Top Producers – Nick Lowe

Elvis Costello Arrayed His Armed Forces and Produced His Single Best Sounding Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of Elvis’s Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Armed Forces

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.


Elvis Costello – A Very Bad Porky/Pecko Cutting

Hot Stamper Pressings of Elvis’s Albums Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

My notes for the one and only UK pressing I’ve played in many years, the one with Porky is the dead wax, note its many weaknesses:

Really loud and full

Too loud and hot vocal

Strains a lot

You know what the sound of this record reminds me of?

An old 45 RPM 7″ single. Remember those?

It’s not unusual for 45 RPM singles from back in the day to be very loud, very compressed, and they often have much-too-hot vocals designed to jump right into your lap.

Mono mixes sometimes have some of that same lowest-common-denominator sound. This mix is stereo but it sounds like it’s coming right out of a jukebox.

No doubt Mr. Peckham was told to make the record sound that way, and he did his job very well.

But audiophiles looking for good sound should heed this warning and avoid the UK LPs of the album. It’s a joke next to the domestic pressings with the right stampers. (The right stampers are hard to find but you will never hear a good sounding early pressing unless you have a copy with the stampers that sound right, a tautology to be sure but one worth noting.)

Our Previous Hot Stamper Commentary

The British pressings are simply not competitive with the best domestics. No import, from any country, can touch a good Columbia pressing from the states. The most common stampers for the Columbia pressings have never sounded very good to these ears, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some killer copies with different stampers sitting in the bins wearing the generic ’70s Red Columbia label. We’ve heard them. Wish we could find more of them but they are rare and only getting rarer.

Further Reading

This record sounds best to us this way:

For those who might be interested in finding their own Hot Stamper pressings, we here provide

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record-loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with others that — in our opinion — are best avoided by audiophiles looking for hi-fidelity sound. Some of these records may have passable sonics, but we found the music less than compelling.  These are also records you can safely avoid.

We also have an Audiophile Record Hall of Shame for records that were marketed to audiophiles for their putatively superior sound. If you’ve spent any time on this blog at all, you know that these records are some of the worst sounding pressings we have ever had the displeasure to play.

We routinely play them in our Hot Stamper Shootouts against the vintage records that we offer, and are often surprised at just how bad an “audiophile record” can sound and still be considered an “audiophile record.”