Top Artists – Simply Red

Simply Red / Picture Book – The Best Import Pressings Have Explosive Dynamics

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I actually used to demonstrate my stereo with “Sad Old Red.” At one point the sound really explodes, which has always had a strong appeal for me; that’s what live music does and that’s what I want my stereo to do. For thirty years I’ve avoided little boxes and screens and gone straight for the big dynamic speaker systems that can really show you the life that’s hiding in your recordings. That’s what the Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary is all about — unlocking all the energy and excitement that a good LP has to offer.

“Holding Back the Years” also boasts superb sound. It may be the best track the band ever recorded, and it’s probably the one most everyone knows, but there are many here that are nearly as good. The cover of The Talking Heads’ “Heaven” (from Fear of Music) is out of this world.

This is a BIG SPEAKER recording. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It demands to be played LOUD. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended for it to if you play it at moderate levels. (more…)

Simply Red – Picture Book

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  • Picture Book finally returns to the site with KILLER Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout on this early UK pressing
  • Big, spacious and clear, but also remarkably analog-sounding, with the kind of fullness and richness that’s so rare on records from this era — if you’re a fan of this music, this is absolutely As Good As It Gets
  • “Holding Back the Years” was the big hit (#1), but what really sold me on the album was the band’s cover of The Talking Heads’ “Heaven” – not an obvious choice, and a truly inspired one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The band finds a steady R&B groove reminiscent of ’60s Stax house band the MG’s, and, as with the MG’s, it’s all in the service of a big-voiced soul singer, in this case a British redhead.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

NOTE: Side two has some loud stitches that play intermittently, moderate to loudly, mostly on tracks one and three of side two.

Finally, Analog Sound for this wonderful music. The average copy of this album may sound like you’re playing a CD, but not this one. Here is the warmth and richness and depth you didn’t know you could find on Simply Red’s Masterpiece (assuming you were even looking). That flat, opaque, dry CD sound that we all love to hate is nowhere to be found on this pressing.

The domestic pressings can be good, but they sure don’t sound like this Killer import.

A recording from 1985 is unlikely to have the Tubey Magic and warmth of an old Columbia. Let’s be serious, the 1980s – unlike the three decades that preceded them — were not known for the naturalness of their recordings. A few would make our Top 100 list (Let’s Dance springs to mind) but the pool of available candidates is shallow, not wide and deep like that of the decades before, in which so many records sound so good we could not begin to squeeze them nto a list limited to merely one hundred. Two hundred would easily make the cut, maybe more.

For the ’80s, it would be hard to come up with even a dozen I should think. Which is neither here nor there. The record must stand or fall on its own merits, not those of other records from the same decade, and fortunately this one stands very tall, with A Triple Plus As Good As It Gets sound on side one and a side two that nearly reaches such rarefied sonic heights. (more…)

Simply Red / A New Flame – A Personal Favorite

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This Super Hot stamper promo British pressing has some of the best sound we have ever heard for the album, Simply Red’s third and in my opinion their BEST. This is where it all came together for the band, especially in the writing department. These songs about love (few popular songs are about anything else when you stop to think about it) harken back to the days when there was such a thing as “Blue-Eyed Soul Music”, a cross between real soul music and the standard radio-friendly pop song. Hall and Oates, Smokey Robinson (not exactly blue-eyed but definitely the right sound); the music of these artists combines pop craftsmanship with real soul.

I love this album! Every track is good; the slow ones are the best but unlike their previous records the uptempo tracks are taken at a more modest and listenable pace. The two tracks that open side one are two of the best the band ever recorded.

Domestic Vinyl

The domestic pressings we’ve heard are clearly made from dub tapes and are to be avoided. This is true for the second album as well.

However, the first album on domestic vinyl is mastered by Bernie Grundman from the real master tapes and the imports are the ones made from dubs.

Records are complicated. Simplistic rules of thumb are often unhelpful if not downright misleading.

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Letter of the Week – Days of Future Passed, World Machine and Picture Book

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

Hey Tom, 

Just thought I’d drop you a line on the two albums I just received yesterday. I had some free time on my hands today so I was able to do some comparisons. I have an original Days of Future Passed, which sounds about as dull as they come. I have that reissue I bought from you years ago and the mofi. The reissue was pleasing to the ear but lacked that lifeforce which makes listening to records so involving. The mofi was always my favorite, but this Super Hot Stamper I was hearing the whole recording studio. There was a lot more depth and realism which I didn’t hear in the other records.

The Level 42 World Machine was always a fun record to listen to. The cd was just bright and bass heavy, so I bought an import lp off you years ago. It sounded pretty good until you turned it up, then it became so shrill I had to turn it back down. The Super Hot Stamper sounds great and I can turn it up as loud as I want. The sound stage is deep and believable which for an 80’s record is a rarity. (more…)