Labels We Love – Virgin

Phil Collins – Face Value

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  • Phil Collins KILLER solo debut finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both of this vintage import’s sides
  • The recording quality of this album is still analog and can be excellent, thanks to hugely talented engineer and producer Hugh Padgham (Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, etc.)
  • We’ve tried some of his other albums but nothing we’ve played has struck us as being remotely as well recorded as his debut album from 1981
  • 5 stars: “. . . Collins’ most honest, most compelling work. He went on to become a huge star, with loads more hits, but Face Value stands as his masterpiece and one of the finest moments of the ’80s musical landscape.”

Song after song, Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine with this breakout record, the first and clearly the best of all his solo albums. The sound on the best copies is VIBRANT, with SUPERB extension on the top, PUNCHY BASS, and excellent texture on the drums and percussion, as well as spacious strings and vocals.

There may be some hope for Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982), but Phil’s third album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, is digital and ridiculously processed sounding. I suppose not many albums from 1985 weren’t, but it’s still an unfortunate development for us audiophile types who might’ve wanted to enjoy these albums but are just not able to get past the bad sound. (more…)

XTC – Nonsuch – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

Two Virgin British Import LPs from 1992.

Playing this album I was strongly reminded of one of my all time favorites: Jellyfish’s Spilt Milk. Since that album came out a year after this one, there’s a very good chance they were influenced by this XTC record.

If you like this one you will probably like that one and vice versa.

Phil Collins / Face Value – Whomp Factor

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album. 

Until we heard some of the better copies, we were simply not able to appreciate just how important good bass definition and serious weight down low are to the sound of this record. When the bass is wooly or thin, as it is on so many copies — not clear, not deep, not full enough — it throws the rest of the mix off. When the bass is huge and powerful the music itself becomes huge and powerful.

The copies with the big bottom end are the only ones that really make you sit up and take notice of just how good these songs are. (more…)

Phil Collins – Face Value with Hugh Padgham’s Big Drum Sound

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More Face Value

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  • Great sound throughout with both sides of this original UK pressing rating a solid Double Plus (A++) and playing quietly 
  • Hugh Padgham discovered an amazing drum sound on Peter Gabriel’s 3rd album, and he really went to town with it on this one, Collins’ debut (and Masterpiece)
  • His most consistent songwriting and many of his biggest hits – In The Air Tonight sounds amazing, but practically everything here does
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Collins proves himself a passionate singer with a gift for both deeply felt ballads and snarling rockers.”

Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine on this breakout debut, the first and clearly the best of all his solo albums. We’ve tried to do some of his other albums but nothing we’ve played seems remotely as well recorded as this album from 1981.

There may be some hope for Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982), but Phil’s third album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, sounds digital and ridiculously processed. I suppose not many albums from 1985 weren’t, but it’s still an unfortunate development for us audiophile types who might’ve wanted to enjoy these albums but are just not able to get past the bad sound. (more…)

XTC – English Settlement


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  • Insanely good sound from start to finish, with all four sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++)
  • You won’t believe how good this record sounds – on a Big System this is a sonic tour de force, a MONSTER Demo Disc
  • This copy has huge amounts of open studio space and that Tubey Magical, rich, fat, dense British Rock Sound we love
  • Includes the hit Senses Working Overtime – “The textural sound of the album is quite remarkable” — Allmusic, 4 stars

This is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with huge amounts of open studio space and that Tubey Magical, rich, fat, dense British Rock Sound. That sound isn’t easy to reproduce, but this copy absolutely nails it. Nothing else in our shootout came close to it!

If you have big speakers and the room to play them, this is quite the sonic tour de force. Credit Hugh Padgham, producer and engineer, who’s worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Those bands make the kind of music that make good use of Padgham trademark sound: wall-to-wall, deep, layered, smooth, rich and stuffed to the gills. XTC with Padgham’s help have here produced a real steamroller of an album in English Settlement.

The big hit on this album is one that most audiophiles will probably know: Senses Working Overtime. Even over the radio you can hear how dense the production is. Imagine what it sounds like on an original British pressing with Hot Stampers, played on a modern audiophile rig. Simply put, IT ROCKS. (more…)