Month: May 2018

Michael Jackson – Off The Wall – Listening in Depth

On the better copies the multi-tracked chorus and background vocals are as breathy, rich, sweet and Tubey Magical as any pop recording we know of.

An extended top end opens up the space for the huge, dense production to occupy.

There is Midrange Magic To Die For, exceeding anything to be found on Thriller.

Track Commentary

Side One

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

The first single from the album was designed to go to Number One and it certainly met all expectations in that regard.

On the properly mastered and pressed copies the vocals and percussion will be a bit brighter than those on most of the tracks that follow. The percussion is often somewhat brittle on even the best copies; it’s surely on the tape that way.

It should be big, clear and lively right out of the gate. (more…)

Here’s How You Know You Have a Hot Stamper of Songs in the Attic

joelsongs600More of the Music of Billy Joel

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Billy Joel

It’s the side you play through to the end.

When the sound is right you want to hear more.

Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it’s mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled on any given LP. Some advice follows.

Actually, what you really want to know is how good each song can sound — what it sounds like when it’s right. Once the quality of the mastering has been established, the fun part is to play the rest of the album, to hear it really come alive.

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The Cars – Candy-O – Listening in Depth

More of The Cars

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

This is one of our favorite recordings — a former member of our Top 100 — for one very simple reason: it’s got Big Rock Sound in spades! Drop the needle on Let’s Go and check out the sound of the big floor tom. When the drummer bangs on that thing, you will FEEL it! It’s similar to the effect of being in the room with live musicians — the difference between just hearing music and also feeling it. That’s what you get from a Hot Stamper copy.

What other New Wave band ever recorded an album with this kind of DEMONSTRATION QUALITY sound? It positively JUMPS out of the speakers. No album by Blondie, Television, The Pretenders or ANY of their contemporaries can begin to compete with this kind of sound, with the exception of the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures. The Cars very own first album is excellent, but it doesn’t have this kind of LIFE and ENERGY. No way, no how.  (more…)

Bobby Darin at the Copa

  • Darin At The Copa arrives on the site with stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom 
  • Recorded live at the Copacabana in New York City, this album captures Darin’s unique charisma, as well his phenomenal music
  • With clear, present vocals, huge amounts of space, and boatloads of Tubey magic – the kind they had plenty of in 1960 – this copy blew away the competition in our recent shootout
  • “…an appearance that confirmed for the adult pop crowd that the former singer of ephemera like “Splish Splash” had made the complete transition from rock & roll to more “serious” music. Serious this record certainly isn’t, though.” — Allmusic
  • More Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue
  • More Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

This Shootout Winning pressing of Bobby Darin’s live album from 1960 has ENERGY and TUBEY MAGIC like you will not believe. The reissues on Bainbridge that we used in our shootout just KILL the original pressings, which are truly awful based on the ones I have heard. I started out with a copy such as this way back in the early ’90s, and when I finally tracked down a clean original on Atco, not a hard record to find really, I was shocked at just how bad it sounded.

This is, of course, one of the best reasons to own a good CD player. It’s simply a fact that some recordings, vintage and otherwise, were never mastered properly for the analog medium.

Bobby Darin was a tremendously talented performer and this record catches him showing off his stuff to good advantage. I don’t know of a better Darin album on vinyl.

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Sarah Vaughan / Self-Titled – A Winner from Speakers Corner

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sarah Vaughan

Hot Stamper Pressings of Outstanding Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

Sonic Grade: B

A TOP TITLE from Speakers Corner on 180 gram. This is an outstanding Sarah Vaughan album with very good sound and top players like Clifford Brown on trumpet, Paul Quinichette on tenor sax and Herbie Mann on flute. 

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. (more…)

June Christy / Gone For The Day – More Fifties Capitol Magic in Mono

More June Christy

More Pop and Jazz Vocals

Side two of this White Hot Stamper June Christy record on the original Capitol Turquoise label is AMAZING, both musically and sonically. It has all the TUBEY MAGIC we know these old records are famous for, but this copy gives you something you may never have heard on a vintage pressing before: real frequency EXTENSION, both high and low. Who knew an old record could have extended highs like these and such deep bass?

I can honestly say I have never heard any June Christy record sound as good as this copy does. (more…)

Nilsson / A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night – The Video

 

For those of you who’ve never chanced upon it, here is the ‘live’ version of the album in five parts.

More of the Music of Harry Nilsson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Harry Nilsson

Nilsson was apparently too far ahead of his time. Rod Stewart recently [2002, twenty years ago!] made an album of classic popular music that went to number one and jump-started his second career.

Harry Nilsson understands this music so much better and sings it so much better than Rod Stewart ever could that it’s hard to understand the relatively poor sales of this much superior album.

Either that or the rest of the world doesn’t appreciate Nilsson as much as I do. Probably both I guess. Too bad. This album is better than all the “also rans” albums put together. (McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom was truly unlistenable, but what person of taste can take any of these albums seriously?)

Arrangements by Gordon Jenkins add to the sublime character of the music. Jenkins arranged many of the greatest albums of this kind ever recorded, including top titles by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and perhaps most famously for us audiophiles, Nat King Cole (the Number One album Love Is the Thing and three others).

The original CD, by the way, is so bright and thin it will make your ears bleed. The new one may be better, but it’s doubtful. If you like Harry Nilsson and you don’t have a turntable, you are pretty much out of luck my friend.

Derek Taylor, Producer

About two years ago [circa 1971], Harry and I were talking about songs, swapping titles, and testing memories. You know that game? Who wrote ‘Miss Otis’ and what year did Al Jolson die, and what else besides ‘As Time Goes By’ did Herman Hupfeld … write? We found a lot of marvelous songs with fine words. And what melodies! ‘You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It),’ ‘I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now.’ Brilliant stuff, constructed with style and flair. One day Harry suggested ‘Why don’t we do an album of the old songs?’ and it was the best idea I’d heard since God only knows when. ‘You produce and I’ll sing,’ he said. And two years later – it’s November 1972 – he says it again, and this time it’s on.

— Derek Taylor

Oscar Peterson / We Get Requests on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

More Oscar Peterson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Oscar Peterson

Sonic Grade: F

More vinyl dreck from Speakers Corner and a Hall of Shame pressing if there ever was one. Awful sound. Worse than the CD.  

Eagles / One Of These Nights – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

This 2-pack contains the best side one we’ve ever heard! The sound is bigger, richer, tubier and livelier than we even thought possible. Side one was so amazing, such an obvious step up over every side of every other copy, we felt it deserved to be awarded our “Four Plus” (A++++) grade. One of These Nights, Too Many Hands and Hollywood Waltz will blow your mind on this side one. 

Please note: we award the Four Plus grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side one here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it a fourth plus!

We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus (A++++) grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

A Side One Like No Other

My notes read: ‘hi-rez, super tubey, breathy vocals with much less honk.”

This comment which really gets to the point: “guitar solos rise above.” The big solo on the title track just soars on this copy like we had never heard before. This is the guitar sound that Bill Szymczyk achieved with the band that Glyn Johns had not. Of course Johns had never tried; he saw them as a Country Rock band. The Eagles saw themselves as a Rock band, it’s as simple as that. (more…)

The Piano Stylings of Carole King on Tapestry

More of the Music of Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

One quality that we had no trouble recognizing on the better copies was transparency.

The more transparent copies made it possible to hear through the mix to Carole’s piano, which is usually placed toward the back of the mix. There it serves to underpin the music, playing more of a supporting role than a leading one, very unlike the piano on a Joni Mitchell album for example. 

The best copies let you easily follow Carole’s playing all the way through every song, from start to finish, no matter how quiet her part or how far back in the mix she may be placed.

If the pressing has a thinner sound, obviously it becomes easier to pick up on the percussive nature of the instrument and “see” it more clearly. However, a thin piano tone on this album is the kiss of death. The best copies allow you to hear the full range of notes — including those played with the left hand — and for that you need both richness and transparency.

This is a tricky balancing act; rarely in our experience do any two copies find precisely the same balance throughout an entire side.

More Records that Are Good for Testing for Richness and Smoothness 

More Records that Are Good for Testing Transparency 

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