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Super Hot Stamper - Bernard Herrmann - The Fantasy Film World of...

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

White Hot Stamper (With Issues)

Bernard Herrmann
The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann

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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus*

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • This early British London pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from glorious first note to last
  • On the best copies, such as this one, you will hear the power of the orchestra come to life right in your very own listening room
  • The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of wall to wall and floor to ceiling spaciousness that may just leave you in awe
  • A superb Phase 4 recording by Arthur Lilley, taking advantage of the legendary acoustics of Kingsway Hall

More Bernard Herrmann / More Recordings from Kingsway Hall

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*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes eleven light to moderate swooshes at the beginning of Track One, Journey To The Center Of The Earth.

The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of three-dimensionality most orchestral recordings simply fail to reproduce. The brass here is weighty and powerful, and you can really hear the pluck of the strings on the harp.

Harry Pearson put the Decca pressing of this title on his TAS List of Super Discs. (We take issue with that choice below.)

The liner notes from Mysterious Island apply equally well to this collection:

The score for Mysterious Island is one of the most dramatic in all film history rivaled only, perhaps, by the same composer's 'Seventh Voyage of Sinbad' in its deployment of massive blocks of dense orchestral color and in the bizarre and brilliant invention that so artfully illustrates Ray Harryhausen's grotesque menagerie of unnatural misfit monsters - sight and sound blend to form one of filmdom's most vivid and persuasive excursions into the realm of fantasy.

What the Best Sides of The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann 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 1974
  • 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.

Taxing the Limits

An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality. It taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep organ notes (listen for the famous Decca rumble accompanying the organ if you have the deep bass reproduction to hear it); incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects everywhere -- every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some. (You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that's for sure. Some of the time I can't even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!)

What We're Listening For on The Fantasy Film World

  • 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, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • 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.

Decca & London

There’s a reason this record is on the TAS List of Super Discs — if any LP should be called a Super Disc, this one should. (With Phase Four sound you might even call it a Super-Duper-Disc.)

But Harry is, not atypically, rather misinformed about the catalog number and country of manufacture. He exclusively admits the Decca pressing to his list, and that is clearly contrary to our experience in general as well as our findings for every shootout. The best Decca pressing we've played to date rated no better than a B+ for either side. That’s five — count them, five — sonic grades lower than the A Triple Plus sides of our best London copy.

If you are one of those audiophiles who’s been following Harry down the rabbit hole for years, discovering a little site called Better Records may just turn out to be a life-changing event. Here you can find records that live up to the hype, ours and his.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus 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.

Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

This album is especially Difficult to Reproduce. Do not attempt to play it on anything but the highest quality equipment.

It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, involving, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively.

It's not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.

As we've said before, these kinds of recordings - Ambrosia; Blood, Sweat and Tears; The Yes Album; Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin II - they are designed to bring an audio system to its knees.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .

Track Commentary

The Tracklist tab will take you to a select track breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice. Other records with individual track breakdowns can be found here.

A Must Own Orchestral Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Orchestral Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

A recording of this size and scope will bring virtually any stereo system to its knees. This is the real Power Of The Orchestra! You had better have a top quality front end if you want to play this record properly, not to mention plenty of power and big speakers. This is not the record for the Weekend Budget Audiophile. If you haven't put in the years of effort and invested the tens of thousands of dollars in equipment and room treatments it takes to play records of this difficulty, your system is probably not up to the challenge this album represents. If on the other hand, you have done the work and spent the money, this is the album that will show you what you have achieved.

What We're Listening For on The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann

  • 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, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • 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.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus 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.

Selling the Hype

Record dealers that sell records based on their reputation -- and that means pretty much all of them -- are selling the hype. If they haven't played the record, they can't tell you what it sounds like, TAS List or no TAS List. The catalog number may be right, but finding the sound that lives up to the description can only be done one way: by playing the record. Most copies of The Fantasy Film World, whether they have a Decca label or a London one (all of the ones we are selling are mastered and pressed by Decca; some get one label and some get the other) leave much to be desired.

Side One

  • Journey To The Center Of The Earth
  • All those lovely harps! You can practically feel the cool air of the cave as you descend into the blackness.

  • - Mountain Top And Sunrise
  • - Prelude
  • - The Grotto
  • - Salt Slides
  • - Atlantis
  • - The Giant Chameleon And The Fight
  • - The Shaft And Finale
  • The Seventh Voyage Of Sinbad
  • Side one boasts some wonderful material from Jason and the Argonauts, including the fight with the skeletons that we all remember from our Saturday matinee movie days. Who else could have orchestrated such a film?

  • - Overture
  • - The Duel With The Skeleton
  • - Baghdad

Side Two

  • The Day The Earth Stood Still
  • Astonishingly powerful deep bass and drum sounds!

  • - Outer Space
  • - Radar
  • - Gort
  • - The Robot
  • - Space Control
  • - Terror
  • - Farewell And Finale
  • Fahrenheit 451
  • One of our key tests for side two is the string tone on the Fire Engine sequence here. The best copies had wonderfully textured and tonally correct strings, with just the right amount of sheen -- not glossy, not gritty, not blurry, but just right.

    Any orchestral recording without good string tone is a lost cause. (Almost all Classic Records fail miserably in this regard. They may be on the TAS List but that sure doesn't mean they sound any good!)

  • - Prelude
  • - Fire Engine
  • - The Bedroom
  • - Flowers Of Fire
  • - The Road And Finale