The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- Incredible sound on both sides of this Sheffield direct-to-disc pressing with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades - the first copy to hit the site in NINE years!
- Loads of presence, with richness and fullness that showed us just how good the Direct to Disc medium at its best can be. It had everything going for it from top to bottom, with big bass, dynamics, clarity, top end extension (so silky up there!) and ENERGY
- Make no mistake, this here is a real Demo Disc. The sound is Wall to Wall!
- Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings this album actually contains real music worth listening to
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In our recent Shootout this White Hot Stamper sounded far better than every other copy we played. It fulfills the promise of the direct to disc recording approach in a way that few -- very few -- direct to disc pressings do. To be honest, most copies of this title were quite good. Few didn't do most things at least well enough to earn a Hot Stamper grade. This has not been the case with many of the Sheffield pressings we've done shootouts for in the past. Often the weaker copies have little going for them. They don't even sound like Direct Discs!
Some copies lack energy, some lack presence, most suffer from some amount of smear on the transients. But wait a minute. This is a direct disc. How can it be compressed, or lack transients? Aren’t those tape recorder problems that are supposed to be eliminated by the direct to disc process?
"Supposed to be eliminated" is a long way from "were eliminated." Even though the mastering is fixed at the live event, there are many other variables which affect the sound. The album is pressed in three different countries: the United States, Japan and Germany. Many mothers were pulled from the plated acetates (the "fathers") and many, many stampers made from those mothers.
Bottom line? You got to play 'em, just like any other record. If no two records sound the same, it follows that no two audiophile records sound the same, a fact that became abundantly clear very early on in the listening. Of course not many audiophiles are in a position to shootout eight or ten copies of I’ve Got The Music In Me, and I'm not sure most audiophiles would even want to. Here at Better Records we have a whole system set up to do exactly that, so we waited until we had a pile of them gathered together, cleaned them all up, and off to the races we went.
Unlike most Direct to Disc recordings this album actually contains real music worth listening to -- but only when the pressing lets the energy of the musicians through, with some sort of fidelity to the sounds of their instruments. Brass without bite is boring. Drummers who drum too delicately will bore you to tears.
Talk about DYNAMIC VOCALS. To Know You Is to Love You has the potential to come right at you in a truly shocking way. She can get LOUD. It sounds like there is virtually no compression on Thelma's vocals at all. There has to be a limiter of some kind, but when she starts really belting it out you will not believe how powerfully she can sing. Might just give you goosebumps.
This could easily be the most dynamic vocal recording you have ever heard. It's right up there at the top for us too.
Two Killer Sides
Loads of presence, with richness and fullness that showed us just how good the Direct to Disc medium at its best can be. It had everything going for it from top to bottom, with big bass, dynamics, clarity, top end extension (so silky up there!) and ENERGY. Make no mistake, this here is a real Demo Disc. The sound is Wall to Wall.
What to Listen For -- Side One
The vocal reproduction on To Know You Is to Love You is a very tough test. Some copies sound like they are distorting slightly, and they may well be -- the lathe that cut the copy you have might not have been able to cut such a dynamic vocal cleanly. Overcutting is always a risk in a direct to disc recording. Even if it's not a cutting error, the loudest parts can sound harsh; we heard that on a few copies.
What to Listen For - Side Two
The French horns on the first track are perfection on the better pressings. Play five copies on side two and no two of them will give you the same French Horn sound.
Also pay special attention to the piano -- on the transparent and tonally correct copies it is clear and full-bodied. The piano in a dense recording such as this is often a good test. It's in there, sure, but how easily can you see it and how much like a real piano does it sound? When the piano is right more often than not most every other instrument will be right as well.
One thing Sheffield got right is tonally-correct, realistic, believable brass in a natural acoustic space. This is precisely where For Duke fails so miserably, although no one ever seems to notice or bothers to write about it. To me that dead acoustic is like fingernails on a blackboard, completely inappropriate to the sound. In real life you would never hear a jazz band like that play in a dead room like that, so why on earth would you want to record one that way? It's just plain dumb, no matter how good your mics are or how clean your signal path might be.
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.
I've Got the Music in Me
To Know You Is to Love You
Step in Time
Got to Get You into My Life / I've Got the Music in Me
Thelma Houston teamed with the band Pressure Cooker in the early '80s, doing a fusion/instrumental pop/R&B/soul work for Sheffield Labs. That affiliation ensured that it would be brilliantly engineered, and it sounded spectacular, especially for an early '80s release
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