Debut Albums of Interest

Steely Dan – A Killer Can’t Buy a Thrill (and Some Lessons We Learned)

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From the moment the needle hit the groove on side one, we were treated to some of the best sound we’ve ever heard for this album.

Both sides have an incredibly tight and punchy bottom end, with the kind of energy and WHOMP that brings this music to life! The soundfield is BIG, WIDE, and OPEN, with a three-dimensional quality that we didn’t hear on other copies. The top end is silky sweet — just listen to the cymbals on Do It Again.

Dirty Work sounds superb here — rich and sweet mids, breathy brass, and lots of texture to the vocals. Often this track sounds dull and dubby, but it’s actually just a case of the mix being smoother than most of the other songs on the album. If this track sounds smooth, and the other songs sound right, the tonality is correct for the whole side, because that’s what the best copies sound like.

Flip the record over and the good times begin all over again. Elliot Randall’s guitar on Reeling In The Years has the meaty texture and uncanny presence to take the song to an entirely new level. Fire In The Hole is exceptionally dynamic with real weight to the piano, and the double tracked vocals on Turn That Heartbeat Over Again sound rich and poppy the way they should.

Combine two sides this good and press them on fairly quiet vinyl and you have yourself an LP that’s practically a FLUKE. (more…)

Eddie Money – Eddie Money – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES, both clocking in at or just shy of our top grade of A+++! The typical pressing doesn’t sound anywhere near this good — which is a shame, because when you get a White Hot Stamper copy like this, the music is a lot of fun. 

Side One

A+++, absolutely As Good As It Gets! The bottom end is solid and punchy, the top is open and transparent, and there’s plenty of fullness and presence in the mids. Nothing else in our shootout could compare to this one!

Side Two

A++ to A+++, very nearly as good as side one! The life and energy here are off-the-charts. Pay particular attention to the drums — it’s a rare copy that reproduces them with this kind of snap and punch!

The average copy is way too compressed, which kills the highs (by making the cymbals aggressive) and the vocals too midrangy. When you’ve got a copy of Eddie Money’s debut album that’s doing what it’s supposed to, you know it quickly. The highs are sweet and extended, the vocals are present, but without any spit or strain, and there is solid bass and low end propelling everything else forward.

Eddie Money don’t get no respect, and for the most part he doesn’t deserve any. He’s only made one good record: this one. Fortunately, it’s a GREAT one and we don’t have to play his other crappy ones. Thank God. This guy had so much promise, based soley on his debut here, and he turned into just another mainstream rock hack.

He lost his brilliant guitarist and arranger, Jimmy Lyon, soon after this first album was made, and that may account for his slide into mediocrity. But this record is outstanding from first note to last. If at the end of the second track — a cover of You Really Got A Hold On Me — you are not rockin’ out, then Eddie Money is not for you. I love this album and I have played it scores of times. (more…)

Roxy Music – Roxy Music – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

The legendary first Roxy Music album returns to the site in tip top White Hot Stamper form, boasting no less than an incredible A+++ White Hot Side Two coupled with a superb A++ Super Hot Side One! Folks, it doesn’t get much better than this!

In considering both music and sound, this is arguably the best record the band ever made. Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album has the kind of dynamic, energetic, POWERFUL sound that their other records simply never show us. And we’ve played them by the dozens, so there’s a pretty good chance we will never find copies with the abundant richness and power we found here. (more…)

Randy Newman – 12 Songs

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It’s taken a long time, but we’ve finally found a 12 Songs that truly knocked us out. Randy Newman fans are going to flip out over this one.

You get a very strong bottom end, lovely richness and warmth, real space and separation between the instruments and wonderful immediacy throughout. The heavy, “swampy” vibe of the music comes through well without the sound getting too murky or muddy.

This is a tough album to come by in clean condition, so I wouldn’t expect us to find another copy this amazing any time soon. Don’t miss this chance to hear just how wonderful this album can sound.

Problems to Watch For

Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension, the kind that is only found on the best copies. 

Smeary, veiled, top end-challenged pressings were regularly produced over the years. They are the rule, not the exception. (more…)

The Police – Outlandos d’Amour – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

This Minty A&M LP has TWO AMAZING SIDES on QUIET VINYL! We listened to more than a dozen copies of this album — imports, promos, and domestics — and nothing came close to this copy! 

Halfway through this shootout, our mood here had become somber. We were innundated with dull, overly compressed, harsh sounding copies of a record that’s supposed to be upbeat and fun — especially on Side Two. Muck!! (more…)

Carly Simon – Carly Simon

More Carly Simon

Carly Simon – Carly Simon

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  • Both sides of this original Elektra LP earned excellent Double Plus (A++) grades for their sound and play exceptionally quietly
  • Legendary producer and engineer Eddie Kramer lends his talent to this album and knows how to get the best sound
  • That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be is the killer track here and it sounds fantastic on this copy
  • Can you believe that the producer and engineer of Carly’s 1971 debut here is none other than Eddie Kramer!?  

It’s not an audiophile knockout like Dark Side of the Moon, nor is it trying to be. The richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies are exactly what you’d be looking for on this heavily-produced pop album, and this copy gives you that sound like no other copy you’ve ever heard. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Song To A Seagull

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  • This stunning copy boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • The vocals are breathy and clear, and the overall sound is rich, full and Tubey Magical with especially lovely guitar tone
  • Our favorite early Joni Mitchell album by far – as good as her others are, this one has a special charm we can find on no other record, by Joni or anyone else
  • “What sets this release apart from those of other confession-style singer/songwriters of the time is the craft, subtlety, and evocative power of Mitchell’s lyrics and harmonic style… “

I loved this album from the minute I first heard it; all of side one is magical in a way that no other Joni album is. Is it the particular guitar tunings she was using? The minor key melodies? Whatever she did, however she did it, the result is an absolutely SUBLIME folk album, as unique in its own way as Leonard Cohen’s debut.

I put this one right up with her best, which are of course the ones we’ve done Hot Stamper shootouts for, of course, and on any given day I would rather play side one of this album than any of the others. (more…)

Brewer & Shipley – Down In L.A. – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

More Brewer and Shipley

More Down in L.A.

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

One of the BEST copies we’ve played in many years, close to five I would guess. Brewer and Shipley’s first and only release for A&M has long been a Desert Island disc in my world. I consider it one of the top debuts of all time, although it’s doubtful many will agree with me about that since I have yet to meet anyone who has ever even heard of this album, let alone felt as passionate as I do about it.

To me this is a classic of Hippie Folk Rock, along the lines of The Grateful Dead circa American Beauty, surely a touchstone for the genre. It’s overflowing with carefully-crafted (B and S apparently were obsessive perfectionists in the studio) inspired material and beautifully harmonized voices backed by (mostly) acoustic guitars. The Beatles pulled it off masterfully on Help and Rubber Soul. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Piper at the Gates of Dawn

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

Rich, Tubey Magical and full-bodied with a big, solid bottom. The energy is phenomenal, with tremendous separation between the instruments and real depth to the soundfield. This is the sound of the Master Tape, make no mistake about it. 

Side two is nearly as amazing, earning a Super Hot grade for so many of the sonic qualities we enjoyed on the first side. It’s smooth in a good way, allowing you to really crank the levels and trip out with the crazy psych-rock these guys were making back then.

Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive are especially impressive.

Without a doubt this is by far the best sounding early Floyd record we’ve ever played. You have to wait for 1971’s Meddle before you find sound this good again for Pink Floyd. Once the ’70s arrive the band went on to release four of the best sounding albums of the decade: Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. All four are in our Top 100. Dark Side I would put in any Top Ten worthy of the name.

The Beatles may have owned the ’60s but the ’70s clearly belong to Floyd. (more…)

Dave Mason – Alone Together

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  • This outstanding copy of Mason’s Masterpiece boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Listen to how big and rich the dynamic chorus gets on the first track, Only You Know and I Know – what a thrill to hear it like that
  • A killer Bruce Botnick recording – Tubey Magical Analog, smooth and natural, with the whole production sitting on a rock solid bottom-end foundation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Alone Together represents Dave Mason at his peak… everything comes together perfectly.”

Before I get too far into the story of the sound, I want to say that this album appears to be criminally underrated as music nowadays, having fallen from favor with the passage of time.

It is a surely a masterpiece that belongs in any Rock Collection worthy of the name. Every track is good, and most are amazingly good. There’s no filler here. (more…)