Top Engineers – Rhett Davies

Roxy Music – Flesh + Blood

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  • Two incredible sides, each rating a Triple Plus (A+++) — rich, smooth, spacious sound
  • Credit as always goes to the brilliant engineering of Roxy’s go-to guy, Rhett Davies
  • Flesh + Blood from 1980 is the precursor to Avalon, with much the same style and sound
  • Some of Roxy’s best material and biggest hits are here, on exceptionally quiet British vinyl too

The British Original Polydor Super Deluxe pressings are the only way to go on this album. No domestic pressing or other import in our experience has ever been better than passable; we know, we’ve been cleaning and playing them for more than thirty years.

This British LP is cut by one of my favorite mastering houses in England, which no doubt accounts for the excellent sound. The estimable Robert Ludwig cut the domestic pressings. Unfortunately for us Americans it sounds to us like they gave him a dub tape to master from. (The same thing happened on Avalon by the way.)

This is a transitional album. Some of it sounds like Avalon (Oh Yeah, Over You, etc) and some of it sounds more like their earlier material. It may not be as consistent as Avalon but it’s well worth owning for its best songs (listed below) and highly recommended for fans of the band. 

Best Tracks

Standout tracks on side one include In the Midnight Hour / Oh Yeah / My Only Love

Standout tracks on side two include Over You / Eight Miles High / Rain, Rain, Rain (more…)

Bryan Ferry – Boys and Girls

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this classic Ferry album from 1985 
  • This copy was super big, full and lively with plenty of presence and bottom end weight
  • On this record, bigger bass and punchier drums make all the difference in the world
  • “Instead of ragged rock explosions, emotional extremes, and all that made his ’70s work so compelling in and out of Roxy, Ferry here is the suave, debonair if secretly moody and melancholic lover, with music to match…”

Excellent sound and quiet vinyl on both sides! If you’ve spent any time with this album, you will be blown away by how great both sides of this copy sound.

Key Listening Test

The song Valentine, the second track on side two, is a key test for that side. Note how processed Ferry’s vocals are; on the best copies they will sound somewhat bright. The test is the background singers; they should sound tonally correct and silky sweet. If Ferry sounds correct, they will sound dull, and so will the rest of the side. That processed sound on his vocal is on the tape. Trying to “fix” it will ruin everything. (more…)

Roxy Music – Avalon

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  • A stunning early UK pressing of this Roxy classic: Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first 
  • Superb sound from start to finish — full-bodied and warm with wonderfully sweet vocals
  • Copies that are exceptionally open, clear and big present this music the way it was meant to be heard
  • Credit Rhett Davies with creating the sonic space that clearly displays so many singers, instruments and sounds
  • “Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics.” – Allmusic, 5 stars

It is records like Avalon that get people (often known as audiophiles) to spend wads and wads of money in pursuit of expensive analog equipment good enough to bring this wonderful music to life. (more…)

One of Our Favorite Engineers – Rhett Davies

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RHETT DAVIES is one of our favorite producers and recording / mixing engineers. Click on the link to find our in-stock Rhett Davies engineered or produced albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries. 

Davies recorded some of our favorite albums of all time and we want to pay tribute to this unsung hero, a man who has brought so much joy and pleasure to audiophiles through albums like those listed below.

Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts). (more…)

Dire Straits Debut from 1977 – Rhett Davies Knocked It Out of the Park

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  • SUPERB sound throughout, with both sides of this very special British pressing rating a strong Double Plus (A++) or BETTER! 
  • The sound is shockingly rich, full and solid with fantastic energy – you will not believe all the space and ambience on this copy
  • A Better Records Rock & Pop Top 100 title, a True Demo Disc, and our favorite by the band for both sound and music
  • “…the album is remarkably accomplished for a debut, and Dire Straits had difficulty surpassing it throughout their career.”

What superb sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1978
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above. (more…)

Brian Eno – Before And After Science

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides have that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end that make any record magical
  • 5 stars: “Ranks alongside the most essential Eno material.”

 Side one, the rock side, strongly relies on its deep punchy bass to make its material come to life and rock (or should we say art rock?). Eno’s vocals are clear and present with virtually no strain. Phil Collins’ drumming is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work.

Common Problems

This album typically suffers from a severe case of rolled-off highs, compounding the problems in the midrange: veiled and smeary vocals. The average copy is thick, muddy and congested, lacking the kind of transparency and clarity that makes it possible for the listener to hear into Eno’s dense mixes and make musical sense of them.

Partly this is Eno’s fault. He overloads his recordings. Played The Joshua Tree lately? It has some of the same sonic shortcomings, (exacerbated by Direct Metal Mastering). (more…)

Talking Heads – Remain In Light on Ridiculously Bad Rhino Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing.

The Rhino Heavy Vinyl reissue of this album was Dead On Arrival the minute it hit my turntable. No top, way too much bottom, dramatically less ambience than the average copy — this one is a disaster on every level.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins. 

Talking Heads’ Masterpiece – More Songs About Buildings and Food

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  • Take Me to the River rocks like you won’t believe
  • Eno produced, Rhett Davies engineered, every track is (psycho) killer – a Must Own from 1978
  • 5 stars: “Brian Eno brought a musical unity that tied the album together, especially in terms of the rhythm section, the sequencing, the pacing, and the mixing.”

If you thought you’d never hear a truly great pressing of this album, here’s the copy that will prove you wrong and rock your world doing it! The top end is extended and sweet, the bottom end is big and punchy, and the overall sound is as rich and full-bodied as you could expect from this zany art-rock.

The vocals have the kind of presence that put David Byrne right there in your living room, and not under a blanket or behind the speakers as most of the pressings we played were wont to do.

Top Notch ’70s Art Rock

I don’t think these guys ever put together a better group of songs. The ultimate pressings of Little Creatures go a step further sonically, but the best copies of this one can sound incredible, if not quite Demo Disc worthy. (more…)

Roxy Music – Avalon – A Simply Vinyl Mastering Success ? Or Is It?

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Sonic Grade: B (I’m guessing)

[These notes were written many years ago, which means that we ourselves may not agree with some or all of the commentary.] 

This version just plain KILLS most domestic copies and probably quite a few Brit ones too. Simply Vinyl did a superb job here.

Correction: an unnamed mastering engineer at the label did a superb job. Simply Vinyl isn’t in the business of mastering ANYTHING. They leave that up to the pros at the record labels. Sometimes those guys screw it up and sometimes they get it right. (more…)