Top Artists – Elvis Costello

Elvis Costello / Armed Forces – A True Demo Disc from 1979

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, this early UK pressing will show you just how good sounding Elvis’s Best Recording can be
  • Some of the biggest, boldest rock sound ever recorded
  • A Top 100 Demo Disc, and just amazing here – every track is Elvis at this best
  • 5 stars: “In contrast to the stripped-down pop and rock of his first two albums, Armed Forces boasted a detailed and textured pop production… However, the more spacious arrangements — complete with ringing pianos, echoing reverb, layered guitars, and harmonies — accent Costello’s melodies… It’s a dense but accessible pop record and ranks as his third masterpiece in a row.”

Armed Forces is one of the best-sounding rock records ever made, and a copy like this is proof enough to back up that claim. The best copies are extremely transparent and silky sounding, but with unbelievably punchy, rock-solid bass and drums.

I would say the sound of the rhythm section of this album ranks up there with the very best ever recorded. Beyond that, the musical chops of this band at this time rank with the very best in the history of rock. Steve, Bruce and Pete rarely get the credit they deserve for being one of the tightest, liveliest backing bands ever to walk into a studio or on to a stage.

The song Oliver’s Army on the first side is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. Rock music doesn’t get much livelier than that. Skip on down to Green Shirt for another track that’s as punchy as they come.

Virtually every other pressing of this record I’ve ever played sounds pale and washed out compared to the good British early pressings. It almost makes you wonder what happened to the tape; it seems as if this tape wasn’t used to make any records after this batch was pressed, it’s that big of a difference! (We have found surprisingly good British second pressings before but they are never competitive with the likes of these early ones.) (more…)

Elvis Costello – Trust

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  • With a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy has Demo Disc sound guaranteed to knock you right out of your listening chair
  • The clarity and transparency allow you to appreciate subtleties in the high end even when the bass and drums are really POUNDING – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • 5 stars: “…their most ambitious and eclectic album to date… Costello & the Attractions demonstrate their musical skill and savvy by essentially sticking to the direct sound of their four-piece band. In the process, they recorded, arguably, their most impressive album, one that demonstrates all sides of Costello’s songwriting and performing personality without succumbing to pretentiousness.”

This copy has The Big Sound that lets this music REALLY ROCK. There’s a TON of low-end on this record; regrettably, most copies suffer from either a lack of bass or a lack of bass definition. I can’t tell you how much you’re missing when the bass isn’t right on this album. It’s without a doubt THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT of the sound on this album.

When the bass is right, everything falls into place, and the music comes powerfully to life. When the bass is lacking or ill-defined, the music seems labored; the moment-to-moment rhythmic changes in the songs blur together, and the band just doesn’t swing the way it’s supposed to. (more…)

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True – Our Off the Charts Shootout Winner from 2016

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

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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.

This is an amazing album, but a pressing like this takes it to a whole new level! The average copy of this record is aggressive and unpleasant. 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.

More Outlier Pressings with Out of this World Sound Quality

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Elvis Costello – Get Happy

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  • An incredibly good UK pressing – only the second Shootout Winner to hit the site in many years, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Big, lively and dynamic, with huge amounts of bass (Elvis’s trademark sound) and New Wave energy that’s off the charts
  • Get Happy, 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 amazing Triple Plus (A+++) 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. (more…)

What We Think We Know about Elvis Costello’s Groundbreaking Debut from 1977

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

  • This STUNNING copy of Costello’s debut album earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides
  • The sound is lively, punchy, and powerful – with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have
  • A massive step up sonically from most domestic pressings, early or otherwise, and guaranteed to handily beat the imports as well
  • 5 stars: “A phenomenal debut, capturing a songwriter and musician whose words were as rich and clever as his music.”

Yes, it’s lively and has that driving punk rock bass, but what sets this copy apart from the average pressing is the top end — it’s silky and smooth. As a consequence, the vocals end up being more present and transparent than we’re used to, with almost none of the grit and spit so common to most of the copies anyone is ever likely to come across. (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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Elvis Costello – Spike – The Last Consistently Good Elvis Costello Album

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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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Letter of the Week – Armed Forces: “…an occult experience, as the sound emanating was totally inexplicable.”

Armed Forces

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

Hey Tom,   

My nearly white hot stamper of “Armed Forces” has literally and honestly left me in tears. I didn’t know my system could sound so… elevated? Perfect? Whole?

Listening to “Two Little Hitlers” was an occult experience, as the sound emanating was totally inexplicable.

Understand, I own over 10 versions of this album. I have collected original UK pressings and I have one that I was pretty sure you couldn’t match. I’m a damned expert of “Armed Forces”. Pathetic, but true.

Language fails.

I was going to return this slab. I had made up my mind before I heard it that it’s going back. The old me, before I went though your transformative experience of Crowley-esq audio magik, said smugly that:
“This was just an experiment. I’m not going to spend that kind of money on a LP, especially when I own so many good versions.”

No. You’re not getting my copy of “Armed Forces” back. F*ck off.

And I guess you’ll be hearing a lot more from me and my credit card.

I hate you

Love
Adam Gates

 

Elvis Costello – Blood and Chocolate – Reviewed in 2000

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

Some brilliant songs on this one: I Want You comes to mind, one of the best tracks Elvis ever laid down. This is not a pretty record — it’s lean, mean, rock and roll, if you’re into that sort of thing (which I am of course). (more…)

What We Listen For on Elvis Costello’s Trust – The Bass Is (Almost) All

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There’s a TON of low-end on this record; regrettably, most copies suffer from either a lack of bass or a lack of bass definition. I can’t tell you how much you’re missing when the bass isn’t right on this album. (Or if you have the typical bass-shy audiophile speaker, yuck.) 

It’s without a doubt THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT of the sound on this album. When the bass is right, everything falls into place, and the music comes powerfully to life. When the bass is lacking or ill-defined, the music seems labored; the moment-to-moment rhythmic changes in the songs blur together, and the band just doesn’t swing the way it’s supposed to.

Hey, these are The Attractions: the pro’s pros. You can’t ask for better, and as expected they deliver big time on this album. But the mastering and pressing problems of most British copies typically make them sound half-hearted and uninspired, which is certainly nothing like what they sound like on the master tape. On the master tape, they play GREAT. You need a very special copy of the LP to hear them play that way, and that’s all there is to it. The better the pressing, the better the band.

(It should be noted that this is not an easy record to reproduce properly. Everything needs to be working at its best to bring this recording to life, especially in the range of 200 cycles and under, an area where most audiophile systems are at their weakest. If you’ve got power to spare down there, this one will blow your mind.)

On this copy, you get the full-on bottom end WHOMP you paid for, with no loss in control. You can clearly follow Bruce Thomas’s bass lines throughout the songs, a real treat for any music lover. (He and Elvis don’t get along, hence the end of the Attractions as his backing band. I guess we should be thankful for the nine albums on which they were together; many of them are Desert Island Discs for me.) Not only that, but the drums have real body and resonance, a far cry from the wimpy cardboard drum sound you’ll hear on the typical copy. (more…)