The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- Manna finally returns to the site after more than 6 years with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout - fairly quiet vinyl too
- Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with that "jumpin' out of the speakers" quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
- A superb album, featuring one of the strongest rockers the band ever recorded, "Let Your Love Go"
- 4 1/2 stars: "... this is a record that is laid-back and even tempered, which isn't a bad thing -- it results in a fine listen, especially since the group's songwriting remains at the high standard instituted on that first Bread album."
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This vintage Electra pressing has amazingly sweet and rich 1971 ANALOG sound on both sides. That big bottom end and the volume of space that surrounds all the instruments and singers are the purest and most delightful form of Audiophile Candy we know.
The acoustic guitars? To die for. Talk about Tubey Magical Analog, this copy will show you just what's missing from modern remastered records (and modern music generally). Whatever became of that sound?
This record put Bread's heavily Beatles-inflected Pure Pop back on the charts after their the single from their previous album, On The Waters, made it to Number One, that song of course being Make It With You. "If", the big hit off this album, went to number five, but we like it every bit as much as that earlier chart topper. Both represent the perfect melding of consummate songcraft and pure emotion.
We used to think that only the Best of Bread album could get those two songs to sound as luscious and Tubey Magical as they do when they're playing in our heads, but it seems we were wrong -- they're positively amazing on the best copies of Manna, and this is a VERY good copy indeed.
What the best sides of Manna 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 1971
- 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 space of the studio
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.
When you hear music sound this good, it allows you to appreciate the music even more than the sound. This is in fact the primary raison d'etre of this audiophile hobby, or at least it's supposed to be. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of The Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It's Pure Pop for Now People, to quote the famous wag Nick Lowe.
In many ways this recording is state-of-the-art. Listening to the Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars on the best copies brings back memories of my first encounter with an original Pink Label Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic -- that sound knocked me out twenty-odd years ago, and here it is again.
Of course I'm a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. If you are too then this will no doubt become a treasured demo disc in your home as well.
Pay close attention to the sound of the drums. We really like the way famous session player Mike Botts' kit is recorded, not to mention his Hal-Blaine-like -- which means god-like -- drumming skills.
What We're Listening For on Manna
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- 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 for the guitars, keyboards and drums, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
On the better Hot Stamper copies, the ones with especially sweet and rich ANALOG sound, the credit obviously must go to their brilliant engineer, Armin Steiner, the man responsible for recording some of the best sounding, most Tubey Magical Chart Topping Pop Rock for this band throughout the '70s. As would be expected from success on such a scale, Steiner has more than a hundred other engineering credits. He's also the reason that Hot August Night is one of the best sounding live albums ever recorded.
When you find his name in the credits, there's at least a chance that the sound will be very good. You need the right pressing of course, but the potential for good sound should be your working hypothesis. Now all it takes is some serious digging in the record bins, tedious cleaning and even more tedious critical listening to determine if you've lucked into a diamond in the rough. Or, if you prefer, allow us do all that work for you. After 30 years in the business, we're gotten pretty good at it.
Manna has the clear signature of Elektra from the late '60s and early '70s. It's unmistakably ANALOG, but that double-edged sword cuts both ways. Richness and Tubey Magic (the kind you had in your old '70s stereo equipment) often comes at the expense of transparency, clarity, speed and transient information (the things your '70s equipment probably had more trouble with).
We heard a lot of copies that were opaque, smeary and dull up top, so the trick for us (and for those of you doing your own shootouts) is to find a copy with the resolving power and transparency that can cut through the thickness. Look for breath on the vocals (reverb too!) and extended vocal and guitar harmonics; if those two qualities are strongly evident you can't be too far off the mark. More presence, bigger bass (the bass is HUGE on the best copies), more size, energy and space: these will help take you to the highest (Super Hot and White Hot) levels.
Speaking of bass, notice how prominent, big and clear the bass guitar is on many of these songs. This is not a sound we hear nearly enough. During the shootout we were lovin' it. The Legacy Focus in our reference system has three twelve-inch woofers per channel. They do a lovely job with this kind of big-bottom-end recording, the kind of recording for which Botnick and The Doors (and Love too, let's not forget them) are justly famous. Where is that sound today? We miss it.
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 later 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 that is a key part of the appeal 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.
Let Your Love Go
Too Much Love
Be Kind to Me
He's a Good Lad
She Was My Lady
Live in Your Love
What a Change
I Say Again
Bread's third album, Manna, isn't so much a step forward as it is a consolidation of strengths, as the group sharpens their skills and carves out their own identities.
It's clear that the rift between David Gates and Robb Royer and James Griffin is beginning to take shape, as the album is evenly divided between Gates tunes and Royer/Griffin compositions. This benefits the album, since it spurs each member to greater heights, and they even tend to sequence the record in ways that support that sentiment -- Gates' "Let Your Love Go," complete with its rockin' harpsichords, is followed by the hard-driving verses of "Take Comfort," which, admittedly, is tempered by a dreamy chorus.
And while some of the rougher edges present on Bread or On the Waters are sanded down slightly, they're still there, providing good contrast to such soft pop landmarks as "If." Yet, this is a record that is laid-back and even tempered, which isn't a bad thing -- it results in a fine listen, especially since the group's songwriting remains at the high standard instituted on that first Bread album.
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