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Joel, Billy - Songs in the Attic - Super Hot Stamper (Quiet Vinyl)

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

Super Hot Stamper (Quiet Vinyl)

Billy Joel
Songs in the Attic

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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

  • Demo Disc live rock concert sound on this vintage Columbia pressing, with both sides earning superb Double Plus (A++) grades - exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound has so many wonderful ANALOG qualities when you get a good copy — the hardness of the typical pressing just disappears, leaving surprisingly transparent and sweet sound on virtually every track
  • The WHOMP FACTOR here is off the scale. There are few studio recordings that have these kinds of dynamics. We forget how compressed most of them are. It takes a record like this to show you how much LIFE there is in LIVE MUSIC
  • 4 stars: "Songs in the Attic is an excellent album, ranking among his very best work... even if Joel wasn’t a celebrity in the early ’70s, his best songs of the era rivaled his biggest hits."

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Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of the will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG

This vintage Columbia 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 Songs in the Attic 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 1981
  • 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.

Then Play On

You know how you can tell when you have a Hot Stamper? It’s the record you let play all the way through. When the sound is right it makes you want to hear more. Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it’s mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled. Actually, what you really want to know is how good each song can sound -- what it sounds like when it’s right. Once the quality of the mastering has been established, the fun part is to play the rest of the album, to hear it really come alive! (See the notes below for track-specific commentary.)

You Want To Turn It Up and You CAN Turn It Up

Besides wanting to listen to it all the way through, you also want to turn it up. This is the surest sign of a good pressing. You WANT to turn it up, and you CAN turn it up, because the mastering is right. The distortion levels are low and the tonal balance is correct at the extremes. Records with too much bass and especially too much top end can’t be played loud. The louder you play them the worse they get. Try playing the average MOFI at a loud volume. All that extra 10k starts to make your brain hurt. The CBS half-speed of this album is like that. It’s frustrating -- the music makes you want to turn it up but the sound says forget it.

Billy Joel Agrees With Me

I was recently perusing the liner notes for this album and came across this Post Script from Billy Joel, which I had overlooked before.

"I know you don’t have a P.A. system in your house, but if you want to get as close as possible to the real thing, invite your cranky neighbors over and play this record as loud as you can."

Can YOU Find One That Sounds Like This?

The kind of money we are charging for this record is ridiculous on at least one level: the album can be found in any used record store for cheap. It’s unlikely the price would ever be more than about $5, $10 tops. So the copy we are selling here obviously did not cost me a lot.

But can you find one that sounds like this? I would say you would have to find, buy, clean and audition at least ten and maybe as many as twenty copies to get one that sounds this good.

And of course, after you’ve bought four or five, cleaned them, and spent the better part of a day listening to them, you may have found one that sounds awfully good. Is it really as good as the one we are selling? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. (Maybe it’s even better! There’s always a Hotter Stamper that hasn’t been found yet.) Having played this record for close to twenty years, when I hear it sound like this, I know I am playing a very very special copy, one that’s not that easy to come by in my experience.

Billy Joel’s Best Album

Getting back to more important matters, without a doubt this is Billy Joel’s best album. These are the songs that didn’t get played to death on the radio. Here they get energetic and enthusiastic performances in a live setting, which makes his studio stuff sound canned in comparison. If you want one good Billy Joel album, either to start your collection or to just have the one, this is the one to have. The entertainment value is OFF THE SCALES. We guarantee your musical as well as sonic satisfaction or your money back!

What We're Listening For On Songs in the Attic

  • 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.

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.

Track Commentary

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.

Side One

  • Miami 2017
  • This is usually the brightest cut on the first side, commonly found with some sibilance problems. On the high-res copies the sibilance is lessened, and the sound of the sibilance itself is much less transistory and spitty, with more of a silky quality, which is simply another way of saying it’s less distorted.
  • Of course one wouldn’t want the sibilance to be lessened by having a dull top end, but few of these pressings are dull. Most of them suffer from a brightness problem. The best copies keep the sibilance under control and balance the upper mids with extended highs. Without extension on the highs the sound will tend to be aggressive.
  • Los Angelenos
  • Summer, Highland Falls
  • Streetlife Serenader
  • This is the rocker on side one with fabulously punchy bass and real rock dynamics. On bad copies, you can’t turn it up because the sound will be much too aggressive. On the best copies, the louder the better.
  • This is a big speaker album. You need to be able to play full range at a loud volume with low distortion for this music to make any sense at all. This is a live rock concert. It is not a tea party. Do not attempt to play this record on Quads.
  • She’s Got A Way
  • Without a doubt this is the most beautiful song on the album. Billy Joel is on record as saying that his favorite songwriter, the one he tries to emulate with his own writing, is Paul McCartney. This song could easily have been written by Paul himself, one of the handful of great songwriters in the twentieth century. It has the timeless qualities that we hear in the best pop material from the classic rock era. Billy Joel has written dozens of great songs over the course of a career, but I’m guessing he might just think this is the best. It’s certainly a personal favorite of mine.
  • Everybody Loves You Now

Side Two

  • Say Goodbye to Hollywood
  • The Big Sound! You need a superb copy to get the full effect on this one — wall to wall, floor to ceiling Phil Spector sound.
  • Captain Jack
  • This is the high point for side two. Big sound. Big production quality. If you want to turn this song up, you have a good copy. It should be noted that the music on side two, although excellent, is not as consistent as the music found on side one. Billy Joel does not put a foot wrong for the entire first side. Side two, however, has a few weak moments, but they pass quickly, and I still like to play both sides of this album when time permits in order to have that full-on Rock Concert experience.
  • You're My Home
  • The Ballad Of Billy The Kid
  • I've Loved These Days

AMG 4 Star Review

Having scored three multi-platinum hits in a row, Billy Joel took a breather, releasing his first live album, Songs in the Attic, as he worked on his ambitious follow-up to Glass Houses. Joel wisely decided to use the live album as an opportunity to draw attention to songs from his first four albums. Apart from “Piano Man,” none of those songs had been heard by the large audience he had won with The Stranger. Furthermore, he now had a seasoned backing band that helped give his music a specific identity — in short, it was an opportunity to reclaim these songs, now that he had a signature sound. And Joel didn’t botch the opportunity — Songs in the Attic is an excellent album, ranking among his very best work.

With the possible exception of the Turnstiles material, every song is given a fuller, better arrangement that makes it all spring to life. “Los Angelenos” and “Everybody Loves You Now” hit harder in the live setting, while ballads like “She’s Got a Way,” “Summer, Highland Falls,” and “I’ve Loved These Days” are richer and warmer in these versions. A few personal favorites from these albums may be missing, but what is here is impeccable, proving that even if Joel wasn’t a celebrity in the early ’70s, his best songs of the era rivaled his biggest hits.