Side One: Mint Minus Minus (closer to M-- to EX++ in parts)*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (closer to M-- to EX++ in parts)*
- You'll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout this vintage pressing of Bowie's Rock Masterpiece
- This side one boasts huge amounts of studio space, along with the Tubey Magical richness only the better UK pressings can offer, and side two is not far behind in all those areas
- We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most other copies we played (particularly on side one)
- 5 stars: "Though a handful of the vocal pieces on Low are accessible - 'Sound and Vision' has a shimmering guitar hook, and 'Be My Wife' subverts soul structure in a surprisingly catchy fashion - the record is defiantly experimental and dense with detail, providing a new direction for the avant-garde in rock & roll."
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*NOTE: This record was not noisy enough to rate our M-- to EX++ grade, but it's not quite up to our standards for Mint Minus Minus either. If you're looking for quiet vinyl, this is probably not the best copy for you.
As I've mentioned on the site numerous times, I spent a good portion of the '70s playing Art Rock records like Taking Tiger Mountain, Siren, Crime Of The Century, Deceptive Bends and scores of others. I remember being blown away when Low came out, and with this shootout we had a blast hearing just how good a killer Hot Stamper UK pressing can sound on the much more highly-evolved stereo system (equipment, room, set-up, tweaks, electricity, etc.) we have today.
It's difficult to find a pressing that gets both sides of this album right, perhaps in part because the two sides are so different. Side one of this album features the more traditional (not really the right word, but it will have to do) Bowie rockers like "Sound and Vision" and "Be My Wife," while side two sounds more like the instrumental synth music of Kraftwerk and Eno.
What The Best Sides Of Low Have To Offer Is Not Hard To Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1977
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We're Listening For On Low
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Rock Record
This Bowie album is his last, as well as one of his greatest, Masterpieces. It's a recording that belongs in any serious Rock Music Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- Speed of Life
- Breaking Glass
- What in the World
- Sound and Vision
- Always Crashing in the Same Car
- Be My Wife
- A New Career in a New Town
- Art Decade
- Weeping Wall
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Following through with the avant-garde inclinations of Station to Station, yet explicitly breaking with David Bowie's past, Low is a dense, challenging album that confirmed his place at rock's cutting edge. Driven by dissonant synthesizers and electronics, Low is divided between brief, angular songs and atmospheric instrumentals. Throughout the record's first half, the guitars are jagged and the synthesizers drone with a menacing robotic pulse, while Bowie's vocals are unnaturally layered and overdubbed.
During the instrumental half, the electronics turn cool, which is a relief after the intensity of the preceding avant pop. Half the credit for Low's success goes to Brian Eno, who explored similar ambient territory on his own releases. Eno functioned as a conduit for Bowie's ideas, and in turn Bowie made the experimentalism of not only Eno but of the German synth group Kraftwerk and the post-punk group Wire respectable, if not quite mainstream.
Though a handful of the vocal pieces on Low are accessible -- "Sound and Vision" has a shimmering guitar hook, and "Be My Wife" subverts soul structure in a surprisingly catchy fashion -- the record is defiantly experimental and dense with detail, providing a new direction for the avant-garde in rock & roll.