Looking to pick up a Hot Stamper locally on your own? Easy — all the best Decca and London copies (UK pressed only of course) are 1L on both sides. I suppose it’s only fair to point out that all the worst copies are 1L on both sides, the reason being that all the copies are 1L on both sides, regardless of how they sound. And here you thought we were actually trying to be helpful.
But we are being helpful. We’re being honest with you. Stamper numbers are often misleading. They’re misleading in the same way that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. The numbers only tell a part of the story, and more often than not they tell the wrong part of the story. No matter how much audiophiles and record collectors want them to, the numbers simply cannot tell you whether the record you have before you, the one with the “right” stampers, is actually a good pressing. Only cleaning it and putting it in a shootout with other copies can do that.
Which means you cannot read your way to better sound. You have to do the work.
This is of course a subject near and dear to our hearts, and we discuss it at length in the commentary we call The Book of Hot Stampers.
THE All Time Sleeper
This record is a real sleeper, for which I am much indebted to Robert Pincus, the man who first brought it to my attention more than a decade ago. It contains the music of Leonard Bernstein, conducted by Eric Rogers, played with extraordinary skill by the Royal Phil. Rogers, to these ears anyway, seem to understand Bernstein as well or better than Bernstein himself. I certainly don’t know a better recording of the selections of Bernstein’s music compiled here.
The performances are superb — energetic yet lyrical when the score requires it. Rogers really breathes FIRE into these pieces, especially on side two. We have never heard anything like it, and we play a lot of records!
Phase IV, Are You Serious?
Yes, absolutely. Allow me to make the case this way. Phase 4 has the life, dynamics, and deep articulate bass not found on most Golden Age recordings. There is no compression to speak of on the album, not on the best copies anyway.
Shaded Dogs may have sweeter strings and more Tubey Magic (which, as anyone who listens to live classical music knows, is mostly a euphonic coloration), but this recording sounds dramatically more like live music than most of them in every way other than soundstaging.
There are of course multiple mikes being used, and sometimes they call attention to themselves, but for the most part the stage is wide and deep enough, and the mikes far enough from the orchestral sections, to create the illusion of a real orchestra in a hall.
The tympani at the back (along with most of the percussion) are especially convincing in this regard. On the copies with the most correct top ends, the triangles and bells are shockingly lifelike, sounding, to my “mind’s ear” exactly the way they do in the concert hall.
By the way…
Those of you with a recording of Glinka’s Russla and Ludmilla Overture will no doubt notice the surprising similarities between it and Lenny’s Overture to Candide found here. I wouldn’t want to call it a ‘steal’; let’s just say he borrowed liberally from that work.