Top Producers – Tony Visconti

Joe Cocker / With a Little Help From My Friends – A Masterpiece of Blue Eyed Soul

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We just finished our first shootout in over FIVE [2012 or so] years for the album and were SHOCKED by how amazing the best copies can sound, even better than we remember them from last time around. Turn this one up good and loud and you’ll have Joe Cocker in all his raspy glory belting out With A Little Help From My Friends right in your very own listening room! (more…)

David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Big space, breathy vocals, grungy guitars and plenty of Ken Scott’s luscious Tubey Magic makes this album a true audiophile treat
  • As it says on the back of the jacket, “Many thanks to our engineer Ken (Scott, one of our favorites).”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Working with guitarist Mick Ronson and producer Tony Visconti for the first time, Bowie developed a tight, twisted heavy guitar rock that appears simple on the surface but sounds more gnarled upon each listen.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 8 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, The Width Of A Circle. On side two, a mark makes 16 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, Running Gun Blues.

The sound is rich and full, just the way the Brits (and us audiophiles) like it. The tube compression that both Bowie and Scott favor works its magic at every turn, adding fatness and richness and lovely harmonics to the guitars and the drums.

Mick Ronson’s guitars are wonderfully rich and grungy. The vocals can get a bit hot on the first track on side one (as is often the case), but by track two the sound has settled in and is rich and smooth, just the way we like it. Very present and lively vocals are a strong point. Listen to the big bass, richness and Tubey Magic of the third track on side two — that is some Ken Scott studio wizardry at play.

Note that the second track on the second side seems to be where Alice Cooper found his “sound.” More power to him I say. You could get away with ripping off Bowie in 1970; nobody bought this album in the states, which is why it’s so damn rare and expensive. (more…)

David Bowie / The Man Who Sold The World – On the Real Mercury Pressing

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The sound is rich and full, just the way the Brits like it. The heavy compression that both Bowie and Scott favor works its magic at every turn, adding fatness and richness and lovely harmonics to the guitars and the drums.

Not many Bowie albums from his “classic” period sound good on domestic vinyl, nothing I know of before Diamond Dogs with the exception of this album and the occasional copy of Space Oddity. Strangely enough, from then on practically every one of Bowie’s albums sounds best on domestic vinyl, all the way through to Let’s Dance, after which we more or less check out — don’t know those albums well and don’t plan on finding out more.

Ah but here, here we have some truly prime period Bowie, recorded, mastered and pressed with Top Quality sound!

Side One

Mick Ronson’s guitars are wonderfully clear. The vocals can get a bit hot on the first track (as is often the case), but by track two the sound has settled in and is rich and smooth, just the way we like it. Very present and lively vocals are a strong point.

Side Two

Listen to the big bass, richness and Tubey Magic of the third track — that is some Ken Scott studio wizardry at play.

Note that the second track seems to be where Alice Cooper found his “sound.” More power to him I say. You could get away with ripping off Bowie in 1970; nobody bought this album in the states, which is why it’s so damn rare and expensive.

And that is the reason there are so many bootlegs. Practically every copy on ebay is a bootleg.  They sound terrible by the way.

How to Spot the Bootleg Copies, Courtesy of Discogs

This release has stamped matrix numbers in the dead wax. All other versions with this cover are counterfeits (with etched matrix numbers) and should not be listed here.

This US release is the first release on LP of The Man Who Sold the World. It was only released in two countries – US and Japan (SFX-7345) – with this original cover. The building in the background is the Cane Hill Hospital where David Bowie’s half-brother Terry was a patient.

The album was released in a further three countries on the Mercury label – Germany (David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World) in a large circular fold-out cover and the United Kingdom and Australia with a picture of David reclining in a dress. This latter cover is the one used on contemporary releases.

The US Mercury album was counterfeited (see David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World) in the early 1970s after Bowie became popular. It was possible for a potential buyer to choose between the official RCA reissue (in yet another cover, see David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World) and the widely distributed counterfeit.

The following visual indicators can be used to confirm an original US Mercury LP:
• The matrices in the runout (the space between the label and the grooves) are machine stamped (the counterfeits are hand etched).
• The space between the final lyric line of The Supermen and the cartoon bubble “Oh By Jingo” on the back cover is approximately the height of a line of text, while on the counterfeits the space is notably wider.

There are other differences, though these can be more easily seen and described in a side-by-side comparison.
Rights Society: ASCAP

Matrix / Runout (Side A, Runout, Stamped): SR 61325-A- M2
Matrix / Runout (Side B, Runout, Stamped): SR 61325-B- M1

(more…)

T.Rex – Electric Warrior

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  • A superb copy of this T.Rex classic with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, coming in right behind our Shootout Winner
  • This early UK pressing is amazing, with the kind of grungy, Tubey Magical guitars that are guaranteed to blow your mind
  • It’s beyond difficult to find quiet copies of this title (same goes for The Slider), let alone those with this kind of sound, so any fan of Mr Bolan should snap this one up and be quick about it
  • 5 stars: “The album that essentially kick-started the U.K. glam rock craze… it’s that sense of playfulness, combined with a raft of irresistible hooks, that keeps Electric Warrior such an infectious, invigorating listen today.”

This pressing is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

T.Rex – The Slider

  • Insanely good sound throughout this early UK pressing with each side rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it – quiet vinyl too
  • These sides were bigger, richer and livelier, with more bass, energy and Tubey Magic than the other copies we played (which is why this copy won the shootout)
  • Even the best domestic pressings always sounded dubby to us – we gave up playing them years ago
  • 5 stars: “The Slider essentially replicates all the virtues of Electric Warrior, crammed with effortless hooks and trashy fun. All of Bolan’s signatures are here – mystical folk-tinged ballads, overt sexual come-ons crooned over sleazy, bopping boogies, loopy nonsense poetry, and a mastery of the three-minute pop song form.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1972 All Tube Analog recording can sound, this killer copy will do the trick. (To be honest, since I do not know what equipment was being used in the many studios this album was recorded in, better to say that this is what, to our ears, sounds like all tube analog sound.) With Tony Visconti in the studio the sound has much in common with another Glam Rock Masterpiece from the same year, Ziggy Stardust. (more…)

David Bowie / Young Americans – What to Listen For

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The average RCA copy of this album is bright, grainy and hard to some degree, like most RCA pressings I come across. If you’ve been stuck with an average copy, you’re not going to believe how smooth and sweet the best ones sound. 

This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.

Both sides here are AGAIG — As Good As It Gets, Master Tape Sound. The overall sound is open, spacious, and transparent with lots of DEEP bass. You can easily pick out all the background vocals, and Bowie’s voice sounds just right. The strings have amazing amounts of texture — you can really hear the sound of the rosin on the bow. The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is punchy and powerful. You won’t believe how superb the cymbal crashes sound — you’re right there in the room with these guys! (more…)

David Bowie / Young Americans – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Young Americans  
Win

My favorite track on the album, an undiscovered gem in the Bowie catalog. (more…)