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Steely Dan - Countdown to Ecstasy - White Hot Stamper

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

White Hot Stamper

Steely Dan
Coundown to Ecstasy

Regular price
$349.99
Regular price
Sale price
$349.99
Unit price
per 
Availability
Sold out

Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (Often quieter than this grade

  • This early Black Label Shootout Winning pressing boasts stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The only real rock album this band ever made actually ROCKS on this pressing, and that's what makes listening to vinyl of the highest quality FUN
  • Only 8 tracks (so the band can stretch out). and every one is guaranteed to sound better than you have ever heard it
  • 5 stars: "Smart, conflicted bands from Weezer to the Eels owe Steely Dan big time... because on Countdown to Ecstasy, the band was human, not just brainy. Like Exile on Main Street, this is a record where Steely Dan let slip their extraordinary mask of sarcasm, and could not disguise the joy in these excellent songs, or the fact that they were having a blast playing them."

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This vintage ABC 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 Amazing 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 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.

Razor Boy and My Old School

On Razor Boy listen especially to how clear and solid the piano and vibes are underneath the vocals. On the best copies, their contributions are easy to follow and really provide support in the lower registers for the vocals above them. If your copy they're a murky mess don't be surprised; that's pretty much the way they sound on most copies. (They're a good test for the quality of your reproduction from the mid-bass up through the lower midrange.)

The female background singers who make up the chorus on My Old School sound different on every copy you play. When they sound right you'll know it immediately. The copies with clarity and energy always seem to also have a wonderful "sing along" quality that lets the music really come to life. We didn't hear it happen too often but when it does it's a THRILL, one you can buy.

What We're Listening For on Countdown to Ecstasy

  • 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.

The Typical Pressing: Ouch

This album shares top honors with Katy Lied as the toughest Steely Dan album to get to sound right. So many copies are such sonic let-downs: congested, bass-shy, veiled, compressed and grainy. There’s a good reason we don't do this album but once a year, and it's not because of a lack of demand. It's because so many copies sound so bad.

 One of the biggest problems with the average copy of this album is congestion. On King Of The World, for example, many copies never quite open up at the chorus. On our Hot Stamper copies, the sound is more spacious, allowing all the voices and instruments room to breathe. The soundfield needs to be BIG and WIDE for this album to work, and on the best copies the sound is HUGE.

Another big problem with the typical copy is a glaring lack of bass. This is Steely Dan, man: last I heard they had a pretty good bass player by the name of Walter Becker. (On later albums he plays guitar, but with Denny Dias and Jeff Skunk Baxter still in the band at this point the guitar duties were already in the hands of the truly gifted.) We have to imagine that the band wanted you to hear bass -- and plenty of it. Any copy of this album that doesn't have lots of deep, punchy, well-defined bass just isn't gonna cut it.

Vinyl Condition

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.

Side One

  • Bodhisattva
  • Razor Boy
  • This is the track I use to judge side one. Almost every copy you come across has grainy vocals, if there are any highs at all. This is true for the entire album, but it's especially noticeable on this track. When the vocals are clear, smooth and sweet, or at least as clear, smooth and sweet as one can hope for, you are playing a good copy. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones.
  • That's if there's bass. This is a rock record, and rock records, like all records, need bass. If the vocals on this track are right and the bass is good, you might actually have a winner.
  • Also listen to how clear and solid the piano and vibes are underneath the vocals. On the best copies their contributions are easy to follow and really provide support in the lower registers for the vocals above them. If your copy they're a murky mess don't be surprised; that's pretty much the way they sound on most copies. (They're a good test for the quality of your reproduction from the mid-bass up through the lower midrange.)
  • The Boston Rag
  • Your Gold Teeth

Side Two

  • Show Biz Kids
  • On every copy we've ever played this track is cut substantially louder than those that follow. It also has a "jumping out of the speakers" quality that's hard to find on the next three tracks. As a Demo Track it would seem to be the best one on the album. As a test track, since it seems to sound good on so many otherwise mediocre copies, it's practically useless.
  • My Old School
  • The female background singers who make up the chorus on My Old School sound different on every copy you play. When they sound right you'll know it immediately. The copies with clarity and energy always seem to also have a wonderful "sing along" quality that lets the music really come to life. We didn't hear it happen too often but when it does it's a THRILL, one you can buy.
  • Pearl of the Quarter
  • King of the World
  • There's a lot going on in the chorus here, and the average copy suffers badly from congestion. If the copy you have on the turntable doesn't have much extension up top you can forget about this track sounding any good.

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

The loud guitars and pronounced backbeat of "Bodhisattva," "Show Biz Kids," and "My Old School" camouflage the fact that Countdown is a riskier album, musically speaking, than its predecessor.

Each of its eight songs have sophisticated, jazz-inflected interludes, and apart from the bluesy vamps "Bodhisattva" and "Show Biz Kids," which sound like they were written for the stage, the songs are subtly textured. "Razor Boy," with its murmuring marimbas, and the hard bop tribute "Your Gold Teeth" reveal Becker and Fagen's jazz roots, while the country-flavored "Pearl of the Quarter" and the ominous, skittering "King of the World" are both overlooked gems.

Countdown to Ecstasy is the only time Steely Dan played it relatively straight, and its eight songs are rich with either musical or lyrical detail that their album rock or art rock contemporaries couldn't hope to match.

Rolling Stone Review

Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were wiseass New York musicians stranded in LA. in the early Seventies, and they poured all the cynicism and paranoia of that circumstance into Steely Dan, the most notorious studio band in the annals of classic rock.

Their second album, Countdown to Ecstasy, was the only record by the reclusive duo written for an actual live band, and you can tell— especially on hoo-ha! cuts such as “My Old School,” a catchy little tune about college placement and prostitution, with its pounding, stupidly grinning piano riffs; scorching guitar solos, somehow both showy and unselfconscious; and above all jubilant horn charts.

"The Boston Rag” begins as a sophisticated, jazzy number, but then the band players forget themselves: The solo by Jeff “Skunk” Baxter is as nasty, distorted and molten as rock guitar has ever been. The jump and jive of Bodhisattva is so celebratory, it could be the music for a Looney Tunes cartoon.

Smart, conflicted bands from Weezer to the Eels owe Steely Dan big time, not because guys with glasses should stick together, but because on Countdown to Ecstasy, the band was human, not just brainy. Like good stretches of the Stones’ Exile on Main Street, this is a record where Steely Dan let slip their extraordinary mask of sarcasm, and could not disguise the joy in these excellent songs, or the fact that they were having a blast playing them.

- Pat Blashill