Top Producers – Brian Eno

Talking Heads’ Masterpiece – More Songs About Buildings and Food

More of the Music of Talking Heads

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of More Songs.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

I don’t think these guys (and gal) 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.

We’re huge fans of late ’70s / early ’80s Art Rock and New Wave music, and these guys are obviously some of the best in the biz. I’d be hard pressed to name another act from the era who put out so many good records.

Along with this album, More Songs About Buildings And Food, Fear Of Music, and Little Creatures are all works of genius. ’77 is full of good ideas, but it doesn’t sound like a fully realized work of art the way the next four albums did.

Key Test Tracks

With Our Love turned out to be one of the better tests for side one. The picking of the rhythmic guitar in the intro told us just about everything we needed to know about smear, veiling and resolution. On most copies the instrument is simply blurry, the notes mashed together. When you get a copy with its transients intact, resolving properly and clearly right there in front of you, you have the makings of a Hot Stamper side one.

My other test track for side one was Warning Signs. This is a great track for evaluating transparency and bass. On the average copy you’d never know how much ambience exists around the drums. Hint: it’s a lot.

Our favorite copies have a fair amount of WHOMP down low, giving the bass guitar that rich, beefy sound that we’re simply crazy for here at Better Records. Once you’ve heard a copy with well-defined, note-like bass, nothing less will do.

Artists Only

A great test track for side two is Artists Only. The guitars in the intro section are almost unbearable to listen to on most copies. I recognize that I am somewhat sensitive to harsh high frequencies, but I’m literally in pain when I listen to an overly compressed, overly midrangy copy. There’s got to be a better way!

Wait, there is. Find a copy that actually has a sweet top end. It makes all the difference.

Take Me to the River

One of the best sounding tracks on the album is the awesome cover of Al Green’s Take Me To The River. Most copies are very skimpy with the amount of bottom end information you get.

Pay attention to the opening before the keys start. The best pressings give you texture on the bass that you won’t find on most. When everything’s working right you’ll also hear ambience around the organ that’s nowhere to be found on the average pressing.

The bass should be tight, punchy, and fairly deep. We wouldn’t mind if some of the tracks were mixed with a bit more punch to the bottom end, but far be it from us to tell Brian Eno and Rhett Davies how to do their jobs. At least on some copies the bass has the kind of power that brings a song like Take Me To the River to heights you probably never imagined it could go.

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Talking Heads – Fear of Music

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  • This outstanding Talking Heads LP boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • I’d be hard-pressed to name another group from the era who put out more groundbreaking yet accessible records than the Talking Heads
  • Producer Brian Eno wasn’t shy about adding multiple layers of effects and processing; the texture of Eno’s synthesizers gives the music depth and character
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the music is becoming denser and more driving… with lyrics that match the music’s power… its better songs are as good as any Talking Heads ever did”
  • If you’re as big a Talking Heads fan as we are, this is a classic from 1979 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1979 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

As huge fans of this band, it was a major thrill for us to complete a shootout for this album recently. We found that the best copies had wonderful transparency, meaty bass, Art Rockin’ energy and a refreshing overall freedom from distortion.

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Brian Eno – Another Green World

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  • An outstanding Polydor UK import pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from many other copies we played
  • 5 stars: “A universally acknowledged masterpiece, Another Green World represents a departure from song structure and toward a more ethereal, minimalistic approach to sound… Eno’s gift for melodicism and tight focus here keep the entirety of the album in the forefront of the listener’s consciousness, making it the perfect introduction to his achievements even for those who find ambient music difficult to enjoy”
  • Note that the reviewers are mistaken. Eno’s One True Masterpiece is Taking Tiger Mountain
  • If you’re an Eno fan, or perhaps a fan of mid-’70s Art Rock, this title, a personal favorite of mine from 1975, is surely a Must Own.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food

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  • This pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from the first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • With Eno producing and Rhett Davies engineering, every track is (psycho) killer – truly this is 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.”

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Brian Eno and David Byrne – My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

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  • An outstanding pressing of My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are spacious, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a solid bottom end and driving rhythmic energy
  • Rick Wright of Pink Floyd noted that the album “knocked me sideways when I first heard it – full of drum loops, samples and soundscapes. The way the sounds were mixed in was so fresh, it was amazing.”
  • 5 Stars: “… a whirlwind 45 minutes of worldbeat/funk-rock … it’s a tremendously prescient record for the future development of music during the 1980s and ’90s.”

If you like Remain in Light as much as we do here at Better Records, you will surely have a blast with this record. I’ve been a big fan of the album since the day it came out. As an added bonus, it’s a much better recording than Remain in Light — sweet and spacious, not hard and brittle the way that can album can be, especially on the first track. (more…)

U2 – The Joshua Tree

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  • An outstanding pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big and rich, with correct tonality from top to bottom, strong bass and plenty of space – this copy sounded just right to us
  • Stunning sound for the album’s biggest hits, including With Or Without You, I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, and Where the Streets Have No Name
  • 5 stars: “With the uniformly excellent songs… the result is a powerful, uncompromising record that became a hit due to its vision and its melody. Never before have U2’s big messages sounded so direct and personal”

The soundstage is huge, and the overall quality of the recording is big and bold. Most copies of this album are either thin, shrill and aggressive — like most U2 albums — or thick and veiled. This one is smooth and natural sounding, with the added benefit of some deep punchy bass! (more…)

Talking Heads / Remain In Light – A Tough Title to Play

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).

A word of caution: Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems . Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This recording ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.

It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be.

It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.

As we’ve said before about these kinds of recordings — Ambrosia; Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Yes Album; Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin II — they are designed to bring an audio system to its knees.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .

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Talking Heads / Remain In Light – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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HOT STAMPERS DISCOVERED AT LAST! We’ve been trying to find a great sounding copy of this album forever, and this is the week we finally succeeded. It takes an exceptional pressing to get all the elements correct — the funky bottom end; the processed, multi-tracked vocals; the Brian Eno production weirdness and so on.

This is a brilliant album but a typically problematic record. Most copies get some things right but fail miserably in other areas. There are smeary copies that can’t deliver the punchy bottom you need, grainy copies that make the vocals painful to listen to, and plenty of copies that are just too dark or flat sounding for anyone to enjoy. Note that the first track on both sides will sound the worst. The sound gets better, though, as you get further into the album. (more…)

Talking Heads – Remain In Light on Ridiculously Bad Rhino Vinyl

Sonic Grade: F

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. 

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Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Taking Tiger Mountain.

Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

This album is all about sound, pure sound itself if you will: the sound of the instruments, their textures, and the textures of the soundscape Eno has created for them.

With the subtle harmonics of Eno’s treated sounds captured onto vinyl intact, the magic of the experience far exceeds just another batch of catchy songs with clever arrangements. It truly becomes an immersive experience; sounds you’ve never heard in quite that way draw you into their world, each sound more interesting than the next.

Only these British originals sound like they are made from fresh master tapes on rich, sweet tubey-magical, super high resolution cutting equipment.


In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

(Which, by the way, is BRILLIANT from the opening guitars of Burning Airlines to the never-ending chirping crickets of The Great Pretender. I mean that literally: on these early British pressings the run-out groove has the sound of the crickets embedded in it so that the crickets chirp until you pick up the arm, much in the same way that Sgt. Pepper has sound in the run-out groove at the end of A Day In The Life.)

Burning Airlines Give You So Much More

Pure Pop for Now People. Listen to all those multi-layered harmonies! They’re sweet as honey, and only the best British copies get them to sound that way. You can make out practically every voice. This is what we mean by Midrange Magic. (more…)