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)
- Taylor's 1979 release returns to the site with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them throughout this vintage Columbia pressing - fairly quiet vinyl too
- The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
- Credit the engineering chops of Val Garay - the guy makes these sort of Demo Disc Quality Pop Records about as good as they can be made
- Musically this is one of JT's most underrated albums - it's a Better Records Top Recommendation and Must Own LP of his
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From the opening notes you will be amazed at how good this album sounds. As far as JT’s recordings go, it’s right up there at the top. Like his album JT, which came just before this one, the best copies of this record are smooth, rich, punchy and have great bass.
A Top Recommendation from Better Records. This is a Must Own James Taylor record.
The average copy of this record is dreadful. All the recuts that were done by Columbia that I’ve ever heard are garbage. There are a number of different stampers for both sides one and two and it’s almost impossible to find two good sides on the same album.
This vintage 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 Flag 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 1979
- 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.
An Underrated Gem
Musically this is one of Taylor’s most underrated albums. Most of the tracks on this record are excellent; some are my personal favorites from the entire Taylor catalog.
Side one is marred by a less than stellar version of The Beatles’ "Day Tripper." The next three tracks, though, are three of the best on the whole album, especially "Is That The Way You Look?" This particular track is in the mold of "Traffic Jam" from JT. It’s Taylor’s hilarious homage to Doo Wop, with demo quality sound to boot. I note in the review for JT how much fun that song is. "Is That The Way You Look?" is even more fun and worth the price of the album alone.
Side two is excellent from start to finish, with a wonderful cover of "Rainy Day Man," one of the best tracks on Taylor’s first album, the one he did for Apple 20 years ago. When Apple went under, the record became unavailable for the next 20 years. Watch the site because occasionally we do get copies of it, and it can be out of this world on the best pressings.
What We're Listening For On Flag
- 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.
Val Garay Is The Man
Val Garay is the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor’s JT (a Top 100 title), Simple Dreams (also a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc. They all share his trademark super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound. With BIG drums -- can’t forget those. (To be clear, only the best copies share it. Most copies only hint at it.)
I don’t think Mr. Garay gets anything like his due with audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them. This is a shame; the guy makes Demo Disc Quality Pop Records about as good as those kinds of records can be made. If you have a Big System that really rocks you owe it to yourself to get to know his work. This is truly a KNOCKOUT disc if you have the equipment for it. We do, and it’s records like this that make the effort and expense of building a full-range dynamic system worthwhile.
We Get Letters
One of our good customers had something to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased a very long time ago.
Ordered J. Taylor “Flag”, arrived in perfect condition, outstanding packaging. Thanks! My first Hot Stamper—admittedly a little skeptical. Have two copies of this (one of my favorite JT albums, if not the favorite). One from the initial release and one from a few years later (a near mint copy). Had some fun listening to the Hot Stamper vs. these two pressings. Also invited my amigo, Joe, a trusted friend and music lover. Well, what can I say— we both agreed, a truly and unanimous ‘Better Record’ —-Surprise— Nice work! You have our upmost respect for your time and energy put into this endeavor, wish we could indulge ourselves more of your recommendations. Will do what we can. Thanks for the experience, a real joy and education.
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.
- Company Man
- Johnnie Comes Back
- Day Tripper
- I Will Not Lie for You
- Brother Trucker
- Is That the Way You Look?
- Rainy Day Man
- Up on the Roof
- Chanson Française
- Sleep Come Free Me
When people use the term “singer/songwriter” (often modified by the word “sensitive”) in praise or in criticism, they’re thinking of James Taylor. In the early ’70s, when he ... appeared with his introspective songs, acoustic guitar, and calm, understated singing style, he mirrored a generation’s emotional exhaustion after tumultuous times.