Month: January 2021

The Moody Blues – On The Threshold Of A Dream

More The Moody Blues

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • You will not believe how punchy, lively, dynamic, and exciting some of these tracks sound here – this is one of their best albums for both music and sound!
  • 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 UK pressing is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… [I]n 1969 this was envelope-ripping, genre-busting music, scaling established boundaries into unknown territory, not only “outside the box” but outside of any musical box that had been conceived at that moment…”

Both sides give you silky highs, surprising clarity, amazing openness and transparency, real weight to the bottom end, lots of air in the flutes, wonderful texture to the strings, and so much more. The acoustic guitars sound impressive, with the proper balance between pluck and body. The vocals are shockingly clean and clear throughout.

Copies like this bring all the psychedelic Moody Blues magic to life in your living room. The richness, sweetness, and warmth on this one give you exactly the sound you want for this wild music. You get lovely Tubey Magic and clarity. The sound is cleaner, clearer, richer, sweeter, and more present that you could have imagined.

It has been my experience that, as good as the British originals of the Moody Blues records are — and I think they are the best sounding pressings of their music that can be found — their one consistent shortcoming is an overly smooth top end. We managed to find a handful of copies that break with that tradition, and the results are wonderful. (more…)

David Bowie – David Live

More David Bowie

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides of this Bowie classic
  • One of our favorite live recordings – a great overview of Bowie’s career through 1974
  • 1984, Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me come ALIVE in performance like you have never heard before
  • A-List players of the day deliver sonic treats, including multiple horn players, multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the searing fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, and the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass

*NOTE: On side one, a group of light marks makes about 15 light ticks one-half inch from the end of Track 4, Sweet Thing. On side three, a mark on the edge makes 4 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, Rock & Roll With Me. On side four, two marks make 8 light ticks during the intro to Track 3, Jean Genie, and 8 moderately light to light ticks during the intro to Track 4, Rock & Roll Suicide.

What can we say? RCA vinyl in 1974 was ticky. Most copies of this album are a helluva lot noisier than this one.

When you listen to an incredible copy of this Bowie classic, you will have no trouble picturing yourself in the audience with a front row center seat. And the great thing about a record like this is that you can be in the front row of this very concert whenever you want!

The other top live album is, of course, Waiting For Columbus, and the two have much in common. Most importantly, the songs played live on both albums are consistently better than their studio versions. (This is especially true on the Little Feat album. Little Feat was not a studio band and their live arrangements — with the Tower of Power horns — just murder the studio ones.)

For us audiophiles, the other reason to own a Hot Copy of David Live or Waiting For Columbus is that the sound is much improved over most of the studio albums in which the material was originally found. Have you ever heard a good sounding Diamond Dogs?

But David Live is full of great sounding material from the album. 1984 is much better here than on the original album. Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me also come alive in performance. They rock! (more…)

Janis Joplin – I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

More Janis Joplin

More Blues Rock Albums

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  • This outstanding 360 Stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has the ideal combination of openness and transparency, coupled with the richness and solidity of vintage analog
  • When Janis starts singing, watch out – her voice positively JUMPS out of the speakers, something we didn’t hear her do on many of the other copies in our shootout
  • Features Try, one of Janis’s All Time Classics — and with these grades you can be sure it sounds positively amazing here

This Columbia 360 Stereo pressing is THE CURE for Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues!

Drop the needle on the great song Try and just listen to how crisp, punchy, and BIG the drums sound.

The bottom end has real weight and the top end is silky and extended. The overall sound is rich, full, and smooth.

ENERGY is the key element missing from the average copy, but not on this bad boy (or girl if you prefer). The electric guitars are super Tubey Magical and the bass is solid and punchy.

On many copies — too many copies — the vocals are pinched and edgy. Here they’re breathy and full — a much better way for Janis to sound. There’s a slight amount of grit to the vocals at times and the brass as well, but the life force on these sides is so strong that we much preferred it to the smoother, duller, deader copies we heard that didn’t have that issue.

On copy after copy we heard pinched squawky horns and harsh vocals, not a good sound for this album. Janis’ voice needs lots of space up top to get good and loud, and both of these sides have it in spades.

Few other copies had this combination of openness and transparency on the one hand, and full, rich tonality on the other. (more…)

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Records – A Step By Step Guide

How To Get The Most Out Of Your Records

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We’ve recently begun to include an info sheet with our Hot Stamper pressings that describes a few simple steps you can take to get better results with our records in your home. Since these tips really apply to all records and not just our Hot Stampers, we figured we’d outline them here and add a few additional thoughts. 

Here are a few tips for getting the best results from your LPs at home:

Warm Up

Warm up your stereo for at least a half hour before doing any critical listening. A full hour is even better. Make sure you have the volume raised; the speaker drivers need to be moving actively so as to loosen them up and get them in the mood to sound their best.

All Hot Stamper pressings have been thoroughly cleaned by us and there is no need to clean them again, at least not for quite a while. (After a dozen or so plays it might be a good time to think about another cleaning, especially if fingerprints or dust are visible or audible. When in doubt clean the record.)

Since many of the record cleaning fluids on the market today actually make records lose fidelity, we encourage you to clean your records only with the one fluid we recommend: The Walker Enzyme Cleaning system.

If you must clean our Hot Stamper pressings with a fluid we do not recommend, our advice would be to listen carefully to the record before recleaning, then again after cleaning, to make sure there is no loss of sound quality. If there is a loss of fidelity we would then strongly advise you to switch to the Walker fluids.

Records that have been properly cleaned actually sound even better after a few plays. After a good cleaning, playing the record helps plow more grunge out of the grooves and also helps the stylus tip to seat itself deeper into the center of the groove.

Every Hot Stamper pressing sold by us has been played through at least once on both sides. Another play or two (or three or four) on your part will help the record sound even better.

Unplug
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Ella Fitzgerald – The Rodgers & Hart Song Book, Volume 1

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  • A superb copy with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl for a pressing of this vintage
  • The 1956 recording quality is excellent, with orchestral space and midrange richness that puts this pressing well above most of what we played
  • 5 stars: “The arrangements by Buddy Bregman for the string orchestra and big band only border on jazz but she manages to swing the medium-tempo numbers and give sensitivity to the ballads. With such songs as “You Took Advantage of Me,” “The Lady Is a Tramp,” “It Never Entered My Mind,” “Where or When,” “My Funny Valentine,” and “Blue Moon,” it is not too surprising that these recordings were so popular.”

This ’50s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

John Baldry Knows One Thing: It Ain’t Easy Finding Good Sounding Pressings of His Albums

A Record We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records were just too much work to find, too expensive to buy and whose sales never really justified the investment in time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them to offer to our customers.

This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

 

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  • For its debut on the site, we present this amazing sounding British original pressing, with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one (the Rod Stewart side)
  • Side two (the Elton John produced side) was outstanding as well, earning a Double Plus (A++) for its rich, tubey sound
  • No wonder side one sounds like the best of Rod Stewart & The Faces’ early-’70s albums – Mike Bobak engineered them
  • “The backing band on Stewart’s side include fellow Face and future Rolling Stone, Ron Wood, on electric guitar and acoustic guitarist Sam Mitchell, who appeared on many of Stewart’s early-’70s solo albums.”

Here’s how this shootout got started.

A few years ago while I was working on the site I had music on youtube playing. The song “Flying” came on from the It Ain’t Easy album, and when the chorus came in I could not believe how big, rich and powerful it sounded — this, on computer speakers! (more…)

The Brahms Violin Concerto – Unplug or Suffer the Consequences!

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

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The massed strings here, such as those found at the opening, are close miked and immediate in the “Mercury recording style.” Your electricity better be good when you play this record, because it presents a test many of you will have trouble passing at even moderate levels. 

We’ve often encouraged our readers and customers to go about unplugging things in their homes in order to test the effect of clean electricity on their playback systems. The opening of this record is a perfect example of the kind of material with which everyone should be testing in order to hear these changes. I’d be very surprised if the strings on this record don’t sound noticeably better after you’ve unplugged a few things in your house, and the more the better.

The effect should not be the least bit subtle. It’s certainly not subtle in our system.

The same would be true for any of the tweaks we recommend. The Talisman or Hallographs would be a godsend for proper playback of this record. Hard to imagine what it would sound like without them. (To tell you the truth we don’t really want to know.) (more…)

Elton John – Too Low For Zero

More Elton John

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this early British import LP – exceptionally quiet viny too
  • There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals and plenty of rock and roll energy
  • I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues – the best song Elton’s done in the last 35 years – is the a good reason to own the album
  • One of engineer Bill Price’s best efforts behind the boards in the ’80s, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art as usual
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Happily, this is a reunion that works like gangbusters, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form.”

Folks, this record is rarely found in audiophile playing condition, so rarely that this may be the only quiet one we’ve ever offered for sale. It will be a very long time – years I suspect – before another one this nice hits the site.

Much of the production – the smooth, sweet harmony vocals, the rich, grungy guitars, the solid, warm piano – reminds me of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, one of the classics from back in the day when Gus Dudgeon was running the show.

Caribou (1974) and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) have a similarly glossy, perfectionist approach to production as well. It was 1975’s Rock of the Westies that went off in another direction.

The next six albums, from Blue Moves to Jump Up, at least to these ears, don’t sound good enough or have the kind of consistent material that was the hallmark of the six albums recorded from 1970 to 1973. Four of those are in our Top 100 Rock and Pop album list, and all four are Must Owns in my book. Pop music just doesn’t get any better.

So if Too Low For Zero reminds us in any way of those albums, especially in the songwriting department now that Bernie Taupin has rejoined team Elton after a too-long hiatus, that is all to the good. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

More Rolling Stones

More Top 100 Titles

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • It’s got weight, punch, energy and fullness – qualities key to the best sounding pressings
  • Tons of great songs – Miss You, Beast of Burden and Shattered, all sounding shockingly good – thanks to the engineering skills of Chris Kimsey
  • 5 stars: “Opening with the disco-blues thump of “Miss You,” Some Girls is a tough, focused, and exciting record, full of more hooks and energy than any Stones record since Exile on Main St. Even Their rockers sound harder and nastier than they have in years.”

This is the Stones’ last truly great album. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers. With hits like Miss You, Shattered, and Beast Of Burden, it’s easy to see why.

Most copies are too thin and grainy for serious audiophile listening, but this one is a different story. It’s not easy to find great sound for The Stones, so take this one home for a spin if you want to hear this band bring these songs to life in your very own listening room.

Not many copies have this kind of clarity and transparency, or this kind of big, well-defined bottom end. The sound of the hi-hat is natural and clear on this pressing, as are the vocals, which means that the tonality in the midrange is correct, and what could be more important than a good midrange? It’s where the music is. (more…)

Al Green – I’m Still In Love With You

More Al Green

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing of Al Green’s 1972 release
  • One of the fullest, richest, smoothest, cleanest and most energetic copies we played in our shootout – this is how good the album can sound
  • 5 stars: “[It] shares many surface similarities with its predecessor, from Al Green and Willie Mitchell’s distinctive, sexy style to the pacing and song selection. I’m Still in Love With You distinguishes itself with its suave, romantic tone and its subtly ambitious choice of material. There isn’t a wasted track on I’m Still in Love With You, and in many ways it rivals its follow-up, Call Me, as Green’s masterpiece.”

This is The Memphis Sound at its best — big Hammond organs with whirring Leslie speakers, funky drums, punchy brass blasts, and lovely string arrangements.

Al Green’s vocal performance is superb, of course, but one thing that really stands out after hearing the best Hot Stamper copies is the quality of the musicians’ performances. The rhythm section on this album really drives the music. Just listen to the punchy kick drum and deep, note-like bass on a song like Love and Happiness — the band is rockin’.

The Hodges Brothers — the house band at Hi Records, known for their “telepathic interplay” — deliver rock solid musicianship just brimming with energy and soul. The brass is handled by the truly great Memphis Horns, of Stax Records fame.

Just play the beginning of I’m So Glad You’re Mine to hear what we’re talking about. The drummer opens with a tight, funky beat that gets the song going right out of the gate. The kick drum is as punchy as they come, and just listen to that big room around the rimshots.

When the rest of the band joins in, you’ll be treated to some of the best Hammond organ sound you’ll ever hear. You can really hear the effect of the rotating Leslie speaker. When Al joins in on vocals with a very emotional, expressive performance, you’ll understand just why we’re so crazy about this record — it’s pure soul magic, baby! (more…)