Top Engineers – Lee Hulko

Cat Stevens / Teaser & The Firecat – Two Tracks Are Key

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Teaser and the Firecat

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

Just ran across the following in an old listing. We’re nothing if not consistent here at Better Records!

And if you are ever tempted to pick up one of those recently remastered versions on heavy vinyl, don’t do it. There is simply no one alive today making records that sound like these good originals. Not to these ears anyway. We may choose to indulge ourselves in the audacity of hope, but reality has to set in sooner or later. After thirty years of trying, the modern mastering engineers of the world have nothing to show for their efforts but a pile of failures. The time to call it quits has come and gone. Let’s face facts: when it comes to Teaser and the Firecat, it’s the Real Thing or nothing.

If you’re looking for an amazing Demo Quality Rock Recording, you’ve come to the right place.

If you want a timeless Classic Rock Record, it’s here too.

They just don’t know how to make them like this anymore. Those of you waiting for audiophile vinyl reissues with the kind of magic found on these originals will be in your graves long before it ever comes to pass.

Analogue Productions tried and failed — more than once — to produce a good sounding Heavy Vinyl pressing of Tea for the Tillerman.

You can be sure there is little chance they would have better luck with Teaser and the Firecat.

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Acoustic Sounds Was Selling This Ridiculously Bad “TAS List” Record Back in the ’90s

I remember 15 years ago when Acoustic Sounds was selling the then in-print 25th Anniversary Island pressing (7U, as I recall) for $15, claiming that it was a TAS list record. If you’ve ever heard the pressing, you know it has no business going anywhere near a Super Disc List. It’s mediocre at best and has virtually none of the magic of the good originals.

I refused to sell it back in those days, for no other reason than it’s far from a Better Sounding Record. I don’t like misrepresenting records and I don’t like ripping off my customers.

That pressing was a fraud and I was having none of it.

Chad probably didn’t even know the difference. When you don’t know much about records, you can say all sorts of things and not get called out for them. Audiophiles are a credulous bunch and always have been. They still believe the same nonsense that I foolishly believed back in the ’80s (and even as late as 2000).

Over the last twenty years we’ve figured a few things out. Most of what we learned you can read right here on this blog.

We’re still waiting for most of the audiophile community to catch up with us. Excessive amounts of credulity make it hard for audiophiles to approach audio problems scientifically. They believe things that are easily disproven, but when you want to believe as badly as most audiophiles do, why make the effort to find out whether what you believe is true or not?

It sure is hard to hear what you don’t want to hear.

When your theory is this good, why bother to test it?

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Cat Stevens / Teaser & The Firecat

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • If you want to know what the best stampers for this album are, you are more than welcome to buy this copy and read them for yourself
  • This British Island Pink Rim pressing has sides that will rock your world with their size, richness, clarity and ENERGY, the likes of which you may have never experienced on vinyl
  • A Brilliant Classic Folk Rock recording – the right pressings offer Demo Disc Quality sound and then some
  • AMG 5 Stars and a Top 10 album – in some ways it’s surely the Best Sounding record Cat Stevens ever made
  • Tuesday’s Dead, Morning Has Broken, Bitterblue, Moonshadow, Peace Train – and that’s just side two! What side of any album has five songs of such quality?

Before I get further into the sound of this record, let me preface my remarks by saying this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made two records which belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folky pop, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

When you hear The Wind, Changes IV, or If I Laugh on this copy, you will be convinced, as I am, that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world. I don’t know of ANY other album that has more LIFE and MUSICAL ENERGY than this one. (more…)

Cat Stevens’ Albums – Lee Hulko Cut Them All – Good, Bad and Otherwise

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Tea for the Tillerman

More Reviews and Commentaries for Teaser and the Firecat

This commentary was written many years ago, circa 2005 I would guess.

Is the Pink Label Island original pressing THE way to go? That’s what Harry Pearson — not to mention most audiophile record dealers — would have you believe.

But it’s just not true. And that’s good news for you, Dear (Record Loving Audiophile) Reader.

HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY FROM JOHN BARLEYCORN

Since that’s a Lee Hulko cutting just like Tea here, the same insights, if you can call them that, apply.

Here’s what we wrote:

Lee Hulko, who cut all the Sterling originals, of which this is one, cut this record many times and most of them are wrong in some way. A very similar situation occurred with the early Cat Stevens stuff that he cut, like Tea & Teaser, where most copies don’t sound right but every once in a while you get a magical one.

Lee Hulko cut all the original versions of this album, on the same cutter, from the same tape, at the same time.

Some of them went to England to be pressed and given pink labels, some of them stayed right here in America to be pressed and were given orange and black labels. People that collect records based on their labels are not paying attention to information that differentiates individual pressings, which of course involves stamper numbers and pressing plants.

The famous Pink Label Island Tea For The Tillerman is a case in point. As good as that record is, I have a Brown Label A&M that is noticeably better. Why shouldn’t it be? Like John Barleycorn, it’s cut by the same guy, from the same tape, around the same time. Is there some reason LH can’t cut a good record for A&M? Of course not!

HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY FROM TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN

Brown Label versus Pink Label

This is a superb sounding original Brown Label A&M pressing. If you didn’t know better you might think you were listening to a Pink Label copy: it’s that good! In fact, having just played a Pink label Island 3U/3U original, I’m going to say that this pressing actually sounds better on side one than that famous import. This will no doubt shock many of you. But I have known of a better sounding brown label domestic pressing for close to 10 years. I even played it for Steve Hoffman once, who remarked that it clearly had less harmonic distortion than the Pink label copy we were doing the shootout with.

But what surprised me in this case was that these particular stampers are different from the domestic original that I discovered all those years ago. This is an entirely new finding. Dropping the needle on side one of this record and hearing the delicate strumming of the guitar and the smoothness and sweetness of the vocals, I knew immediately that I was hearing a Hot Stamper. A VERY Hot Stamper. Listening to it all the way through a few times and playing some other copies convinced me that indeed it was As Good As It Gets. On side one anyway.

Side two is excellent, but the bass is not quite as well defined and there is a slight loss of transparency in comparison to the best copies I have heard. The song Father and Son can be a bit sibilant. On the ultimate copies the sibilance is under control. This one has a little more of that sibilance than the best stampers I have heard. It’s not bad, but it’s not the equal of the best pressings.

Another track I like to play on side two is Into White. With this song, you hear into the music on the best copies as if you were seeing the live musicians before you. The violinist is also a key element. He’s very far back in the studio. When he’s back where he should be, but the sound of the wood of his violin and the rosin on the strings is still clearly audible, without any brightness or edginess to artificially create those details, you know you are hearing the real thing.

STOP THE PRESSES — WE WAS WRONG

Brown Label versus Pink Label, Part 2

I have to admit that I was dead wrong when I said that the best copies of this album were the Brown Label A&M pressings. I see now how I made this error. We played four pink label copies and our best A&M LP is better than three of them.

But it sure isn’t better than this one! I’ve heard a good dozen or so Pink Labels and this is the first one that ever blew my mind. I thought I knew this record, but this copy changes everything.

Including our previous pricing structure. No non-audiophile record on our site has ever been priced above $500. When we put the $500 price on Teaser and the Firecat awhile back, we ended up selling five of them — because we could FIND five copies that sounded like $500 records. We played Tea For The Tillerman all day long today — White Labels, Pink Labels, British Sunrays, Brown Labels with every Hot Stamper we know of — and we ended up with ONE copy that was quiet and had amazing sound.

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Paul McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More Recordings by Robin Black

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

In our experience, the real McCartney Magic is only found on the best domestic Apple pressings. We’ve never heard an import that did much for us, and the later CBS issues are hardly worth the vinyl they’re pressed on.

This album, like Unplugged and Band on the Run (and not a whole lot else) is SUPERB from start to finish. At the end of side two you want MORE. I wish I could say that about the rest of his discography.

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Cat Stevens on Mobile Fidelity and Thoughts on the TAS List

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

I Ask You: In What Possible Way Is This Awful Record a Super Disc?

We here at Better Records would like to give a shout out to The Man, Harry Pearson, for putting one of the worst MoFis of all time on his so-called Super Disc List.

Many many years ago we wrote:

In case you don’t already know, one of the worst sounding, if not THE WORST SOUNDING VERSION OF ALL TIME, is the Mobile Fidelity Anadisq pressing that came out in the ’90s. If you own that record, you really owe it to yourself to pull it out and play it. It’s just a mess and it should sound like a mess, whether you have anything else to compare it to or not.

More Reviews and Commentaries for One of the Worst Remastering Houses of All Time

Mobile Fidelity

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Cat Stevens / Teaser & The Firecat – Overview of the Reissues

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Teaser and the Firecat

It is my contention that there is no audiophile pressing on the face of the Earth that can compete with the best sounding originals of Teaser and the Firecat. Of ANY music. The best copies of Teaser have a sound I have never experienced with any modern-mastered record. There is a magic in its grooves that may simply be impossible to capture with the cutting equipment currently in use. Perhaps one day I’ll be proven wrong, but that day is clearly not yet upon us.

Island 25th Anniversary LP

I remember fifteen years ago when Acoustic Sounds was selling the then in-print 25th Anniversary Island pressing (10U, as I recall) for $15, claiming that it was a TAS list record. If you’ve ever heard that pressing, you know it has no business going anywhere near a Super Disc List. It’s mediocre at best and has virtually none of the magic of the good original pressings. I refused to sell it back in those days, for no other reason than it’s far from a Better Record. I don’t like misrepresenting records and I don’t like ripping off my customers. That pressing was a fraud and I was having none of it.

The Anadisq

In case you don’t already know, one of the worst sounding, if not THE WORST SOUNDING VERSION OF ALL TIME, is the Mobile Fidelity Anadisq pressing that came out in the ’90s. If you own that record, you really owe it to yourself to pull it out and play it. It’s just a mess and it should sound like a mess, whether you have anything else to compare it to or not.

It’s also on the TAS Super Disc list, which is sad. Really, really sad. (more…)

Time Capsule of Commentaries for Our First Hot Stampers for Teaser and the Firecat – 2005 to 2006

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Teaser and the Firecat

This Hot Stamper listing from 2006 is a Time Capsule of Commentaries of sorts; it contains write-ups from 2006, 2005 and 2002 all rolled into one. Out of sheer laziness we used to leave the old commentary in the listings, sort of like building the new city on the ruins of the old. For those who don’t mind excavating through the Hot Stamper thoughts of the past, please read on. 

Notes from August 2006

DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND of the HIGHEST ORDER!

(For pop music anyway.) Before I get into the sound of this record, let me preface my remarks by saying this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made two records which belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folky pop, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

For years I have been telling people that one day I would put up on the Web site some Hot Stamper copies of Cat Stevens’ greatest albums. Today is that day.

Last night I listened to at least fifteen of the best pressings of this album that I had available to me — we’re talking some heavy hitters here, all top quality British and American original pressings — and even though this pressing didn’t take top honors (that distinction belongs to the $500 copy we put up) — it was clearly at the top of the pack.

This is an Original Island Sunray pressing. As good as the best domestic originals are, none of them could compete with the amazing British copies that I played. I can’t explain it, but that’s the way it worked out. (more…)

Cat Stevens / Teaser & The Firecat – One of Our First Hot Stampers from Way Back in 2004

More of the Music of Cat Stevens

More Reviews and Commentaries for Teaser and the Firecat

Before we start discussing this record, let’s talk about the price for a moment. I have never put a used rock record on this site at this price. I’ve sold other records directly to my best customers for this kind of money, but this is the first $500 rock record of its kind to go on this website. This is the result of three factors. First, it’s the best sounding copy of this record I have ever heard (on side two anyway). Second, this is Teaser and the Firecat, one of the most important recordings in the history of popular music. Third, it’s amazingly quiet. The confluence of these three factors makes this copy practically unique.

For years I have been telling people that one day I would put up on the Web site some Hot Stamper copies of Cat Stevens greatest albums. Today is that day.

Before I get further into the sound of this record, let me preface my remarks by saying this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made two records which belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folky pop, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

The above comments were written for the last Hot Stamper which went up early in 2005, and of course, my sentiments have not changed. Not only do I think this record can’t be bettered, I have now found copies that are superior to even the best pressing I had heard back then.

Of course, I own a much better stereo than I did in 2005. I’m now using the DynaVector 17D cartridge, which is more correct than the 20X I had before. Also, I’ve improved phono stages quite a bit, incorporating the EAR 834P (and a very special vintage tube complement which makes ALL the difference in the world) into the system, balancing tubey magic with the speed and dynamics of the best transistor systems.

I’ve been acquiring and evaluating superb copies of this album for a couple of years now, waiting for just the right time and the right stereo to shoot them out with each other. The changes I mention above gave me the confidence to tackle this project. I can tell you in all honesty that I have NEVER heard better sound than I heard last night while doing these comparisons. It is my contention that there is no audiophile pressing on the face of the Earth that can compete with the best sounding original Teaser and the Firecats. Of ANY music. This is a sound I simply don’t experience when playing modern mastered records. There is a magic in these grooves that seems to be impossible to recapture. Perhaps one day I’ll be proven wrong, but that day is not upon us yet. Until then, this is the king.

Last night I listened to at least fifteen of the best pressings of this album that I had available to me — we’re talking some heavy hitters here, all top quality British and American original pressings — and this pressing took top honors. In my opinion, it’s one of a handful of the best records we have EVER put up on the site. It is without a doubt the best sounding record I have ever played. (more…)