The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus Minus (barely)
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (barely)
- This pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from the first note to last
- A Stevie Wonder classic as well as a proud member of our Top 100, but you will need a copy like this one to prove that it belongs there
- Richness, warmth, Tubey Magic, and clarity are important to the sound, and here you will find plenty of all four
- 5 stars: "Stevie Wonder applied his tremendous songwriting talents to the unsettled social morass that was the early '70s and produced one of his greatest, most important works, a rich panoply of songs addressing drugs, spirituality, political ethics, and what looked to be the failure of the '60s dream -- all set within a collection of charts as funky and catchy as any he'd written before."
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Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.
Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Stevie Wonder singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 44 years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we've played can serve as a guide.
What the Best Sides of Innervisions 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.
What to Listen For
Copies with rich lower mids often did well in our shootout, assuming they weren't veiled or smeary of course.
Many copies are murky and opaque. We gave out high grades to copies that were transparent without sacrificing the richness and Tubey Magic that is absolutely critical to the sound of the best copies.
Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.
What are sonic qualities by which a Pop or Rock record -- any Pop or Rock record -- should be judged?
Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.
When we hear a fair number of the qualities mentioned above on the side we're playing, we will provisionally award that side a Hot Stamper grade, which is often revised over the course of the shootout as we hear what the other copies are doing. Once we've been through all of our side ones, we then play the best of the best of them against each other to arrive at an official Shootout Winner.
Other copies have their grades raised or lowered depending on how they sound relative to the shootout winner, the record that was doing it all (or as much as possible - even some Triple Plus copies have been known to have a minor shortcoming or two). Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that's left is to see how the sides of each copy match up.
That's why the most common grade for a White Hot stamper pressing is Triple Plus (A+++) on one side and Double Plus (A++) on the other. Finding the two best sounding sides on the same LP does happen, but it sure doesn't happen as often as we would like (!) -- there are just too many variables in the mastering and pressing processes to ensure consistent quality.
It may not be rocket science, but it's a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we've developed over the course of many years to ensure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them.
The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on this Hot Stamper pressing -- or your money back.
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 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 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.
The Tracklist tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For advice.
A Must Own Soul and Pop Record
We consider this Stevie Wonder album his Masterpiece.
- Too High
A lovely song. On a good copy, the acoustic guitar is warm, rich, and sweet, and Stevie's voice is surrounded by wonderful ambience. It's almost impossible to find a copy that doesn't have some surface noise on this track.
- Living for the City
On the best copies, this song comes to LIFE!
- Golden Lady
- Higher Ground
One of Stevie's funkiest songs. Only the best copies give this song the life and energy it needs to really rock!
- Jesus Children of America
- All in Love Is Fair
- Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing
- He's Misstra Know It All
This track tends to be a bit smooth, even dull, but on better copies it will sound lovely.
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
When Stevie Wonder applied his tremendous songwriting talents to the unsettled social morass that was the early '70s, he produced one of his greatest, most important works, a rich panoply of songs addressing drugs, spirituality, political ethics, the unnecessary perils of urban life, and what looked to be the failure of the '60s dream -- all set within a collection of charts as funky and catchy as any he'd written before.
Two of the highlights, "Living for the City" and "Too High," make an especially deep impression thanks to Stevie's narrative talents; on the first, an eight-minute mini-epic, he brings a hard-scrabble Mississippi black youth to the city and illustrates, via a brilliant dramatic interlude, what lies in wait for innocents. (He also uses his variety of voice impersonations to stunning effect.)
"Too High" is just as stunning, a cautionary tale about drugs driven by a dizzying chorus of scat vocals and a springing bassline. "Higher Ground," a funky follow-up to the previous album's big hit ("Superstition"), and "Jesus Children of America" both introduced Wonder's interest in Eastern religion. It's a tribute to his genius that he could broach topics like reincarnation and transcendental meditation in a pop context with minimal interference to the rest of the album. Wonder also made no secret of the fact that "He's Misstra Know-It-All" was directed at Tricky Dick, aka Richard Milhouse Nixon, then making headlines (and destroying America's faith in the highest office) with the biggest political scandal of the century.
Putting all these differing themes and topics into perspective was the front cover, a striking piece by Efram Wolff portraying Stevie Wonder as the blind visionary, an artist seeing far better than those around him what was going on in the early '70s, and using his astonishing musical gifts to make this commentary one of the most effective and entertaining ever heard.