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 (often quieter than this grade)
- An early Arista pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last - fairly quiet vinyl too
- The best sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth, and smoothness that make listening to records so involving
- If you are looking for a shootout winning copy, let us know - with music and sound like this, we hope to be able to do this shootout again soon
- Standout tracks include "Song on the Radio" and "Time Passages" (an edited version of which made it all the way to #7 on the Pop charts)
- 4 1/2 stars: "…this is exceptionally well-crafted, from Stewart’s songs, where even three-minute songs seem like epics, to Alan Parsons’ cinematic arrangements and productions. [O]ne of Al Stewart’s very best albums."
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Our Hot Stampers of Year Of The Cat are always a big hit, and this, the 1978 follow-up, shares many of the same qualities. Alan Parsons is a pretty good producer and engineer it turns out.
This copy is richer and sweeter than most, with a big, bold, three-dimensional sound that perfectly suits the kind of Big Productions that are his stock in trade. The bigger the better we say!
Standout tracks include "Song on the Radio" and "Time Passages" (an edited version of which made it all the way to #7 on the Pop charts.) Both of these songs are more than six minutes long on the album.
This vintage Arista 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 Time Passages 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 1978
- 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.
Learning the Record
For our shootout for Time Passages, we had at our disposal a variety of pressings that had the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman'd it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.
If you have five or more copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what's right and what's wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the other pressings do not do as well, using a few carefully chosen passages of music, it quickly becomes obvious how well a given copy can reproduce those passages. You'll hear what's better and worse -- right and wrong would be another way of putting it -- about the sound.
This approach is simplicity itself. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle -- or fail -- to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
It may be a lot of work but it sure ain't rocket science, and we've never pretended otherwise. Just the opposite: from day one we've explained step by step precisely how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection. Not the good sounding pressings you happen to own -- those may or may not have Hot Stampers -- but the records you actually cleaned, shot out, and declared victorious.
What We're Listening For On Time Passages
- 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 -- Alan Parsons in this case -- 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.
- Time Passages
- Valentina Way
- Life in Dark Water
- A Man for All Seasons
- Almost Lucy
- The Palace of Versailles
- Timeless Skies
- Song on the Radio
- End of the Day
AMG 4 1/2 Star Review
Year of the Cat brought Al Stewart a genuine worldwide smash with its title track, and for its successor, he did make a few concessions. These, however, were slight -- just a slight increase of soft rock productions, an enhancement of the lushness that marked not only Year of the Cat but also Modern Times. These happened to be welcome adjustments to Stewart's sound, since they increased the dreamy continental elegance at the core of his work.
And that's why Time Passages is the equal of Year of the Cat -- it may be more streamlined, but the adjustments to his sound and the concessions to the mainstream just increase the soft grace of his eloquent historical pop epics. It's possible to view this as too precious, because it is pitched at an audience who believes the common-day concerns of pop are piffle, but this is exceptionally well-crafted, from Stewart's songs, where even three-minute songs seem like epics, to Alan Parsons' cinematic arrangements and productions.
This added concentration on the texture of the recording, ensuring that it was clean, spacious, and gentle, with a welcoming surface. Of course, this means that Time Passages can work very well as background music, but it also reveals much upon concentrated listening -- enough to make it stand proudly next to Modern Times and Year of the Cat as one of Al Stewart's very best albums.