Month: January 2018

Harry Nilsson – Harry

More Harry Nilsson

Reviews and Commentaries for Harry Nilsson

This forgotten gem sank like a stone in 1969, but time has treated this album well; it stil holds up. The production is superb throughout. Judging by this early Nilsson’s album, it appears he was already a pro in the studio, as well as an accomplished songwriter, and, more importantly, the owner of one of the sweetest tenors in popular music, then or now. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Nilsson Schmilsson

More of the Music of Harry Nilsson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Harry Nilsson

Jump Into The Fire is one of the best tests we used for side two. Copies that are too smooth make the “just bass and drums” intro sound thick and smeared. Too bright and the vocals will tear your head off. The “just right” copies rock from the start and never get too far out of control, even when Harry does. The best we can hope for is that the loudest vocal parts stay tolerable. Believe me, it is not that easy to find a copy that’s listenable all the way through, not at the high volume I play the record at anyway!

Again, with Nilsson screaming at the top of his lungs you better have a good copy to get through this track, and even then it’s a bit of a problem.

A tough test for the old stereo, that’s for sure. Make sure your equipment is tuned up and the electricity is good before you get anywhere near a pressing of this album.

Big production pop like this is hard to pull off. Harry did an amazing job, but the recording is not perfect judging by the dozen or so copies I played this week and the scores I’ve suffered through before. Let’s face it: Jump Into The Fire will never be smooth and sweet; neither will Down on side one. But other tracks on this album have DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Surrealistic Pillow

More of the Music of the Jefferson Airplane

Reviews and Commentaries for the Jefferson Airplane

Before we get into the sound of Surrealistic Pillow, I’d like to point out that Hot Stampers for this title — and the shootouts that allow us to find them — are becoming increasingly rare. I’d be surprised if we can even find enough clean copies to play once a year nowadays. As unfortunate as it may be it is nevertheless a reality. With clean Led Zeppelin RL pressings frequently commanding $1000 and up on ebay, you can be pretty sure we won’t have many of those to sell you in the months and years to come either.

Same with this record. We love it but we just can’t find copies we can shootout, which are limited to those on the original label, in stereo, and neither heavily played or scratched.

On to the sound.

What’s amazing is how much the harmonic distortion in the choruses of She Has Funny Cars on side one changes from copy to copy, even ones that are tonally similiar and have the same stampers. I must confess it’s all a bit of a mystery to me. The distortion can’t all be on the tape if some copies of the record have so much less of it. When you get one with undistorted vocals, it’s almost shocking how much better it sounds than its competition.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

She Has Funny Cars

This one is almost always too bright and can often be quite aggressive. If this track sounds even halfway decent, you have a pretty darn good copy, better than average at the very least.

What’s amazing is how much the harmonic distortion in the choruses changes from copy to copy, even ones that are tonally very similiar and have the same stampers. I must confess it’s a bit of a mystery to me. The distortion can’t all be on the tape if some copies of the record have much less of it. When you get one with undistorted vocals, it’s almost shocking how much better it sounds than its competition.

As a rocker, this track needs good solid bass to anchor the sound. You can hear it right away in the guitars; they should have plenty of body. Too jangly or thin and you are in trouble.

Somebody to Love
My Best Friend
Today (more…)

Listening in Depth to Joe Jackson – Balancing Night with Day

More of the Music of Joe Jackson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joe Jackson

There are basically four elements that go into the making of Night and Day: vocals; keyboards (mostly the piano); percussion (in the mids and highs) and rhythm (drums and bass).

No two copies will get all of these elements to sound their best. The trick to finding the hotter of the Hot Stamper pressings is to find copies of the album that reproduce these four elements clearly and correctly, in balance, and reveals their placement in a large, three-dimensional studio space.

It may sound easy but I assure you it is not. With this many instruments in the mix it’s a lot to get right.

Vocals

Pop records live and die by the quality of their vocals and Night and Day is no different in that respect. The vocals have to be front and center. Veiling in the midrange costs a fair number of points. They should also be smooth, not thin or edgy. I would rather have slightly veiled vocals relative to thin and edgy ones, but some copies manage to give you full, clear, present vocals, and those are the ones we tend to like the best.

Keyboards

When the sound is thin in the lower midrange and upper bass the piano will lose its weight and solidity. In the denser mixes it can easily get washed out, and nobody wants a washed out piano.

There is no guitar on this record. The piano carries much of the structural energy of the music. You need to be able to hear the piano clearly and hear that it is both full-bodied and percussive. (more…)

Supertramp / Even In The Quietest Moments – Key Tracks for Critical Listening

More of the Music of Supertramp

Reviews and Commentaries for Even in the Quietest Moments

On this extraordinary copy the bottom end is big and punchy, the top is smooth and sweet, and the vocals are present and breathy. On a transparent copy such as this the drums really punch through the dense mixes clearly, giving the music more life and energy. The piano sounds correct, the sax is full and breathy — you’d be very hard-pressed to find better sound for this album than this. Very hard pressed indeed.

In 2005 we wrote:

This is actually one of the best Supertramp albums but it’s almost impossible to find a domestic copy that won’t tear your head off. The vast majority of them are unbelievably bright and grainy. I’ve been buying them lately because I found a copy or two that seemed to sound pretty good, but most of my money was wasted on aggressive, noisy vinyl.

Side one of this copy is no great shakes — it’s too bright — but side two is actually quite good. The highs are sweet and silky, there’s plenty of bass and the vocals are actually quite natural sounding. I can’t call this a Hot Stamper. The best way to look at it is to say it’s a Relatively Hot Stamper. The average copy is so bad that when a copy like this one sounds pretty good it really sticks out. We’re still in the hunt but haven’t got much to show for our efforts to date, I can tell you that.

The good news is that ten years later and more copies than we care to remember we think we’ve got EITQM’s ticket. We now know which stampers have the potential to sound good as well as the ones to avoid. Finding the right stampers (which are not the original ones for those of you who know what the original stampers for A&M records are) has been a positive boon. (more…)

Unquestionably the Best Sammy Davis Jr. Album We’ve Ever Played

davissammy_1501_298Sammy Davis, Jr. Albums We’ve Reviewed

A Pop & Jazz Vocal Album that Belongs in Any Audiophile Record Collection

One of the most emotionally rich and sublimely enjoyable collections of romantic ballads ever recorded.

Our Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to demolish the DCC CD (should you have one laying around, an admittedly unlikely proposition to be sure).

The sound is rich, warm and natural beyond expectation — assuming you’ve suffered through other of Sammy’s recordings from the ’60s, as we have, finding little of merit in the sound. On most of them, at some point in the first track the phony vocal EQ and heavy reverb dashed whatever hopes we might have had for the sound. Soon enough the record would be consigned to the trade-in pile, perhaps to find a home where bad sound is not a deal-breaker (which means pretty much everywhere). For us audiophiles, at least most of the time, it has to be.
(more…)