Month: April 2020

Nirvana / Nevermind – A Perfect Record? But Was It Really?

Reviews and Commentaries for Nirvana

DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND on side two! It’s got the big, uber-punchy, hard rockin’ attitude we demand from a Nevermind Hot Stamper. Side one is no slouch either folks, with A++ sound! Only one other copy had better sound for side one — THIS ONE ROCKS!

Side two on this Nevermind has MASTER TAPE SOUND. We found the most amazing clarity and transparency on this copy. You will find the sound so rich and full-bodied that at times you’d swear it was tube mastered! Check out the presence of the vocals on side one. The WHOMP factor is out of control all over this pressing. 

Now don’t get me wrong: the average copy is still a pretty darn good sounding record. I might even go so far as to say it’s better than practically anything recorded during the entire decade of the ’90s.

But man, when you’ve heard this record at its best, there is NOTHING like it. For the true Rock and Roll Audiophile Connoisseur, the man who will settle for nothing but the very best, we humbly offer this Nevermind Verified Hot Stamper, the ultimate head-banging experience.

This is our old commentary, which obviously now applies to only the best copies.

A PERFECT recording, the best of its kind, ever. The drums are perfect. The bass is perfect. The guitars are perfect. The vocals are perfect. Now how in the world could that be, you ask?!

Allow me to explain. (more…)

The 3 Sounds / Moods – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

This Blue Note LP has GREAT SOUND. The top end is Right On The Money and the drums sound wonderful — punchy with lots of ambience. The piano is full-bodied and weighty allowing you to really appreciate the percussive qualities of the instrument. The bass is deep but not quite as tight as the very best sounding copies.

Those of you who are familiar with Yamamoto’s playing, especially on albums like Midnight Sugar, should have fun with the second track on side two, Li’l Darlin’. I think this is where Yamamoto “found” a lot of his style. It’s actually even slower than his arrangements of similar material, and I’d be tempted to say it works even better on this album.

Gene Harris, the piano player here, is one of my favorite jazz pianists. I saw him live with Ray Brown a few years back and he was wonderful. Most of his albums are long out of print and very hard to come by, so this is a real find, one that gets a Top Recommendation from Better Records.

Aerosmith – Self-Titled

  • A stunning copy of Aerosmith’s debut — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • With plenty of energy, killer rock bass, and clear, present vocals, this pressing has all the key qualities we look for in an Aerosmith record
  • Dream On sounds incredible on this one – worth the price of admission alone
  • “In retrospect, it’s a bit shocking how fully formed the signature Aerosmith sound was on their self-titled 1973 debut… Aerosmith clearly showcases all the attributes of the band that would become the defining American hard rock band of the ’70s… “

KILLER sound for this copy of Aerosmith’s debut album! Mama Kin, a perennial staple of the band’s live performances and arguably the best rocker on the album, sounds fantastic here, huge and open with some serious presence. As you might expect from a debut, the sound here is a bit rougher and rawer than later albums like Toys in the Attic, but that’s not altogether a bad thing for this kind of loose, greasy hard rock! (more…)

The Weavers – The Weavers At Carnegie Hall

This is a wonderful Weavers album, recorded in Carnegie Hall on Christmas Eve, 1955 — when and if you can find one that’s properly mastered and not too scratched up. This is not easy, as most copies of the album — now fifty plus years old — have not survived in very good condition. This copy is the exception to that rule, with reasonably quiet surfaces (Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as they come) and EXCELLENT SOUND.  

What do we listen for on this album? Pretty much the same things we listen for on most albums (with the exception of Whomp Factor I suppose; acoustic guitars, banjos and voices don’t produce much whomp in real life).

You clearly need transparency to make all the vocal and instrumental parts clear. There is not a trace of phony Hi-Fi sound anywhere to be found on the album, so bringing out as much information as possible from the record has to be an important goal. (On phony records a bit of smear or opacity can actually be a good thing.)

Those of you with very highly resolving speaker systems — electrostatics, screens and the like — will find this record much easier to reproduce than others. (Including us: Our big dynamic speakers do many things well but no speaker can do everything right. We have had to sacrifice some transparency for other qualities necessary to play the wide range of recordings we must evaluate.) (more…)

Wynton Kelly Trio & Sextet – Kelly Blue

  • Wynton Kelly’s hard-to-find second album finally makes its debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A superb pressing, with lovely richness and warmth, good space and separation between the instruments and real immediacy throughout
  • Kelly brings in jazz greats Nat Adderley, Bobby Jaspar, and Benny Golson, as well as several of his bandmates from Miles Davis’ sextet, including Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Kelly was renowned as an accompanist, but as he shows on a set including three of his originals and four familiar standards… A fine example of his talents.”
  • “Wynton Kelly demonstrates once again why he has been a major influence in the history of jazz piano.”

Jack Higgins was the engineer for these sessions. He recorded Chet Baker’s brilliant Chet album the same year, as well as many other albums for Riverside in New York in the ’50s and ’60s. (more…)

R.E.M. – Fables of the Reconstruction


  • This insanely good pressing of the band’s third studio album earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades for sound on both sides
  • This vintage pressing is well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs as well as deep punchy bass and a big open and spacious soundfield
  • 4 stars: “… the group does demonstrate considerable musical growth, particularly in how perfectly it evokes the strange rural legends of the South. And many of the songs on the record — including “Feeling Gravity’s Pull,” “Maps and Legends,” “Green Grow the Rushes,” “Auctioneer (Another Engine),” and the previously mentioned pair — rank among the group’s best.”


Muddy Waters / Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live

If you’ve got the system to play a record like this (the bigger the better), you can have Muddy Waters perform live in your listening room — eyes closed of course, you won’t be able to see him, but you sure will be able to hear him, and in shockingly realistic sound.

It’s shocking how well recorded Muddy’s later albums are. Who knew? 

His earlier records on Chess may be better; can’t say, haven’t found too many that were in playable condition. But they sure won’t sound like this, or be pressed on quiet Blue Sky vinyl like this.

Muddy Waters won the grammy three years in a row, for Hard Again (1977), I’m Ready (1978) and this album. At least one, and maybe even all three belong in any serious record collection (along with Dixon’s I Am the Blues).

This is Muddy Waters at his best. He’s going down to Florida, where the sun shines damn near every day, so catch him before he gets on his train. There won’t be many copies on the site like this one. (more…)

Neil Diamond – Hot August Night

  • KILLER sound on ALL FOUR SIDES with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • The superb presence and energy here have the power to bring the definitive Neil Diamond concert performance right into your very own listening room
  • If you own the MoFi, this copy will show you how they screwed up the sound of Neil’s voice – nothing new there, right?
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is the ultimate Neil Diamond record. Not necessarily the best – he’s at his most appealing crafting in the studio – but certainly the ultimate, capturing all the kitsch and glitz of Neil Diamond, the showman.”

The sound here presents a textbook case of the basic elements we listen for, on Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this is rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening of lots of copies played on top-quality equipment, no more, no less. (more…)

Neil Young / Old Ways – After The Gold Rush This Ain’t

More of the Music of Neil Young

Hot Stamper Pressings of Country and Country Rock Albums Available Now

Notes from an early shootout.

I may be stating the obvious here, but After The Gold Rush this ain’t. If you’re looking for a big and bold Neil Young rock record, this is not the one for you. This is Neil heading out to the sticks with friends including Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and other authentic country music figures, doing what Neil loves to do — making the music that HE wants to make, not the music that anyone else wants him to. Old friend Ben Keith (a huge part behind the sound of Harvest) shows up with his pedal steel guitar on a couple tracks.

Side one has big, open sound with exceptional presence, something we didn’t hear on too many copies. The overall sound is warm, smooth and sweet.

Side two is even better, with all of those same qualities and more. There’s an extra degree of energy here and the clarity is off the charts.

This probably wasn’t anyone’s favorite Neil Young album, but it sounds like this it sure makes a lot more sense than it did when we heard it on a mediocre pressing.


Cognitive Dissonance, or, I Just Paid $600 for This LP – Was That Too Much?

Don, who wrote us the following letter, applauds us for being able to convince our customers to pay forty times the going rate for some of the records we sell — and like it!

The subject line of Don’s letter is Music.

What a great example of free market capitalism at it’s [sic] finest. Your web site is truly a unique example of marketing. You’ve taken a medium that [sic] completely relative and you can convince someone to pay upwards of 40X the going rate because….well, you said so. That doesn’t mean that the record will sound the same to them or that their experience of music is the same as yours as a reviewer. I guess if someone decides to spend $600 on a record they damn well better find a reason why it’s worth it even if they’re not completely convinced. (I took the time to read some of the other comments on your site.)

Don’t understand why someone would be upset about that or how they could argue that the records aren’t worth the price. They’re worth whatever someone is willing to pay for them as I see it. Maybe because they didn’t think of it first or they have some misplaced sense of ethics….who knows. I know it’s not worth it to me and thankfully there are plenty of other resources available for buying music. Another great example of capitalism…..


Don L.

Don, honestly, I’m positively blushing at the thought that my “say so” is what gets people to pay the ridiculously high prices we charge for what appear to be fairly common rock records, the kind that might be worth roughly, oh, I don’t know, 1/40th of what we are asking? (Truth be told, probably even less.)

Ah, but here’s the kicker: there’s actually a scientific explanation for it!

It’s called Cognitive Dissonance, and it works like this. Let’s say someone decides to spend $600 on a record — sound familiar? — yet for some reason they’re not completely convinced it’s worth it — ring any bells? — so they find a way to justify the purchase to themselves by rationalizing one of two things: their actions or their perceptions.

In this case, although the actual record may not sound all that good when they get it home, because it costs so much they must find a way to make it somehow seem better than it really is. Failing to do so, this person, demonstrably $600 poorer, would have to conclude that he, like an idiot, has just let himself get ripped off, in this case by us. (more…)