The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus*
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus*
- A superb copy of Elton John's 1973 release with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish - just shy of our Shootout Winner
- Forget the dubby, closed-in and transistory domestic pressings - here is the relaxed, rich, spacious, musical, lifelike sound that only the best imports can show you
- Thanks to Ken Scott's brilliant engineering and Gus Dudgeon's production savvy, every song here sounds better than you imagined, because finally you are hearing it right
- 4 stars: "His most direct, pop-oriented album... a very enjoyable piece of well-crafted pop/rock."
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*NOTE: On side one, the intro to Track 4, Blues for My Baby and Me, plays Mint Minus Minus. On side two, a mark makes loud swooshes during the last 10 seconds of the final track, High Flying Bird.
These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top-quality sound that's often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers ("relative" being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don't agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.
The amazing engineer Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, Truth, Birds of Fire) is the man responsible for the stunning sound here.
The kind of Tubey Magical richness, smoothness and fullness he achieved at Trident in the early '70s, as well as here at a certain French country estate, have never been equaled elsewhere in our opinion.
This vintage DJM 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 Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player 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 1973
- 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.
Pay special attention to the sound of the piano. On the most transparent and tonally correct copies it is clear and full-bodied. The piano in a dense recording such as this often makes for 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.
If you have full-range speakers some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are WEIGHT and WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we've all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.
In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and five gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies. But some copies survive all such hazards. They manage to reproduce the full spectrum of the piano's wide range on vintage vinyl, showing us the kind of sound we simply cannot find any other way.
What We're Listening For on Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only The Piano Player
- 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.
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.
Elton John Shootouts
Elton John is one of the handful of artists to produce an immensely enjoyable and meaningful body of work throughout the '70s, music that holds up to this day. The music on his albums, so multi-faceted and multi-layered, will endlessly reward the listener who makes the effort and takes the time to dive deep into the sound of his classic releases.
Repeated plays are the order of the day. The more critically you listen, the more you are sure to discover within the exceedingly dense mixes favored by Elton and his bandmates. And the better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of the recordings.
Elton John albums always make for tough shootouts. His producers' (GUS DUDGEON being the best of them) and engineers' (KEN SCOTT and ROBIN GEOFFREY CABLE likewise the best) approach to recording -- everything-but-the-kitchen-sink as a rule -- make it difficult to translate their complex sounds to disc, vinyl or otherwise.
Everything has to be tuned up and on the money before we can even hope to get the record sounding right. Careful VTA adjustment could not be more critical in this respect.
If we're not hearing the sound we want, we keep messing with the adjustments until we do. There is no getting around sweating the details when sitting down to test a complex recording such as this. If you can't stand the tweaking tedium, get out of the kitchen (or listening room as the case may be). Obsessing over every aspect of record reproduction is what we do for a living. Pink Floyd's recordings require us to be at the top of our game, both in terms of reproducing their albums as well as evaluating the merits of individual pressings.
When you love it, it's not work, it's fun. Tedious, occasionally exasperating fun, but still fun nonetheless.
- Teacher I Need You
- Elderberry Wine
- Blues for My Baby and Me
- Midnight Creeper
- Have Mercy on the Criminal
- I'm Gonna Be a Teenage Idol
- Texas Love Song
- Crocodile Rock
- High Flying Bird
AMG 4 Star Review
Elton John became a true superstar with 1972's Honky Chateau. He followed that album with Don't Shoot Me I'm Only the Piano Player, his most direct, pop-oriented album to date... the hits are remarkable — "Daniel" is a moving ballad and "Crocodile Rock" is a sly take on '50s rock & roll... it is a very enjoyable piece of well-crafted pop/rock.