Month: October 2019

The Recordings of Milt Jackson – These Are Some that Didn’t Make the Grade

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More of that Didn’t Make the Grade

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These are just some of the recordings by Milt Jackson that we’ve auditioned recently and found wanting. Without going into specifics we’ll just say these albums suffer from poor performances, poor sound, or both, and therefore do not deserve a place in your collection, and may even belong in our Hall of Shame.  

Free Service provided to the Audiophile Public, courtesy of Better Records.   

Milt Jackson Albums with Hot Stampers
Milt Jackson Albums We’ve Reviewed

Wes Montgomery – Goin’ Out of My Head

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Goin’ Out of My Head

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  • Incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this early stereo copy blew the competition away with its size, Tubey Magical richness and vibrant jazz energy 
  • Once again Oliver Nelson’s Big Band arrangements take the music to another level – the guy’s a genius
  • “…it’s a classic big-band album, with smart charts by Nelson and stolen moments of Montgomery’s guitar grandeur and romantic truth scattered throughout.”

This White Hot Stamper Shootout Winner has the REAL Wes Montgomery/ Creed Taylor/ Rudy Van Gelder MAGIC in its grooves. You will not believe how big, rich and full-bodied this pressing is on both sides. Since this is one of Wes’s better albums, hearing these sides was a THRILL for us and we’re hoping it will be as big a thrill for you too.

Everything that’s good about this era of RVG’s recordings, Wes’s music and those glorious Oliver Nelson arrangements is here. For my part let me just say that this is clearly the best sound I have ever heard for Goin’ Out of My Head. (more…)

Little Feat – Waiting for Columbus – A Passable (!) MoFi

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Mobile Fidelity Pressing reviewed. Our Audiophile Scorecard has plenty more where this one came from

This is actually a pretty good sounding record, all things considered. We put this one through our cleaning process and gave it a listen. Although our Hot Stamper copies do sound better, they’re also quite a bit more expensive. This copy had the best sound we heard out of the three or four we played, which makes it a Hot Stamper I suppose, but we are instead just calling it a Very Good Sounding Copy.

Waiting for Columbus is one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever made, containing performances by one of the greatest rock and roll bands to ever play. If you only buy one Little Feat album in your lifetime, make it this one.

We spent years trying to get shootouts together for this album, but kept running into the fact that in a head to head shootout the right MoFi pressing — sloppy bass and all — was hard to beat.

This is no longer the case, courtesy of that same old laundry list you have no doubt seen on the site countless times: better equipment, tweaks, record cleaning, room treatments, etcetera, etcetera. Now the shortcomings of the MoFi are clear for all to see, and the strengths of the best non-half-speed mastered pressings are too, which simply means that playing the MoFi now would be an excruciating experience. All I can hear is what it does wrong. I was so much happier with it when I didn’t know better. (more…)

Billie Holiday – Lady In Satin – Balancing the Vocal, Strings and Rhythm

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More Lady In Satin

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The better copies reproduce clearly what to our minds are the three most important elements in the recording — strings, rhythm, and vocal — and, more importantly, the are reproduced properly balanced with one another. 

The monos, as you might expect, balance the three elements well enough, but the problem with mono is that the vocals and instruments are jammed together in the center of the soundfield, layered atop one another.

Real clarity, the kind that live music has in abundance, is difficult if not impossible under the circumstances. Only the stereo pressings provide the space that each of the elements need in order to be heard.

Naturally the vocals have to be the main focus on a Billie Holiday record. They should be rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and transparent. To qualify as a Hot Stamper, the pressings we offer must be highly resolving. You will hear everything, surrounded by the natural space of the legendary Columbia 30th Street Studio in which the recording was made. 
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Little Feat – The Last Record Album – Leaner and Cleaner Just Won’t Cut It

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More The Last Record Album

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To our way of thinking, this is the kind of record one should bring to one’s favorite stereo store to properly judge their equipment. They can play Famous Blue Raincoat; they do it all day long. But can they play The Last Record Album and have it sound musical and involving? Can they get it to ROCK? Will they even turn it up loud enough to find out? My jaded money is on no, for all three. 

Rockin’ The Last Record Album is a much, much tougher test than what they are used to, one that their systems will struggle to pass. (That’s what makes it a good test, right?)

Leaner and cleaner — the kind of audiophile sound I hear everywhere I go — is simply not going to work on this album, or Zuma, or Houses of the Holy, or the hundreds of other Classic Rock  records we put up on the site every year. There has to be meat on those bones. To switch metaphors in the middle of a stream, this album is all about the cake, not the frosting.

Bear that in mind when they tell you at your local salon that the record you brought with you is at fault, not their expensive and supposedly “correct” equipment. I’ve been in enough of these places to know better. If you’ve put your audio time in, their excuses should fall on deaf ears. 

Whose Fault Is It?

Most copies of this album are ridiculously dull and compressed. The band itself sounds bored, as if they lack faith in their own songs. But it’s not their fault. Whose fault it is is never easy to fathom; bad mastering, bad tapes, bad vinyl, bad something else — whatever it is, that thick, lifeless sound turns this powerfully emotional music into a major snooze-fest. It’s positively criminal but it happens all the time. It’s the reason we have to go through a dozen copies to find one that sounds like this. (more…)

Ten Years After – Ten Years After – Reviewed in 2008

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More Ten Years After – Ten Years After

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

I had no idea the band’s first album was recorded this well. I expected it to sound something like an old Rolling Stones Decca — tubey magical but plagued by a fair amount of compression, distortion and limited at both ends of the frequency spectrum. 

Instead, when the needle hit the groove, out of the speakers poured truly MASTER TAPE SOUND! Who knew? Clear as a bell, super-transparent, zero-distortion, spacious, and tubey magical in the best sense of that phrase — not fat and sloppy, but rich and sweet. To my ear there is practically no processing to the sound.

For a recording from 1967 to sound this good is a bit of a shock. Sgt. Pepper came out in 1967, but it’s full of studio trickery. The kind of purity and freedom from distortion that characterizes this Ten Years After record puts it at the opposite end of the artificial recording spectrum. I can’t think of another record from this far back that has this kind of sound. More than anything it proves it could be done; they had the technology.

Oh how far we have fallen. And you can be sure of one thing: the domestic pressings are not going to sound like this one. The Moody Blues on domestic Deram pressings are a joke next to the imports. Those tapes are in England, baby, and I doubt they ever crossed the pond.

Ry Cooder – Chicken Skin Music – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

Side two of this Reprise pressing is OUT OF THIS WORLD. From the moment the needle hit the groove we were blown away by the huge soundfield, the unbelievable presence and the massive amount of energy. It sounded like Ry and his crew were right there in the room with us, playing their hearts out. The two tracks featuring Hawaiian musicians (steel guitarist and singer Gabby Pahinui and slack key guitar master Atta Isaacs) are both on side two and they sound AMAZING on this copy. (more…)

Crosby Stills & Nash – Crosby Stills & Nash – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Here’s a big one that we know many of you are waiting for: WHITE HOT STAMPERS for both sides of CSN’s amazing debut album. I’m pretty sure we get more emails about this album than any other; everyone wants a great sounding copy, but they’re oh-so-hard to find, especially in clean condition.

We’ve paired up a MONSTER side one with an equally amazing side two to create this White Hot Stamper 2-Pack. We’ve noticed many of you steer clear of the 2-Packs, but this one is a STUNNER.

If you’re waiting for a single copy to hit the site with two sides this good, we advise you to grab a comfortable chair and a cooler — you’re gonna be waiting a LONG TIME. (more…)

Mussorgsky et al. – Danse Infernale – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky

Danse Infernale

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

It took two copies — one for side one, one for side two — to find two sides this good. We love this album but most copies are unbelievably dreadful. (Actually, if you’ve played a fair number of DG recordings over the years you might not have any trouble believing how bad the average one is, so I take that back.) 

This German Import has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — of a kind. Being a DG recording, one of the things you won’t be demonstrating with this record is natural string tone — it’s just not part of the DG sound. But, this record is ALIVE.

Some of the most powerful deep bass I have ever heard on LP. Dynamics that are rarely heard outside of the concert hall. Wonderful spaciousness, openness and depth. String basses and cellos that growl like the real thing.

But you don’t really want to buy this record for the sound, as good as it is in its own way. What you want to buy this record for is the best performance of Night On Bald Mountain ever recorded. Fiedler plays it with a kind of abandonment that no other conductor has to my knowledge. It’s supposed to be a wild witches’ frenzy, and this is the only performance I know of that allows you to picture such diabolic revelry in your mind’s eye. (more…)

The Allman Brothers … At Fillmore East

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More At Fillmore East

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

There was a time when we never dreamed we’d find a copy of this hard rockin’ live album with SUPERB SOUND and QUIET VINYL on all four sides, but we got a hold of a seriously hot one here! This is one of the all-time great live albums, and with a copy like this one YOU ARE THERE at the Fillmore!

Side One

A+++, huge and lively with real rock energy! The guitars really jump out of the speakers here and the bass is solid and full. When the music sounds this good, with this kind of rich, musical tonality and big, open soundstage, it just WORKS. A+++, White Hot Stamper material all the way! (more…)