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Fagen, Donald - The Nightfly - Super Hot Stamper (Quiet Vinyl)

The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.

Super Hot Stamper (Quiet Vinyl)

Donald Fagen
The Nightfly

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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

  • With solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from top to bottom, this vintage pressing (one of only a handful of copies to hit the site in six months) will be very hard to beat - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Side one was sonically very close to our Shootout Winner - you will be shocked at how big and powerful the sound is
  • Punchy and high-resolution, check out the cymbals and muted guitar on "I.G.Y." — they sound pretty much right on the money here
  • Big, open and spacious with virtually no smear, this copy is doing just about everything we want it to
  • 4 1/2 stars: "A portrait of the artist as a young man, The Nightfly is a wonderfully evocative reminiscence of Kennedy-era American life; in the liner notes, Donald Fagen describes the songs as representative of the kinds of fantasies he entertained as an adolescent during the late 50s/early 60s, and he conveys the tenor of the times with some of his most personal and least obtuse material to date."

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Super energetic and present, this copy is on a completely different level than most pressings. We recently finished a big shootout for Donald Fagen’s solo effort from 1982 (just two years after Gaucho and the end of Steely Dan) and we gotta tell you, there are a lot of weak-sounding copies out there! We should know; we played them.

We’ve been picking copies wherever we can find them in the hopes that we’d have some killer Hot Stamper copies to offer, but most of them left us cold. Flat, edgy and bright, like a bad copy of Graceland, only a fraction had the kind of magic we find on the better Steely Dan albums.

Both sides here are remarkably clear and high-rez compared to most pressings, with none of the veiled, smeary quality we hear so often. The vocals are breathy, the bass is clear and the whole thing is open and spacious.

This vintage Warner Brothers 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.

What The Best Sides Of The Nightfly 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 even as late as 1982
  • 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.

The upper mids on certain tracks of both sides have a tendency to be brighter than we would like. "Ruby Baby" on side one can be that way, and the title track on side two has some of the wannabe hit single radio EQ that makes it the 'least likely to succeed' so to speak. On a good copy the first track of each side should be all you need to hear.

Fagen’s Nightfly and Digital Sound — Do All the Pressings Have to Sound Like CDs?

The average copy of this digitally recorded, mixed and mastered LP sounds just the way you would expect it to: like a CD. It’s anemic, two-dimensional, opaque, thin, bright, harsh, with little extreme top and the kind of bass that’s all “note” with no real weight, solidity or harmonic structure. Sounds like a CD, right? That’s the way most of my CDs sound, which is why I no longer listen to them except in the car.

But what if I told you that the better copies of The Nightfly can actually sound like real honest-to-goodness analog recordings, with practically no trace of any of the nasty shortcomings listed above? You may not believe it, but it’s true. I heard it myself. I heard a copy sound so good that I would never have guessed it was digital. On my honor, that’s the truth. The better copies are surprisingly analog sounding.

Allow us to make the case for The Nightfly.

The commentary below is basically a reworked version of the one we wrote about Direct Metal Mastering. Almost all the same principles apply, which allows us to easily make the changes necessary to defend The Nightfly and not Jellyfish’s Bellybutton. Simply put, the question before the house is: Can this record sound analog? We very much believe it can.

The problem with the typical copy of this record is gritty, grainy, grungy sound — not the kind that’s on the master tape, the kind that’s added during the mastering and pressing of the record. When that crap goes away, as it so clearly does on a copy we played recently, it lets you see just how good-sounding this record can be. And that means really good sounding.

On most copies the CD-like opacity and grunge would naturally be attributed to the Digital Recording process; that’s the conventional wisdom, so those with a small data sample (in most cases the size of that sample will rarely be more than one) could be forgiven for reaching such a conclusion. Based on our findings it turns out to be completely false.

The bad pressings do indeed sound more like CDs. The better pressings do not.

What We're Listening For On The Nightfly

  • 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.

More Conventional Wisdom

All the tracks are digitally recorded, mixed and mastered, proving again that the conventional wisdom is simply mistaken. Conventional wisdom is a term of disparagement here at Better Records for this very reason. What passes for common sense in the world of audiophile record collectors is mostly of dubious value, if not demonstrably false. We refer to many of them as 'Record Myths' and lay out the evidence against them in our listings. (I believe we are alone in the world of record dealers to do so. In fact, we are practically alone in the world of record lovers to do so. That’s a much bigger world but it’s full of the same misunderstandings and misinformation.)

If there are “myths” on the list that you yourself believe to be true, we are happy to send you the record that will help disabuse you of such notions. Rarely is there a time when we do not have the record in hand that makes our case, and it would be our pleasure to have you hear just what we are talking about for yourself, on your own system.

How Analog Is It?

The ones we like the best will tend to be the ones that sound the most analog. The more they sound like the average pressing -- in other words, the more CD-like they sound -- the lower the sonic grade. Many will not have even one Hot Stamper side and will end up in the trade-in pile.

The best copies sound the way the best copies of most Classic Rock records sound: tonally correct, rich, clear, sweet, smooth, open, present, lively, big, spacious, Tubey Magical, with breathy vocals and little to no spit, grit, grain or grunge.

That’s the sound of analog, and the better copies of The Nightfly have that sound.

Vinyl Condition

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.

Side One

  • I.G.Y. (International Geophysical Year)
  • Green Flower Street
  • Ruby Baby
  • Maxine

Side Two

  • New Frontier
  • The Nightfly
  • The Goodbye Look
  • Walk Between Raindrops

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

A portrait of the artist as a young man, The Nightfly is a wonderfully evocative reminiscence of Kennedy-era American life; in the liner notes, Donald Fagen describes the songs as representative of the kinds of fantasies he entertained as an adolescent during the late 50s/early 60s, and he conveys the tenor of the times with some of his most personal and least obtuse material to date.

Continuing in the smooth pop-jazz mode favored on the final Steely Dan records, The Nightfly is lush and shimmering, produced with cinematic flair by Gary Katz; romanticized but never sentimental, the songs are slices of suburbanite soap opera, tales of space-age hopes (the hit "I.G.Y.") and Cold War fears (the wonderful "The New Frontier," a memoir of fallout-shelter love) crafted with impeccable style and sophistication.