Top Artists – Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel / Peter Gabriel (1) – Direct Disk Labs Half Speed Reviewed

Sonic Grade: D

The Direct Disk Labs half-speed here is thick, compressed and lifeless, though fairly rich tonally, a key quality the best UK pressings always have. The good UK pressings — on the original tan label, avoid the blue label reissues, they suck — are full of luscious Tubey Magic.

This is in fact the only Peter Gabriel recording that has that vintage Tubey Magical Analog sound. The worst recording of his first five, So, has the least amount. It is digital, and it sounds like it’s digital, but that is not the kiss of death if you can find a good pressing of it and clean it right.

You could do worse I suppose, but too much of the life of the music will be lost when playing this poorly remastered pressing.  Did they have a good British tape to work with? It doesn’t sound like it.

Is it better than the average domestic pressing, the ones that are clearly made from dubbed sub-generation tapes? Maybe, in some ways, but both this half-speed and the domestic pressings should be avoided by audiophiles looking for top quality sound.

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We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more inexcusable.


FURTHER READING on Half-Speed Mastered Records

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

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 FAQ

Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we’ve auditioned over the years.

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

Half-Speed Mastered Mediocrities

Half-Speed Mastered Winners

Half-Speed Masters – The Complete List (100+ and counting)

Genesis – Trespass

Hot Stamper Pressings of Genesis Available Now

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this UK Charisma pressing – it’s guaranteed to beat any Heavy Vinyl (or other) pressing you may have
  • The sound here is rich and Tubey Magical, which is the only way this music makes any sense at all
  • Probably for the more serious fan, but Melody Maker found it “…tasteful, subtle and refined.”
  • “… cannot find many ‘modern’ acts that can even come close to the brilliance demonstrated in these six songs… cannot recommend this album enough.”

Take it from us, the guys who play every kind of pressing we can get our hands on, the UK pressings are the only way to go on Trespass. (more…)

Peter Gabriel / Security

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  • One of the most important records in the Peter Gabriel canon, original and influential on so many levels
  • With the benefit of today’s technology, on a copy this good you hear into the soundfield in a way never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of multi-tracked choruses
  • “Security remains a powerful listen, one of the better records in Gabriel’s catalog, proving that he is becoming a master of tone, style, and substance…”

Man, does this album sound better than I remember it from back in the ’80s when I first played it. Stereos have come a long way since then, along with a host of other things that help records sound better, such as cleaning fluids, room treatments and all the rest. Now you can really hear INTO the soundfield in a way that simply was never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of PG’s multi-tracked choruses. On the best pressings, both sides are huge, and the music jumps out of the speakers. The balance is perfection.

This is not an easy album to find good sound for. Most copies are thick, opaque, turgid, veiled — pick your favorite adjective for mud, most copies fit the profile. When you find one like this, that has some real space and clarity, it’s amazing how much more sense the music makes.

The best copies have the kind of qualities that are not difficult to recognize:

  • presence, putting PG front and center;
  • dynamics, both micro and macro;
  • energy, allowing the rhythmic elements to bring out the life in the music;
  • transparency, so that we can hear all the way to the back of the studio; and
  • ambience, the air that surrounds all the players and their instruments

And of course we played the album VERY LOUD, as loud as we could. It’s the only way to get the massive drumming to sound right. (more…)

Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

  • This KILLER pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES
  • An album that’s nearly impossible to find with good sound – this UK copy is guaranteed to kill any pressing you’ve ever heard or ever will hear
  • Considered by many the high point of Peter Gabriel’s tenure with the band
  • 5 stars: “In every way, it’s a considerable, lasting achievement and it’s little wonder that Peter Gabriel had to leave the band after this record: they had gone as far as they could go together, and could never top this extraordinary album.”

Stunning sound on all four sides! This album — and Genesis in general — can be difficult to find good sound for. Most copies struggle — or make you struggle — to get the sense of the material and what the band is trying to accomplish, but when you find a killer pressing such as this one, the complexity and theatricality of the music really WORKS.

Bigger and more present, richer and fuller, with more space and transparency, this copy is doing everything we want the album to do.

Certain tracks — particular the more rocking, guitar-heavy material — are often going to get a little hard in the midrange, but on a good copy the issue is much less apparent and doesn’t get in the way of the music. And the more open, spacious keyboard-based and acoustically driven songs which comprise the bulk of the album can sound really wonderful.

Latest Finding

We came across an original British pressing, Porky/Pecko and everything, that was a major letdown sonically. Yes, folks, some pressing that are supposed to be good just aren’t. You got to play them to which is which, and that’s where we come in.

We never assume anything about a record. We play it and find out for a fact how good it sounds. Any other approach will be too error prone to be of any real use, assuming you set high standards for the sound of your records. (more…)

Peter Gabriel – So

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  • This insanely good copy of Gabriel’s breakthrough album boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy that’s this lively, solid and rich – drop the needle on the title track and you’ll see what we mean
  • Great songs including Don’t Give Up, Sledgehammer, Big Time, Mercy Street, Red Rain, In Your Eyes and more
  • “Excellent albums followed, but the breathtaking So is the best introduction to a dazzling discography.” — Bruno MacDonald

Here is a copy of So with the Big and Bold Peter Gabriel sound we love. If you want your Art Rock to actually rock (as well as be arty), this is the copy for you.

It’s not a perfect recording by any means, but when it sounds this good you can just forget its shortcomings and marvel at how consistently good the material and the production are. (more…)

What We Think We Know about Peter Gabriel’s Brilliant So Album from 1986

Here is a copy of So with the Big and Bold Peter Gabriel sound we love. If you want your Art Rock to actually rock (as well as be arty), this is the copy for you.

It’s not a perfect recording by any means, but when it sounds this good you can just forget its shortcomings and marvel at how consistently good the material and the production are.

No Mean Feat

It’s exceptionally hard to find good sounding copies of this album, as you can read about below. With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin.

We did a shootout years ago that taught us a few things. The most surprising finding? The Brit copy I had in my own collection sucked — how about that! As a rule, I like the Brit pressings best for PG, but that rule got broken after playing all these domestic copies, some of which really sound good, clearly better than the average Brit.

Recording Issues

This is a digital recording, and most of the time it is BRIGHT, SPITTY and GRAINY like a typical digital recording, which plays right into our prejudices. After hearing a bad copy, what audiophile wouldn’t conclude that all copies will have these bad qualities? After all, it’s digital. It can’t be fixed simply by putting it on vinyl.

Ah, but that’s where logic breaks down. Proper mastering can ameliorate many if not most of a recording’s shortcomings. When we say Hot Stampers, we are talking about high-quality mastering doing exactly that.

Mass Produced Plastic Problems

But of course the mastering is only one part of the puzzle. I have multiple copies with the same stampers. Some of them are terrible, some of them are wonderful — you just can’t rely on the numbers to guide you with a piece of mass-produced plastic like this. You have no choice but to play the record to know what it sounds like. (And that’s a good thing. Keeps you honest. There’s no “cheating” when you have nothing to go by but the sound.)

This album sold in the millions. They stamped it out until the metalwork was as smooth as a baby’s bottom. Those badly pressed copies are not going to have any high-frequency extension, which leaves them with all the harsh upper mids sticking out of the mix to peel the paint in your living room and make your ears bleed.

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Hot Stamper Pressings of So Available Now

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Genesis – Foxtrot

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  • An outstanding copy of this early Peter-Gabriel-led Genesis album from 1972 with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • One of the tougher Genesis albums to find with good sound – this British Charisma LP is much more impressive than most of what we’ve played over the years, and is guaranteed to trounce any domestic or Heavy Vinyl pressing you may have heard
  • 5 stars: “Foxtrot is where Genesis began to pull all of its varied inspirations into a cohesive sound — which doesn’t necessarily mean that the album is streamlined, for this is a group that always was grandiose even when they were cohesive, or even when they rocked, which they truly do for the first time here. This is the rare art-rock album that excels at both the art and the rock, and it’s a pinnacle of the genre because of it.”

(more…)

Peter Gabriel / Security – Specific Strengths and Weaknesses

This copy on side one has right on the money tonality from top to bottom, with big drums and smooth, silky voices in the choruses. We took it down from our top grade because it lacked a little of the top end extension we heard on other copies.

Side two is even better at A++ to A+++, with everything going for it. We heard one copy with better transient information, so we docked it half a plus from the best. Still, this is our best overall copy.

The Music

This is one of the most important records in the Peter Gabriel canon, groundbreaking and influential on so many levels. The entire album is a wonderful journey; anyone with a pop-prog bend will enjoy the ride. Just turn the volume up good and loud, turn off your mind, relax and float along with PG and the boys. You’re in good hands.

I take exception to the AMG review referring to the album as mood music. These are fully developed songs, any one of which would stand up well on its own against others in the PG canon. The more you listen to the album the more you will appreciate that every track here is at least good while many of them are nothing short of brilliant.

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Peter Gabriel – Self-Titled

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  • This superb British pressing of Peter Gabriel’s debut solo album earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Gabriel’s solo debut, the album features his autobiographical lead single, Solsbury Hill
  • Clearly the hardest of the first five PG records to find with good sound and decent vinyl, which is why these seldom make the site
  • “…much of the record teems with invigorating energy (as on Slowburn, or the orchestral-disco pulse of Down the Dolce Vita), and the closer “Here Comes the Flood” burns with an anthemic intensity that would later become his signature in the ’80s.”

*NOTE: On side one, the intro to track 1, Moribund the Burgermeister, plays Mint Minus Minus.

Tubey Magical Richness and breathy vocals are the hallmarks of a good British PG 1.

Unlike any that follow, the sound varies greatly from track to track on the first PG album, as does the music. You know you have a good copy when the best sounding tracks sound their best. That may seem like a tautology but is in fact the only way to judge a side when the songs sound this different from one another. (more…)

Genesis – Nursery Cryme – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This QUIET Super Hot Stamper is actually on the Charisma Blue label, not the original, but it gave our best Pink label copies a run for their money, with superb bass, real rock energy and lovely midrange transparency. For fans of the Classic Lineup involving Phil Collins and Steve Hackett — this being the first album with them on board — side one of this copy will show you a Nursery Cryme the likes of which you have never heard. (If you own the Classic Heavy Vinyl pressing you are really in for a shock. That pressing is a smeary lifeless mess next to this LP.)  (more…)