Author: humorem

Balancing Night with Day on Joe Jackson’s Masterpiece from 1982

Night and Day Hot Stampers in Stock

 

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Night and Day is Joe Jackson’s masterpiece. It’s simply WONDERFUL from start to finish. This is adult popular music that belongs in any serious thinking person’s record collection. Not many records from the ’80s sound as natural as this one. It’s analog, that’s for damn sure.

Balancing Night and Day

There are basically four elements that go into the making of Night and Day: vocals; keyboards (mostly the piano); percussion (in the mids and highs) and rhythm (drums and bass).

No two copies will get all of these elements to sound their best. The trick to finding the hotter of the Hot Stamper pressings is to find copies of the album that reproduce these four elements clearly and correctly, in balance, and reveals their placement in a large, three-dimensional studio space.

It may sound easy but I assure you it is not. With this many instruments in the mix it’s a lot to get right.

Vocals

Pop records live and die by the quality of their vocals and Night and Day is no different in that respect. The vocals have to be front and center. Veiling in the midrange costs a fair number of points. They should also be smooth, not thin or edgy. I would rather have slightly veiled vocals relative to thin and edgy ones, but some copies manage to give you full, clear, present vocals, and those are the ones we tend to like the best.

Keyboards

When the sound is thin in the lower midrange and upper bass the piano will lose its weight and solidity. In the denser mixes it can easily get washed out, and nobody wants a washed out piano.

There is no guitar on this record. The piano carries much of the structural energy of the music. You need to be able to hear the piano clearly and hear that it is both full-bodied and percussive.

Percussion

The list of percussion instruments played on this record is long indeed, with congas, bongos, timbales, bells and let us not forget the all-import xylophone. (See the Musicians and Instruments tab above.)Most copies don’t have the extension on the top end to reproduce the harmonics of most of the higher-frequency instruments, but the few that do can show you a world of sound that the other pressings barely hint at.

The percussion also drives the rhythmic energy and fills out the studio space above the vocals. The energy level drops when these instruments aren’t heard properly, and the space of the music shrinks in proportion as well.

The big drum and other percussion instruments that lead off Another World on side one — and by percussion instruments I am also referring to the piano — tell you most everything you need to know. The timbre of that big drum is very pronounced on the better copies.

Rhythm

Another critically important element in a pop/rock record, and especially important to this one. The thinner, somewhat leaned-out copies emphasize the mids and upper-mids too much. They tend to be harsher and more unpleasant. The ones with clear, tight bass and solid drums to anchor the arrangements naturally work the best.

Reissues

Most reissues are clearly made from sub-generation tapes. They sound smeared and dead and are guaranteed to bore you to tears. With the right originals the sound is MAGIC.

Lesser original copies can be grainy, irritating, flat and lifeless. Nothing new there, right? You have to work to find a good Night and Day — or buy one from us because we’ve already done the work!

 

Monk’s Criss-Cross from 1963

1963 – A Great Year for Top Quality Recordings of Timeless Music

When you look closely at all the great records that were released that year — some of which can even be purchased in Hot Stamper form on this very site — you may come to agree with us that 1960 was a wonderful year for recorded music.

Click HERE to see the records currently on the site that were recorded or released in 1963.

And HERE to see the records from 1963 that we’ve reviewed, a substantially larger group as you can imagine, with more than 90 entries at the time of this writing.

 

  • This early stereo pressing won our shootout – Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second
  • Columbia records produced by Teo Macero in the early ’60s have consistently open, natural sound – this one from ’63 is no exception
  • The piano sounds amazing here — natural and dynamic, letting Monk’s passionate playing shine
  • “Thelonious Monk’s second album for Columbia Records features some of the finest work that Monk ever did in the studio with his ’60s trio and quartet … This is prime Monk for any degree of listener.” — Allmusic

 

See all of our Thelonious Monk albums in stock

I wish more Blue Note records had this kind of sound — natural, full-bodied, and sweet up top. The bass here is well-defined with real weight and lots of punch. Monk’s piano sounds correct from the highest notes all the way down to the lower register, and the sax sounds tonally right on the money. The clarity and transparency are superb throughout.

The Piano Is Key

The copies of the album with a piano that sounded lean or hard always ended up having problems with the other instruments as well. (This should not be surprising; the piano was designed to be the single instrument most capable of reproducing the sound of an entire orchestra.)

If you have big, full-range speakers one of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano is WARMTH. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

In other words like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and five gram needles that scrape off the high frequencies. But a few — a very few — copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, showing us the sound we never expected to hear.

 

 

   

The Ultimate Jazz/Rock Fusion Album

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More Jazz/Rock Fusion Albums in Stock

Romantic Warrior is my favorite JAZZ/ROCK FUSION album of all time. As good as the music is, the sound is even better. This is the Jazz/Rock Demo Disc that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my experience, no record of this kind is more DYNAMIC or has better BASS. Not one. Demo Disc doesn’t begin to do this kind of sound justice.

Simply put, not only is this one of the greatest musical statements of all time, it’s one of the great recording statements. Few albums in the history of the world can lay claim to this kind of POWER and ENERGY.

But the Super Sound has a purpose, a raison d’etre. This is the kind of music that requires it; better yet, DEMANDS it. In truth, the sound is not only up to the challenge of expressing the life of the music on this album, it positively ENHANCES it.

Those monster Lenny White drum rolls that run across the soundstage from wall to wall may be a recording studio trick, but they’re there to draw your attention to his amazing powers, and it works! The drums are EVERYWHERE on this album, constantly jumping out of the soundfield and taking the music into the stratosphere where it belongs.
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Listening in Depth to Frank’s Hot Rats

Our Hot Stamper Pressings in Stock

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series., now 85 strong!

Side One

Peaches En Regalia

This track tends to be a bit dull and could use a little sweetening on the top end on almost any copy you find. 1 or 2 dB at 10k might just be what the doctor ordered.

Willie the Pimp

This is one of the two extended tracks on the album; the second track on each side is “the long one,” and they both suffer from the same slight upper midrange boost. This song and The Gumbo Variations on side two are both difficult to turn up due to their tendency to be slightly aggressive.

Son Of Mr. Green Genes

One of the best sounding tracks on the album, and probably the best sound to be found on side one.

Side Two (more…)

This Is Your Idea of Analog?

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Cat Stevens – 200 Grams of Tea for the Tillerman

Dear Record Loving Audiophiles of Earth,

I’m afraid we have some bad news. Regrettably we must inform you that the 2011 edition of Tea for the Tillerman pressed by Analogue Productions on Heavy Vinyl doesn’t sound very good. We know you were all hoping for the best. We also know that you must be very disappointed to hear this unwelcome news.

But the record is what it is, and what it is is not very good. Its specific shortcomings are many and will be considered in at length in our review below.
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Today’s Cool Record Find from 1961 – Jack Sheldon And His All-Star Band

Our White Hot Shootout Winner

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, here’s a copy that’s practically as good as it gets
  • This fun, lively, superbly well-recorded 1961 release is a real SLEEPER of Demo Disc Quality West Coast Jazz
  • Huge, spacious, clear, Tubey Magical, natural and above all REAL, this copy blew our minds when we stumbled on it in our shootout
  • 4 Stars: “High-quality and consistently swinging West Coast jazz … this was the initial album to gain wide recognition and helped to introduce the L.A.-based trumpeter’s talents to the East Coast.”

See all of our Jack Sheldon albums in stock

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If you large group swinging West Coast Jazz is your thing — think Art Pepper Plus Eleven — you should get a big kick out of this one. (more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Zep IV

More on Zep IV

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The Classic 200 Gram Pressing — Dead as a Doornail

It wasn’t that long ago that I thought the Classic 200 gram pressing was the king on this title. In late 2006 I wrote: “You can hear how much cleaner and more correct the mastering is right away…” Folks, I must have been out of my mind.

I wasn’t out of my mind. I just hadn’t gotten my system to the place where it needed to be to allow the better original pressings to sound their best.

(Our EAR 324 phono stage and constantly evolving tweaks to both the system and room are entirely responsible for our ability to reproduce this album correctly. If your equipment, cleaning regimen, room treatments and the like are mostly “old school” in any way, getting the album to sound right will be all but impossible. Without the myriad audio advances of the last decade or so you are just plain out of luck with a Nearly Impossible to Reproduce album such as this.)

Things have changed. The exact same 200 gram review copy now sounds every bit as tonally correct as it used to, and fairly clean too, as described above, but where is the magic? The heavy vinyl pressing is lifeless and boring. All the subtleties of both the music and the sound are missing. More than anything else the Classic sounds crude. You can adjust your VTA until you’re blue in the face, nothing will bring that dead-as-a-doornail LP back to life.

Relatively speaking of course. For twenty eight bucks (when it was in print) can you buy something better? Probably not. (Now it’s $100+ on ebay and at that price you are definitely not getting your money’s worth.) The average IV is really a piece of junk. And if you don’t have at least $10k in your front end (with phono), forget it. It takes top quality equipment to bring this album to life, and you better be prepared to go through a dozen or two copies to find a good one.

See more commentaries as well as our in-stock Led Zeppelin albums

What We Listened For in 2005: Brass Timbre and Tonality

This superb copy just went up today

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

This 2005 commentary discusses how easy it is to be fooled by tweaks that seem to offer more transparency and detail at the expense of weight and heft. It took the brass on this album to set me straight.

I was playing this record today (5/24/05) after having made some changes in my stereo over the weekend, and I noticed some things didn’t sound quite right. Knowing that this is an exceptionally good sounding record, albeit a very challenging one, I started playing around with the stereo, trying to recapture the sound as I remembered it from the last copy that had come in a few months back.

As I tweaked and untweaked the system around this record I could hear immediately what was better and what was worse, what was more musical and what was more Hi-Fi. The track I was playing was Night In Tunisia, which has practically every brass instrument known to man, in every combination one can imagine. Since this is a Mono pressing I didn’t have to worry about silly issues like soundstaging, which can be very deceptive. I was concerned with tonality and the overall presentation of the various elements in the recording.

To make a long story short, I ended up undoing all the things that I had done to the system over the weekend! In other words, what improvements I thought I had made turned out not to be improvements at all. And this is the album that showed me the error of my ways.

Brass instruments are some of the most difficult to reproduce, especially brass choirs. You have to get the leading edges so that the instruments have “bite”. You can’t have too much harmonic distortion or smearing, because harmonic distortion and smearing are very obvious on brass instruments.

But the one thing above all that is intolerable when trying to reproduce brass is a lack of weight or heft. There is nothing worse than thin sounding brass. It becomes hard, shrill, sour and altogether unpleasant. (This is another reason why I don’t like small speakers: they have trouble reproducing the weight of brass instruments, in both jazz and classical music.)

The tweaking I had done over the weekend resulted in greater transparency and openness. But greater transparency and openness at the expense of richness, fullness, correct tonality and proper overall presentation is a bad trade-off. Many audiophiles fall into this trap. I fell into it myself. Thank goodness I had this wonderful jazz record to help me find my way out. If I had been playing Patricia Barber I would have never realized how wrong I had gone.

This is yet another reason that it’s important to play REAL MUSIC recorded by real engineers and not AUDIOPHILE MUSIC recorded by audiophile engineers when adjusting or tweaking your system.

Art Pepper’s Modern Jazz Classic

A Superb Hot Stamper Pressing

  • A Big, Bold and Lively copy, with each side rating a Double Plus (A++) or BETTER for this exceptionally well recorded album
  • The sound is rich, warm and full-bodied, both clear and open — the brass sounds phenomenal on this pressing
  • Here is the Tubey Magic of the originals without the problems that make the average original so much less involving
  • A longtime audiophile favorite – 5 stars on Allmusic: “This is a true classic. Essential music for all serious jazz collections.”

This Contemporary Yellow Label LP has got that Modern Jazz Classics Magic. On a great copy such as this one you can really pick out each of the musicians and follow them throughout the course of the track. When you’re able to appreciate everyone’s contributions you really get a sense of how much work went into the making of this album. It’s nothing short of epic.

This is one DYNAMIC jazz record — drop the needle on any track and prepare yourself to be very impressed. The sound is full-bodied and energetic with tight bass, breathy brass, and lots of ambience.

See all of our Art Pepper albums in stock

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