A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.
For the first time ever, White Hot Stampers discovered for Hotter Than July! We’ve been trying to find copies of this fun Stevie Wonder album that really deliver for quite some time, but until our gigantic shootout this week we just hadn’t had any luck. The average copy lacks the presence, energy and bottom end weight to let these funky songs work their magic, but a copy like this will let you appreciate the music without subpar sonics getting in the way.
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 1980
- 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.
The average copy lacks the presence, energy and bottom end weight to let these funky songs work their magic, but a copy like this will let you appreciate the music without subpar sonics getting in the way.
This album was recorded right at the beginning of the digital era (1980) and the typical pressing won’t let you forget that. So many copies we played were just too sterile to get into — clean and clear bit lacking richness and fullness. We’re huge Stevie Wonder fans around here and we’ve fallen in love with Innervisions and Songs In The Key Of Life over and over again because of their lush, analog sound on the best pressings. It took a ton of work (and a whole lot of copies) to find a Hotter Than July that we could get excited about. I don’t think there’s a copy out there that can compete with his earlier recordings sonically but at least the Hot Stamper pressings present the music in a way that audiophiles can enjoy.
Bottom line? Digital recordings are tough, but after playing a ton of copies of this album we’ve managed to find a few that were musical and enjoyable instead of fatiguing. If you haven’t played this album in years I can understand why — the typical pressings are just too clean and too dry to demand any time on your table. At least that was our experience until the top copies such as this one had us nodding our heads and rockin’ out with these great tunes. Check out a Hot Stamper pressing to remember just what a musical magician Stevie is — you’ll be jammin’ too!
What We Listen For on Hotter Than July
- 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.
Did I Hear You Say You Love Me
All I Do
I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It
As if You Read My Mind
Master Blaster (Jammin’)
Do Like You
Cash in Your Face
Wonder naysayed the trends and continues to do what he did best. Solid songwriting, musicianship, and production are evident in the majority of Hotter Than July… It is the portrait of an artist who still had the Midas touch…