Month: December 2019

Duke Ellington / Newport Jazz Festival 1958

More of the Music of Duke Ellington

More Large Group Jazz Recordings

If you are a fan, this record will be a thrill. If you’re unfamiliar with the Duke’s music, I can’t imagine a better introduction than this.

This LP also includes Gerry Mulligan’s only performance with the Ellington band.

Paul Gonsalves’s saxophone performance is superb and worth the price of the album alone.

The clarinet parts on Princess Blue are out of this world — Ellington at his best!

The Pretenders – Get Close – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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Get Close has long been a personal favorite of mine. Side one starts off with a bang with My Baby, one of the best tracks this band ever recorded. Of course at this point it’s hard to call The Pretenders a band as it is pretty much Chrissie Hynde’s show. She continues to mature as a songwriter, and the arrangements and production value are excellent as well, with heavy hitters such as Steve Lillywhite, Bob Clearmountain and Jimmy Iovine involved. 

We have a link to the left entitled Women Who Rock. It would look better with Chrissie Hynde’s picture instead of some Lillith Fair type in a granny dress, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that no other woman on earth can rock the way Chrissie Hynde can, and this album, along with Learning to Crawl, is all the proof anyone would ever need. (more…)

Beethoven / Concerto No. 4 / Rubinstein / Krips – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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This Super Hot Stamper pressing has superb RCA Living Stereo sound, with an exceptionally clear, solid, tonally correct piano.

We recently did a major shootout for all of Beethoven’s Piano Concertos, pulling pressings from the three major Golden Age labels — RCA, London, Mercury — and this Fourth came out near the top of the heap. Most pressings of Rubinstein’s Beethoven concertos simply do not have this kind of open, big and bold sound. Side one earned a grade of A++ and side two was actually a bit better at A++ to A+++. That makes this a very special piano recording indeed. (more…)

Elvis Presley – Fun In Acapulco – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

Finding clean real Elvis records — not those crappy compilations and vault-leftovers, but real Elvis albums from his golden period when he was the true King of Pop (sorry Michael) — has never been a walk in the park. We do the best we can.

Fortunately there are some reissues from the ’60s and ’70s that have the potential for excellent sound. This is clearly one of them. The originals we see are a lost cause; they’re practically always scratched and full of groove damage. We’d be lucky to find a clean one every five or ten years nowadays.

Side One

Breathy vocals and very full sound make this a top quality side.

For a kick check out the great sounding percussion on the third track.

Side Two

Rich and smooth on the first track, more like an old Elvis record, but the next tracks sound better, tubier and livelier (more…)

The Doors – Waiting For The Sun on DCC Heavy Vinyl

More of The Doors

More Psych Rock

We rate the DCC LP a B Minus

We used to like the DCC pressing of this Doors album. Now… not so much. It’s a classic case of We Was Wrong.

Keep in mind that the only way you can never be wrong about your records is simply to avoid playing them. If you have better equipment than you did, say, five years ago, try playing some of your MoFi’s, 180 gram LPs, Japanese pressings, 45 RPM remasters and the like. You might be in for quite a shock.

Of course the qustion on everyone’s mind is, “How does this Hot Stamper copy stack up to the famous DCC pressing?” After all, it’s the one we were touting all through the ’90s as The One To Beat. (more…)

Oliver Nelson – More Blues and the Abstract Truth

More Oliver Nelson

  • Nelson’s 1965 release makes its Hot Stamper debut with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to hear it
  • 4 stars: “… there are some strong moments from such all-stars as trumpeter Thad Jones, altoist Phil Woods, baritonist Pepper Adams, pianist Roger Kellaway and guest tenor Ben Webster (who is on two songs). The emphasis is on blues-based pieces and there are some strong moments even if the date falls short of its predecessor.” 

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Supertramp / Crime of the Century – Ken Scott’s Producing / Engineering Masterpiece

AMAZING White Hot Stampers for the greatest KEN SCOTT production in history. This is his (and the band’s) MASTERPIECE, and now we have a pressing that allows us to revel in the GLORY that is Crime of the Century! 

We played a KILLER MoFi pressing many years ago. (Yes, we admit it. As much as we dislike most of their records, the truth is the truth. Some can actually sound good. You can count them on the fingers of one hand, but they do exist.) This bit of commentary from the Hot Stamper MoFi shootout we had done previously discusses some of its characteristic traits:

How About the Brit Copies?

If one were to pick some nits, one could say that it’s still a tiny bit hot around 6k. The reason I know that is because the early British pressings have a smoother midrange compared to practically anything else out there. You may have noticed that good British copies never make it to the site, and there’s a simple explanation for that. Most early British copies (and later ones too) just do not sound good. On top of that, they are rarely quiet enough to play and enjoy. I can’t tell you how many British COTC pressings I’ve heard in the last 5 years that didn’t sound good or were noisy and groove damaged. But it’s a lot.

We get these MOFIs in on a regular basis, and they usually sound as phony and wrong as can be. They’re the perfect example of a hyped-up audiophile record that appeals to people with lifeless stereos, the kind that need amped-up records to get them going.

Listen to the vocals at the end of Dreamer. If they are bright, the bells at the end of the song sound super-extended and harmonically rich. But at what price? The vocals are TOO BRIGHT. Which is more important: good vocals or good bells? There has to be a BALANCE. This is something audiophiles and audiophile labels — even worse, they should know better — often have trouble understanding.

Things Have Changed

As we never tire of saying, in audio, if you’re doing it right, things change. With better cleaning technologies, better playback, better all the other stuff we talk about on the site, records that used to be practically impossible to get to sound right can suddenly — if a year or two of hard work and experimentation can be considered “sudden” — start to come alive and show us the MAGIC that’s been locked away for all this time inside their grooves.

To Quote The Rutles, Let’s Be Natural

Case in point: The vocals here sound AMAZING — natural and correct with lots of texture. Even the best MoFi copies are going to sound a bit phony when played against a killer copy such as this. Of course it’s a high-definition, high-resolution sound cut with super low distortion; it has to be to sound this good. Folks, this is the copy that lets you appreciate every last detail of the recording without hitting you over the head with “sonic effects”. It’s musical in a way that no audiophile pressing ever seems to be.

And of course the bass is AWESOME. Loud levels and big woofers will have your house quaking. Add to that the kind of ENERGY that the best pressings have in their grooves and you have an album that is guaranteed to bring the average audiophile system to its knees, begging for mercy. This is The Audio Challenge before you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, steer clear of Crime of the Century. It wants to rock your world, and that’s exactly what Hot Stamper pressings like this one are here to do.

It’s ALIVE! It has BIG, PUNCHY sound that will fill up your living room and then some. It’s exceptionally transparent with superb clarity and lots of extension on the top end. (The typical Brit copy is dull, and that quality just takes all the magic out of the recording. The three dimensional space and clarity of the recording rely heavily on the quality of the top end. The MoFi, on the best copies, shows you what is missing from the typical Brit, domestic or other import LP. This is what impressed me back in the ’70s when I bought my MoFi. It was only years later that I realized what was missing and what was wrong.)

Last time around the best copies were British. That was NOT the case this time except on side two, where one British copy was competitive, but not better than, our best domestic pressing.

Side One

White Hot A Triple Plus Sound! BIG and BOLD like crazy. When track one finishes you will ask yourself, as we did, “how can it get any better?”

The answer will come quickly enough. Track two has a bit of edge to the vocals in some places, but with MONSTROUS size and energy, and prodigious bass power, we still had to call it A+++. It’s not perfect but it is so amazing that picking nits simply misses the point. This side is ALIVE.

Side Two

Side two gets rid of any edge problems in the vocals — the sound is exceptionally full and rich, with HUGE and solid drums like practically none you have ever heard. (Ken Scott can record toms like nobody else in the studio. If you have the system to play it, this album is all the proof you will ever need.)

Huge amounts of space, the MOST top end extension and the LEAST phony sound of any copy we played make this a side two that simply cannot be beat. One Brit copy was as good, albeit in different ways of course, but no copy was better.

The Most Successful Rock Concept Album of All Time

We consider Crime of the Century one of the most incredible musical and sonic journeys your audio system can take you on. It’s the Most Successful Concept Album of all time. Dark Side of the Moon or The Yes Album are two other productions that rise to this level, and as much as I love those albums, I actually think this is the best of the three, if for no other reason than that the tragedy of the story here is more emotionally compelling.

It’s also AN AUDIOPHILE’S DREAM COME TRUE (to quote the motto of a famous audiophile label). The creation here of a huge Cinerama-like soundscape is on a scale that few recording engineers would ever attempt, let alone achieve with such success. This is a Big Speaker record if ever there was one.

Those of you who’ve watched the site for ages know this, but it bears mentioning — we almost NEVER have Hot Stamper copies of this album available. The first and only White Hot Stamper copy went up back in 2007 (!). Here’s what we wrote in 2007 about COTC:

We actually attempted an all-day shootout late in 2007 that we had to abandon after every copy we played — without exception mind you — either sounded bad or was too noisy to sell. We must have tried at least ten good looking British pressings only to come up empty handed at the end of the day. The Speakers Corner pressing beats the average original, I can tell you that without fear of contradiction. (Of course all SC copies are going to sound different; perhaps our review copy is one of the Hot ones.)

(The bit about the Speakers Corner pressings sounding different has now been proven beyond any doubt; the copy we cracked open for this shootout didn’t sound nearly as good as the one we played in 2007.)

Ken Scott

In 2008 I had the opportunity to hear Ken Scott speak the night before at an AES meeting here in Los Angeles. This is the man who recorded some of the All Time Great Rock Albums, the likes of Ziggy Stardust, The White Album, Tumbleweed Connection, All Things Must Pass, Son Of Schmilsson, America’s debut … this is one seriously talented guy! (I won’t bore you by trying to recap his talk, but if it ever comes out on youtube or the like, you should definitely check it out. The Behind-The-Scenes discussion of these artists and their recordings was a thrill for someone like me who has been playing and enjoying the hell out of most of his albums for more than thirty years.)

Rachmaninoff / Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini / Reiner – Reviewed in 2005

More of the music of Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)

1S/ 1S Shaded Dog with fairly good sound. As is usual with this album, and most Rubinstein records, the piano lacks weight compared to the best Golden Age recordings. 

Beethoven / The Emperor Concerto / Backhaus – Reviewed in 2010

 

Another top London, recorded with more of a mid-hall approach, and smooth sound that reminds me much more of a live concert than most recordings do. This is a demo quality disc, if what you are demonstrating is the kind of realistic piano sound and natural, relaxed presentation found in the concert hall. These may not be qualities that all audiophiles appreciate, but we sure as hell do.

Joni Mitchell / Shadows and Light – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Joni Mitchell

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FOUR INCREDIBLE SIDES! We had a huge shootout for this famous double album and this copy blew our minds with a pair each of White Hot and Super Hot sides and quiet vinyl throughout. In the high-stakes game of Better Records Double Album Poker, that’s a full house, my man! Sides one and three earned the A+++ grades while sides two and four were close behind at A++. This one gives you the kind of YOU ARE THERE immediacy and transparency that put you front and center for a late ’70s jazzy Joni Mitchell show. Not too many copies will do that!

If you’re a fan of Joni’s more experimental work from the mid to late ’70s, this album is a must-own. She takes a top-notch crew of musicians including Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious and Michael Brecker through a set including many of her best album tracks from the era.

Sides one and three were absolutely top-notch, earning the top grade of A+++. The sound is full-bodied, lively and very DYNAMIC. On so many copies the sax sounds thin and hard, but on a Hot Stamper like this one you get fuller, smoother sound for the instrument. Joni’s voice is breathy and present with real texture, and the three-dimensional imaging gives the music a real sense of SPACE — just like you’d get at a concert. This helps convey the intimacy of the songs and the performances, and isn’t that what we audiophiles got in this crazy hobby for in the first place? (more…)