Month: October 2016

Grover Washington Jr. and All The King’s Horses from 1973

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Without a doubt the best album Washington ever made, a desert island disc and a true Must Own

Both sides of this original Kudu pressing are OUT OF THIS WORLD. The sweetness and transparency of Grover Washington Jr.’s breathy sax went beyond any copy we’ve ever played. Who knew it could sound like this? We sure didn’t!

It’s spacious and full of life with virtually no distortion. Of special note, this copy has amazingly articulate bass which brings out the undeniable funkiness of the music in a way that no other copy did. There’s so much life in these grooves. The sound jumps out of the speakers right into your lap.

The early ’70s were a good time for Van Gelder. All the King’s Men from 1973 is an amazing Demo Disc for large group. But it only sounds good on the copies that it sounds good on, on the pressings that were mastered, pressed and cleaned right, a fact that has eluded most jazz vinyl aficionados interested in good sound.

But not us. We’ve played the very special pressings that prove the album can sound amazing.

I’m a Big Fan

I’ve been a big fan of this record since I first heard it all the way back in High School. I only found out later that this is not what most people would consider “real” jazz — it’s CTI jazz, more in the pop jazz or soul jazz vein. But I love the music more with each passing year and would not hesitate for a moment to recommend it to any jazz lover or audiophile. If the first track doesn’t knock you out, this album may not be for you. Without a doubt, in my book it’s the best thing Grover Washington ever did.

The really good RVG jazz pressings sound shockingly close to live music — uncompressed, present, full of energy, with the instruments clearly located and surrounded by the natural space of the studio. As our stereo has gotten better, and we’ve found better pressings and learned how to clean them better, his “you-are-there” live jazz sound has begun to impress us more and more.

Obviously the credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder for recording and mastering the album so well.

Yer Average Copy

The sound we most often find on original pressings (the only ones that ever sound any good; the later pressings are awful) is full of heavy compression, and suffers as well from the kind of high frequency restriction that prevents the top end from extending in a harmonically correct way. The result: Grover’s horn often will take on a somewhat sour quality. Our better Hot Stampers are both uncompressed and open up top.

 

 

 

The Doobie Brothers – Livin’ On The Fault Line

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

WHITE HOT STAMPERS for this overlooked and underrated Doobies album from 1977! Not a lot of hits but a lot of good Sophisticated Soulful Pop songs — the first four tracks on side one are some of the best of the Michael McDonald era, with Nothin’ But a Heartache and There’s a Light on side two making six SUPERB tracks all told.

I’m not even sure you could make the case that Minute By Minute has six tracks of this quality, and I would still find these six superior even if you tried. The consistency may not be as high as MBM, but the high points reach higher, and go deeper emotionally. (Yes, I’m being completely serious.)

More Doobie Brothers

And with Hot Stamper sound now you can actually enjoy the album as an audiophile quality recording. Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? Not us! We’ve been buying copies with different stampers for years with virtually nothing to show for it. That’s why you haven’t seen a Hot Stamper hit the site, ever. (more…)

Waltz for Debby Vs. Sunday at the Village Vanguard

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See all of our Bill Evans albums in stock

The best sounding Bill Evans record we have ever played? Probably. it’s safe to say that at the very least it’s as good as any we’ve critically evaluated on our current system.

Waltz for Debby Vs. Sunday at the Village Vanguard

I was never all that impressed with the OJC of this album back in the ’90s when I used to sell it as an in-print record. I loved the OJC of Waltz for Debby, an album that completely smoked the awful Analogue Productions pressing mastered by Doug Sax from 1992. But Sunday? Good, not great.

Of course now my first thought is that I probably had a top quality “stamping” of Waltz for Debby and a somewhat lesser copy of Sunday, but I didn’t know much about stamper variations back then and it would not have occurred to me to buy five or ten copies of both albums and compare them.

In the ensuing years I lost track of the OJC pressing of Sunday at the Village Vanguard — hadn’t played it in more than a decade as a matter of fact, so when one came my way I was shocked to hear how good it sounded. Records sound a lot better than they used to I guess, and that’s the way it should be, Revolutions in Audio and all that.

Of course it quickly turned out that not every copy sounded like the hot one I had played, and bad stampers and bad record stamping ended up being the norm and not the exception.

George Horn and The Original Jazz Classic Series

George Horn was doing brilliant work for Fantasy all through the ’80s. This album is proof that his sound is the right sound for this music.

That was the ’80s. In the ’90s a fellow from Kansas hired a mastering engineer of great renown from the Los Angeles area to improve upon the work that George Horn had done. To my never-ending consternation, most audiophile reviewers, including a rather famous one we’ve mentioned on this site a time or two, thought Sax and the Kansan had succeeded in doing just that. I held at the time and still hold to this day quite the opposite opinion — those remastered records are not only awful sounding, but fundamentally wrong sounding.

Original Vs. Reissue

The original Riverside pressings are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that’s just another Record Myth.

Some of you may have discovered that the original Bill Evans records on Riverside are mostly awful sounding — I can’t recall ever hearing one sound better than mediocre — so we are not the least bit worried that this OJC won’t beat the pants off of the original, any reissue you may have, and of course any Heavy Vinyl pressing that has ever been, or ever will be, mastered.

 

We Get Letters – This One Is on Rumours

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This week’s letter [from quite a few years ago] comes from our good customer Roger, who was blown away by our Hot Stamper pressing of Rumours. Roger did his usual thorough shootout of our Hot Stamper against his own pressings. The results? Another knockout for our Hot Stamper pressing!

Hi Tom,

Just a quick note on the Fleetwood Mac Rumors Hot Stamper I just bought. I have a Nautilus pressing and my original pressing I bought in college when it came out. I have never liked this record as much as Fleetwood Mac Fleetwood Mac, perhaps partly because its sonics were somewhat inferior.

So I played the Nautilus and quickly remembered what a piece of sonic detritus this thing is. How can audiophile labels like Nautilus put out something that is as thin, bright, flat, and compresssed as this thing is? It obviously reinforces your point that most audiophiles are lemmings when it comes to audiophile records. If some audiophile guru said the Japanese pressing of Girl Scout Troup #657 singing the Girl Scout Theme Song was sonic nirvana, it would show up on every internet record website for $50 each.

Next up was my original pressing with an F16 matrix on side one, and man, what a relief after following the Nautilus disaster. In fact, I resisted buying a pricey hot stamper because I always felt my pressing to be pretty darned good, which it was. So I was shocked to hear just how much better the hot stamper was.

I played Dreams on side one and it took all of about 5 seconds of hearing the massive bass and startlingly dynamic cymbal crashes on this track to find the hot stamper worth every penny I paid for it. If the drum kit on Oh Daddy doesn’t get your pants flapping, time for a new stereo. Voices were eerily present, guitars had great detail, pianos had weight just like in real life (we have a piano in our house), and best of all, the highs were arrayed in space and were delicate and detailed.

Since the Nautilus is too thin to make a good frisbee and would probably fetch big bucks on ebay I will stuff it back on my shelf forever, unless I need a good laugh, and add the HS Rumors to my favorite recordings.

Roger


Roger, thanks as always for the insightful review. The sad fact of the matter is that the Nautilus Digitally Remastered Half Speed — Yes, you heard that right — is actually better than the average reissue, and probably better in most ways than the average grainy domestic original, which is pretty much unbearably edgy and gritty, especially if it hasn’t been cleaned right.
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Our Favorite Recording of Scheherazade

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I attended this Dec. 2013 concert; it was a thrill like no other. (Well, maybe The Planets.)

“Guest conductor Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos’s attention to detail delivers the razzle dazzle and also discovers renewed radiance in ‘Scheherazade.'”

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We did a monster shootout for this music in 2014, one we had been planning for more than two years. On hand were quite a few copies of the Reiner on RCA; the Ansermet on London (CS 6212, his second stereo recording, from 1961, not the earlier and noticeably poorer sounding recording from in 1959); the Ormandy on Columbia, and a few others we felt had shown potential.

The only recordings that held up all the way through — the fourth movement being THE Ball Breaker of all time, for both the engineers and musicians — were those by Reiner and Ansermet. This was disappointing considering how much time and money we spent finding, cleaning and playing those ten or so other pressings. (more…)

Julie Is Her Name – A Boxstar Bomb

 

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A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex / Boxstar.

One question: Where’s the Tubey Magic?

We would never have pointed you in the direction of this awful Boxstar 45 of Julie Is Her Name, cut by Bernie Grundman, supposedly on tube equipment. I regret to say that we actually sold some copies, but in my defense I can honestly and truthfully claim that we never wrote a single nice thing about the sound of the record. That has to count for something, right? (more…)

A Guide to Finding Hot Stampers: The More Mistakes the Better, Part Three

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“The essence of success is that it is never necessary to think of a new idea oneself. It is far better to wait until somebody else does it, and then to copy him in every detail, except his mistakes.” ~Aubrey Menen

Indeed, if only that were practical. Our approach to Hot Stampers and How to Find Them is certainly a revolutionary new idea, and undoubtedly the only way of discovering records with superior sound quality.

But even if we were to publish all of our secrets, the stamper numbers and labels and countries of origin of all the best pressings we’ve ever played, every last one, that would still not be the answer, for the simple reason that no two records sound the same. (more…)

The Typical Domestic Pressing of On The Border Sucks, and Here’s Why

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity on some songs.

The domestic copies of On The Border have many tracks in reversed absolute phase, including and especially Midnight Flyer, a lifelong favorite of mine. The front and center banjo will positively tear your head off; it’s bright, sour, shrill, aggressive and full of distortion. Don’t look at me — that’s what reverse phase sounds like!

More of The Eagles

I’ve known for some time that domestic pressings of On The Border have their phase reversed — just hadn’t gotten around to discussing the issue because I wasn’t ready to list the record and describe the phenomenon. A while back [January 2005, time flies] I happened to play a copy of One Of These Nights and was appalled by the dismal quality of the sound. Last night I put two and two together. I pulled out both Eagles records and listened to them with the phase reversed. Voila! (On The Border is a favorite record of mine, dismissed by everyone else, but loved by yours truly.)I’m of the opinion that a very small percentage of records have their absolute phase reversed. Once you’ve learned to recognize the kind of distortion reversed absolute phase causes, you will hear recordings that may make you suspicious, and the only way to know for sure is to switch the positive and negative, wherever you choose to do so. Some of that story is also told in the link entitled Thoughts On Absolute Polarity.

With the help of our EAR 324 Phono Stage the phase is reversible with the mere touch of a button, a wonderful convenience that we have grown to love, along with the amazingly transparent sound of course. (Hard to imagine living without either at this point.)

The Last Of The Glyn Johns Eagles Records

For their debut the Eagles recorded what we consider to be one of the Five Best Sounding Rock Records in the history of the art form. Of course the Eagles didn’t record anything, Glyn Johns did, and he deserves all the credit for turning that first album into a Demo Disc of the highest order. Halfway through this album, their third, they fired him. (The British ran Winston Churchill out of office after the war, so go figure.) Johns is credited with only two tracks on the album, and of course those two are the real Demo Disc tracks here.

But as I way playing various copies of these original British SYL pressings (the SYL of Desperado is the one on the TAS List, don’t you know), I could easily recognize the fully-extended, harmonically-rich, super-low distortion, Tubey Magical, Unbelievably Sweet Glyn Johns Sound everywhere in the soundfield I looked. Every track has some of it.

Maybe not the full measure you hear on You Never Cry Like a Lover, the standout track from side one, but enough to make you realize that even half of a Glyn Johns recording is head and shoulders better than what was to follow. One of These Nights, recorded by Bill Szymczyk, his replacement, is a step down in quality — if that step is off the edge of cliff. Say what you want about Hotel California — an FM radio staple that wore out its welcome decades ago, but not a bad recording by any means — it can’t begin to compete sonically with the likes of the first three Eagles albums that Johns did.

(And now that you’re familiar with the two main guys who recorded this band, check the dead wax of your Eagles Greatest Hits pressings for a laugh)


This is the band’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson memorably noted, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, said record:

1) Must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio hobbyist been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music;”
2) My sixty-something-year-old self must currently respect the album, and;
3) I must think I will want to listen to the music on the album fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles are constantly being added, time permitting.

Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of Desert Island Discs you can actually buy.