thompson’s better releases, their second in fact, following the luminous I Want to See the Bright Lights Shine from a year earlier. Rich and full-bodied, with big bass and gobs of studio ambience, this pressing presents the music the way it was meant to be heard (more…)