Month: July 2018

Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs

More Marty Robbins


  • With Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this Six-Eye Columbia pressing was one of the better sounding from our most recent shootout
  • This copy is amazingly clear and open, superior to most in that regard, with fairly smooth and rich vocals to boot 
  • Is the original Six Eye stereo the only way to go on this record? We discuss the subject in detail below
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The single most influential album of Western songs in post-World War II American music. The longevity of the album’s appeal is a result of Marty Robbins’ love of the repertory at hand and the mix of his youthful dynamism and prodigious talent…”

Two excellent Double Plus (A++) sides, with the kind of ’50’s Tubey Magical Analog Sound that’s been lost to the world of recorded music for decades — decades I tell you! Nobody can manage to get a recording to sound like this anymore and it seems clear to us that no one can remaster a recording like this nowadays, if our direct experience with more than hundred such albums counts as evidence. (more…)

The Beatles / A Collection of Beatles Oldies – Sounds Great on the Original

More of The Beatles

  • Incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this collection of singles left off the the Beatles’ British albums.
  • Amazing sound for From Me to You, We Can Work It Out, Yesterday and I Feel Fine
  • Fairly quiet vinyl throughout with both sides playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

As is usually the case with compilations like this, there is some variation between tracks — what works well for a track from 1963 may not quite suit a song from 1966 — but from start to finish on both sides this record strikes a MUCH better balance than others.

And the the choice of songs is outstanding, with just the right mix — almost as if you had compiled the thing yourself from all the best tunes from that era of The Beatles. They’re almost all favorites of mine, and I hope yours too.

This album is an excellent source for many of the Beatles’ greatest hits up to 1966. With 8 songs per side you get a lot for your money. 

This collection has a number of songs that are not on the original British LPs: the first three on side one for starters; also Can’t Buy Me Love, I Feel Fine; Bad Boy; Paperback Writer and I Want To Hold Your Hand. (more…)

Steve Miller Band / Fly Like An Eagle on Capitol Heavy Vinyl Debunked

More of the Music of Steve Miller

Reviews and Commentaries of the Music of Steve Miller

Sonic Grade: F

This Capitol Records Limited Edition 180 gram LP from the series that Robert Ludwig mastered is the worst sounding version of the album I have ever heard, bar none. It was cut with the azimuth off, which makes all the high frequency transients sound smeared.

How anybody could put up with that crappy sounding LP is beyond me, but I have never heard a single person complain about the sound.

The MoFi has a bit more going on up top but the blurry bass and compressed lifeless sound fail to bring the music to life the way a Hot Stamper does. 

The Who – Who By Numbers on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

More of the Music of The Who

Sonic Grade: C

It’s not just bass that separates the Real Thing from the Classic Reissue. It’s WEIGHT, fullness, the part of the frequency range from the lower midrange to the upper bass, that area that spans roughly 150 to 600 cycles. It’s what makes Daltry’s voice sound full and rich, not thin and modern. It’s what makes the drums solid and fat the way Johns intended. The good copies of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia have plenty of muscle in this area, and so do the imports we played. (more…)

The Faces – Long Player

  • A killer copy with a stunning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time
  • 5 stars in Allmusic and probably the Faces’ Best Album, for sound and music – Maybe I’m Amazed? Hell yeah!
  • “…a ferocious rock & roll band who, on their best day, could wrestle the title of greatest rock & roll band away from the Stones.”

We knew this album could sound good, but back in the day we sure didn’t know it could sound like this. The best pressings of this album have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. (more…)

Wes Montgomery / California Dreaming – Cisco Reviewed

More of the Music of Wes Montgomery

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

Sonic Grade: C

Beware any and all imitations, even this one, which I admit I used to like somewhat. They barely BEGIN to convey the qualities of the real master tape the way the best pressings do. Our Hot Stampers exhibit huge amounts of ambience and spaciousness, with far more energy and the kind of “see into the studio” quality that only the real thing seems to have.

Note especially how so much musical information is coming from the far sides of the soundfield on the best copies. The Cisco reissue makes a mockery of that wall to wall sound, sucking it into the middle and flattening it into a single plane. (more…)

The Moody Blues / How Good Are the Domestic Pressings?

More of the Music of The Moody Blues

Reviews and Commentaries for The Moody Blues

If you’ve ever done a shootout between domestic pressings of the Moody Blues and good imports you know that the imports just kill the American LPs. Domestic pressings are cut from sub-generation tapes, tend to sound more smeary, yet they’re thinner, brighter and more transistory, and overall have a fraction of the Tubey Magic the good imports have.

Moody Blues albums on import are typically murky, congested and dull. Listening to the typical copy you’d be forgiven for blaming the band or the recording engineer for the problem.

Of course the album is never going to have the kind of super clean, high-rez sound some audiophiles prize, but that’s clearly not what the Moody Blues were aiming for. It isn’t about picking out individual parts or deciphering the machinery of the music with this band.

It’s all about lush, massive soundscapes, and for that this is the kind of sound that works the best.

DISCOGRAPHY

Days of Future Passed (1967) 
In Search of the Lost Chord (1968) 
On the Threshold of a Dream (1969) 
To Our Children’s Children’s Children (1969)
A Question of Balance (1970) 
Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1971)
Seventh Sojourn (1972) 

Mobile Fidelity Anadisq Moody Blues LPs

The muddiest, tubbiest, most worthless records in the world.

Well…

Worthless to those of us who play records and want to hear them sound good. But, worth money to those who collect that sort of audiophile trash. Folks, seriously, you really would have to work at it to find worse sounding pressings of the Moody Blues albums than the ones MoFi did in the ’90s

Derek and the Dominos – Layla – Remastering the Remaster (and Keeping It a Secret)

More of the Music of Eric Clapton

More Reviews and Commentaries for Eric Clapton

NEWSFLASH! [circa 2010]

Noticing that this title had recently come back into print, and remembering that we used to like the SVLP of Layla, we decided to order a current copy of the album from Simply Vinyl.

Soon enough it came in, we played it, and we were pretty shocked to hear that the damn thing sounded just plain AWFUL.

Was I wrong about it before? Only one way to know. I pulled out my old Review Copy from way back when it first came out and sure enough that early pressing sounded dramatically BETTER than the new one. The stampers were completely different of course; someone had remastered it recently and ruined it.

The earlier SVLP pressing, though no award winner by any means, was at least a good record. This new pressing was nothing but a piece of crap.  (more…)

Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights – A Four Men with Beards Heavy Vinyl Winner

More of the Music of Richard Thompson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Richard (and Linda) Thompson

Sonic Grade: B

Hey, this is a surprisingly good sounding pressing! Our Hot Stampers are clearly bigger and more lively, but for a Heavy Vinyl reissue this pressing is quite respectable.

You won’t get the effect we describe below on the Heavy Vinyl pressing that we heard on our best Hot Stamper original pressings, but you will get a very good sounding record.

With constant improvements to the system Shoot Out is now so powerful a recording that we had no choice but to add it to our Top 100 list in 2014, but we would go even further than that and say that it would belong on a list of the Top Ten Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time.

The guitars are HUGE — they positively leap out of the speakers on the title cut, freeing themselves from a studio that seems already to be the size of a house. (more…)

Paul Simon – What to Think When the New Version Is Completely Unrecognizable?

More of the Music of Paul Simon

Reviews and Commentaries for Graceland

Sonic Grade: F

Where did this thick, dull, bloated, opaque turd come from? Having played at least 50-75 copies of the album over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have never heard one that sounded very much like this new version (maybe some record club copy we picked up by accident did, can’t say it never happened).

Can that possibly be a good thing?

Well, in favor of that proposition I guess you could say it sounds less like a CD now. On the other side of the ledger, it now sounds a great deal more like a bad LP.

We listen to piles of pressings of Graceland regularly. We know what the album generally sounds like, the range from bad to good, and we know what qualities the very best copies must have in order to win one of our shootouts.

Above all the one thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals. The best of the best copies have all these qualities, but the one quality any good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s good about the sound of the record. Without clarity the music doesn’t even work.

The new version has been “fixed.” It got rid of all that pesky grit and grain and CD-like sound from the original digital mix by heavy-handedly equalizing them away.

Cut the top, cut the upper mids, boost the lower mids and upper bass and voila – now it’s what Graceland would have sounded like had it been all analog from the start, AAA baby!

Or at least analog for those who don’t know what good analog sounds like. (more…)