Smoky Babe – Hottest Brand Goin’

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  • Smoky Babe makes his Hot Stamper debut here on this superb pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • The mono sound is gloriously ANALOG, so smooth and full-bodied – no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally realistically relaxed sound
  • 4 stars: “Smoky Babe, aka Robert Brown, laid down a good set of down-home country blues on this 1961 session, with occasional assistance from harmonica players Clyde Causey and Henry Thomas… it’s sung with conviction, and the guitar playing is emphatic and chunkily rhythmic.”

This vintage Prestige Mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the best sides of Hottest Brand Goin’ 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 1963
  • 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 space of the studio

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.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Hottest Brand Goin’

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • 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 common to most LPs.
  • Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering — which ties in with good transient information, as well as 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 players.
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, way behind the speakers. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would have put them.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Now Your Man Done Gone
Hottest Brand Goin’
Something Wrong With My Machine
Insect Blues
Long Way From Home
I’m Goin’ Back To Mississippi

Side Two

Melvanie Blues
Locomotive Blues
Ocean Blues
Boogy Woogy Rag
Coon Hunt
Cold, Cold Snow

AMG 4 Star Review

Smoky Babe, aka Robert Brown, laid down a good set of down-home country blues on this 1961 session, with occasional assistance from harmonica players Clyde Causey and Henry Thomas.

The material is average, but it’s sung with conviction, and the guitar playing is emphatic and chunkily rhythmic. Smoky Babe does not have as idiosyncratic or powerful a persona as many other country blues performers from the blues revival, and for those who want only a few such records, it’ll sound like more of the same, albeit well done. For aficionados of the style, though, more of the same is always welcomed when the quality is good, as it is here, in terms of both performance and sound.

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