- One-Trick Pony is back with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Notably richer and livelier than every other pressing we played, with plenty of Tubey Magic and good weight down low
- We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, presence and energy on this copy than anything else around, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an unsuspecting record buying public
- “Tasty licks abound from the fretwork of Eric Gale, Hiram Bullock, and Hugh McCracken, and the rhythm section of Steve Gadd, Tony Levin, and Richard Tee is equally in the groove. This is the closest thing to a band album Simon ever made, and it contains some of his most rhythmic and energetic singing. . .”
- If you’re a Paul Simon fan, a killer copy like this of his album from 1980 belongs in your collection
- This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- An extremely tough album to find with the kind of big, spacious, Tubey Magical sound this pressing offers
- Clean, clear and open are nice qualities to have, but the richer, smoother, more natural sounding copies are the ones that win our shootouts
- 4 1/2 stars: “…he was never more in tune with his audience: Still Crazy topped the charts, spawned four Top 40 hits, and won Grammys for Song of the Year and Best Vocal Performance.”
- If you’re a Paul Simon fan, this has to be considered a Must Own Title of his from 1975.
- The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
The overall sound here is big and rich. You get texture to the instruments (check the strings in the title track) but a smooth quality to the vocals instead of the grit and strain you hear on most copies. There’s extension up top and weight down low. (more…)
Some were dull, some were spitty, many were smeared, and far too many were gritty.
The later pressings didn’t solve any of these problems. In fact, none of the Red Label copies we’ve ever played sounded good enough on either side to merit a Hot Stamper grade. If you want good sound for this album, 360 stereo pressings seem to be the only way to go. The mono pressings we played were painfully bad.
Stick with stereo on this album. The Mono pressings — at least the ones we’ve played — aren’t worth anybody’s time (scratch that: any audiophile’s time).
The big production songs on this album have a tendency to get congested on even the best pressings, which is not uncommon for Four Track recordings from the ’60s. Those of you with properly set up high-dollar front ends should have less of a problem than those of you without them. $3000 cartridges can usually deal with this kind of complex information better than $300 ones.
(But not always. Expensive does not always mean better, since painstaking and exacting set up is so essential to proper playback.)
Save the Life of My Child — A Tough Test
I used to think this track would never sound good enough to use as an evaluation track. It’s a huge production that I had heretofore found all but impossible to get to sound right on even the best original copies of the album. Even as recently as ten years ago I had basically given up on reproducing it right.
Thankfully things have changed. Nowadays, with carefully cleaned top copies at our disposal and a system that is really cooking, virtually all of the harmonic distortion in the big chorus near the opening has disappeared. It takes a very special pressing and a very special stereo to play this song. That’s precisely what makes it a good test!
America — Another Tough Test
America is another one of the toughest tracks to get right. The big ending with its powerful orchestral elements is positively stunning on the rare copies that have little or no congestion in the loudest passages.
On virtually every copy you will ever hear the voices on this track are a little sibilant. Modern records are made with what is known as a de-essing limiter. This limiter recognizes sibilance and keeps it under control, because once the cutter head sees that kind of high frequency information, which is already boosted for the RIAA curve, it will try to cut it onto the record and the result will be this kind of spitty distortion.
What’s interesting is that none of the reissues we played managed to control the problem, even though the higher quality cutting systems they would have been made with should have been able to handle the extra power requirements. The reissues are not only spitty, but the spit tends to be grainy and aggressive on the bad copies, the worst of both worlds. (Careful arm adjustment — VTA, azimuth, tracking weight and anti-skate — is critical to getting the grit and edge out of the more problematical sibilances found on records such as this. You’ll be amazed at what a little tweaking can do.)
Adding to the problem on the track is the fact that it fades in over the ending of the previous track. This means that it’s actually a generation of tape down from the master, owing to the fact that that kind of mixing is generally done from two master tapes onto a third mixdown tape. From there further dubs might even have been made. Who knows how many generations of tape there might end up being between the master and the finished product?
As you may have read elsewhere on the site, records like this are the reward for owning the right stereo equipment and having it properly tweaked. There is no way in the world we could have played this album remotely as well 10 years ago as we can now. It only makes us appreciate the music even more.
- Especially smooth, present, breathy vocals – this is the sound we love here at Better Records
- Having played them by the hundreds, we’ve found that midrange presence and resolution are precisely what go missing on The Modern Heavy Vinyl Reissue
- A longtime Better Records Top 100 album and a Demo Disc for Tubey Magical voices and guitars
- 4 1/2 stars: “[I]t is an achievement akin to the Beatles’ Revolver or the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, and just as personal and pointed as either of those records at their respective bests.”
Sonic Grade: B?
Another Half Speed reviewed and this one’s not bad!
The CBS Half-Speed is actually quite good. It’s been twenty years since I played one but I used to like it. Of course, once you hear the real thing you can never go back, but it blows the doors off the muddy MoFi.
FURTHER READING on Half-Speed Mastered Records
The best place to start is here:
To learn more about records that sound dramatically better than any Half-Speed ever made (with one rare exception, John Klemmer’s Touch), please consult our FAQs:
Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we have auditioned over the years.
Listen carefully to the voices on this track, one of our favorites to test with. On the best copies they sound exceptionally delicate yet full-bodied.
The percussion on this track is a great test for smear, a problem that plagues most pressings to one degree or another. On the better copies you’ll distinctly hear the sound of the drummer’s hands hitting the skins of the bongos, as well as lots of ambience and echo around the drum.
Note also that every stereo copy we’ve ever played spits at least a little on this song.
One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:
Indeed this album sounds amazing! I have 4 other copies and this beats them all. The closest is a German pressing I have but still yours sounds better. Thank you. I never thought I would spend $200 for a record but I do hear the difference.
Glad to hear it! if that’s a favorite record of yours, you can now enjoy it for the rest of your life knowing you have a killer copy to play. (more…)
That latest S&G album — BOTW — is absofuckinglutely blowing my mind tonight. Wow. Those deep horns (?) blasting at times (end of Keep the Customer Satisfied, chorus of Why Don’t You Write Me, end of The Boxer… whole thing is hopping and dancing with huge beautiful sound. Hard to sit down!!
The weight of those horns is exactly what I was telling you about – they cannot be reproduced until you have speakers with dynamic drivers large enough to play the weight of the brass
This is something not many audiophiles seem to understand, no matter how much we write about it.
We discuss the idea of Big Speakers in this boilerplate commentary all over the site:
Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER record. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at fairly loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.
It’s the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Dynamic Speakers for as long as I can remember. You need a lot of piston area to bring this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.
For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so and I have never looked back.) (more…)
- A KILLER copy of Paul Simon’s 1986 release with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Richer, smoother yet still very clear and highly resolving, in precisely the way so few copies are
- Guaranteed to trounce the well-reviewed but nevertheless AWFUL Heavy Vinyl LP in every way, or your money back and the shipping is on us
- There’s a delicate, extended top end on this pressing that simply does not exist on the new reissue
- 5 stars: “An enormously successful record, Graceland became the standard against which subsequent musical experiments by major artists were measured.”