The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- An outstanding early pressing offering killer Double Plus (A++) sound quality or BETTER from start to finish
- Low Spark is clearly one of the best sounding Proggy/Arty Rock records ever made - the space it recreates is huge
- A Better Records Top 100 album and real Demo Disc on a pressing that sounds as good as this one does
- 4 1/2 stars: "The commercial and artistic apex of the second coming of Traffic... The standout was the 12-minute title track, with its distinctive piano riff and its lyrics of weary disillusionment with the music business. "
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After doing the shootout for John Barleycorn recently, a record we love in spite of its problematic sound, this album was truly a breath of fresh air. I can honestly and enthusiastically say that the sound we heard on the best pressings was OUT OF THIS WORLD. This album is a permanent member of our Rock And Jazz Top 100, that's how good it is.
Who knew? We had no idea this recording could sound so incredibly spacious and open. The distortion level is so close to zero that we don't even want to assign a positive number to it. Let's just say it's below the threshold of hearing; does that work for you?
What outstanding 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 1971
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments (and effects!) 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 listed 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.
Music and Sound -- Some Kind of Connection There
We think better sound creates in the mind of the listener a stronger and deeper appreciation of the music itself. This will not come as news to anyone on this site; that's what it means to be an audiophile. True to form, the amazing sound of the best pressings helped us to really get into this album during our shootout.
Clearly, this is a Classic Traffic album that belongs in any serious collection. (Along with John Barleycorn Must Die, to our minds inarguably their masterpiece. Throw in The Best Of and you have most of the best music with the best sound on record by Traffic.)
For music this important and powerful, you do not want to waste your time listening to a run-of-the-mill pressing or some second-rate Heavy Vinyl reissue. You want a killer Hot Stamper, the kind of record that can really transport you to the world of The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don't talk about 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, lacking presence and immediacy in the center of the soundfield.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read "BIG and BOLD" -- create a huge soundscape, 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 as open and clear as that eighth or ninth one. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean original (or otherwise) copies with which to do a shootout?
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.
What We're Listening For on The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
- 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.
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 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.
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
Rock and Roll Stew
Light Up or Leave Me Alone
Many a Mile to Freedom
The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys marked the commercial and artistic apex of the second coming of Traffic, which had commenced in 1970 with John Barleycorn Must Die. Low Spark pointedly contained changes of pace from his usual contributions of midtempo, introspective jam tunes. "Rock & Roll Stew" was an uptempo treatise on life on the road, while Jim Capaldi's "Light up or Leave Me Alone" was another more aggressive number with an unusually emphatic Capaldi vocal that perked things up on side two. The standout was the 12-minute title track, with its distinctive piano riff and its lyrics of weary disillusionment with the music business.
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