Month: April 2018

Cat Stevens / Tea for the Tillerman – This Is Your Idea of Analog?

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Cat Stevens – 200 Grams of Tea for the Tillerman

Dear Record Loving Audiophiles of Earth,

I’m afraid we have some bad news. [This was written back in 2011 when the record came out so it’s hard to imagine that what I am about to say is news to anyone at this stage of the game.] Regrettably we must inform you that the 2011 edition of Tea for the Tillerman pressed by Analogue Productions on Heavy Vinyl doesn’t sound very good. We know you were all hoping for the best. We also know that you must be very disappointed to hear this unwelcome news.

But the record is what it is, and what it is is not very good. Its specific shortcomings are many and will be considered at length in our review below.
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The Clash – London Calling

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  • Truly stunning sound, with shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all four sides 
  • A shockingly well-recorded album that comes to life with the combo of a great copy and a hi-res, full-range system
  • Five stars in the AMG: “A stunning statement of purpose and one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever recorded.”

AUDIOPHILE SOUND FOR THIS PUNK ROCK CLASSIC?! You better believe it, baby! The sound here is superb for all four sides.

Dub Style!

What really sets this album apart sonically is The Clash’s use of reggae and dub influences. You can really hear it when you tune in to the bottom end; your average late ’70s punk record won’t have this kind of rich and meaty bass, that’s for sure. Drop the needle on The Guns Of Brixton (last track on side two) to hear exactly what I’m talking about. On a Hot Stamper copy played at the correct levels (read: quite loud!) the effect is positively HYPNOTIC.

Bill Price engineered and as we like to day, he knocked this one out of the park. The best sounding record from 1979? I have the feeling it just might be.

Nobody would have accused The Clash of being an audiophile-friendly band, but a copy like this might make you think twice about that! We had a blast doing this shootout and we hope whoever takes this home has just as much fun with it. (more…)

Highway 61 Revisited – Not So Good on Sundazed in Mono

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Sundazed record debunked.

I don’t think mono works for this album, so we never carried this pressing nor recommended it.

Here are some other records that we don’t think sound very good in MONO.

Here are some we think can sound amazing in MONO.

Masterpieces By Ellington from 1950

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  • You’ll find DEMO quality sound on this 6 Eye pressing, boasting outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides 
  • For his first LP, Ellington is freed from prior 3-minute constraints and the results are nothing short of breathtaking on a record this good
  • The early mono sound is shockingly real – not for the era, but for any era – it’s remarkably big, rich and Tubey Magical
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…he and the band rose to the occasion with extended (11-minute-plus) “uncut concert arrangements” of “Mood Indigo,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “Solitude,””

We’ve known about this wonderful album for decades, since first got hold of a red label copy from the ’70s. Although not in the league with the best 6 eye pressings, even that late reissue had enough Columbia magic left in its grooves to impress the hell out of me.

And the fact that a jazz album recorded in 1950 was still in print more than twenty years later is testament to the lasting power of Ellington’s music. As Kenny Burrell would say, “Ellington Is Forever.” (more…)

The Doors Debut – What to Listen For

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What to Listen For? you ask?

ENERGY and RAW POWER. Few audiophiles have any idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don’t do a very good job of encoding the life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day, regardless of whether that day is in 1967 or 2017.

The first Doors album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most powerful recording in the entire Doors catalog.

Huh? I’m guessing this statement does not comport well with your own experience of the album, and there’s a good reason for that: not many copies of the album provide strong evidence for any of the above qualities. Most pressings are opaque, flat, thin, veiled, compressed, lifeless and sound exactly the way so many old rock records sound: like an old rock record. (more…)

Steve Winwood – Back In The High Life

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  • One of the best copies to ever hit the site — Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • The sound of this early British pressing is guaranteed to be dramatically bigger, richer, fuller and smoother than anything you’ve heard
  • Higher Love sounds great here. You won’t believe it! And there’s really not a bad track on the album
  • “The first undeniably superb record of an almost decade-long solo career … the passion long smoldering in his finest work explodes in the album-opening duet with Chaka Khan, Higher Love…” — Rolling Stone

Rich, solid and Tubey Magical, this copy is a huge improvement over most of what we played (all imports of course; see below). The vocals are nice and breathy, and the presence and energy here are off the charts. 

On the best copies the sound is spacious and high-resolution. The bright, dry, grainy, analytical sound is replaced with something warmer, richer, fuller, sweeter, smoother — in other words, more ANALOG sounding. (more…)

Spencer & Kirwan, Lost Guitar Heroes

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Kiln House is one of the all-time great Fleetwood Mac albums. It’s the first album they recorded after Peter Green left. With Green gone Jeremy Spencer’s influence came to the fore. Apparently he was quite a fan of Buddy Holly. His songs are excellent: straightforward and unerringly melodic.

The co-leader for Kiln House is Danny Kirwan, and he rocks the hell out of this album. Three of the best songs Fleetwood Mac ever did, regardless of incarnation, are here: Tell Me All The Things You Do, Station Man and Jewel Eyed Judy, all written by Kirwan (with the help of others). His guitar work on these three songs is blistering.

Any Fleetwood Mac greatest hits collection would be a joke without these tracks. Of course they are consistently missing from all such compilations, at least the ones with which I am familiar. The sad fact is that few people miss them because few people have ever heard them.

The closest thing I can think of to the kind of music the new Mac plays is moody rock of the middle-period Beatles. Kiln House is similar to Beatles ’65 in its dual concerns with vintage rock ‘n’ roll and muted, romantic pieces.Jeremy Spencer took care of the former area, while Danny Kirwan extended the style best represented by McCartney’s “I’ll Follow the Sun.”

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Basie’s Farmers Market Barbecue – First Among Equals, or The Best Pablo Ever?

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Musically FMB is a Top Basie Big Band title in every way. This should not be surprising: many of his recordings for Pablo in the ’70s and early ’80s display the talents of The Count and his band of veterans at their best.

Sonically it’s another story. Based on our recent shootout for this title, in comparison to the other Basie titles we’ve done lately we would have to say that FMB is the best Basie big band title we’ve ever played. Since so many Basie big band recordings are so good, we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves; after all, we haven’t done shootouts for all of his Pablo large group recordings. To be safe we’ll just call this one First Among Equals.

The following are some general guidelines as to What to Listen For (WTLF) while you critically evaluate any of the Basie Big Band Pablo recordings (or any other big band recordings for that matter). 

Simply put, we offer here a short list of qualities that we’ve come to appreciate on the best of the Basie Big Band pressings, qualities that we find are often in short supply on lesser LPs (and, as a rule, those that have been remastered onto Heavy Vinyl). (more…)

B.B. King – Live & Well

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  • With two Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning sides, this original Bluesway pressing from 1969 simply could not be beat
  • Surprisingly dynamic, with great energy, this copy brought BB King’s music to life in our listening room like no other could
  • This copy had the Tubes and the Big Bass that this music needs to work it’s Electric Blues Magic from The Master himself
  • “…a worthy recording on its own merits, divided evenly between live and studio material. King’s always recorded well as a live act, and it’s the concert tracks that shine brightest…”

Some of the Bluesway pressings we’ve auditioned recently have had exceptionally big, rich, lively sound, and that’s the way we like our music to sound.

There are plenty of dogs in the King canon, especially in the ’70s, so you have to be somewhat careful with the man’s recordings, but good titles in the ’60s with excellent sound can still be found if you’re willing to do the work (or you’re willing to let us do it for you). (more…)

The Pretenders – Learning To Crawl – Awesome on the Right German Pressing

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  • The first Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning copy to hit the site in over a year – we’ve never heard it sound better
  • Both sides of this (very specific) German pressing were richer, clearer and more energetic than any of the others we played
  • With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song
  • 5 Stars: “While Hynde hardly held back in her emotionally potent songwriting in the Pretenders’ early work, on Learning to Crawl there’s a gravity to her lyrics that blended with her tough but wiry melodic sense and streetwise intelligence to create a set of truly remarkable tunes…”

This is where Chrissie Hynde matured into a top class songwriter; every track is good and many are brilliant. With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band, this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song. Great songs and great guitar work — what more do you need in a rock record?

Think of Middle of the Road — everything that’s good about this band on this album is there in that song: it’s uptempo, with a driving beat, a rock solid rhythm section and a beautifully distorted guitar out front and high up in the mix.

German Pressings? Why Not British? (more…)