Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This vintage Cotillion pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides - this Hot Stamper pressing makes the case that ELP's debut is clearly one of the most POWERFUL rock records ever made
- Spacious, rich and dynamic, with big bass and tremendous energy - these are just some of the things we love about Eddie Offord's engineering work on this band's albums
- ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest - you'll never play a CD (or any other digital sourced material) that sounds as good as this record as long as you live
- "Lucky Man" and "Take A Pebble" on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won't believe
- If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know - with such good music and sound, we hope to get another shootout going again soon
- 4 1/2 stars: "Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album... [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly ...there isn't much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here."
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If you've got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low-end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you're not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels, it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.
This Cotillion pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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.
What The Best Sides Of The Band's Debut Album 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 1970
- 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.
Near The Top Of The List!
Without a doubt this record belongs in the Top Rock section. I'd even say it belongs in the Top Ten. It is one of the most dynamic and powerful rock recordings ever made. The organ on this album is wall to wall and floor to ceiling. The quiet interlude during "Take A Pebble" is about as quiet as any popular recording can ever be -- the guitar is right at the noise floor. It's amazing! (Which explains why so many domestic copies have groove damage. The record is just too hard to play for the average turntable. Hell, it's hard to play with an audiophile turntable.)
Credit engineer Eddie Offord, who would later go on to enormous and entirely justifiable fame with Yes.
What We're Listening For On ELP's Debut
- 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 have 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.
The Power Of Analog
Folks, this is ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest. You ain't never gonna play a CD that sounds like this as long as you live. I don't want to rain on your parade but digital media are seemingly incapable of reproducing this kind of sound. There are nice sounding CDs in the world but there aren't any that sound like this, not in my experience anyway. If you are thinking that someday a better digital system is going to come along to save you the trouble and expense of having to find and acquire these expensive original pressings, think again. Ain't gonna happen. This is the kind of record that shows you what's wrong with your BEST sounding CDs. (Let's not even talk about the average one in your or my collection. The less said the better.)
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 originals.
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.
The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice. Other records with track breakdowns can be found here.
A Must Own Prog Rock Debut
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- The Barbarian
- Take a Pebble
Superb sound! Big, spacious and effortlessly alive!
- Knife Edge
Again, some of the best sound to be found on any ELP album. We much prefer the tracks with vocals as opposed to the heavy keyboard ones. This is PROG at its best, right up there with Yes's and King Crimson's biggest and boldest musical statements. When it's good, it's REALLY GOOD. (Conversely, of course, when it's bad, it's pretty bad. Played Relayer lately?)
- The Three Fates: Clotho/Lachesis/Atropos
This is a super tough test for side two. It's guaranteed to bring even the biggest and best systems to their knees. The organ is HUGE, so big and powerful it has a tendency to break up a bit in the loudest parts, either from groove damage or the inability of the cutting system to properly transfer the enormous amounts of bass that exist on the master tape onto the cutting acetate. You need plenty of amplifier cutting power and not every mastering chain had it.
- Lucky Man
My favorite ELP track, sounding about as good as it gets. You need the right Cotillion copy for the ultimate sound; the better bass brings Palmer's kick drum to life, not to mention the synthesizer solo.
Listen also to the electric guitar solo in the left channel. On the best copies it really comes to life and rocks out. If it lays back in the mix you do not have a Hot Stamper for side two, I can assure you of that!
By the way, this track is cut a bit low compared to the two that precede it. It needs click or two on the volume know to work its magic.
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album, made up of keyboard-dominated instrumentals ("The Barbarian," "Three Fates") and romantic ballads ("Lucky Man") showcasing all three members' very daunting talents.
This album, which reached the Top 20 in America and got to number four in England, showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly -- with the exception of a few moments on "Three Fates" and perhaps "Take a Pebble," there isn't much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here. "Take a Pebble" might have passed for a Moody Blues track of the era but for the fact that none of the Moody Blues' keyboard men could solo like Keith Emerson.
Even here, in a relatively balanced collection of material, the album shows the beginnings of a dark, savage, imposingly gothic edge that had scarcely been seen before in so-called "art rock," mostly courtesy of Emerson's larger-than-life organ and synthesizer attacks.
Greg Lake's beautifully sung, deliberately archaic "Lucky Man" had a brush with success on FM radio, and Carl Palmer became the idol of many thousands of would-be drummers based on this one album (especially for "Three Fates" and "Tank"), but Emerson emerged as the overpowering talent here for much of the public.