Top Artists – Cat Stevens

Bad MoFi Mastering – Part One – Tea for the Tillerman – Cat Stevens and His Sparkling Acoustic Guitars?

More Cat Stevens

Tea for the Tillerman

xxxxx

In the commentary for America’s first album we noted that:

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo fidelity. … most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. … on a copy with a bit too much top end they will have an unnatural hi-fi-ish sparkle. 

This kind of sparkle can be heard on practically every record Mobile Fidelity made in the ’70s and ’80s. Tea for the Tillerman, Sundown, Year of the Cat, Finger Paintings, Byrd at the Gate, Quarter Moon in a 10 Cent Town — the list of sparkling MoFis would be very long indeed, and these are just the records with prominent acoustic guitars!

Next time you drop the needle on a Mobile Fidelity record — one of the ones pressed in Japan; the Anadisq series tends to have the opposite problem, no top end at all — listen carefully to the acoustic guitars and tell me if you don’t think they sound a tad sparkly.

We’ve all heard acoustic guitars up close, at parties and coffee shops and what-have-you. Do they really sound like that?

 

Cat Stevens Catch Bull at Four – Congestion? What Congestion?

More Cat Stevens

Catch Bull at Four

xxxxx

The story of our latest shootout is what real Progress in Audio is all about. Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these. 

Speaking of congestion, it had previously been our experience that every copy of the record had at least some congestion in the loudest parts, typically the later parts of songs where Cat is singing at the top of his lungs, the acoustic guitars are strumming like crazy, and big drums are pounding away are jumping out of both speakers.

The best import copies in our shootout this time around managed to reproduce all these elements cleanly, on a larger soundstage, with dynamically more energy, sonic firepower the likes of which we have never heard on this album before. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Tea for the Tillerman and CSN

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,  

I want to say a big THANK YOU for the Hot Stamper’s you sent to me. Two of them are now top ten titles in my collection: Cat Stevens Tillerman: I’m so amazed and lucky – I can’t describe it. The sound is so natural and beat my expectations in many ways – it sounds out of this world. This copy has sweet, breathy vocals, well-defined bass (!!), stunning clarity, warmth and richness, immediacy, astonishing transparency (it burns direct in your DNA – I’ll never forget!) and loads of ambience and more. It murders my pink Island original UK copies. It was a privileg to be able to hear this copy – a HIGHLIGHT event. It’s a DemoDisc of the highest order. And it’s worth the price.

The other big winner is CSN’s first album. This is one of the few LP’s with a sound that you won’t soon forget. I live since a week with this good feeling and I can’t hear or rate any other LP at this time (‘til Tillerman arrived).

Erik S.  (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

More Cat Stevens

More 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 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…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon – Notes from an Early Shootout (2007)

More Cat Stevens

More Mona Bone Jakon

xxxxx

This album is one of Cat’s top four titles both musically and sonically. Tea and Teaser are in a league of their own, but this album and Catch Bull At Four are close behind. The music is WONDERFUL — the best tracks (including I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light) rank right up there with anything from his catalog. Sonically, it’s not an epic recording on the scale of Tea or Teaser [WRONG] but with Paul Samwell-Smith at the helm you can be sure it’s an excellent sounding album — on the right pressing.

Both sides here are AMAZING! From the moment the needle hit the grooves, we heard superior clarity, better bass, and silkier highs than we had heard all day. It’s super full-bodied with more weight and whomp down low than the average copy. The presence and immediacy are staggering — play it loud and it will be as if Cat is strumming his guitar and belting out the heartfelt tunes right there in your living room.

Trouble sounds OUT OF THIS WORLD here — it’s rich and sweet with a lovely delicate quality to the acoustic guitar. Just listen to all that room around Cat’s voice! (more…)

Cat Stevens – Catch Bull At Four Magic Stampers

More Cat Stevens

More Catch Bull at Four

xxxxx

  • With two shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, this early UK pressing is As Good As It Gets!
  • Bigger, more dynamic, more lively, more present and just plain more EXCITING than anything we heard – that’s why it won our shootout  
  • This one can show you the sweeter, tubier Midrange Magic that we is the hallmark of all the best Cat Stevens’ recordings
  • Many of Cat’s best songs are here – Can’t Keep It In, Angelsea, 18th Avenue, Freezing Steel and more
  • “Celebrated and adored for his sanguine lyrics and irresistible hooks, Cat Stevens was one of the rare singer-songwriters capable of composing genuinely optimistic songs that didn’t leave a sappy residue in listeners’ ears.”

The Magic Stampers

As is sometimes the case, there is one and only one set of stamper numbers that consistently wins our Catch Bull At Four shootouts. We stumbled upon an out-of-this-world copy of the right pressing about two years ago, a copy took the recording to a level we had no idea could even be possible. (We were going to give it Four Pluses, and probably should have, but cooler heads prevailed.)

Since then we have had many copies come in, but none that could compete with the Magic Stamper pressings. And the best part of this story is that, no, the best stampers are not 1U, or 2U, or even 3U. In other words they are far from the stampers found on the earliest pressings. That’s one reason it took us so long to discover them, because they are much less commonly found than pressings with the earlier stampers. By the time these later pressings were mastered, pressed and released, the album’s biggest selling days were over. For all we know this cutting may have been done just to keep the record in print, possibly undertaken many years after its initial release. (more…)

Tea for the Tillerman Is an Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

More Cat Stevens

xxxxx

TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries. 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Where Do the Children Play? (more…)

Cat Stevens Albums – Lee Hulko Cut Them All – Good, Bad and Otherwise

More Cat Stevens

xxxxx

Is the Pink Label Island original pressing THE way to go? That’s what Harry Pearson — not to mention most audiophile record dealers — would have you believe.

But it’s just not true. And that’s good news for you, Dear (Record Loving Audiophile) Reader.

HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY FROM JOHN BARLEYCORN

Since that’s a Lee Hulko cutting just like Tea here, the same insights, if you can call them that, apply. Here’s what we wrote: (more…)

Mona Bone Jakon – A Forgotten Classic

More Cat Stevens

More Mona Bone Jakon

xxxxx

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this original copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album 
  • The sound is so transparent, open, and spacious that nuances and subtleties that escaped you before are now front and center 
  • When you hear I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light here you will understand why we say that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world 
  • The original A&M LPs we like are nearly impossible to find with good sound and quiet vinyl – this copy plays quieter than any we currently have in stock
  • “Mona Bone Jakon is a delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

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. (more…)

Teaser & The Firecat – Time Capsule of Commentaries

More Cat Stevens

More Teaser & The Firecat

xxxxx

This Hot Stamper listing from 2006 is a Time Capsule of Commentaries of sorts; it contains write-ups from 2006, 2005 and 2002 all rolled into one. Out of sheer laziness we used to leave the old commentary in the listings, sort of like building the new city on the ruins of the old. For those who don’t mind excavating through the Hot Stamper thoughts of the past, please read on. 

Notes from August 2006

DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND of the HIGHEST ORDER! (more…)