Top Artists – Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello – Girls Girls Girls – Skip It on Vinyl (But Buy the CD Set)

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Girls Girls Girls

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

This is a British Import Demon Records LP that sounds decent — better than you’d find on any domestic copy — and the songs, spanning the period from 1976 to 1986, are GREAT! 

But the CD has much better sound than any vinyl I have yet to hear. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Little Creatures and Armed Forces

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

Hey Tom,  

Just wanted to let you know I finally played the Little Creatures Hot Stamper last night for the first time. Very, very nice record. Admittedly, I have more copies of Little Creatures than any sane person should. Many of these copies sound very good, the Hot Stamper is a step above the rest. Great slam. More space between instruments. Love it. 

I have spent the last month or so collecting various versions of Elvis Costello – Armed Forces for a shootout. It’s a top five record for me and with my daughter heading for college soon, a White Hot copy is out of reach at this point. First press UK’s, later UK “Porky’s” and first run German “Porky’s” have all been gathered. Honestly, the whole process is a pain in the ass and very time consuming. The results have been interesting and I have acquired what I believe to be a very good record but it probably would have been cheaper to give you a call.

Keep up the good work.

Sean M.

Sean, I would have been happy to save you the work, we do if for a living.

For everybody else, click on the link below to get a ready-to-play, guaranteed killer copy mailed right to your door.

Best, TP

 

 

Little Creatures

Armed Forces

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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

STUNNING! This insanely good pressing earned the rare FOUR PLUS (A++++) grade on side one — it’s OFF THE CHARTS! Side two is incredible as well, earning our standard top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) The sound is incredibly lively, punchy, and powerful; with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have. Relatively quiet for this album, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on both sides.

We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea could even exist. We estimate that less than one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that. (more…)

Elvis Costello – Armed Forces – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2009

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This White Hot Stamper side one was HEAD AND SHOULDERS better than ANY side of ANY other copy we played. We are awarding it our very special “Four Plus” A++++grade; the sound goes beyond anything we’ve heard before. It’s also one of less than two dozen such records to ever hit the site.

At this point we’ve easily done more than a thousand Hot Stamper listings, so we are talking in the range of the top one or two percent for sound. Most audiophiles will go their whole lives without hearing a rock record sound this good, considering the tens of thousands of records we’ve had to buy, clean and play to find the handful of OFF THE CHARTS copies we’ve reviewed. (more…)

Elvis Costello – Spike

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  • A superb sounding copy of Elvis Costello’s Last Really Good Album with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • This copy showed us a Spike we never knew existed — so much energy and presence to the sound, it came jumping out of the speakers and simply refused to mind its manners. Elvis should be proud. Why don’t more records sound like this?
  • This is one of the best batches of songs Elvis (and his buddy Paul McCartney) ever wrote!

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Elvis Costello Get Happy – What to Listen For

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  • A superb sounding vintage UK copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish 
  • Big, lively and dynamic, with plenty of bass (Elvis’s trademark sound) and New Wave energy
  • This release, coming right before the brilliant Trust, contains Elvis classics like I Can’t Stand Up (for Falling Down) & Motel Matches
  • The AMG Five Star rating “…a 20-song blue-eyed soul tour-de-force…” and killer recording quality make this a Must Own for Elvis fans

Two excellent sides for this rip-roarin’, twenty song, five star rated Elvis Costello extravaganza!

This is the record that came right after Armed Forces, which is a huge favorite around these parts, and the venerable All Music Guide gives both albums five big stars. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but it’s certainly full of good material. Out of the twenty songs on here, exactly one clocks in at over three minutes.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

There’s not a lot of top end on this recording. The mistake the American mastering engineers made when Columbia released their version was to brighten up the sound, which does nothing but make it aggressive and transistory. This is the way Get Happy is supposed to sound and trying to change it only makes it worse. (more…)

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True – More 180g Trash from Rhino

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Sonic Grade: D

I’m embarrassed to say we used to like the Rhino Heavy Vinyl version, and in our defense let me tell you why: it was (for the most part) tonally correct, fairly low distortion, and had tight punchy bass.

Boy, was we wrong. Now it sounds positively CRUDE and UNPLEASANT next to the real thing — if by “the real thing” you mean an honest to goodness Hot Stamper copy. The average copy of this record is aggressive and unpleasant. The British pressings are mud. You either have to work very hard to find a good one (which means buying, cleaning and playing lots and lots of them), or you have to luck into a good one by accident.

 

This Year’s Model Is Rockin’ Like No Other (1978)

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a superb Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy will be very hard to beat – quiet vinyl too
  • This Green Label Radar Records UK pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • The bass is right – the moment-to-moment rhythmic changes in the songs are clear and the band swings the way it’s supposed to
  • 5 stars: “The most remarkable thing about the album is the sound — Costello and the Attractions never rocked this hard, or this vengefully, ever again.”

As we noted above, this original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Elvis Costello – King of America (1986)

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  • Elvis’s brilliant 1986 release finally comes to the site with two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides
  • Both sides are incredibly clean, clear and lively with a huge bottom end and lots of space around all of the instruments
  • Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” is only one highlight among many – these are some of his best songs 
  • AMG raves: “Stripping away much of the excess that cluttered Punch the Clock and Goodbye Cruel World, Elvis Costello returned to his folk-rock and pub rock roots with King of America, creating one of his most affecting and personal records … one of his masterpieces.”

Even though the album was recorded right here in the states, the domestic copies are clearly made from dubs, sounding quite a bit more opaque, vague, closed-in, flat and dry than most of the British pressings we played. Like most Costello albums on domestic vinyl, they should be avoided. (more…)

Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound or something close to it on both sides this is as good a copy as we have ever offered
  • Geoff Emerick engineered, creating a unique sound – a sound which only works if you have the right pressing
  • This dense, darkly serious album contains some of the best songs EC ever wrote – the last of his True Classics
  • Allmusic 5 Stars: “Essentially, the songs on Imperial Bedroom are an extension of Costello’s jazz and pop infatuations on Trust. Costello’s music is complex and intricate, yet it flows so smoothly, it’s easy to miss the bitter, brutal lyrics.”

Six of Elvis’s first seven albums received a Five Star rating from Allmusic, the exception being Almost Blue, and we generally would agree with that assessment (although Get Happy should probably get Four Stars also, not Five). 

Which is to say that Elvis Costello is a brilliant artist whose albums work as albums, a fact that is in danger of being lost in a world of single song downloads and greatest hits packages. We record-playing audiophiles are inclined to start at the beginning of a side and let if flow through to the end, and that is clearly the best way to appreciate and enjoy the work of this very gifted man.

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