We consider Armed Forces to be one of the best sounding rock records ever made, and a copy like this White Hot Shootout Winner is proof enough to back up our claim. The best copies are extremely transparent and silky sounding, but with unbelievably punchy, rock-solid bass and drums.
The sound of the rhythm section ranks with the best we’ve ever heard. Beyond that, the musical chops of this band at this time rank with the best in the history of rock. Steve, Bruce and Pete rarely get the credit they deserve for being one of the tightest, liveliest backing bands ever to walk into a studio or on to a stage.
The song Oliver’s Army on the first side is a perfect example of what we’re talking about. Rock music doesn’t get much livelier than that. Skip on down to Green Shirt for another track that’s as punchy as they come.
Virtually every other copy of this record I’ve ever played sounded pale and washed out compared to the good British early pressings. It almost makes you wonder what happened to the tape; it seems as if this tape wasn’t used to make any records after this batch was pressed, it’s that big of a difference. (We have found surprisingly good British second pressings before but they are never competitive with the likes of these earlier pressings.)
The Double Whammy
A customer a while back noted that hearing his recently acquired Armed Forces Hot Stamper caused him to reevaluate his entire record collection. We empathized with the predicament in which he now found himself, and tried to put the experience in context this way:
You got blindsided by The Double Whammy — an amazing Hot Stamper pressing of a superbly well recorded album. That combination is deadly, deadly in the sense that it makes all your other records sound pretty damn dead in comparison.
Armed Forces is surely the best sounding Elvis Costello album The Man ever recorded. I would put it in the First Percentile of all the rock recordings I’ve ever played, ahead of 99% of the pack — but only if you have the right Brit pressing, the kind we describe at length in our review.