Labels We Love – Island

Phil Manzanera – A Truly Awesome Feat of Engineering by Rhett Davies

More of the Music of Phil Manzanera

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Phil Manzanera

You may recall reading this bit about Rhett Daviesengineering on Dire Straits’ debut:

“…until something better comes along, this is his Masterpiece. It has to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, with Tubey Magical mids, prodigious bass, transparency and freedom from hi-fi-ishness and distortion like few rock recordings you have ever heard.”

Well, something better has now come along, and it’s called Diamond Head.

It has some of the Biggest, Boldest Sound we have ever heard. Diamond Head isn’t known as an audiophile album but it should be — the sound is glorious — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and as rich and dynamic as it gets.

It’s clearly a Big Speaker Demo Disc. Play this one as loud as you can. The louder you play it, the better it sounds.

The best copies have Room Shaking Deep Bass with the kind of Whomp that can drive this music to practically unexplored heights.

It’s also transparent, with a large, deep soundfield that really allows you to hear into the music and the studio space in which it was created. The clarity is superb with all the detail and texture one could hope for, but the real kicker is the amount of Energy and Musical Drive that these two sides have going for them.

This is what the Master Tape is really capable of — Mind Bogglingly Good Sound.

Looking for Tubey Magic? Rhett Davies is your man. Just think about the sound of the first Dire Straits album or Avalon. The best pressings of those albums — those with truly Hot Stampers — are swimming in it. (more…)

McDonald and Giles – A Sleeper Prog Album from 1970

Hot Stamper Pressings of Prog Rock Albums Available Now

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

Brian Humphries engineered the album, and although you may not be familiar with that name, if you’re an audiophile you should get to know his work better, as this guy recorded some amazing sounding albums.

Take a gander at this group:

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

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.

Demo Disc Quality Sound

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good the best early Island Label recordings can sound, this killer copy should do the trick.

This UK pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There may well be a CD of this album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable and a good collection of vintage vinyl could care less.

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Jethro Tull / Stand Up – Listening Track by Track

Reviews and Commentaries for Stand Up

Hot Stamper Pressings of Jethro Tull’s Albums Available Now

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Stand Up.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

If British Blues Rock is your thing, then Stand Up is a record that definitely belongs in your collection.

Side One

A New Day Yesterday

This is one of my favorite Jethro Tull songs of all time. (This and To Cry You a Song from Benefit are pretty darn hard to beat.) Clive Bunker’s drumming is incredibly energetic; it drives the song to levels few bands could ever hope to reach. It reminds me of the kind of all-out ASSAULT on the skins you hear in the work of Dave Grohl and John Bonham. Bunker is a highly underrated player; his bandmates Barre and Cornick don’t get the respect they deserve either, for reasons that I’ll never understand. They’re about as good as it gets in my book. (more…)

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Tarkus

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other copy of Tarkus you’ve heard
  • This early British pressing with the Island Pink Rim label is guaranteed to rock like no other copy you’ve ever played
  • Eddie Offord’s trademark Tubey Magic, energy, resolution, whomp factor and dynamics are all over this phenomenal recording
  • “More accomplished than the trio’s first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.”

This killer copy features some of the more intense prog rock sound to hit our table in quite some time. This is a true Demo Disc LP, one of the most dynamic and powerful rock recordings ever made.

The organ captured here by Eddie Offord (of Yes engineering fame, we’re his biggest fans) and then transferred so well onto our Hot Stamper pressings will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big Bombastic Prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually does rock your world.

Unlike most British pressings of the first album, the Brits here really ROCK, with greater dynamic contrasts and seriously prodigious bass, some of the best ever committed to vinyl. This music needs real whomp down below and lots of jump factor to work its magic. These Brits are super-low distortion, with an open, sweet sound, especially up top, but they still manage to convey the awesome power of the music, no mean feat.

Folks, This Is Why We Love Analog

This is ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest. You ain’t never gonna play a CD that sounds like this as long as you live. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but digital media are evidently incapable of reproducing this kind of sound. There are nice sounding CDs in the world but there aren’t any that sound like this, not in my experience anyway. If you are thinking that someday a better digital system is going to come along in order to save you the trouble and expense of having to find and acquire these expensive original pressings, think again.

This is the kind of record that shows you what’s wrong with your BEST sounding CDs. (Let’s not even talk about the average one in your collection, or mine; the less said the better.) This is the kind of record that somebody might hear in a stereo store and realize that the digital road he’s been going down for so many years is nothing but a sonic dead end.

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Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Folks, This Is Why We Love Analog

More of the Music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Hot Stamper Pressings of Prog Rock Albums Available Now

This is ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest. You ain’t never gonna play a CD that sounds like this as long as you live. I don’t mean to rain on anyone’s parade, but digital media are evidently incapable of reproducing this kind of sound. There are nice sounding CDs in the world but there aren’t any that sound like this, not in my experience anyway.

If you are thinking that someday a better digital system is going to come along in order to save you the trouble and expense of having to find and acquire these expensive original pressings, think again.

This is the kind of record that shows you what’s wrong with your BEST sounding CDs. (Let’s not even talk about the average one in your collection, or mine; the less said the better.)

This is the kind of record that somebody might hear in a stereo store and realize that the digital road he’s been going down for so many years is nothing but a sonic dead end.

The organ captured here by Eddie Offord (of Yes engineering fame, we’re his biggest fans) and then transferred so well onto our Hot Stamper pressings will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big Bombastic Prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually does rock your world.

Unlike most British pressings of the first album, the Brits here really ROCK, with greater dynamic contrasts and seriously prodigious bass, some of the best ever committed to vinyl. This music needs real whomp down below and lots of jump factor to work its magic. These Brits are super-low distortion, with an open, sweet sound, especially up top, but they still manage to convey the awesome power of the music, no mean feat.


FURTHER READING

This record sounds best to us this way:

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

On the Right Early Pressing 

On the Right Import Pressing

For more modestly helpful title-specific advice, click here.

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Trilogy

More Emerson, Lake and Palmer

More Prog Rock

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage UK Island pressing
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • An excellent recording that really shines on a good pressing like this, courtesy the engineering brilliance of Eddie Offord
  • 4 stars: “Every track on this album has been carefully thought, arranged, and performed to perfection…”

It’s not easy to find great copies of this album. This kind of prog rock demands big, bold sound, and not all copies have the size or low end weight to pull it off. Keith Emerson’s organ needs to extend all the way down, or it just doesn’t work. Both sides here have a great bottom end, and some real texture and space up top.

“From The Beginning” has the kind of analog magic that made it a staple in practically every stereo store I walked into back in the ’70s.

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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…)

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.”

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Bryan Ferry – Let’s Stick Together

More Bryan Ferry

More Roxy Music

  • 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.”
  • If you’re a Roxy fan, this title from 1976 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here
  • 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. Bryan Ferry’s third solo album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should get to know better.

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…)

King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King

  • KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides of this original Island Sunray pressing
  • We had a wide variety of Islands (Pink and Sunray) and UK Polydor pressings, and if you want to know which of them sounds the best all you have to do is buy this LP!
  • At good loud levels the horns blasting away on “21st Century Schizoid Man” are guaranteed to blow your mind on this copy
  • 5 Stars: “The group’s definitive album, and one of the most daring debut albums ever …. it blew all of the progressive/psychedelic competition out of the running, although it was almost too good for the band’s own good — it took King Crimson nearly four years to come up with a record as strong or concise.”
  • 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. In the Court of the Crimson King is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

Over the many years of doing shootouts for this album, we’ve listened to a lot of different pressings. Right from the start we could hear that no domestic pressing was, or was likely to ever be, remotely competitive with the best Brits.

Most later reissues — domestic or import — were as flat and lifeless as a cassette, although we admit that some were clearly better than others.

The MoFi pressing is one of their best. Unfortunately we have little tolerance for the dynamic compression, overall lifelessness and wonky bass heard on practically every record they ever remastered. One of the reasons your MoFi might not sound wrong to you is that it isn’t really “wrong.” It’s doing most things right, and it probably will beat whatever you can find to throw at it.

But it’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing of In The Court Of The Crimson King, even one as good as MoFi’s.

Side by side the comparison will surely be striking. How much energy, size and power and passion is missing from the record you own? There’s only one way to find out, and it’s by playing a better copy of the album. This one will do nicely!

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