Month: March 2019

Letter of the Week – What Were Once Vices, Countdown to Ecstasy, Tapestry, Sweet Baby James, McCartney, Houses of the Holy and The Nightfly

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

As a new comer to your business, and to the entire concept of “Hot Stamper” records, I was naturally skeptical. Many of us have invested in a wide variety of vinyl that simple failed to live up to expectations. Initially I was going to order one and only one record from you, and test your bold promises. Instead, I ended up ordering a nice variety to truly put it to the test… investing a couple thousand dollars on faith. In short, I am now your customer for life.

As a point of reference, my system includes a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia powered by 2 mono-block McIntosh tube Amps and a Mc-tube preamp. Most importantly, a Brinkmann mag drive turntable with a Sumiko low output moving coil cartridge. So, not the world’s best system, but enough to discern what is to follow.

I ordered the following:
* Carole King Tapestry, ((White Hot Pressing)
* The Doobie Brothers, What Were Once Vices (White Hot Pressing)
* James Taylor, Sweet Baby James (White Hot Pressing)
* Paul McCartney, McCartney (Super Hot Pressing)
* Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Steely Dan, Countdown to Ecstasy (Super Hot Pressing)
* Donald Fagen, The Nightfly (White Hot Pressing)

I warmed up my amps with the tuner for an hour or so and then sat and listened to some of my other records and reacquainted myself with the music from my system. First up was “What Were Once Vices…”. It was immediately apparent that I was getting a range as wide, if not wider than anything I had ever heard from my stereo. Then when I got to the last song on side one, “Road Angel” the guitar and drum interplay in the instrumental jam completely blew me away. Midway through I took the volume from loud to louder, and it exposed nothing but pure, sweet rock and roll. Literally gave me goose bumps.

I then listened to “Countdown to Ecstasy” and in this instance I owe a clean original copy, so I put it to the test. Back to back. I did not have to go past “Bodhisattva” to know it was no-contest. If I had to apply a percentage, something like 20% more music comes from the Hot Stamper, and this (like all of my orders) is one of my all time favorite albums. (more…)

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

The sound is rich, spacious and sweet with a HUGE soundstage. Drop the needle on Changes and check out how dynamic it is. Side one is where the most popular material for this album is found (Changes, Life On Mars, Oh! You Pretty Things) so this copy definitely a great way to go on Hunky Dory.

Pressings of this record typically suffer from one major shortcoming: a severe lack of presence in the midrange. Bowie sounds like he has a blanket over his head on 90% of the copies you might run into, import and dometic. I always just kind of expected to hear it that way for the rest of my life. Now I know better. Both sides of this copy show you the Hunky Dory that you always dreamed could exist, must exist, but somehow has proved elusive in the real world. (more…)

Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down

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  • An outstanding copy of Richie’s second solo studio album, with solid Double Plus (A++) very ANALOG sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, smooth and natural, the sound here is guaranteed to please – recall that the 12″ of All Night Long was on the TAS List back in the day (and yes, I used to sell it!)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “In 1999, Q magazine included Can’t Slow Down on its list of the best Motown records of all time and stated, “Production values are high, his songwriting craft is at its peak and at least one track – the global smash ‘All Night Long’ – is an anthem to good times that makes the heart sing and feet twitch.””

This vintage Motown pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back.

If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What outstanding 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 1983
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments 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 the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We Listen For on Can’t Slow Down

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Can’t Slow Down
All Night Long (All Night)
Penny Lover
Stuck On You

Side Two

Love Will Find A Way
The Only One
Running With The Night
Hello

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

On Can’t Slow Down, his second solo album, Lionel Richie ran with the sound and success of his eponymous debut, creating an album that was designed to be bigger and better… with Can’t Slow Down Richie reaped enormous dividends, earning not just his biggest hit, but his best album.

He has less compunction about appearing as a pop singer this time around, which gives the preponderance of smooth ballads — particularly “Penny Lover,” “Hello,” and the country-ish “Stuck on You” — conviction, and the dance songs roll smooth and easy, never pushing the beats too hard and relying more on Richie’s melodic hooks than the grooves, which is what helped make “All Night Long (All Night)” a massive hit.

All the hits showcase Lionel Richie at his best, as does Can’t Slow Down as a whole.

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child is Father to the Man

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More Child is Father to the Man

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A QUIET White Hot Stamper on side one for BS and T’s debut, one of my favorite albums of all time. Why do we so rarely list amazing copies of this album? Let me ask you this: have you played one recently? The average copy of this record is a sonic MESS. Even the best copies have problems.

We present here a FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUNDING SIDE ONE. This copy blew the doors off the competition, earning our highest grade of A Triple Plus and giving us a whole new appreciation for what this record can really sound like! Who knew? The brass has power on this copy like we almost never hear for this album. The bass was bigger and bolder than any other; finally, here is the kind of rock sound we are always looking for on the album but is so elusive. (more…)

Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones

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  • Insanely good Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish; we rarely have these on the site!
  • Both sides here are incredible — big, rich, full-bodied and super spacious with tons of energy and presence
  • “…the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements…”
  • Allmusic 5 stars: “Swordfishtrombones marked an evolution of which Waits had not seemed capable”

This is yet another wonderful sounding Tom Waits recording, though it’s very different from the earlier titles from his catalog that have been featured on our site before. While we’re huge fans of the sound Waits and engineer Bones Howe put together on albums like Small Change and Heartattack and Vine, this album marked a turning point for Waits and the sound of his albums.

From Allmusic:

Swordfishtrombones has none of the strings and much less of the piano work that Waits’ previous albums had employed; instead, the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements (most of them by Waits) that sometimes were better described as “soundscapes.”

When you get a top pressing like this one, you can really appreciate the sound that Waits was going for here, and it’s exceptional. When we reach for a Tom Waits record, we’re looking for something that’s different and capable of really setting a mood, and let me tell you, this record passed those tests with flying colors.

Compared to the typical pressing, this copy is bigger, richer and fuller with more weight down low. It gives you wonderful immediacy and real punch. The vocals have real texture and character — why even bother with this record if smearing or veiling is going to rob Tom Waits of his iconic voice?

What We Listen For on Swordfishtrombones

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Underground 
Shore Leave 
Dave The Butcher 
Johnsburg, Illinois 
16 Shells From A Thirty-Ought-Six
Town With No Cheer 
In The Neighborhood

Side Two

Just Another Sucker On The Vine 
Frank’s Wild Years 
Swordfishtrombone 
Down, Down, Down 
Soldier’s Things 
Gin Soaked Boy 
Trouble’s Braids 
Rainbirds

AMG Review

Between the release of Heartattack and Vine in 1980 and Swordfishtrombones in 1983, Tom Waits got rid of his manager, his producer, and his record company. And he drastically altered a musical approach that had become as dependable as it was unexciting. Swordfishtrombones has none of the strings and much less of the piano work that Waits’ previous albums had employed; instead, the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements (most of them by Waits) that sometimes were better described as “soundscapes.” Lyrically, Waits’ tales of the drunken and the lovelorn have been replaced by surreal accounts of people who burned down their homes and of Australian towns bypassed by the railroad — a world (not just a neighborhood) of misfits now have his attention… Artistically, Swordfishtrombones marked an evolution of which Waits had not seemed capable (though there were hints of this sound on his last two Asylum albums), and in career terms it reinvented him.

Aretha Franklin – Aretha Now

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  • A superb sounding pressing of this vintage Atlantic label LP with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here is the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely begin to reproduce – folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back
  • Exceptionally QUIET vinyl for this stereo pressing – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, as quiet as any copy we have ever heard
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this still caught Aretha Franklin at the peak of her early form. Think, I Say a Little Prayer, See Saw, and I Can’t See Myself Leaving You were all big hits.”

(more…)

Letter of the Week – Supertramp and The Final Cut

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Just received by delivery this afternoon. I am just about beginning to realize what a good pressing really means…

I have only been able to listen to Supertramp and The Final Cut until now. While Supertramp is excellent, the Final Cut is simply astounding!! I really am at a loss of words so I will just say that I really am listening to completely new music. I can’t come to terms with the fact that there is so much information buried in those grooves that I am listening to, honest to God, for the very first time… And the Final Cut is my favorite Floyd!

I couldn’t be happier. I confess I am a little emotional now. By no means, is this a casual purchase but boy… I think this is worth its weight in gold!

I’ll be back for more!!

Sujay

 

More Supertramp

More The Final Cut

Letter of the Week – Sade

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Wow! Wow! Wow! I’ve been playing records all my life. A few years on the road kept me from home as well as my duty to country… but ever since my Dad introduced me to vinyl in the early 1960’s I’ve been loyal and proud of it.

Tom, your record albums are just beyond fantastic. Never before have I ever experienced the pleasure I received from the recent Sade album. I’ve got most of her work and have always loved Sade’s sexy, dominating vocals. Listening to the percussion — not to forget the saxophone –is just awesome!

Tom I certainly thank you and your team for making this marvelous medium available to us hard-core music lovers and audiophiles.

Frederick

 

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Big Brother & The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

We’ve rarely been able to get this shootout off the ground, but we finally managed to stumble upon enough clean copies to get this round going. It’s been well over two years since we’ve had any copy of this album on the site!

This album has got that trippy ’60s San Francisco sound, no doubt about it. Those of you who are familiar with Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow or the early Grateful Dead albums know what I’m talking about. The tubey magic of the guitars is worth the price of admission alone; you just don’t hear this kind of sound on modern records.

Like you might expect from this mixture of blues and psychedelic rock, the sound can be a bit raw. Of course, that’s probably the way the band wanted it to be — I don’t see what a mastering engineer might have done to make this music work any better. Much of this material is recorded at The Fillmore (check out the one and only Bill Graham introducing the band at the beginning) and the sound is surprisingly good for live ’60s sound. (more…)