1980-best

Van Halen – Women And Children First

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Reviews and Commentaries for Van Halen

  • Full-bodied, smooth analog sound is the key to the best Van Halen pressings, and here both sides have it 
  • One of our favorite engineers, Donn Landee, worked his magic here (together with Ted Templeman) and the results are superb
  • 4 1/2 stars: “After two pure party albums, the inevitable had to happen: it was time for Van Halen to mature, or at least get a little serious … This is the first Van Halen album to consist entirely of original material and there’s some significant growth here to the writing…”

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Dire Straits – Making Movies

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

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  • An outstanding UK early pressing, with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, the last clean copy we have in stock
  • Guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, this Brit is big, punchy, and full-bodied with excellent presence – Mark Knopfler’s leads really soar
  • Romeo and Juliet comes to life the way you want it to here, and the song Solid Rock lives up to its title
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Making Movies is helped by a new wave-tinged pop production, which actually helps Knopfler’s jazzy inclinations take hold … ranks among the band’s finest work.”

The music really comes together, especially if you’ve been playing a sub-generation domestic pressing, which is the only kind Warners made as far as we know. (The first album is the same way of course.) Here you will find richer mids, sweeter highs, more energy and some real punch down low. (more…)

Neil Young – Hawks and Doves

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  • The trick on this album is to find rich, smooth, edge-free sound, and this copy delivers those qualities like nothing else we played all day
  • “Hawks and Doves has a homey feel. “Little Wing,” bare and haltingly lyrical with its miked harp and unaccompanied acoustic, is simpler than anything on the folky Comes a Time, and the rest of the music is defined by Ben Keith’s laconic dobro and steel and Rufus Thobodeaux’s sawing fiddle.” Robert Christgau (A-)

On side one the second track has an especially intimate vocal, worth checking out. Flip the record over and listen to how full-bodied the piano is on the first track on side two. This is the sound of ANALOG. So many copies are dry and edgy, as is the CD I would guess, but here the sound is smooth, natural and enjoyable. (more…)

Bob Seger – Against The Wind

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  • Both of these sides were out of this world — clean, clear, open and spacious yet still pretty rich and Tubey Magical with a solid bottom end
  • “Against the Wind finds Bob Seger turning toward craft. Perhaps he had to, since Against the Wind arrived after three blockbuster albums and never-ending tours… compared with its peers, it’s a strong, varied heartland rock album that finds Seger at a near peak.” – All Music, 4 Stars

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Willie Nelson and Ray Price – San Antonio Rose

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More Country and Country Rock

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  • San Antonio Rose finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • If you don’t know Ray Price — and not many of you do I bet — this album will serve as an excellent introduction to one of the All Time greats of country music
  • The sound here is richer, with much less transistory grain, and more of the All Important Tubey Magic than most other copies we played
  • 4 stars: “Comparing the vocalists as they trade verses is one of the best aspects of this Nelson duet series and, in this case, the styles of the singers are perfectly matched.”

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Billy Joel – Glass Houses

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • The sound is just right for this album full of rockers — big, rich and punchy with great space and dynamics
  • This title has some of his biggest hits: You May Be Right, Don’t Ask Me Why and It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Instead of turning out to be a fiery rebuttal to his detractors, the album is a remarkable catalog of contemporary pop styles … That’s not a detriment; that’s the album’s strength.”

A truly stunning copy of one of Billy Joel’s best-loved albums! We recently finished a massive shootout for Billy Joel’s hard-rockin’ 1980 release and most copies were pretty dreadful. Thankfully for us (and the Billy Joel fans out there) we managed to find a few copies that really work! This one absolutely nails it — they just don’t get much better than this, folks. (more…)

Eric Clapton / Just One Night – An Exceptionally Good Album of Classic Blues Rock

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A Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

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  • An outstanding copy of Just One Night with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all four sides
  • This one is bigger, bolder and richer, as well as more clean, clear and open than many other copies we played
  • Sure to be the best live Clapton sound you’ll hear on vinyl – and the music is wonderful as well
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The most notable difference between Just One Night and Clapton’s other live albums is his backing band. Led by guitarist Albert Lee, the group is a collective of accomplished professionals who have managed to keep some grit in their playing. They help push Clapton along, forcing him to spit out crackling solos throughout the album.”

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David Bowie – Scary Monsters

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  • An outstanding original UK pressing of Scary Monsters with Double Plus (A++) sound from on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • 5 stars: “Reworking glam rock themes with avant-garde synth flourishes, and reversing the process as well, Bowie creates dense but accessible music throughout Scary Monsters.”

This original RCA pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

The Pretenders / Self-Titled

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  • An outstanding UK pressing of the band’s debut studio album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows, and clear, open, extended highs that let this Pretenders Classic come to life, and beat the pants off the dubby domestic pressing, and anything else you care to put up against it
  • One of engineer Bill Price’s better efforts behind the boards, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art
  • 5 stars: “Few rock & roll records rock as hard or with as much originality as the Pretenders’ eponymous debut album. A sleek, stylish fusion of Stonesy rock & roll, new wave pop, and pure punk aggression, Pretenders is teeming with sharp hooks and a viciously cool attitude.”

Forget the dubby domestic vinyl, these Brit pressings are the only way to go. (more…)

Argybargy Rocks on UK Vinyl

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

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If you think you might enjoy the mashup of Pub Rock and New Wave that this group unleashed on the pop music scene of the ’70s and ’80s I could not recommend any album of theirs more highly than Argybargy.

Squeeze’s prime period with Jools Holland on keyboards encompasses four albums, any of which is worth owning. The band really gets going with their second album, Cool for Cats (1979), pulls it all together and takes it to another level for their breakthrough third, Argybargy (1980), and produces two more of high quality, East Side Story (1981, produced mostly by Elvis Costello) and the darker but equally brilliant Sweets from a Stranger (1982).

I’m a huge fan of all four, as well as two from their later days, the amazing-to-this-day Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985) and the weaker but enjoyable Babylon and On (1987). I play all of them on a regular basis.

If you’re a fan of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson and probably quite a few other lesser-knowns from this era, Squeeze is the band for you. I put them right up there with Elvis Costello and Peter Gabriel in the pantheon of British Pop Music of the era.

The Sound

There’s plenty of Tubey Magical richness and smoothness on the best British pressings — such as this one — qualities the domestic pressings are sorely lacking. If you want to hear this music right, on vinyl it’s British or nothing, and with one of our White Hot Stamper pressings it’s British and everything — everything that’s good about this recording is captured on this very side two. And side one is awful good as well.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Extension up top was hard to come by on most pressings. When you hear those lovely hights you can hear how much they add to the sound.

The overall sound is rich and tubey, not dry, thin or modern. Clarity and space are nice but not if they come at the expense of the smooth, rich, natural sound of tubes (whether there are tubes in the chain or not).

TRACK LISTING

Notes by Wikipedia

Side One

Pulling Mussels (From the Shell)

Pulling Mussels” received positive reviews from music critics. It has been variously described as “a timeless cult classic”, “a brilliant slice of pop genius”, “a pop classic of the new wave era”, and “a piece of pop mastery.”

In 2007, Anna Borg wrote, “The build up before the chorus always gets me, even 25 years later.” Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine described the song as “a vivid portrait of a seaside vacation where Difford’s vignettes are made all the more vivid by Tilbrook’s bright, invigorating pop.” It is regarded as one of Squeeze’s catchiest songs.

The phrase “pulling mussels” is British slang for sexual intercourse, mainly used in England.

Another Nail in My Heart
Separate Beds
Misadventure
I Think I’m Go Go

Chris Difford said about the lyrics, “This was a song about touring, which could be a very strange experiences. It would get to the stage where I’d think ‘I don’t know where I am, I don’t know which county I am in, what time we’re onstage, or who I’m sleeping with.’ ‘I think I’m go go’ was the turn of phrase in the band at the time.” Difford continued, “Interestingly, this song was very popular in America. The first verse is about being in Amsterdam because a lot of our early gigs were in Holland. Glenn’s dad lived out there and he used to arrange gigs for us. It was always good fun playing there. The second verse is about New York and mentions liquor stores, rodeos and PIX, which was an American radio station. The last verse is about London.”

Glenn Tilbrook said of the song, “This was a step forward in our imaginations. It was influenced lyrically by the fact we have been whopped around the head and rendered bewildered by the amount of traveling we’d been doing. We all found it bewildering, but I had the sense that Chris probably felt this more so than the rest of us.” Tilbrook also said, “It’s very Beatles-like and also has a similar sound to our song, ‘The Knack’. There’s a direct through line from ‘The Knack’ to ‘I Think I’m Go Go’, with that sense of other-worldness. The use of strings added to that feeling. I wanted to contrast real strings with synth strings and change the feel between the verses. This meant the listener got a sense of being jolted out of one mood or another.”Side Two

Farfisa Beat
Here Comes That Feeling
Vicky Verky
If I Didn’t Love You

Glenn Tilbrook said, “This is a really storming lyric from Chris [Difford] and was chosen as a different single in America. It was a massive radio hit there, particularly on the East Coast, whereas it was just an album track in Britain. The lyric caught a lot of people’s imaginations because of that thing Chris does so well, picking up on small, almost irrelevant details. What he wrote here rang absolutely true to me and was all the more powerful for it.” Tilbrook continued, “The line ‘The record jumps on a scratch’ was such a gift that I had to use it, so we sang ‘If I, If I, If I, If I, If I.'”

Chris Difford said, “I used to love playing this song live. Glenn and I sang it together as a duet, an octave apart. Lyrically it has to be my proudest moment from [Argybargy] and it takes me back to New York when I was living there and writing lyrics. It’s about the early cozy part of a relationship, which I call the nesting stage. It’s a lovely place to be, somewhere where I think people only go two or three times in their life. At the same time it has that juxtaposition of emotions saying ‘If I didn’t love you I’d hate you,’ because at the back of your mind you’ve got that insecurity about your inability to have a proper relationship with somebody.”

Difford also praised Tilbrook’s guitar solo, saying, “I also love Glenn’s slide guitar solo. When he first did it I thought ‘This guy’s out of his tree. What’s he doing?,’ but it’s brilliant.”

Wrong Side of the Moon
There at the Top

AMG Review

If any one album were responsible for sowing the seeds of Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook’s reputation as the new Lennon and McCartney, it’s Argybargy, Squeeze’s third album and undisputed breakthrough. Squeeze made a great leap forward between their awkward debut and its great sequel, Cool for Cats… with Argybargy it was clear that Squeeze were at the top of the pack among new wave popsters, and that their sardonic yet lively voice was unique among any pop group before or since.

Wikipedia

Squeeze are a British band that came to prominence in the United Kingdom during the new wave period of the late 1970s, and continued recording successfully in the 1980s and 1990s.
They are known in the UK for their hit songs “Cool for Cats”, “Up the Junction”, “Tempted”, “Labelled with Love”, “Black Coffee in Bed”, “Another Nail in My Heart”, “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)” and “Hourglass”. Though not as commercially successful in the United States, Squeeze had American chart hits with “Tempted”, “Hourglass” and “853-5937”, and they have a dedicated following there and continue to attract new fans.

All of Squeeze’s hits were written by band members Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook, with the former penning the lyrics and the latter handling the composition. The duo were hailed as “the heirs to Lennon and McCartney’s throne” during their peak of popularity in the early 1980s.


This is one of the band’s Masterpieces as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so memorably wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, said record: 1) must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio enthusiast been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music”; 2) my sixty year old self must currently respect the album, and; 3) I must think I will want to listen to the music fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles are coming online as time permits.