A List of Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup – Live and Learn, A Lesson from 2011

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This is a classic case of Live and Learn.

We would agree with very little of what we had to say about Goat’s Head Soup as a recording when we wrote about it back in 2011 — and for the previous 35+ years since I first played a domestic original.

Having done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are great sounding pressings to be found, because we found some. The data are in, and now we know just how wrong we were. In our defense, let me just ask one question: Did anybody else know this record was well recorded? I can find no evidence to support anyone having ever taken such a contrarian position.

But we’re taking that position now. All it takes is one great sounding copy to show you the error of your ways, and we had more than one!

Here’s what we had to say back in 2011. After having played dozens of copies and never hearing the record sound good, can you blame us?

This domestic Rolling Stones Records pressing has an A++ side one and an A+ side two. It was dramatically better than most of the copies we played it against, but I want to make it clear that the sound is still pretty rough. There just are not amazing sounding copies of this album out there, but this one was clearly a big step up from the average pressing. It gives you more energy, more presence, more weight down low and more extension up top than the typical copy. If you’re a die-hard Stones fan who wants a good copy of this one for your collection, you’ll have a tough time doing much better than this. Casual Stones fans looking for great sound would be better served waiting for a Hot Stamper copy of Let It Bleed, Beggars Banquet or Sticky Fingers.

Most copies of this record usually sound like compressed cardboard. This is one of a very small number of copies of GHS that I’ve ever heard sound good. This is not the kind of record you’re going to use to show off your stereo or impress your pals, but it should allow you to enjoy the music without terrible sound getting in the way. There are only a few Stones records that can sound amazing, and Goats Head Soup is never gonna be one of them I’m afraid.

Blondie – Parallel Lines – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Can this kind of music get any better? This album is a MASTERPIECE of Pure Pop, ranking right up there with The Cars first album. I can’t think of many albums from the era with the perfect blend of writing, production and musicianship Blondie achieved with Parallel Lines.

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album like this one, sooner or later you will stumble upon The One, and boy did we ever. This side two had OFF THE CHARTS with presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums. It was positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air. There was not a trace of grain, just the silky sweet highs we’ve come to expect from analog done right.  (more…)

Our Favorite Tchaikovsky 1812 – Alwyn on Decca

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1812 / Marche Slave / Alwyn

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

A BEYOND White Hot Quadruple Plus side one – hear Tchaicovsky’s 1812 in Demo Disc sound. This is the most exciting and beautifully played 1812 we know of, with the best sound ever to boot on this copy. This is an exceptional Decca remastering of a superb Golden Age recording on very good vinyl.

The WHOMP FACTOR on this side one has to be heard to be believed. If you’ve got the woofers for it this record is going to rock your world!

Strings Are Key

The lower strings are rich and surrounded by lovely hall space. This is not a sound one hears on record often enough and it is glorious when a pressing as good as this one can make that sound clear to you. (more…)

Joan Baez – Diamonds and Rust – We Broke Through in 2016

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  • A great copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finishi
  • If all you know are the originals you will be surprised at just how rich, natural and Tubey Magical the sound here can be
  • Guaranteed to handily beat the Nautilus Half-Speed as well as the TAS List-approved MoFi (which is awful by the way)
  • Five Stars: “…the real hit was the title track, a self-penned masterpiece and… her finest moment as a songwriter…”

Wonderful sound — rich, full, warm, and sweet. The vocals are full-bodied and breathy. The acoustic guitars are fairly natural for a pop recording from 1975.

Play Jesse on side two to hear the lovely space of the studio, as well as more harmonic extension on the acoustic instruments. Watch out for track two; the EQ on the vocal is always a problem.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Singer Songwriter album. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated Folkie Pop recording from 1975.

The sound varies quite a bit from track to track, no doubt a result of each recording having to be tailored to the different groups of studio cats and the necessity for various overdubs — strings, pedal steel guitars, even some tasteful(!) synths. (more…)

Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

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  • With two seriously good Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this UK LP is sure to be one of the best sounding Roxy Music records you’ll ever play
  • These sides are unbelievably rich and Tubey Magical – Roxy just does not get much better than this!  
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for over ten years – here is one of the better copies we have to show for our effort
  • AMG 5 Stars: “…another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting.”

This album is a MASTERPIECE of Art Rock, Glam Rock and Bent Rock all rolled into one. Spacious, dynamic, present, with HUGE MEATY BASS and tons of energy, the sound is every bit as good as the music. (At least on this copy it is. That’s precisely what Hot Stampers are all about.) (more…)

Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington in 1955

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  • Monk’s brilliant interpretations of Duke Ellington classics come to life with Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides of this wonderful mono LP
  • Clear and open, with rock-solid bass and a present, full-bodied piano, this copy delivers 1955 piano trio magic in spades
  • One of our favorites by Monk, this album includes 8 Ellington classics such as “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Mood Indigo” and quite a few more
  • 4 stars: “The delicacy and inherently intricate melodies that Duke Ellington is best known for are perfectly matched to Monk’s angular and progressive interpretations.” 

This album was originally released on Riverside in 1955, and was the first 12 inch disc the label chose to put out, in mono of course. As we all know, a mono recording only sounds right in mono. And this copy sounds very right indeed.

This copy has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that most modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what good Analog is known for — this sound. (more…)

Billie Holiday – All Or Nothing At All

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I expected our amazing sounding original to win the shootout, but it didn’t!

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The reprocessed fake stereo copy here is to be avoided at all costs. It sounds as bad as any fake stereo record I can remember playing. What were they thinking?

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish, on quiet vinyl to boot 
  • This is one of the best sounding Billie Holiday records we have ever heard – it’s even a clear step up from the originals we had on hand
  • This 2 LP set features most of the tracks from the original release plus another handful of recordings from the same period (1955-1956)
  • “… features some of Billie Holiday’s top Verve performances from the mid-’50s… she runs the emotional gamut from summery optimism to pathos-rich musings. Befitting her perennial after-hours mood, the majority of songs here feature Holiday in a low-down mood of the highest order.” – All Music

Naturally, the highest quality vocal reproduction has to be the main focus on a Hot Stamper pressing for any Billie Holiday record we would offer. Her voice should be rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and present.

In addition to being tonally correct and natural, the pressings we offer must also be highly resolving. With the right room and the right equipment, properly set-up and adjusted of course, you will hear everything that these vintage recordings have to offer, including the three-dimensional space of the studios in which the various sessions were recorded, under the auspices of Norman Granz.

The Sound of the Original

The original Trumpet Player Verve mono we had on hand to play suffered from an EQ problem we run into frequently in our shootouts for vintage vocal albums. Actually, to be clear, there were two main problems in the case of All or Nothing At All: a boosted midrange and occasional sibilance issues. (more…)

Roxy Music’s Music Debut Is a Masterpiece

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – this is some of the most dynamic sound the band achieved
  • Andy Hendriksen’s engineering (over the course of a week!) is superb in all respects and practically faultless
  • A Top 100 album, the band’s Masterpiece, and truly a Must Own Desert Island Disc of Glamorous Arty Rock
  • “Falling halfway between musical primitivism and art rock ambition, Roxy Music’s eponymous debut remains a startling redefinition of rock’s boundaries. Simultaneously embracing kitschy glamour and avant-pop, Roxy Music shimmers with seductive style and pulsates with disturbing synthetic textures.”

Folks, this is a true Demo Disc in the world of Art Rock. It’s rare to find a recording of popular music with DYNAMICS like these. (more…)

The Pretenders – Learning To Crawl – Awesome on the Right German Pressing

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  • The first Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning copy to hit the site in over a year – we’ve never heard it sound better
  • Both sides of this (very specific) German pressing were richer, clearer and more energetic than any of the others we played
  • With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song
  • 5 Stars: “While Hynde hardly held back in her emotionally potent songwriting in the Pretenders’ early work, on Learning to Crawl there’s a gravity to her lyrics that blended with her tough but wiry melodic sense and streetwise intelligence to create a set of truly remarkable tunes…”

This is where Chrissie Hynde matured into a top class songwriter; every track is good and many are brilliant. With Robbie McIntosh having joined the band, this is first and foremost a guitar rock record; his jangly, grungy riffs drive every song. Great songs and great guitar work — what more do you need in a rock record?

Think of Middle of the Road — everything that’s good about this band on this album is there in that song: it’s uptempo, with a driving beat, a rock solid rhythm section and a beautifully distorted guitar out front and high up in the mix.

German Pressings? Why Not British? (more…)

Jethro Tull – Forget the Pink Island Originals

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    • Triple Plus (A+++) on side two and nearly as good on side one – this is one of the best copies to EVER hit the site
    • We haven’t had any copies of this album at all up since 2013, and no White Hot copies since 2008 – it’s that tough to find
    • Guaranteed to MURDER any Pink Label Island original you have ever heard – these are the Hot Stampers
    • Melody Maker thoroughly recommended the album in 1968 for being “full of excitement and emotion” and described the band as a blues ensemble “influenced by jazz music” capable of setting “the audience on fire”. Wikipedia

Folks, this is the best copy we are going to have on the site for a very long time. It took years and hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to get this shootout going and this killer copy is the result. (more…)