Month: September 2022

Bad Company – The Making of Straight Shooter

More of the Music of Bad Company

More Recordings Engineered by Ron Nevison

FROM THE BAD COMPANY WEB SITE

Heartened by the response to Bad Company, the group hired Ronnie Lane’s mobile studio and had it installed at Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire, England in September 1974. “That was an interesting place to record,” states Rodgers. “Where next after Headley Grange but an old haunted castle! We had been touring very hard but we were still able to come up with the goods in the end. By comparison, we hadn’t done any touring before our first record.”

Bad Company followed up their initial success with the 1975 release of the triple-platinum album Straight Shooter which contained the Top Ten smash ballad “Feel Like Makin’ Love” which also won a Grammy Award. “I loved Straight Shooter” says Kirke. “Quite a few of the songs on that album came along during the first year of our existence. A lot of the songs on the first album had been done in 1973 before we really had started, so we were always playing catch-up with new material. We wanted to record a follow up album that really validated what we had done on Bad Company.” Other tracks form the album, such as “Shooting Star” have long since become concert and radio staples. “I remember Paul was singing a few of the verses for that song in the airport as we were going over to America to start our second tour,” remembers Kirke. “He had taken his guitar on the plane with him and was tinkering around with the song on the flight over.”

”I just started singing that lyric, ‘Johnny was a schoolboy…,’ and I was thinking, that’s a good song,” continues Rodgers. “Where had I heard that? Then it dawned on me that I hadn’t heard it anywhere before. I quickly grabbed a pen and paper and wrote it all down. The song just flowed out of me. It wrote itself. I was thinking, wow, where did this come from? Since then, people have asked me who it is about including whether it’s about (former Free guitarist) Paul Kossoff. Actually, with hindsight, the song is about all of the casualties of rock music because there have been way too many.”

”Paul’s ability to come up with good lyrics have always enabled us to have rock songs with class,” says Ralphs. “I tend to write more simplistic songs, but believe me, it’s very hard to write a simple rock song on guitar that has something special without sounding ordinary.”

Eagerly anticipated by the group’s fans. Straight Shooter enjoyed international success, reaching number three on both the UK and US album charts. The ecstatic response to the album accelerated the group’s momentum and their standing as one of the most popular concert attractions in the world. “In 1975, we were able to come back and tour America as a headliner,” recalls Kirke. “It had been an amazing year.”

”There was quite a bit of pressure on us being the first artists signed to Zeppelin’s Swan Song label,” states Rodgers. “Behind the scenes, we did take the mickey out of each other mercilessly. We would stand on their side of the stage and yell ‘Rubbish!’ and the like at them. We never did shows together, but we did jam quite a bit. There was a real rapport between the two bands.”

”There is no doubt in my mind that without Peter Grant we would not have reached the level of success we achieved,” echoes Ralphs. “His clout and insights were essential to our elevated status. He was a great manager and a lovely man.” 

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Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 4 in Living Stereo – What Does It Sound Like Now?

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

Years ago we wrote:

This is a 1s/5s Shaded Dog. TAS List (or at least it used to be). Probably the reason HP likes this LP so much is that it has a very wide soundstage. It also has good solid weight. A little soft on top, but that comes with the territory.

This is a very old review, probably from about 15 years ago. I don’t think I could recommend this record today. It probably belongs on this list, but I cannot truthfully say that it does one way or another. As I recall, the copies I’ve played more recently were not impressive.

If I played it today, would I find it to be as bad as this Living Stereo pressing? Who knows? That experiment has not been run.

Classic Records remastered a version of the album in 1995. In another listing we mentioned that Classic had the habit of  equalizing their classical records to make them all but intolerable on a modern hi-fidelity system:

Classic, as is their wont, boosted the upper midrange, and that, coupled with their transistory mastering equipment, makes the strings brighter, grainier and yet somehow lacking in texture and sheen compared to the originals (a clear sign of a low-res cutting chain).

Once you recognize that quality in the sound of a record it’s hard to ignore, and I hear it on practically every Classic Record I play. This commentary has more on the subject.

RCA is more famous for its string tone than anything else. If the strings on the Classic Records LPs don’t bother you, you can save yourself a lot of money by not buying vintage RCA pressings, and get a lot quieter vinyl to boot.

Here are some other records that are good for testing string tone and texture.

Another label you are no doubt familiar with used to make ridiculously bright classical records. Here is one of their worst.

If you would like to see other records with string tone we found to be too bright, click here.

Some Advice

We much prefer Mravinsky’s performances of the later symphonies, but good sounding copies of his records are just too hard to find, and may in fact not be findable, so we have never actually done a shootout for any of them.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Spirit

More Earth, Wind and Fire

More Recordings by George Massenburg

  • This outstanding pressing of Spirit boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big, clear, tubey, sweet ANALOG sound – we played it good and loud and it was ROCKIN’!
  • If you like Pop Music, Soul Music, or EWF’s groundbreaking hybridization of the two, you have to love these classic albums from the ’70s
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the soul powerhouse didn’t let anyone down (either commercially or creatively) on the outstanding Spirit, which boasted hits ranging from the optimistic “On Your Face” and the passionate funk classic “Getaway” to the poetic ballad “Imagination”… even if one didn’t take EWF’s calls for unity, hard work, self-respect, and faith in God to heart, they had no problem with their solid grooves.”

Every track Maurice White ever produced was a testimony to his deep understanding and prodigious talent for crafting the perfect pop song, complete with arrangements for nine pieces as tight as the matching sequined suits the band wore. Fortunately for we analog types, EWF was an audiophile-oriented band, producing some of the best sounding ’70s multi-track recordings of the day. “Getaway” is killer on this copy.

There may in fact be a few too many multi-tracks, causing the typical copy of the record to get strident and congested in the loud vocal passages, contributing to the somewhat hot upper mids in some of the mixes (which is no doubt the fault of George Massenburg, whose engineering on even his best days tends to be somewhat sparkly).

Even though we are not in the business of selling typical copies — what we offer are very good ones at the very least, and superb ones at the upper end of the range — we should be clear that these problems can be heard to some degree on even the best copies we auditioned.

What we’re looking for is sound that is as rich, smooth, sweet, and tonally correct as we can find. It doesn’t have to be perfect; it really can’t be, anyway. It just has to be the best we can find after going through a big pile of copies, because if we can’t find it I don’t know how anyone else can. It’s the same process no matter who does it, and who else does it at this scale but us? It may not take a village, but it at least takes a sizeable crew to sort through a dozen or more copies of the same album time and time again.

Fortunately we did manage to find copies in which the sound was big — “wall to wall” as we like to say — and on the best of them the presence of the vocalists puts them right in front of you. For the most part you can clearly make out each of the voices that make up the harmonically-complex choruses. What a sound! Nobody harmonizes better than these guys, partly because no other band has anyone remotely as talented as the preternaturally gifted Philip Bailey to sing the superhuman falsetto parts the way he does.

For audiophiles who like to play their music loud, the sound on the best copies can be GLORIOUS!

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The Beatles – Abbey Road

More of The Beatles

More Top 100 Rock and Pop Albums

  • An Out-Of-This-World UK pressing of The Beatles’ last and arguably greatest album, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • The “medley” on side two in Triple Plus sound? On today’s modern systems, this copy can take you on a trip with The Beatles you could not have imagined was even possible when the record was released
  • The stereo to play it didn’t exist back then, but it does now!
  • This pressing might just give you a new appreciation for one of the Greatest Rock Albums of All Time, The Beatles’ Final Musical Statement, their Magnum Opus (along with Sgt. Pepper, of course)
  • 5 stars, a permanent member of the Better Records Top 100, and a true rock and pop Demo Disc

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Bach / Suite No. 2 / Janigro – Reviewed in 2007

Our 2007 listing for this album presented it this way:

A 1S/1S Indianapolis pressing with A1 metal mothers from 1960 with sweet sound.

Perfectly fitting for these Baroque pieces recorded in Italy.

UPDATE 2022

In 2007, we typically did not have the number of copies needed for a shootout, so records such as this one would be auditioned and, if they sounded good, sold on that basis. We judged records like this one on their absolute sound as opposed to the Hot Stamper shootout approach we use today, which gives us the record’s relative sound.

1s doesn’t mean much to us now, and even back then we knew better than to put much stock in it. We had been actively selling Living Stereo and other vintage Golden Age pressings starting in the late ’80s.

We knew from playing scores of them that often the best sounding pressings had stampers between 10s and 20s. This was true for LSC 1817, 2446 and no doubt many others that I can no longer remember.

This commentary addresses the issue — or should I say the myth? — of the 1s stamper.

Our 2007 Review

For those of you who are fans of this kind of music, you will find much to like on this rare early pressing.

It’s the first stereo recording of Bach’s Second Orchestral Suite for Flute and Strings.

The Solisti di Zagreb comprises 7 violinists, 3 violists, two cellists, in addition to Janigro and one double bass player. This album features three outstanding soloists: Jean-Pierre Rampal on flute, Robert Veyron-Lacroix on harpsichord and Jelka Stanic on violin.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of these older reviews are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding the best sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s. We found the records you see in these listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described in the listing and priced according to how good the sound and surfaces seemed to us at the time.

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since then.

Nowadays, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions along with a number of other pressings, awarded sonic grades, then carefully condition checked for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone, besides us, would ever be able to do the kind of work we do.

Every record we offer is unique, and 100% guaranteed to satisfy or your money back.


New to the Blog? Start Here

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

More Classical and Orchestral Commentaries and Reviews

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

The Shootout Video Is Here!

Geoff Edgers’ Washington Post article “The Search for the Perfect Sound,” in which he talks to lots of audiophiles and music lovers about his personal journey into the world of audiophile equipment and records, is now active on their website.

NEWSFLASH! This is currently the most popular story/video on the WAPO website! Number One with a bullet, baby.

Don’t miss the video below of yours truly doing a shootout for Tapestry.

Part of the attraction of course is that I’m the guy they love to hate. Just check out the comments.

And please add some of your own. You are the only people on the planet qualified to talk about Hot Stampers because you are the only ones who have heard them on your own stereos with your own two ears.

Why should anyone care what somebody else has to say about something that that person has never experienced? The reason we stopped posting on the Hoffman website back in 2002 was simply the fact that I was tired of arguing with people that have strong opinions about the results of experiments they have never run.

Hot Stamper Shootouts are simply our way of doing blinded experiments on various pressings of records. We eschew theories and conjecture. We prefer observations and data. We write about these issues a lot here on the blog for those who would like to learn more about records. If you already know it all, this is probably not a blog you will find of much value.

I will be posting some comments soon, mostly about all the stuff that got left on the cutting room floor. We spent most of the time with some orange label Vertigo pressings of Dire Straits’ first album, finding a White Hot Stamper LP out of the batch we played, then comparing our records to the execrable Mobile Fidelity 45 RPM 2 Disc pressing, a pressing so bad it defies understanding. But that is another story for another day!

I had eye surgery on my right earlier on the day of the interview, so hopefully that accounts for some of my squinty appearance.

I have also been invited to participate in a Reddit Q&A sometime next week, discussing the issues raised in the article or video anyone would like to ask about, so stay tuned for that, and I hope you will participate as well.

Our customers have plenty of their own Hot Stamper stories to tell, and I hope to hear from some of you on that Reddit panel.

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Herbie Mann – Returns To The Village Gate

More Herbie Mann

Hot Stamper Pressings of Superb Jazz Recordings in Stock

  • Herbie Mann’s 1963 release makes its Hot Stamper debut on this early Atlantic Blue & Green label pressing with phenomenal you-are-there sound
  • You won’t believe how good the Live Jazz Club sound captured on this album is, but it might take a White Hot Stamper pressing like this one to really make the case
  • This is an exceptionally well recorded jazz flute album, and if you want to hear this kind of sound, you going to need an early ’60s pressing, because none of the reissues we played even came close
  • “By 1961, flutist Herbie Mann was really starting to catch on with the general public. This release, a follow-up to his hit At the Village Gate…features Mann in an ideal group with either Hagood Hardy or Dave Pike on vibes, Ahmed Abdul-Malik or Nabil Totah on bass, drummer Rudy Collins and two percussionists. Mann really cooks on four of his own originals, plus ‘Bags’ Groove,’ blending in the influence of African, Afro-Cuban and even Brazilian jazz.”
  • A Jazz Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of Bossa Nova music
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Pink Floyd Sounds Terrible on this Japanese “Audiophile” Pressing

Pink Floyd Hot Stamper Pressings Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for The Wall

This Japanese Import is one of the dullest, muddiest, worst sounding copies of The Wall we have ever played. It is clearly made from a second generation tape (or worse!).

And somehow this pressing, or one very much like it, ended up as on the TAS Super Disc List. I would hope that the copy Harry played sounded a whole lot better than this one.

And the CBS Half-Speed is every bit as bad!

How is it that the worst sounding pressings are so often marketed to audiophiles as superior to their mass-produced counterparts? In our experience, more often than not they are just plain awful, inferior in every way but one: surface quality.

Dear Audiophiles, stop collecting crappy audiophile pressings with quiet vinyl and just switch to CD already.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – Japanese Pressings

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to Understanding The Fundamentals

Bill Evans – Conception

More Bill Evans

  • This wonderful Milestone Two-Fer from 1981 boasts STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on the other three – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, big and lively, with wonderful clarity in the mids and highs
  • 4 stars: “Even in 1956, Evans had his own chord voicings and a lyrical yet swinging style… A strong start to a significant career.”
  • “In addition, there is a full album of previously unreleased music: an alternate take of ‘No Cover, No Minimum,’ an unaccompanied version of ‘Some Other Time’ from 1958 and four solo pieces that Evans cut in 1962, his first recordings after the tragic death of his bassist Scott LaFaro.”
  • If you’re a Bill Evans fan, this All Tube Recording released in 1957 should make a welcome addition to your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1957 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Annie Lennox – Diva

More Annie Lennox

More Debut Albums of Interest

  • This vintage import offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound for both sides of this Annie Lennox classic from 1992
  • Dramatically bigger, richer, smoother, more transparent and just more ANALOG sounding than any other copy you’ve heard, guaranteed or your money back
  • “State-of-the-art soul pop, Annie Lennox’s solo debut is sonically gorgeous…” – Rolling Stone
  • “Diva glides with a rich, feminine dignity that stands tall in pop history.” – Slant
  • If you’re a fan of the Ms Lennox, this debut solo album from 1992 surely belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1992 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

By 1992 records like this were only released on import vinyl and typically went out of print soon after they started their descent down the pop charts. I used to sell them back in the day and supplies were extremely limited and unpredictable. And once they were gone they were virtually never reissued. All of those factors conspire to make the cost of acquiring the mintiest pressings from overseas fairly high, and of course the main reason you have never seen the album on our site before.

Be that as it may, we have this copy available and it is not only wonderful sounding but the music is every bit as good as I remember it. (more…)