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White Hot Stamper - Cat Stevens - Catch Bull At Four - (UK Island)

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

Super Hot Stamper

Cat Stevens
Catch Bull At Four

Regular price
$149.99
Regular price
Sale price
$149.99
Unit price
per 
Availability
Sold out

Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (often quieter than this grade)

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last
  • Bigger, more dynamic, more lively, more present and just plain more EXCITING than lots of the pressings we've played over the years, including the imports with the "wrong" stampers, which happens to be most of them
  • This A&M pressing can show you the Midrange Magic that is the hallmark of all the best Cat Stevens records
  • "Though some of the lyrics retain Cat’s fanciful imagery... he shows a new emotional directness, especially on side two, the albums "down" side. This is reflected in Cat’s singing, which becomes more assured and more emotive with each album."

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If you're familiar with what the best Hot Stamper pressings of Tea for the Tillerman, Teaser and the Firecat or Mona Bone Jakon can sound like -- amazing is the word that comes to mind -- then you should easily be able to imagine how good the best copies of Catch Bull at Four sounds.

All the ingredients for a Classic Cat Stevens album were in place for this release, which came out in 1972, about a year after Teaser and the Firecat. His brilliant guitar player Alun Davies is still in the band, and Paul Samwell-Smith is still producing as brilliantly as ever. 

There's no shortage of deep, well-defined bass either, allowing the more dynamic songs to really come alive. The ones that get loud without becoming hard or harsh are the ones that tend to get everything else right at the lower volumes.

What the Best Sides of Catch Bull At Four 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 1972
  • 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 do the best Hot Stamper pressings of Catch Bull At Four give you?

  • 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 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 of these wonderful originals.

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

  • Sitting
  • This track often sounds a bit flat and midrangy, and it sounds that way on most domestic pressings and the "wrong" imports.

    The best imports and domestic pressings are the only ones with the sweeter, tubier Midrange Magic that we've come to associate with the best Cat Stevens recordings.

  • Boy With a Moon & Star on His Head
  • Another very difficult track to get to sound right. The better copies have such amazingly transparent sound you can't help feeling as though you really are in the presence of live human beings. You get the sense of actual fingers -- in this case the fingers of Cat's stalwart accompanist Alun Davies -- plucking the strings of his Spanish guitar.

  • Angelsea
  • This is one of the best sounding tracks on the album, right up there with Cat's most well recorded big productions such as Tuesday's Dead, Changes IV, Where Do The Children Play and Hard Headed Woman. On Hot Stamper copies this is a Demo Track that's hard to beat.

    The midrange magic of the acoustic guitars is off the scale. Some of Catch Bull At Four has the magic and some of it does not, unlike Tea and Teaser, which are magical all the way through.

  • Silent Sunlight
  • Can't Keep It In
  • On the best copies this track is as Huge and Powerful as anything the man ever recorded. It's another one of the best sounding tracks on the album. On our top copies this is a Demo Track that's hard to beat.

    The midrange magic of the acoustic guitars is off the scale. Some of Catch Bull At Four has the magic and some of it does not, unlike Tea and Teaser, which are magical all the way through.

>

Side Two

  • 18th Avenue

    This track is a great test for side two. The strings should sound silky yet also have nice texture to them. Without proper mastering, the kind that results in midrange clarity and extension on the top, they'll never sound right.

    There's also a lot going on with the percussion on this track; you'll need a dynamic copy to really get the full effect. If you have the kind of speaker that can really move some air you are in for a treat with this one.

  • Freezing Steel
  • Another great test for side two. The huge drums and chorus at the end of the song are going to be tough to get right if you're playing the album at the good and loud levels we do.

    Again, you'll need a dynamic copy with plenty of solid deep bass to get the full effect. If you have big speakers that can really move air this track might just rock your world.

  • O Caritas
  • Sweet Scarlet
  • Ruins

Rolling Stone Review

Catch Bull is impeccably produced. Its musical contents are like those of Teaser and the Firecat—simple, short-phrased melodies and spare and vibrant arrangements. There are, however, notable differences between Catch Bull and its predecessor. The instrumental repertoire has been widened somewhat: three cuts make minimal use of a synthesizer, and on four cuts Cat plays piano.

...Happily, the greatest difference between Teaser and Catch Bull lies in the lyric themes of the songs. Though some of the lyrics retain Cat’s fanciful imagery— word poems so dreamily obscure as to defy interpretation—he shows a new emotional directness, especially on side two, the albums "down" side. This is reflected in Cat’s singing, which becomes more assured and more emotive with each album.

Stephen Holden

Rolling Stone Magazine, November 23, 1972

Amazon Review

Celebrated and adored for his sanguine lyrics and irresistible hooks, Cat Stevens was one of the rare singer-songwriters capable of composing genuinely optimistic songs that didn't leave a sappy residue in listeners' ears.

However, even a cursory listen to 1972's Catch Bull at Four proves that the Cat had seen darkness, too, and that those darker elements had become more pronounced than they'd been in the past. His vocal style shifts from the cool croon that made Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat top sellers to a harsher, almost growling delivery.

The album's standouts--the wistful reverie "Sitting" and the delightfully infectious "Can't Keep It In"--are resolute in lyric and melody. Rambling, mystical odes such as "The Boy with a Moon & Star on His Head," "Angelsea," and "Sweet Scarlet" offer quaintly romantic imagery and lavishly undulating melodies.

But it's the mercurial dynamics and driving melody of "18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare)" and the bitter conviction of "Ruins" that give the album a backbone and a sense of balance. -- Sally Weinbach