The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)*
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- With two killer Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this UK copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
- Copies that are exceptionally transparent, with three-dimensional depth and a wide soundstage, present this music the way it was meant to be heard
- Credit Rhett Davies with creating the sonic space to allow the singers, instruments and subtle studio effects to be balanced and integrated from front to back, side to side and top to bottom
- 5 stars: "Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics."
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*NOTE: There is a mark that plays 4 times intermittently (2 moderate, 2 loud) about 1/4" into track 1 on side 1.
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" meaning 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.
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
Records like Avalon get people (often known as audiophiles) to spend wads and wads of money in pursuit of expensive analog equipment good enough to bring this wonderful music to life in their very own listening rooms.
The album rewards a stereo with many of the qualities that audiophiles prize most highly when selecting equipment -- spaciousness, transparency, clarity, detail, depth, soundstaging, speed, high frequency extension and the like.
The mix is as dense as any we know. Only the best copies have the ability to show you everything that's on the tape. Credit must go to the amazingly talented Rhett Davies for creating the space to put so many instruments and sounds in.
We would add to that list presence and energy, along with warmth, fullness, and lack of smear on the transients. Whomp and rock and roll power do not seem to play much part in separating the best from the rest, although it's nice when the bottom end is big and solid.
What The Best Sides Of Avalon 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 1982
- 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.
What To Listen For - The Title Track
The marvelous female vocalist Yanick Etienne, who sings so beautifully at the end of the title song, is standing in her own space at about the 10 o'clock position in the soundfield. At moderate levels she sounds very small and distant, but turn up your volume and she really starts to take on the attributes of a full-size, real live person standing just to the left and back a bit from the main proceedings. This level may be too loud on other songs; we noticed that Bryan Ferry's vocals are very high up in the mixes as a rule, on the first track especially if I recall correctly, and at louder volumes -- the ones we like to listen at -- he's going to get too hot. It's a bit of a balancing act to find the right level for the music, but as loud as you can stand Ferry singing is probably a good place to start.
Only the most transparent copies will have you "seeing" Miss Etienne at the end of the song.
One more thing to listen for here, especially if you're a fan, is the quality of Andy Mackay's saxophone work. He plays mostly soprano on Avalon and his playing is surely responsible for much of the melancholy mood of the songs. Next time you play the album, focus especially on his parts and I think you will see how important his contribution is to this emotional power of the material. His plaintive tone has a resonance of regret and sadness that serves to bring out the longing at the heart of Ferry's songwriting.
I've been a giant Roxy Music fan since 1975. Rolling Stone gave Siren a rave review that year, and I went right out and bought myself a copy on their say-so. I then proceeded to play it every day. This went on for weeks. I'm a bit obsessive that way. (Being obsessive is extremely helpful if you wish to excel in audio. It may, in fact, be the most important personality characteristic of them all.)
I consider them to be one of the greatest Art Rock bands in the history of the world. The general public and probably most audiophiles would surely cast their vote for Avalon as the band's masterpiece. I much prefer their eponymous first album, Stranded, Country Life and Siren to the more "accessible" music found on Avalon.
To be fair, that's splitting hairs, because any of those five titles are absolute Must Own Albums that belong in any serious popular music collection.
What We're Listening For On Avalon
- 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.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don't talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record's presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small -- they don't extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don't seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read "BIG and BOLD" -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They're not brighter, they're not more aggressive, they're not hyped-up in any way, they're just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn't, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one or two clean British original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of early British pressings of Classic Rock albums.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it's an entirely different -- and dare I say unforgettable -- listening experience.
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.
A Must Own Rock Record
Avalon is just one of several Roxy Music recordings that belong in any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- More Than This
- The Space Between
- While My Heart Is Still Beating
- The Main Thing
- Take a Chance With Me
- To Turn You On
- True to Life
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Flesh + Blood suggested that Roxy Music were at the end of the line, but they regrouped and recorded the lovely Avalon, one of their finest albums. Certainly, the lush, elegant soundscapes of Avalon are far removed from the edgy avant-pop of their early records, yet it represents another landmark in their career.
With its stylish, romantic washes of synthesizers and Bryan Ferry's elegant, seductive croon, Avalon simultaneously functioned as sophisticated make-out music for yuppies and as the maturation of synth pop. Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics.
"More Than This," "Take a Chance with Me," "While My Heart Is Still Beating," and the title track are immaculately crafted and subtle songs, where the shifting synthesizers and murmured vocals gradually reveal the melodies. It's a rich, textured album and a graceful way to end the band's career.