Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- This KILLER copy delivers Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from first note to last
- Big and solid guitars and keyboards, with great bass, full vocals, and tons of Tubey Magic - this the way to hear the band
- Our Hot Stamper here manages to combine this kind of high-rez, extended top with natural, balanced tonality - this one really gets it right
- 4 Stars: "This is the definitive Kansas recording ... their interplay and superior musicianship make this both an essential classic rock and progressive rock recording."
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Drop the needle on Dust in the Wind -- here the guitars and vocals are full-bodied and natural, qualities unfortunately in short supply on the typical pressing.
What excellent sides such as these 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 1977
- 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
Watch Yer Guitars
The better copies get rid of a problem that quickly becomes irritating as you play track after track: a certain squawky, pinched sound to the guitars. Bad copies of the album have that sound through and through, along with excessive amounts of grain and grunge. The guitars are prominent in the mix on practically every song here, so when the guitars sound sour, the track as a whole does too.
The mastering and pressing problems of the average copy make the overall sound unmusical. The way we found that out was simple enough -- we cleaned and played lots of copies, and once in a while we heard one that allowed the music to breathe, open up, sound balanced, actually make sense even. Those copies showed us a Point of Know Return we didn't know existed and gave us a goal to shoot for with all the other copies we played.
Most copies, like so many rock records from the era, are veiled and smeary. Often they lack extension at one or both ends of the frequency spectrum, usually up top, which results in harshness and shrillness -- not the sound you want on a Kansas record!
Another tough test: the vocals often strain when loud. Hot Stampers are all about finding the copies that don't have that problem, along with many others. The higher the grade, the fewer the sonic problems.
What We're Listening For on Point of Know Return
- 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 later 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 that is a key part of the appeal 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.
One More Thing
The CBS Half-Speeds suck. Way too bright and thin. What were they thinking?
It's the sound that audiophiles are often fooled by to this day Brighter and more detailed is rarely better. Most of the time it's just brighter. Not many half-speed mastered audiophile records are dull. They're bright because the audiophiles who bought them preferred that sound. I did, a long, long time ago.
Hopefully, we've all learned our lesson by now, expensive and embarrassing as such lessons usually turn out to be.
Point of Know Return
Portrait (He Knew)
Dust in the Wind
Sparks of the Tempest
This is the definitive Kansas recording and includes their most famous tune, 'Dust in the Wind.' The band is in peak form and also churned out the single "Point of Know Return," which is still played daily on classic rock stations.
While their pop-oriented approach and standard rock guitar sound helped define the classic rock sound of the '70s, careful listening reveals that this band's talent goes beyond colleagues such as Bachman-Turner Overdrive and Boston.
Their arrangements and time signatures more accurately reflect the music of Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer. "Paradox" and "The Spider" are both excellent examples of their progressive approach. ... their interplay and superior musicianship make this both an essential classic rock and progressive rock recording.
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