Top Artists – David Bowie

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

With Let’s Dance the name of the game is ENERGY, and boy does this copy have it! Both sides have the deep, punchy bass and sweet, extended highs that Bowie’s music needs to come ALIVE. With that big bass and smooth top end this is one record you can turn up GOOD and LOUD without fear of fatique. On a big pair of dynamic speakers you will really get your money’s worth from the best Hot Stamper pressings. 

Compression? No Thank You!

Most copies we came across during our extensive shootout were painfully compressed and thin. Sure, they could convey some of the enormous energy of this recording, but the highs always ended up being brittle and edgy. Subsequently the vocals would lose presence and the whole operation turned smeary. When this happens, tracks like “Modern Love” turn the joy of the music into boredom and even outright misery.

But the good ones boggle the mind, they practically defy understanding. How did they get that much punchy note-like bass onto a piece of vinyl, not to mention all those silky sweet highs? (more…)

David Bowie – David Live – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

The best copies have Live Rock and Roll Energy like you will not believe. The band is ON FIRE. These are the A List players of the day and they gell like a band that’s been together for years. The sonic treats include multiple horn players (David Sanborn KILLS on almost every track, and the baritone sax and oboe are rendered beautifully ) and multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the seering fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass — the list goes on.

Why the critics don’t give this album the respect it so obviously deserves is completely beyond me.

One of the two GREATEST LIVE ROCK AND ROLL RECORDS ever made. The other top live album is of course Waiting For Columbus, and the two have much in common. Most importantly, the songs played live on both albums are CONSISTENTLY better than their studio versions. (This is especially true on the Little Feat album. Little Feat was not a studio band and their live arrangements (with the Tower of Power horns!) just murder the studio ones.)

But back to David Live. Have you ever heard a good sounding Diamond Dogs? But David Live is FULL of great sounding material from the album. 1984 is much better here than on the original album. Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me also come alive in performance. They rock!

Bad Pressings, or Were They?

Like the Crime of the Century listing we did today, this album has been tried and tried, coming up short over and over again. I’m a big fan so no matter how many times we failed we just kept at it. All we were hearing was grain, grit, and surface noise — we could not get the sound we were looking for on even the best Robert Ludwig original pressings, and the British pressings were even worse, with smeary, drab, dub-tape sound. But thank goodness things change. As we wrote for COTC:

Things Have Changed

As we never tire of saying, in audio THINGS CHANGE. With better cleaning technologies, better playback, better all the other stuff we talk about on the site, records that used to be practically impossible to get to sound right can suddenly — if years of hard work and experimentation can be considered “sudden” — start to come alive and show us the MAGIC that’s been locked away for all this time inside their grooves.

Who can say what allowed David Live to take its rightful place among the best recorded live concert albums in the world? It’s there now and we are glad it is.

AGAIG Side One! The Blanket Has Been Lifted.

This side is AS GOOD AS IT GETS! I have been listening to this record for more years than I care to think about and let me tell you this copy is KILLER! No other copy had a side one that was more clean and clear, more open up top, or more rich. It’s EVERYTHING YOU WANT on this album. The top end is sweet and extended; gone is the grit and grunge of the past. (Where it went I don’t know or care.)

This was the most transparent side one we heard in our shootout. You hear the sound bouncing off the back wall of the Philadelphia Theatre and hear crowd noises and off-mike band members that you never heard before. With all the rock and roll WHOMP, vocal textures, and you-are-there presence, this side handily took Top Honors.

Side Two

With this side you are getting 3-D sound — it’s wall-to-wall! The sweetness of Bowie’s voice really sets this one apart. All of the vocals — lead and background — are breathy and present. There is plenty of extension on both ends here as well. It was very close to the best we heard.

Side Three

This side was really hard to beat. It is breathy and textured with highs that extend beautifully. The bass is well defined and tight; you can follow every note. Whoever cut this bad boy cut it very clean; there’s no grit and the clean cutting results in separation of the instruments that is truly superb. Everyone is arrayed three dimensionally on the stage, not an easy effect to achieve on a live recording. But here it is.

Side Four

This A Double Plus side four has amazing transparency; the soundstage is wide and clear. The vocals are breathy and warm with a nice silky top. It doesn’t have all of the whomp of the best, but the mids and highs are correct and the energy is really lively.


Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

Click on this link to find more records and commentary about the low end whomp factor we discuss above.

Transparency, the other side of the Tubey Magical Richness coin, is key to the better pressings of this album as well as many of our other favorite demo discs.

This is another example of a record that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Here are more records that will help you avoid listening for phony detail when evaluating equipment or tweaking your system.

The most important advice on the site can be found under the heading The Four Pillars of Success.

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.

Here are more entries in our ongoing Shootout Advice series.

David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust – Our Shootout Winning Copy from 2011

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

Is this one of the Greatest Rock Albums of All Time? Unquestionably. It’s the pinnacle of Glam Rock. Every track is superb; not a moment is less than stellar from beginning to end.

Is it Bowie’s Masterpiece? Absolutely. No other Bowie record ranks higher in my book. No other Bowie record would command a similar price, regardless of its sonic merits.

Is it amazingly well recorded? You better believe it. This is not just Bowie’s masterpiece; it’s Ken Scott’s as well. For BIG, BOLD, wall to wall, floor to ceiling sound, look no further.

Ken Scott engineered this record and he did his usual amazingly good job. The guitars may not sound “real”, they way they actually do in real life, but they sure sound GOOD! Lots of rich, sweet tubey magic, the sound we love here at Better Records. (more…)

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

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Let’s Dance

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, this copy is one of the best we have ever heard
  • It’s all here: huge amounts of rock solid bass, clear guitar transients, breathy, natural vocals, and jump out of the speakers presence and energy
  • A real Demo Disc at high volumes on the right system – Modern Love, China Girl and the title track are knockouts when you play them good and loud
  • Top 100 of course – Let’s Dance is one of the best sounding Bowie albums ever recorded – this superb pressing is proof!

Bowie is without question one of the all-time great frontmen and producers. This is his last good album and a Must Own for audiophiles, especially if you have big dynamic speakers. Like we say, with this one you are in for a treat.

Hearing a top copy of Let’s Dance is truly a special experience; the damn thing is amazingly well recorded, especially considering it came along well after the Golden Age of Rock Recording (the ’60s and ’70s, don’t you know). The sound is analog at its best; rich, full and super-punchy. (more…)

Giorgio Moroder – Cat People Soundtrack – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Cat People Soundtrack

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES of the TAS List SuperDisc! We just finished a big shootout for this album, and this knockout copy took top honors on both sides with A+++ sound from start to finish. Drop the needle on any track for some of the best sounding synthesizers you’ll ever hear! (more…)

David Bowie – Young Americans – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

THE BEST SOUND I HAVE EVER HEARD FOR THIS ALBUM! We’ve been playing this album for years, but we’ve sure never heard it sound like this. Both sides have BIG, FULL-BODIED SOUND that takes this soulful music to an entirely new level.

Both sides here are AGAIG — As Good As It Gets, Master Tape Sound. The overall sound is open, spacious, and transparent with lots of DEEP bass. You can easily pick out all the background vocals, and Bowie’s voice sounds just right. The strings have amazing amounts of texture — you can really hear the sound of the rosin on the bow. The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is punchy and powerful. You won’t believe how superb the cymbal crashes sound — you’re right there in the room with these guys! (more…)

David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust – Simply Vinyl & EMI Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

This version sounds just like the EMI that came out in the ’90s; in short, not very good.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers. 

Queen – Hot Space

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More Hot Space

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy of Hot Space took top honors in our recent shootout
  • The best pressings – like this one – have plenty of bass and are smoother and fuller than the rest
  • Disco, funk, rhythm and blues, dance and pop music all found their way onto this 1982 release -the monster hit Under Pressure with none other than Mr. David Bowie closes out side two
  • “Hot Space is an essential cog for Queen completists… [it] has invention and ideas to spare.”

Queen albums in general are notoriously hard to find good sound for, and Queen albums from 1982 are probably even harder.

We’re guessing this album’s appeal is probably limited to fans of the band, but for those of you who want something different, or to hear Under Pressure sound good, we offer Hot Space with White Hot Stamper sound. (more…)

David Bowie – Aladdin Sane – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

THE BIG BOWIE SOUND for this wonderful follow-up to Ziggy Stardust! We just finished shooting out a number of imports and domestic pressings of this album, and this British Orange Label pressing was THE KING — on both sides! This one’s got the kind of “meat on the bones” sound that takes these great glam-rock songs to a whole new level! You won’t believe how dynamic the sound is!

This copy’s got it all — textured vocals, big time WHOMP to the bottom end, off-the-charts energy, tight bass, depth to the soundfield, and so much more. I’ve never heard this album sound any better and I don’t expect to anytime soon. The overall sound is clean, clear, open, spacious, and incredibly transparent. Sometimes the vocals are mixed a little far back, but at times Bowie will be IN THE ROOM with you. (more…)

David Bowie – Ziggy Stardust – Breaking the Price Barrier in 2007

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

The following is our 2007 commentary for the best Ziggy Stardust we had ever heard

This RCA Import has DRAMATICALLY better sound than any Ziggy LP we’ve ever played here at Better Records. Whatever you think you know about the sound of this record, THINK AGAIN. The sound of this copy is so far beyond any expectation I had that hearing it was nothing short of a REVELATION. It’s TWO FULL GRADES better than any copy we played in our shootout.

Ater hearing this copy we had to lower our grades for every other pressing we had played. This was a completely new standard. (more…)