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Author Topic: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.  (Read 14253 times)

Offline mikel

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'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« on: April 19, 2009, 10:31:41 PM »
back in October i did my initial listen to TP-008 'Waltz for Debbie' and also a direct comparison to the AP 45rpm pressing on the Rockport tt. it was clear that the tape was better across the board.....but as the recording and performance are on the polite side of things some of the differences were more of a subtle nature......or at least that is what i thought at the time. other listeners even posted that there was not that big an obvious difference between the tape and the 45rpm Lp.....or obvious winner.

since then 2 things have changed in my system. i recently got the new Allnic H3000 phono stage, and in November i decided to leave the Studer turned on 24/7....i had been turning the Studer on and off for each use. the Studer has been 'on' for 6 months now.

so the vinyl is better......and tapes are now waay better.

so today a friend was visiting and we decided to do the 'Waltz for Debbie' 45rpm Lp--Tape Project tape comparison....again.

there is really no comparison at this point; TP-008 wipes the floor with the 45rpm Lp. the Lp only hints at many musical lines which are fully realized on the tape. on the tape Evans' piano has presence, air and decay. it occupies space. it blooms. on the vinyl it is much reduced in size and definition. the Lp has the action but not the body. and the Lp now has tubes in the signal path and the tape is all solid state....even so the tape is much more natural and has a richer tonallity.

LaFaro's Bass and Motian's drum kit are similarly more present and defined and the noise floor of the tape is much lower than the Lp....

i know that comparisons are not valuable to everyone; but for many this is what causes people to make the plunge into tape.....when Icon recordings like 'Waltz for Debbie' can come alive in your room like no other format. i feel damn lucky to be able to enjoy this tape.

mikel

Mike Lavigne

Offline docb

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #1 on: April 20, 2009, 11:20:11 AM »
Thanks for the kind words, Mike. Maybe when I get my Repro built for my Nagra I can bring it by and try it in your system? By the way, how did the PNWAS meeting go? Sorry I was unable to be there, I bet it was fun.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
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mep

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #2 on: April 20, 2009, 03:34:28 PM »
MikeL-I have been reading your posts with great interest and I read the audiogon chatter about the latest listening session that was held at your place. I want to be friends with the guy who copies all of the master tapes that he gets his hands on!  Anyway,  I have come full circle on what I think of tape now and what you are saying has validated my conclusions.  Tape simply sounds better than vinyl and vinyl does have a higher noise floor than 15 ips 2 track tapes.  Your system and my system are quite different and your components are much more expensive, but the conclusions are the same.  No contest there.

The first time I listened to tape, it was kind of like an epiphany and somewhere on audiogon is a rant I wrote about being duped all these years into thinking vinyl is superior after coming to the realization that tapes sounded superior to LPs.  And that was 4 track tapes at 7 1/2ips.  Then I came to the realization that even though 4 track tapes sounded better, there were other issues.  Even though vinyl has a high noise floor, the 4 track tapes played back on my Revox A-77 were even noisier due to the tape hiss/noisy electronics and the sound of the reverse side of the tape bleeding through.  So I sold my Revox A-77 and I have said several times on this forum that I was going to sell the 4 track tapes I have.

And then one night recently I was down in my listening room and I was wishing I could hear some of my really good sounding 4 track tapes again.  I had this conversation with my brother and last Friday he showed up at my house with 4 different 4 track machines to let me use for awhile.  I haven't made it past the first one that I put in the system that day.  And that deck is an Akai GX-266D.  This was the first time I have had an auto-reverse deck in my system.  I can tell you that the Akai reduced the amount of bleedthrough from the other side of the tape by an order of magnitude over other 4 track decks I have listened through before.  I don't know if that is just because the heads are really aligned well (and my Revox A-77 had the heads aligned twice), or if there is something to do with have separate heads for each direction of the tape.  The machine handles tape like a dream and I haven't found anything to fault about it.  I found the Akai to be a far better machine in every respect compared to my Revox A-77.

Some of you have read past posts that I have written telling you that if you make a copy of an LP to 15 ips 2 track tape it will sound better than the LP when the tape is played back through the Ampex 350 repros-and I still stand by that statement.   I have made at least 10 tapes now for my brother where I coped LPs over tape and they are all outstanding.  However, as MikeL pointed out, you can clearly hear that the noise floor of the tape is way lower than the noise floor of the vinyl playback rig.  You can clearly hear the sound of the cartridge in the groove and apparently even $100K turntables and very expensive cartridges won't fix this. 

Now on to the next experiment.  My brother asked me to pick out some 4 track tapes that I also have on LP and he wanted me to record back to back songs onto a new tape at 15ips 2 track. And so we did.  The tunes I picked were Spinning Wheel from Blood Sweat and Tears second album (this is an outstanding 4 track tape with really good dynamic range), Lucky Man from Emerson Lake and Palmer, several cuts from Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman, and Let Your Love Go from Bread.   Of course as we were recording each song both from LP and tape we were hearing the actual playback straight up through my system.  Upon playback from the tape we just made, several things became clear.  All songs sounded better when played back at 15 ips on both vinyl and tape.  I knew from previous experience that LPs were going to sound better when recorded at 15 ips and played back through the Ampex 350s-pace Steveo...but I wasn't expecting there to be such a difference between the sound of a 7 1/2ips 4 track tape recorded and played back at 2 track 15 ips.  Again, the difference in noise between LP and tape is no contest.  The tape has a much quieter noise floor.   All of the songs that originated from tape sounded better than the LP versions.  The songs from tape just sounded more real, more alive.  The timing, the snap, focus, air, -you name it, it all sounded better from the tape source.  And again, the songs from tape had a way better noise floor than the LPs.   My brother took the tape home and called me the next day to say that it was 0/4 for LPs against the tapes at his house too.

One thing I can tell you is that without the Ampex 350s, the magic mojo wouldn't be there.  I happen to think that the Otari MX-55 is a very good transport (and for $8K it should be) but the playback electronics are nothing special.  I know I have said this before, but there is something magical that happens when the 350s interpret the information.  The soundstage expands in every dimension, the bottom end sounds like it has gained another octave of extension and just has more punch, and everything just seems to snap into focus and make sense.  You should hear Lucky Man played back at 15 ips through the 350s-simply stunning.  There were things going on in that song that I had never heard before and I have listened to this cut a zillion times over the years.  I have two copies of the LP and the one on Cotillion label smokes the Atlantic version.  The LP has great bottom end punch, but not as good as the tape.  The tape was clearly better than the LP in every instance.  Cat Stevens songs from the Tea for Tillerman tape all sound really good.  My brother never took Cat Stevens seriously before he heard his songs played back from the tape I made for him.  Now he is a fan.

For the small percentage of you who have access to 4 track tapes and a 4 track deck, a 15 ips deck that you can record on and you have tube repro electronics, I encourage you to try my experiment and tell me what you hear.  Unless you have some really kick-ass SS repro electronics, I don't think you will hear the magnitude of difference that I hear.  I really think there is something special about the sound of the Ampex 350s and I know that I feel lucky to own a really nice pair of them.  Music played back through them is in another whole league from music played back without them.  And Steveo, if that is distortion, I wish I could buy more of it.

My brother and I are going to do some further taping.  He has every Beatle album on tape and some are still sealed.  We are going to record some of those next and see if the differences we heard on the other songs we copied from tape carry over to the Beatles stuff.  It would be a real hoot if I heard all of the Beatle songs presented in different way-meaning more information than I have ever heard before.

In conclusion, I am back to being bummed at LP in comparison to tape and more bummed that I didn't buy into r2r tapes when they were new and cheap.  And I am more bummed that new music isn't available on tape anymore.

mep

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #3 on: April 20, 2009, 04:38:11 PM »
One thing I forgot to mention in my above post.  My brother is able to play his 4 track 7 1/2 ips tapes through the Ampex 350s (actually, he has two tube gain stages, the first being dual mono Crown units before the Ampex 350s).  He said that there is no comparision between hearing the original 4 track 7 1/2 ips tape compared against the 15 ips version I made for him listening through the same electronics.  So, it appears that somehow the tape benefits from being converted from 7 1/2 ips to 15 ips even though the logical side of your brain says it can't be so.  And, Ampex 350s by themselves can't make the original 4 track tape sound as good as they are capable of sounding when they are recorded to 15 ips.  Tis a conundrum said the king.

Offline jcmusic

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #4 on: April 20, 2009, 05:06:33 PM »
My brother and I are going to do some further taping.  He has every Beatle album on tape and some are still sealed.  We are going to record some of those next and see if the differences we heard on the other songs we copied from tape carry over to the Beatles stuff.  It would be a real hoot if I heard all of the Beatle songs presented in different way-meaning more information than I have ever heard before.

Mep I am going to try your little expirement, I have 4track tapes and a 2track [email protected] I do want to warn you about the Beatles tapes, if they are on (Capitol Full Dimensional Stereo) I find these tapes to really sound well recorded; but you may find them a little on the bright side as I did.

Jay
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Offline mikel

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #5 on: April 20, 2009, 06:01:29 PM »
Thanks for the kind words, Mike. Maybe when I get my Repro built for my Nagra I can bring it by and try it in your system? By the way, how did the PNWAS meeting go? Sorry I was unable to be there, I bet it was fun.

Doc, you are most welcome....that tape is a joy. last night later i spun tape 2 of Robert Cray's 'False Accusation'.....a 'reel' pleasure for sure. smooth as butter. just me, a wee bit o' single malt, and the Robert Cray Band......loverly.

any time it works for you i'd love to have you visit, with the Repro that much better. let me know.

the meeting was a blast, sorry you could not make it.....but getting across the water at rush hour is a real challenge so i understand.

speaking of the meeting; it seemed that everyone raved about the tapes, as wonderful as the vinyl was (and it was as good as i have heard vinyl).

i had a few attendees complain to me that those in the sweet spot did not move for 4 hours......what does that tell you about how it went?

since that meeting i've had three friends tell me they want to jump into RTR right away, and get some 'Tape Project' tapes. i hope that happens.
Mike Lavigne

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #6 on: April 20, 2009, 06:20:40 PM »
Jay-Please do and report back your findings.
Mark

Offline mikel

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #7 on: April 20, 2009, 06:30:51 PM »
MikeL-I have been reading your posts with great interest and I read the audiogon chatter about the latest listening session that was held at your place. I want to be friends with the guy who copies all of the master tapes that he gets his hands on!  Anyway,  I have come full circle on what I think of tape now and what you are saying has validated my conclusions.  Tape simply sounds better than vinyl and vinyl does have a higher noise floor than 15 ips 2 track tapes.  Your system and my system are quite different and your components are much more expensive, but the conclusions are the same.  No contest there.

yes; my friend the mastering engineer does have some killer tapes.....the 'Jazz at the Pawnshop' was un-*ucking-believable'....likely the best reproduced music i have yet had the pleasure of hearing.

Quote
The first time I listened to tape, it was kind of like an epiphany and somewhere on audiogon is a rant I wrote about being duped all these years into thinking vinyl is superior after coming to the realization that tapes sounded superior to LPs.  And that was 4 track tapes at 7 1/2ips.  Then I came to the realization that even though 4 track tapes sounded better, there were other issues.  Even though vinyl has a high noise floor, the 4 track tapes played back on my Revox A-77 were even noisier due to the tape hiss/noisy electronics and the sound of the reverse side of the tape bleeding through.  So I sold my Revox A-77 and I have said several times on this forum that I was going to sell the 4 track tapes I have.

And then one night recently I was down in my listening room and I was wishing I could hear some of my really good sounding 4 track tapes again.  I had this conversation with my brother and last Friday he showed up at my house with 4 different 4 track machines to let me use for awhile.  I haven't made it past the first one that I put in the system that day.  And that deck is an Akai GX-266D.  This was the first time I have had an auto-reverse deck in my system.  I can tell you that the Akai reduced the amount of bleedthrough from the other side of the tape by an order of magnitude over other 4 track decks I have listened through before.  I don't know if that is just because the heads are really aligned well (and my Revox A-77 had the heads aligned twice), or if there is something to do with have separate heads for each direction of the tape.  The machine handles tape like a dream and I haven't found anything to fault about it.  I found the Akai to be a far better machine in every respect compared to my Revox A-77.

Some of you have read past posts that I have written telling you that if you make a copy of an LP to 15 ips 2 track tape it will sound better than the LP when the tape is played back through the Ampex 350 repros-and I still stand by that statement.   I have made at least 10 tapes now for my brother where I coped LPs over tape and they are all outstanding.  However, as MikeL pointed out, you can clearly hear that the noise floor of the tape is way lower than the noise floor of the vinyl playback rig.  You can clearly hear the sound of the cartridge in the groove and apparently even $100K turntables and very expensive cartridges won't fix this.

while i respect you are telling us what you are hearing; i'm skeptical of the generalization that 15ips recording of a source will better the source. specifically; as my Rockport tt does not suffer from feedback during play (that is audible), there is no reason to expect any type of recording of it to be as good, let alone better. not to say that recording some 7 and 1/2 ips 4-tracks onto specific 15 ips and then playing those tapes back might not sound better than the 7 and 1/2 ips source tapes. there are so many potential variables who's to say that could not happen....and your Ampex 350 repro's no doubt might account for the improvements (differences)

some tt's and tapes might benefit from 15ips recording on some RTR decks, but some won't.

i do have my fully refurbished Ampex ATR-102 sitting next to my Studer A-820. it's purpose will be to allow me to dub tapes off the Studer or the dpV Technics (which can play 4-tracks), or even the Rockport. i've done no recording yet; but 'soon' i will go down that road and i will comment then on my experience with your idea.

Quote
In conclusion, I am back to being bummed at LP in comparison to tape and more bummed that I didn't buy into r2r tapes when they were new and cheap.  And I am more bummed that new music isn't available on tape anymore.

don't be bummed by Lp performance; it's wonderful. as you move up the vinyl food chain it gets silly good. but even at that level; tapes can be better. and take heart that as more audiophiles/music lovers get into tape more software will be out there for all of us. just compare today to 2 years ago when i first investgated RTR; huge difference!
Mike Lavigne

Offline jcmusic

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #8 on: April 20, 2009, 06:35:38 PM »
Jay-Please do and report back your findings.
Mark
Mark,
As sson as I get some time and a few querks worked out.

jay
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mep

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2009, 08:22:44 PM »
MikeL-you should be skeptical of what I said and so should everyone else.  All I am asking is that other people try my experiment and let me know what you find.  Astrotoy made copies of some of his 45 rpm recordings onto his ATR-700, but I haven't heard him say if he has played them back on his deck that is outfitted with the tube repro electronics yet.  Larry said that the copies he made on the ATR-700 (and played back through the ATR-700) were identical sounding to his table.

The differences I am hearing are not the subtle type that you have to really concentrate to hear.  The differences are really profound and all for the better.  I hope that soon you will become adept at using your decks to record with.  I still would really love to send you a sealed Maxell tape and have you make some recordings from your Rockport of LPs that I have in my collection so I can hear your front end.  And that is the beauty of being able to make recordings onto tape as I will be able to hear your table, arm, cartridge, phono section, and preamp as well as what your noise floor is when I play the tape back.  I will be hearing your front end and that would be exciting and very meaningful to me.

What I don't know is that if people make 15 ips copies of their 7 1/2 ips 4 track tapes (or LPs) and play them back only using the repro electronics built into their decks if they will hear what I am hearing.  Either way, it will be interesting.  Maybe people will come back and say I am full of crap and that is OK.  The truth doesn't lie and I know what I am hearing through the Ampex 350s.  With regards to the better sounding 4 track tapes, I really think there is more information there that only becomes apparent when the tape is converted over to 15 ips 2 track.  I can't explain why this is so, I can only tell you what I hear.  And my brother hears the same thing even though he is playing back his 4 track tapes through the Ampex 350s.  I would be happy to send you my copy of ELP Lucky Man on 4 track tape so you could dupe it over to 15 ips and I would also send you my best version on LP as well if you don't already have it.  The tape beats the LP straight up, and when it is converted over to 15 ips, it is a socks rotter.

And for the music companies, they have figured out that they really can't sell digital music anymore which is why some of the majors are releasing LPs again because at least people are buying them.  It may be too late to turn back the hands of time to convince them to release on tape again.  There are no production houses left that are set up to make large quantities of reel to reel tapes and it would be expensive to make it happen again.  Doc and company are struggling to release 200 copies of 10 different titles in a 12 month period of time.  I think we would all like to dream about having a large selection of new music available on 15 ips tape, but I am afraid it is a dream.

Offline ironbut

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2009, 09:59:01 PM »
Ha! All this time you guys have know me as ironbut or Steve ,..but say hello to Jake Fecus , enforcement officer for the RIAA. I knew if I hung out around here long enough that you scumbags would slip up and now I have you! I'm going to be confiscating those Ampex 350's and I'm seeing about a 3 month investigation in that "Barn" Mister.

Seriously though, I'll have to give that a shot myself. I was going to include your brother in my arrest Mark, but that "Bread" tune,..? Gee, I just don't know now. I'd love to hear that ELP album again. I haven't heard that one in years. It was a real fuse buster in it's day (I believe that it came out right at the height of the Phase Linear 400 era).

I think it's great when members step off the main path and experiment. We are after all, way out here as far as most folks are concerned so why the heck not.
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #11 on: April 21, 2009, 12:02:41 AM »
I'd love to hear that ELP album again. I haven't heard that one in years. It was a real fuse buster in it's day (I believe that it came out right at the height of the Phase Linear 400 era).

I think it's great when members step off the main path and experiment. We are after all, way out here as far as most folks are concerned so why the heck not.

Ah yes, Lucky Man from Emerson Lake and Palmer. That one was a torture test when new. Could your speakers reproduce the  fundamental of that synth note  with the drums at the end? Could your cartridge track it cleanly, being the last cut? Or would your speakers flap and your amp clip. Most of my friends and I were dealing with medium efficiency acoustic suspension speakers driven by 10W per channel solid state stereo receivers and some Garrard or BSR changer with a cheap cartridge. They mostly could not deal with it. :)
And the "Flame Linear" 400 ! I remember making jokes about exactly that right after high school. Phase 400s blowing up trying to reproduce Lucky Man at high levels through AR speakers. Memories...
Steve Williams

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mep

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #12 on: April 21, 2009, 09:49:48 AM »
Steveo/Ironbut-funny you mentioned Lucky Man being a system buster because it certainly can be.  Yes, my Definitive Technologies BP7000 SC speakers can reproduce all of the bottom end that is there and do it cleanly.  Each speaker has a massively constructed 14" woofer and two passive 14" cones being driven by a 1800 watt built in amp.  The speakers are rated down to 11 hz which is crazy, but they sure will do 20 hz.  As for my tonearm and cartridge tracking Lucky Man, no problems there.  My ET-2 and Denon 103 R sail right through the song. 

Now for the system buster part.  Not too long ago I wrote a rant on the forum which I called "Solid State and Zombies."  This was during my brief interlude when I was mad at tube amps and bought a Pass Labs X250.  I couldn't play Lucky Man through the Pass Labs X250 without shutting the amp down.  This never happened with any of my tube amps.  My Jadis Defy 7 doesn't break a sweat.  I swear it sounds 3x more powerful than the X250 even though the Jadis is rated at 100 watts and the X250 is 250 watts per channel.  I love the Jadis amp.

If anyone wants to send me a blank tape (and pay for shipping the tape both ways), I will make you a recording of Lucky Man from both LP and the original 4 track tape so you can hear what an awesome recording this is (just tell me that you own a legitimate copy of the album that you paid for and pm with the email address I have listed on my profile).  This recording has some bottom end that is very clean, deep, and detailed and through the right system, it will punch you in the chest.  My LP version is really good and if you didn't hear the tape version, you would absolutely love it.  But, the tape smokes the LP.  And Steveo and Ironbut are right, if you don't have a powerful amp and really good speakers, this song can blow your rig up so be warned.  So don't blame me if your woofer cones are on fire and flying through your room in little pieces and/or your amp is lying in a smouldering heap on the floor.  I can record the tape in either IEC or NAB format.

And Ironbut, Bread-I know.  But, these guys were all outstanding studio musicians before they performed a band around David Gates and the sound quality of their recordings is outstanding.  Some of the guitar work is the best recorded I have ever heard.  Just one of those guilty pleasures that you are kind of ashamed to admit-but I did.

Mark

Offline astrotoy

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #13 on: April 21, 2009, 10:22:59 AM »
Wow, has this thread been hijacked - really interesting stuff! First, to clarify Mark's comment about my comment on A/B'ing and hearing no difference. That is true, but with an important caveat. During the A/B process I could and still cannot hear a difference. However, there is a small difference if I play larger chunks of music - say a couple of minutes long and then do a back to back between vinyl and the tape. This is with the ATR-700.  I think it shows two things - first how close things are, even with the ATR-700 solid state playback electronics and second - that A/B'ing is not the best way to get a really good comparison.

After reading Mark's comments, I am warming up my system now and will be doing some close comparisons with the albums I have already recorded. I am nearly done (4 more left) with the copying of my 66 45 rpm albums (almost all the Classic Recording reissues of RCA and a few Mercury albums). I've had a couiple of glitches along the way. I started and after recording about 15 albums, I had Angel Gentev service the Ampex and set the biases for the two types of tape I am using - the RMGI SM468 that TP uses and some NOS Emtec SM911 that I got earlier this year.  I then rerecorded those and have gotten down to just a few left.  I also have been recording the albums with great dynamic range (the Dorati Firebird for example) with the volume on my system turned down, so there is no feedback into the TT. My TT is pretty well isolated - not like Mike's Rockport - but the HRX has both the air suspension feet and the VPI TT stand which combine to do a good job.

I was in grad school during the heyday of ELP. So I only have the Mobile Fidelity Pictures album. What album is "Lucky Man" on?  Maybe I can find a used copy at Amoeba's. 

More after the comparisons today.

Larry
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Offline steveidosound

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Re: 'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.
« Reply #14 on: April 21, 2009, 11:27:45 AM »
Lucky Man is the last cut, side 2 on the self titled "Emerson Lake and Palmer" album, Cotillion SD9040. I still have my original copy.
Sounds as if you should try and find the 4 track tape though. 
1971 prog. rock at it's best.
Steve Williams

you don't want to know what equipment I listen to...