Top Engineers – Eddie Offord

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Trilogy

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage UK Island pressing
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • An excellent recording that really shines on a good pressing like this, courtesy the engineering brilliance of Eddie Offord
  • 4 stars: “Every track on this album has been carefully thought, arranged, and performed to perfection…”

It’s not easy to find great copies of this album. This kind of prog rock demands big, bold sound, and not all copies have the size or low end weight to pull it off. Keith Emerson’s organ needs to extend all the way down, or it just doesn’t work. Both sides here have a great bottom end, and some real texture and space up top.

“From The Beginning” has the kind of analog magic that made it a staple in practically every stereo store I walked into back in the ’70s.

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Yes – Time And A Word

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  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this outstanding UK pressing of Time And A Word – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the best High Production Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s, thanks to the band and a Mr. Eddie Offord
  • If you’ve ever heard one of our Yes Album or Fragile Hot Stampers, you’ll know what to expect here – huge and powerful sound
  • “[T]he group was developing a much tauter ensemble than was evident on their first LP, so there’s no lack of visceral excitement. “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” was a bold opening [and] “Everydays” is highlighted by Anderson’s ethereal vocals and Kaye’s dueting with the orchestra.”

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Yes / Fragile – Listening in Depth

yes__fragi_depth_1392743863More of the Music of Yes

Reviews and Commentaries for Fragile

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

Eddie Offord took charge of Yes’s engineering starting with Time and a Word (1970) and we are very lucky that he did.

Although his masterpiece is surely ELP’s first album, both The Yes Album and Fragile are so amazingly well recorded they clearly belong at the top of any list of All Time Great Sounding Rock Albums.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Roundabout

You can tell by the sound of the opening guitar whether you have a copy that is tonally correct, has its ambience intact, as well as the proper leading edge transients to the strings plucks. Most of the reissues will sound either thin and edgy, or dull and blunted. On the best copies, that guitar will just sound out of this world.

Cans and Brahms
We Have Heaven
South Side of the Sky

What really separates the amazing copies from the merely good copies is the WEIGHT of the sound. The lower midrange is key in this regard. When you hear the piano on this track, it should have tremendous body and sustain to the notes. If the piano comes across at all anemic, the sound will be unbearably harsh.

Side Two

Five Per Cent for Nothing
Long Distance Runaround

This is one of the best sounding Yes tracks of all time. Jon Anderson’s voice is so present; he sounds as if he’s standing right between the speakers.

Fish (Schindleria Praematurus)
Mood for a Day

The top pressings exhibit amazing transparency and sweetness on this track. We would rate this one of the best rock acoustic guitar recordings on the planet. I’ve recently come to realize that this is actually a key track for side two. The guitar can sound midrangy and hard; too fat; blunted; and I’m sure lots of other ways.

And I’m talking about ONLY the best early pressings (the four digit ones). None of the later pressings sound any good to me at all.

This is where the surface noise will be most audible. After playing a number of copies, I noticed that there was always surface noise on this track, but not necessarily others. And then it dawned on me: the surface noise has to be spread evenly throughout the record; it’s on this track that you can actually hear it. The other tracks tend to be loud and little surface noise will ever be audible.

Heart of the Sunrise

My second favorite track on the album. All those aggressive guitar parts can be very irritating if you do not have a copy that’s cut properly, which in this case means smooth and full-bodied. Any thinness or edginess will be all but unbearable on this track.

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Emerson, Lake & Palmer / Self-Titled on Cotillion

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  • This vintage Cotillion pressing boasts outstanding sound on both sides
  • Our Hot Stamper pressing makes the case that ELP’s debut is clearly one of the most POWERFUL rock records ever made
  • Spacious, rich and dynamic, with big bass and tremendous energy – these are just some of the things we love about Eddie Offord’s engineering work on this band’s albums
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
  • “Lucky Man” and “Take A Pebble” on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won’t believe
  • If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know – with such good music and sound, we hope to get another shootout going again soon
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album… [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly …there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here.”

If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.

This Cotillion pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
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Yes – Close To The Edge

  • An outstanding pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound throughout and pressed on fairly quiet vinyl to boot
  • An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts – these early pressings are the only ones that can make sense of this challenging music
  • On such a dynamic recording, with so many quiet passages, finding surfaces as quiet as these is a dubious proposition for even the most committed audiophile
  • 5 Stars: “Close to the Edge comprised just three tracks, the epic ‘And You and I’ and ‘Siberian Khatru,’ plus a side-long title track that represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years.”

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Yes / Fragile – Roundabout Vs. South Side of the Sky

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Reviews and Commentaries for Fragile

This shootout taught us that track one is not as well recorded as the rest of side one. On copy after copy, and there were well over a dozen, it was the other big track on side one, South Side of the Sky, that had consistently better sound.

You really hear it in the choruses, where the voices are especially full-bodied, powerful, rich and energetic on that fourth track. A lesser amount of these qualities can be heard on the first.

We play both songs, but we play them in reverse order, knowing that the mind-boggling sound is really going to be on South Side, not so much Roundabout.

This record should give any record you own a run for its money. It’s as BIG and as BOLD a statement about raising the bar for rock recordings as any I know. Without a doubt one of the Best Rock Recordings of all time.

A well known audiophile record reviewer opined on his website that Fragile “was never a very good recording to begin with… cardboardy, compressed and somewhat cloudy and distant.”

Perhaps his old copy sounded like that, or maybe it sounded like that on his stereo, but I can assure you that if you have the system designed to play a  for iour Hot Stampers sure don’t. The typical pressing of Fragile can be painful — smeary and dull with plenty of distortion. If you know the magic stamper numbers and you spend the time to clean and play enough copies, you’re bound to hear some serious magic.

Of course, that’s a lot of work, and some people are probably too busy typing out lists of their pricey equipment to be bothered with such things.

Evolution

My equipment was forced to evolve in order to be able to play the scores of challenging recordings issued by Yes and other groups in the ’70s. You could say that the albums of Yes informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on.

I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for the last four decades, precisely in order to play records like this, the kind of music I fell in love with fifty years ago.

Hot Stamper Pressings with Big, Clear Choruses Available Now

Testing for Big, Clear and Lively Choruses

Listening in Depth to Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Debut

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Reviews and Commentaries for Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s Debut

NEWSFLASH

This commentary is from many years ago. The findings from our most recent shootouts have shown us the error of our ways.  A textbook case of Live and Learn.

This is what we used to think:

The Brit copies may take top honors for side one (“sweetness, openness, tubey magic, correct tonality, presence without aggressiveness, well-defined note-like bass, extended airy highs”) but the Hot Stamper Cotillion copies KILL on side two. They really ROCK, with greater dynamic contrasts and seriously prodigious bass, some of the best ever committed to vinyl.

The Brits tend to be a bit too “pretty” sounding. They’re too polite for this bombastic music. This music needs the whomp down below and lots of jump factor to work its magic.

The Brits are super-low distortion, with a more open, sweeter sound, especially up top, but the power of the music is just not as powerful as it can be on these very special Cotillions.

This Cotillion on side one is a rare gem indeed, one of the best domestics we’ve ever heard. It’s not quite as smooth and sweet as some, but it’s every bit as good in most other areas, and better in the bass. The Cotillion pressings of this album have bass that puts 99% of all the rock records in the world to shame. (And 100% of the half-speed mastered records!)

This is a case where, to get the ultimate sound, you not only need two copies, you need two copies made in different countries!

We actually prefer the British pressings on both sides now.


Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

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Yes – The Yes Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Yes Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Yes Album

  • You haven’t begun to hear the weight, energy and space of Yes’s brilliant third album until you’ve played one of our Hot Stamper copies
  • On the right system, at the right volume (very loud), this very record is an immersive experience like practically no other – I’ve Seen All Good People here will surely blow your mind
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record if you ask us (although Fragile can sound absolutely amazing too, just not as smooth and rich)
  • “Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other’s work as a knowledgeable band should.”
  • A permanent resident of our Top 100 Rock and Pop List — no other album by the band is as well recorded
  • If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers who like to play their records loud.

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it. (more…)

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Pictures at an Exhibition

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  • Outstanding sound throughout for this ELP Classic Live Album, earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • Tubey Magical and exceptionally spacious, with a massive bottom end and plenty of Rock and Roll energy
  • Listen to that GIGANTIC organ that plays the fanfare opening of the work – you can thank the brilliant engineering of Eddie Offord for getting that sound on tape
  • “…it teased the brain with its mix of melody and heavy rock, and for anyone with some musical knowledge, serious or casual, it was a sufficiently bold use of Mussorgsky’s original to stimulate hours of delightful listening.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title is clearly one of their most interesting and best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This British Island LP has real weight and heft, so when Emerson lays into the organ it’ll rattle your walls! As we said previously, it “has that big, fat, rich, smooth sound that we love here at Better Records. It’s warm and full, not thick and sludgy. It’s on the opposite end of the transistory spectrum.”

Listen to that GIGANTIC organ that plays the fanfare opening of the work. Honestly, I have not EVER heard a rock album with an organ sound that stretched from wall to wall and sounds like it’s seventy five feet tall. No, I take that back. The first ELP album has an organ that sounds about that big, but that’s a studio album. How did they manage to get that kind of organ sound in a live setting without actually having to build one inside the concert hall?

The domestic copies are a bad joke as you no doubt have guessed. You might think that you could just pick up any old Brit pressing to get Hot Stamper sound, but you’d be wrong. We’ve played a bunch of Original Brit Island pressings over the years that looked just like this one but sure didn’t sound as good.

Many of them are thick, dull, smeary, veiled, congested and/or just plain lifeless. This one, on the other hand, sounds JUST RIGHT.

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Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fragile

More of the Music of Yes

Reviews and Commentaries for Fragile

The Analogue Productions 180g reissue shown here is mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Gray, two guys with reputations for doing good work, but the results of their latest collaboration [can you believe this record came out in 2006!?] leave much to be desired.

The overall sound is lean. This is especially noticeable on the too-thin-sounding guitars and vocals. Believe me, it’s no fun to play a Yes album with thin guitars and vocals.

Also, there’s a noticeable lack of ambience throughout the record. What comes to mind when I hear a record that sounds like this is the dreaded R word: Reissue. I find it hard to believe they had the actual two-track original master tape to work with. The sound is just too anemic to have come from the real tape. If they did have the real tape, then they really botched the job.
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