Month: April 2018

Dire Straits Debut from 1977 – Rhett Davies Knocked It Out of the Park

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Hot Stamper Pressings of the Self-Titled Album Available Now

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  • SUPERB sound throughout, with both sides of this very special British pressing rating a strong Double Plus (A++) or BETTER! 
  • The sound is shockingly rich, full and solid with fantastic energy – you will not believe all the space and ambience on this copy
  • A Better Records Rock & Pop Top 100 title, a True Demo Disc, and our favorite by the band for both sound and music
  • “…the album is remarkably accomplished for a debut, and Dire Straits had difficulty surpassing it throughout their career.”

What superb sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1978
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above. (more…)

Bach Organ Music – Richter on Vintage London Vinyl, in Stereo, from 1954 (!)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This London Whiteback pressing of CS 6173 has SUPERB SOUND! Like its brother, CS 6172, recorded by Richter in 1954, probably on the same day, the sound of this early stereo 2 mic recording is amazingly spacious and rich.

Here’s what I wrote about CS 6172: (more…)

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…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs And Englishmen

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  • An outstanding copy with all four sides earning Double Plus (A++) grades
  • The overall sound is rich and tubey, with driving energy and most of the top end and clarity that’s missing from many we played 
  • What it most reminds me of is Ray Charles doing a choice set of modern pop classics, mixing it up by off-handedly throwing in a few hits of his own
  • “… its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique.” – 4 1/2 Stars

One thing we learned from our shootout was the how important TRANSPARENCY is to the enjoyment of this music. Of course this has to be a multi-miked, multi-tracked, overdubbed pop record — they don’t make them any other way — but it doesn’t have to FEEL like one.

The Feeling of Reality

When you get a good copy it feels like all these guys and gals are live on stage. They may have their own mics, and are certainly being placed artificially in the soundfield to suit the needs of the track (singers here, drummer there), but the transparency of the better pressings makes them sound like they are all on the same stage singing and playing together. You hear their grunts and laughter way back in the mix, just as if you were at the concert. (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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More on Kiln House

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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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