Month: November 2019

Mussorgsky et al. / Night On Bare Mountain / Solti

More of the music of Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)

Reviews and Commentaries for Mussorgsky’s Music

Released as Romantic Russia by Decca in 1967, this London can also be found with a different cover and a different catalog number, CS 6503.

DEMO QUALITY SOUND on side one — in some ways. Don’t go looking for the Tubey Magic of an earlier era. What you get instead is super-low distortion, full-bandwidth sound with deep powerful bass and more transparency than most later Londons.

Solti is clearly the man for this music! He’s on fire with this fiery material. THIS is the way you want to hear Russian Orchestral Showpieces — played with verve and dynamically ALIVE.  (more…)

Henry Mancini / A Warm Shade of Ivory – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

With THE BEST side one we have ever played, backed with a side two that’s very nearly as good, this is a very special copy indeed! This copy was getting everything right on side one. Wide and deep stage, smooth but textured strings, background vocalists who take breaths, room around the piano, clear attack, it’s all here. 

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs. More about that later.

As for the sound of this copy, warm is right. This is some of the smoothest, most natural sound we’ve heard on a Mancini record. Listen to the cello on side 1, track 4, to hear the kind of tubey magic we rave about on old records. Those of you with good tube equipment (and/or the right transistor equipment, truth be told) know how rich and sonorous bowed string instruments can sound — this is a perfect example of it. Those with with more transistory sound in their systems will not be able to fully appreciate the lovely sonority, but if you take this record to a place that has top quality equipment, whether it be a friend’s house or a stereo store, you will undoubtedly hear what I mean. It’s a sound you can’t forget, and it’s all but disappeared from modern recordings and modern (read: heavy vinyl) pressings.

Classic Records, now thankfully defunct, has been producing records for fifteen years that are almost completely devoid of the tubey magic we’re talking about. Records like this show you precisely what the Classic pressings are getting wrong — if your stereo can reproduce the difference. (more…)

Skip Martin / Perspectives In Percussion, Volume 2

More Amazing Percussion Recordings We’ve Reviewed

Absolutely the best “Crazy Percussion Extravaganza” we have ever heard. The sound JUMPS out of the speakers like you will not believe. The best of its kind bar none? That’s exactly what this record is.

It is my belief that no one with an up-to-date, highly tweaked big system, a properly setup front end (with the VTA adjusted specifically for this record), and a carefully treated listening room can fail to have his mind blown by the sonics of this pressing.


Dave Mason – Split Coconut

More Dave Mason

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES, including a near-White Hot A++ to A+++ side one! We just finished our first-ever shootout for this album, and we were shocked at just how good it can sound. Bruce Botnick did the engineering, and this record has his signature sound all over it. Nobody captures deep, punchy bottom end like he does! Crosby and Nash are here too, providing excellent backing vocals to a few songs. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – With This UK Copy You Better Be Ready to Rock

More of the Music of Led Zeppelin

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

We did a massive shootout in 2012 for Zep’s beloved fourth album and this British pressing earned a nearly perfect score with some of the BIGGEST, BOLDEST, HARDEST Rockin’ sound we have ever heard on the album. Without a doubt this is the best sounding IV side two we’ve ever played, with the biggest bottom of them all.

When the Levee Breaks, a problematical track on even the best copies, finally sounds the way you’ve always heard it in your head — relentless and so powerful it’s downright scary.

But the best copies are so good, and so much fun, that it was definitely worth the trouble. Because the best copies ROCK, and it is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you.

Let’s get right to why this copy is SO DAMN GOOD.

Side Two

The biggest, boldest, most dynamic, punchiest and liveliest of them all. Zero smear, live-in-your-listening-room presence, with a beautifully extended and amazingly natural and correct top end, nothing could touch this one.

Note that the vocals for the first track are always somewhat edgy on even the best copies. After playing scores and scores of copies, having adjusted the VTA every which way we could, no copy did not have at least some edge on Plant’s vocal. We’re pretty sure by now it’s that way on the tape. Our job is to find the copy that reproduces it as accurately as possible. (more…)

Leonard Cohen / I’m Your Man – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

This side two demonstrates that it is in fact possible to make a good “modern” recording, and to do so even as late as 1988, although you would need to go through quite a pile of copies to find a side two that sounds like this one.

The sound is clearly more artificial than The Man’s recordings from the ’70s, but that is to be expected, unavoidable even. Who could make records in the ’80s that sound as good as their records from the ’70s? No one leaps to mind.

How you will come by a pile of these pressing is another question. This album is quite hard to find these days. I suspect that Leonard Cohen fans tend to stay fans all their lives and are unlikely to dump their Cohen records except under extreme circumstances, perhaps even after they have them all on CD or on their Iphones.

This copy is also exceptionally quiet, Mint Minus on both sides.

Side Two

A+++, as good as it gets in our experience. So big and open yet rich and not gritty on the vocal. Huge depth and space.

The third track has more grit on the vocal, but that’s surely the sound of the tape and not a mastering or pressing problem.

Side Two

A+ to A++, with some tracks sounding noticeably better than others. Everybody Knows is big, rich and open, but First We Take Manhattan has processed vocals with a fair amount of spit and grit, as well as some smear. It suffers from the Single Syndrome EQ, brighter equaling better on the radio.


Side One

First We Take Manhattan 
Ain’t No Cure for Love 
Everybody Knows 
I’m Your Man

Side Two

Take This Waltz 
Jazz Police 
I Can’t Forget 
Tower of Song

All Music Guide Review

A stunningly sophisticated leap into modern musical textures, I’m Your Man re-establishes Leonard Cohen’s mastery. Against a backdrop of keyboards and propulsive rhythms, Cohen surveys the global landscape with a precise, unflinching eye: the opening “First We Take Manhattan” is an ominous fantasy of commercial success bundled in crypto-fascist imagery, while the remarkable “Everybody Knows” is a cynical catalog of the land mines littering the surface of love in the age of AIDS.

Henry Mancini – Our Man In Hollywood

This Minty RCA Living Stereo LP (LSP 2604) has AMAZINGLY Three-Dimensional Tubey Magical Living Stereo Sound on on both sides. Most original LSP pressings, of this or any other LSP title, do not begin to recreate the Studio Wizardry found on this pressing. This wonderful recording rivals the best Chet Atkins and Bob and Rays in all their delicious Cinerama glory.  

Thank Al Schmitt for delivering top quality sound on this all tube 1963 recording! (more…)

Blind Faith – MoFi Reviewed

More of the Music of Eric Clapton

More of the Music of Steve Winwood

Reviews and Commentaries for Blind Faith’s Debut

Sonic Grade: C-

Hey, you could do worse!

Our latest shootout this time around (07/09) left us with a fairly large serving of egg on our face concerning the commentary we had written for the MoFi pressing of Blind Faith, a textbook example of We Was Wrong.

It’s rich and sweet with SHOCKINGLY GOOD SOUND. MFSL did a masterful job with this one, I’d put it in the top 10 MoFi’s of all-time!

I regret to say that none of that is true.

Blind Faith has many of the same problems as the later Japanese-pressed MoFis like Thick As A Brick and Meddle, which we discuss below.

About Thick As A Brick we wrote:

As we noted last time we listed the MoFi LP:

“This MoFi is super TRANSPARENT and OPEN, and the top end should sound lush and extended. If you prize clarity, this is the one!”

But if you prize clarity at the expense of everything else, you are seriously missing the boat on Thick As A Brick. The MoFi is all mids and highs with almost nothing going on below. This is a rock record, but without bass and dynamics the MoFi can’t rock, so what exactly is it good for?

Like Meddle, one of the last of the MoFi titles to be pressed in Japan, it’s a pale shadow of the real thing. It has no business in the collection of any audiophile worth his salt. If you want to hear this music right, let us get you a Hot Stamper pressing. It’s guaranteed to blow your mind. We’ll even take your MoFi in trade and sell it to some unsuspecting audiophile who still buys into that Half-Speed Mastered Nonsense. [This offer expired in about 2007.]

Martin Denny / Forbidden Island – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

This original looking Liberty Black Label Stereo LP has White Hot Stamper WONDERFULLY EXOTIC SOUND. This copy is so super spacious and sweet it’s positively dripping with ambience. It’s EXACTLY the kind of sound you expect from Denny and his Island bandmates.  

We played a big pile of Martin Denny records during our shootout, not having enough clean copies of any one of them to do it the way we would with rock or jazz records, and this pressing was CLEARLY the best of the bunch.

Picture yourself on a beautiful South Pacific island. Now imagine you’re in a jazz bar on the mainland. Combine the two moods into one glorious sound and you have the music of Martin Denny! (more…)

Fleetwood Mac on Japanese Vinyl Without the Sub-Generation Japanese Mastering

More of the Music of Fleetwood Mac

Reviews and Commentaries for Fleetwood Mac

This Capitol-mastered, Japanese-pressed LP has excellent sound on the first two sides and SUPERB sound on sides three and four. I doubt you’ve ever heard the title track rock like this.

We dug up a few Japanese copies of Tusk that were mastered at Capitol by Ken Perry. Because they were made from the real tapes, these don’t have the typical smeary, sub-generation sound associated with Japanese pressings. We found that the best Japanese copies could hold their own with the best domestics on sides one and two, and could win outright on sides three and four.

We almost never like records Pressed In Japan that were not recorded in Japan. This is one of the exceptions because the mastering was done by the real mastering engineer, using the real tape, here in America.

Some excellent Direct to Disc albums were recorded here in the states and subsequently pressed in Japan.

Four Amazing Sides

Side one is RICH, WARM, and SWEET. The top end is lovely — silky sweet with lots of extension. The vocals are full-bodied with lots of breath and ambience. Detail lovers will freak out over the hi-res sound on this side.

Side two is big, bold, and full of life! Storms sounds particularly good — clean, clear, and very present.

The real magic here begins at the edge of side three. The moment the needle hits the grooves, you’ll be blown away by the AMAZING CLARITY and PRESENCE. The bass is deep, tight, and full-bodied. The vocals are silky sweet and the electric guitars have tons of meaty texture. The highs are delicate, the bottom end is superb, and the drums are clean and crisp, but not overly so. (more…)