Month: October 2020

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

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  • An outstanding copy with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound – this is clearly the right sound for this guitar-fueled heavy rock
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout, the sound is big, full, lively and spacious with hard-rockin’ energy to spare
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… as lean and mean as the original lineup ever got… this is a high-voltage, brutal record, filled with “Bad Boy Boogie… It has a bit of a bluesier edge than other AC/DC records, but this is truly the sound of the band reaching its peak… it’s sweaty, dirty, nasty rock, music that is played to the last call and beyond, and they’ve rarely done that kind of rock better than they did here.”

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Duke Ellington – At the Bal Masque

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  • A stunning sounding Six-Eye Columbia pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Here are boatloads of the kind of Tubey Magical richness that make these vintage Columbia recordings the uniquely satisfying listening experience we know them to be
  • More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York – the size and power of a jazz orchestra in glorious all ANALOG sound
  • “Ellington and his all-star orchestra manage to transform what could be a set of tired revival swing into superior dance music and swinging jazz… a surprise success.”

If you want to know what it was like to attend an Ellington supper club concert, this record will do the trick (even though the album was recorded in the studio and the applause added later). Ellington’s magic is on display for everyone to hear. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Jazz Party in Stereo

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This original stereo Six-Eye from 1959 is one of the few copies of this famous album to hit the site in many years, and of course one of the best
  • Many copies of the copies we played would get aggressive or edgy, but this one is smooth in the right way, and for that you can thank CBS’s legendary 30th St. studios
  • 4 stars: “A most unusual Duke Ellington record, two selections feature nine symphonic percussionists on tympani, vibes, marimbas and xylophones.

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Fleetwood Mac – One Customer’s Story of Listening in Depth and Seeing the Light

More Fleetwood Mac

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Sorry to say I will be returning this White Hot Stamper. Did a lot of research before ordering, understand and fully appreciate what you’re doing, seriously sad to not be keeping it. Pretty obviously you are crazy dedicated to this so wanted to fully explain why. Especially since there’s still good odds I would like to try again.

First let me say it was quite the experience unpacking and seeing a cover still in its original shrink wrap. Probably quite a few would consider that alone worth the price. I never even slipped it out of the excellent plastic sleeve you shipped it in, that’s how much instant respect I have for the unbelievably unlikely existence of this thing. It truly is amazing. I bought it for the music not the cover, but still….

The reason I will be returning this is Side 1. Monday Morning was a disappointment, but I really think we are kind of at the mercy of the master here. Warm Ways is a whole lot better, and yes quite a bit better than my copy, with a fair bit more inner detail and palpable presence but overall not much more than I have got from some good 45 or heavy vinyl pressings.

Just so you know, yes I do follow all your suggestions. Warm up, demagnetize, anti-static, all of that and more. Have a demagnetizer much more effective than the Talisman. Been doing all this stuff over 20 years now. Because I hear and appreciate. Cables elevated off the floor. Every wire from the breaker to the speaker been cryo’d. Yes I pulled the wire out of the house, drove it down to Cryo One, had them do it all.

Part of the problem. I hear how much better Side 1 is, it goes into that frame of reference. For over $300 it needs to be at least as great an improvement over my copy as I can get from warm-up, demagnetize, etc. Its not. Well your rating did say Side 2 was a bit better. Frankly, I think you could stand to correct that. Side 2 is a whole lot better. Right from the first track its just way more lively, present, dynamic, punchy, you name it. Not sure why you say Say You Love Me is “rich and sweet and tubey” probably that is one of the stock phrases you use throughout the site because this track offers, relative to the others on this side, less of this.

Which brings me to Landslide, and World Turning. These two tracks totally deserve all the most glowing Better Records accolades! Simply superb sonics. Better even in some ways than my MoFi 45 of Brothers in Arms. Now this is what I was hoping for! The spellbinding sound of these two tracks is almost enough to make me forget Side 1.

Almost. And its not like the rest of Side 2 is bad. Honestly, when it gets to this level (of pressing quality) you can hear so deeply what’s going on it becomes inescapable we are at a level where we are at the mercy of the mastering engineer. Or if not him then someone even further along up the recording chain. You know what I mean. I know you know what I mean. Because, in reading one of your glowing reviews was the comment, basically, “but get real, its Springsteen.” Because for whatever reason he could never be bothered to turn out a good recording.

So I know. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It might very well be no copy of Fleetwood Mac ever pressed gonna have a Side 1 that sounds as good all the way across as this Side 2. But I figure if anyone would know that it would be you.

And that’s kind of where I am. The copy I have right now is worth to me only a fraction of the price. If the whole thing sounded like Side 2 though, then I would be a happy camper. The price would still be dear, but worth it. Find me a copy like that, same price, don’t bother posting it, its sold. Or credit this one down a whole lot. I’d prefer the first option. If it even exists.

Sorry for the email. Guy like you I would love to get on the phone.Which with my schedule, no chance until Wed or Thurs, and I didn’t want to wait. But I still would like to talk. You know the records and now you know a little about me. Maybe you can help me find the few select copies I just can’t live without. I got the feeling if anyone can, its you.

Best regards,

Chuck M.

Chuck,

A few quick thoughts:

Since every stereo plays every record differently, it’s hard to know why our copy did not sound as good to you as it did to us. When it comes back I will personally play it against our 3+ ref copy and see how it holds up.

2.5+ means it came in second in the shootout. Maybe it didn’t deserve that grade, I will find out!

The other issue is a much more subtle one. We play all the side ones against all the other side ones, so comparing side one to side two is something we would never do. It’s apples and oranges in a way, many side ones of albums simply do not sound as good as their side twos, and vice versa, and we note that in some of our listings.

We could honestly say that about a great many records if we took the time to do it.

On F Mac’s self-titled album I am not aware that that is the case, but it could be.

We play tracks one and four on side one to test with. They are the hardest tracks to get right in our experience.

Monday Morning has huge amounts of bass and a slightly gritty vocal, so it’s very difficult to get that song to sound right and easy to spot when it does sound right.

Warm Ways is a piece of cake and sounds at the very least “good” most of the time, so it’s not much of a test for us, although richness, intimacy, space and transparency are obviously better on this track on the better copies.

Anyway, I will check it out when it comes back and hopefully get back to you before too long.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best, TP

Tom,

Had Fleetwood Mac all packed to send back, couldn’t quite do it. Last night I pulled it out for a second listen. This time, instead of going head to head with my other copy I had a more normal listening session of playing increasingly good SQ records. I have a pretty good memory for these things which is probably what was bugging me and keeping me from sending it back. Sure enough, listening again you can clearly hear much deeper into the recording than probably anything else I have. (more…)

Tom Waits – Foreign Affairs

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sound or close to it on both sides, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for the album
  • This early pressing was hard to fault – it will put Tom Waits right between your speakers, with a batch of great session players behind and to the side, all playing live in the studio
  • “The album contains more ballads than most of his records do, but they were the most effective vehicles for the kind of storytelling he was trying to get to. Produced and engineered by Bones Howe, Foreign Affairs was recorded live in studio by a quintet that included West Coast jazzmen Jack Sheldon on trumpet, saxophonist Frank Vicari, bassist Jim Hughart, and drummer Shelly Manne.

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Emmylou Harris – Blue Kentucky Girl

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  • A superb sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides have the kind of rich, natural sound we found on far too few copies and little of the vocal edginess that many EH albums suffer from
  • Surprisingly full-bodied and not overly detailed for a recording from 1979 – they still knew what they were doing then
  • “In response to criticism that her records weren’t country enough, Harris recorded Blue Kentucky Girl, one of her most traditional outings. Relying on a more acoustic sound, the album largely forsakes contemporary pop songs in favor of standard country fare, including the Louvin Brothers’ “Everytime You Leave” and Leon Payne’s “They’ll Never Take His Love from Me.”

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John Coltrane – More Lasting Than Bronze

More John Coltrane

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  • This superb Prestige Two-Fer offer outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Compiled from two nearly complete Classic albums, Lush Life and Coltrane, this collection boasts masterful sound – thanks RVG!
  • Full-bodied, energetic, and tonally correct from top to bottom and, these pressings are guaranteed to bring Coltrane’s music to life
  • “Rarely does a single performance uncover the essence of an artist with such aptness. The well-crafted melody is treated above all with dignity, which may be part of the reason it remains flawless.”

The jackets for these Two-Fers tend to have some ringwear. We will of course put these two discs in the nicest cover we have available.

This is the kind of recording that makes people respect Rudy Van Gelder. Believe me, most of his stuff doesn’t sound this good! And since he mastered these pressings, we have to give him even more credit for doing the transfer exceptionally well. I am on record as saying that many of his own transfers are problematical. Not this one! Since this has two of Coltrane’s greatest albums together, I can’t recommend this record any more highly. (more…)

The Music of Leonard Bernstein – Our Four Plus Mind Blowing Shootout Winner

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This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most SPECTACULAR sound I have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presence’s, EMI’s and Decca’s we’ve ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in a Top Ten taken from it, right near the top judging by what I heard when I played it.

Side two here is BEYOND White Hot, earning a sonic grade of A++++! I don’t know that any other copy has earned such a high grade for side two but this one sure did. It blew our minds.

If you have a system with the speed, power and size to play this record properly (yes, you will need all three and a whole lot more), it’s hard to imagine it would not qualify as the best sounding classical recording you’ve ever heard. Demo Disc barely begins to do it justice. What sound. What music. What a record! Side two is where the real action is on this album, and it is presented here with SPECTACULAR AUDIO FIDELITY the likes of which you may have never experienced. (more…)

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66

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  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides, this copy is getting the sound of Gabor Szabo’s music right from first note to last
  • This copy plays on exceptionally quiet Impulse vinyl, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • The credit must go to one of, if not THE Greatest Jazz Engineers of all time, Mr. Rudy Van Gelder
  • “Szabo’s original sound, the unusual instrumentation (two or three guitars, Sadao Watanabe on flute, Gary McFarland on marimba, bass, drums and percussion) and McFarland’s clever arrangements uplift the music.”

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Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel

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  • This superb British pressing of Peter Gabriel’s debut solo album earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Gabriel’s solo debut, the album features his autobiographical lead single, Solsbury Hill
  • Clearly the hardest of the first five PG records to find with good sound and decent vinyl, which is why these seldom make the site
  • “…much of the record teems with invigorating energy (as on Slowburn, or the orchestral-disco pulse of Down the Dolce Vita), and the closer “Here Comes the Flood” burns with an anthemic intensity that would later become his signature in the ’80s.”

*NOTE: On side one, the intro to track 1, Moribund the Burgermeister, plays Mint Minus Minus.

Tubey Magical Richness and breathy vocals are the hallmarks of a good British PG 1.

Unlike any that follow, the sound varies greatly from track to track on the first PG album, as does the music. You know you have a good copy when the best sounding tracks sound their best. That may seem like a tautology but is in fact the only way to judge a side when the songs sound this different from one another. (more…)