Debut Albums of Interest

Crack The Sky – Crack The Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This White Hot Stamper pressing of the first and best album by the legendary-but-now-mostly-forgotten American Prog band Crack The Sky shows just how amazingly well recorded their debut really was.

This is Big Production rock that pulls out all the stops and then some, with a massive Beatlesque string section, horns, synths, backward guitars and every other kind of studio effect that they could work out.

Much like Ambrosia’s debut (another unknown band on a small label), such an ambitious project was clearly an effort to make a Grand Musical Statement along the lines of Sgt. Pepper, Crime of the Century, Close to the Edge, The Original Soundtrack and Dark Side of the Moon, all albums I suspect this band revered, having played them countless times.

In the ’70s I was a huge fan of those albums too. (Still am of course; check out ouTop 100 if you don’t believe me. They’re all in there.) I played them more times than I can remember, with Crack The Sky’s albums spending plenty of time — heavy rotation you could say — on the turntable in those days. To my mind, speaking as a fan and an audiophile, the first Crack the Sky album succeeds brilliantly on every level: production, originality, songwriting, technical virtuosity, musical consistency and, perhaps most importantly for those of you who have managed to make it this far, Top Quality Audiophile Sound.

This is simply a great album of adventurous, highly melodic proggy rock. If you like the well known bands that made the classic albums cited above, there’s a very good chance you will like this much less well known band’s first album also. (more…)

Eddie Money – Eddie Money

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  • Two incredible sides each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it; the first copy to hit the site in many years!
  • Both of these sides are super rich and full-bodied with wonderfully present vocals and a huge punchy bottom end; Bruce Botnick’s engineering ensures the sound is big and lively 
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “With much of the same urgency Money stands as perhaps a lighter but still gutsy-voiced Bruce Springsteen. His performance exudes a certain authenticity of main line rock without seeming derivative or repetitious.” – Billboard 

The average copy is way too compressed, which kills the top end (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 do, you know pretty 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. (more…)

The Flying Burrito Bros. – The Gilded Palace of Sin

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The Gilded Palace of Sin

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  • A wonderful original pressing of this Country Rock classic with very good Hot Stamper sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl from start to finish
  • Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman fused folk and country with rock and soul influences on this superb debut release
  • 5 stars: “The Gilded Palace of Sin, was where [Gram] revealed the full extent of his talents, and it ranks among the finest and most influential albums the [country-rock] genre would ever produce… no one ever brought rock and country together quite like the Flying Burrito Brothers, and this album remains their greatest accomplishment.” 

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Stephen Stills – Bill Halverson’s Engineering Masterpiece?

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

When all the elements are working together as they do here, the music on Steve Stills’ first album is postively AMAZING. Until I hear something better, I’m going to have to call this BILL HALVERSON‘s Engineering Masterpiece.* Yes, on the best copies it’s that good.

*We have now heard something even better, an album from earlier in the same year in fact, Deja Vu.

We’ve had an unbelievably hard time finding copies that lived up to our expectations, prompting much of my crew to argue that it just could not be done. We didn’t find copies that sounded just as good as I remembered — no, we found copies that went BEYOND what I had hoped for.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Both sides are rich and full-bodied, as well as transparent, with lots of separation between the parts. Most copies tend to be murky, thick, and veiled. The overall sound here is airy, open, and spacious, with TONS of ambience. (more…)

Paul McCartney – McCartney

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McCartney

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  • This copy of McCartney’s Apple debut boasts killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and rich, with plenty of low end, strong midrange presence and the kind of spatiality that will fill your entire listening room
  • Record Collector highlighted “Every Night”, “Junk,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” as songs that “still sound absolutely effortless and demonstrate the man’s natural genius with a melody.”
  • A Top 100 pick and Paul McCartney’s One and Only Masterpiece – a Must Own when it sounds this good!

*NOTE: A mark makes three very light ticks at the end of track four, Every Night.

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room. (more…)

The Doors – The Doors – Rating the DCC LP

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The Doors – The Doors

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Sonic Grade: B

We used to like the Doors First album on DCC back when it came out in the late ’90s; it sure beat the MoFi and every other pressing I had around, including the original gold label Elektra pressings. But much water has gone under that bridge. There have been countless audio revolutions, as well as the improved record cleaning technologies we tout at every turn. Without them old records just sound like old records, and the DCC pressing will be better. 

But with them, and lots of other changes, the right original stomps all over the DCC.

Hey, We Was Wrong, and we’re not too proud to admit it. If you have the DCC and want to know what you’re missing, a Hot Stamper is the ticket.

It will cost you a fair bit more than the DCC, but the difference in sound should more than justify the difference in price if this is an album that is important to you.  (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater…

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Creedence Clearwater…

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  • An insanely good copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish  
  • These sides are exceptionally low-distortion, lively, solid and dynamic – just what this music needs
  • Probably the most difficult CCR studio album to find with great sound – and here it is!
  • 4 stars: “… the band’s sound is vibrant, with gutsy arrangements that borrow equally from Sun, Stax, and the swamp.”
  • Featuring classics such as I Put a Spell on You, the extended-length jam Susie Q (8:37, perfect for Underground Radio), The Working Man, Porterville and more

It’s unlikely you will be demonstrating your system with this record, but you may find yourself enjoying the hell out of it for what it is — an early example of Roots Rock that still holds up today.

This is an album that’s nearly impossible to find with excellent sound and clean surfaces. This is one of the best copies we’ve managed to get on the site in the last year by a HUGE margin. (more…)

The Police – Outlandos d’Amour

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Outlandos d’Amour

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  • One of the best copies to hit the site in quite a while – Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Few audiophiles (I’m guessing) know how well recorded this album is – you need just the right UK pressing to show you what’s really on the tape
  • Roxanne, So Lonely, Can’t Stand Losing You all sound amazing on these Shootout Winning (or close to them) sides
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Although Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland were all superb instrumentalists with jazz backgrounds, it was much easier to get a record contract in late-’70s England if you were a punk/new wave artist, so the band decided to mask their instrumental prowess with a set of strong, adrenaline-charged rock, albeit with a reggae tinge. ” 

What’s amazing about this copy? There are SWEET HIGHS and AMBIENCE that we didn’t think were possible – and it ROCKS! Whatever it’s doing, it sure doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it.

Not only does the high end exist, but it sounds sweet and doesn’t rip your ears out of your earsockets (trust me, I’m a doctor). This is vitally important in songs like “Roxanne” where Andy Summers’ reggae influenced guitar can sound squawky and brittle if there is too much compression. (more…)

Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Leonard Cohen

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Songs Of Leonard Cohen

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  • A KILLER sounding original 360 copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too  
  • Bigger, richer and clearer than any other copy we played – the wonderfully intimate, breathy vocals are the key to these amazing sounding pressings
  • Sometimes the conventional wisdom is true, and this record makes the case as well as any we play – the right original Columbia pressings are in a league of their own
  • 5 stars: “A breathtaking and perfect debut, Songs of Leonard Cohen marked the emergence of one of the most enduring, unique, and brilliant voices in popular music… A masterpiece of perversity and pain.”

*NOTE: There is a mark that plays eight times, mostly lightly, near the end of track four.

Get ready for some serious goosebumps! If this copy of Songs Of Leonard Cohen doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will.

We’ve played a ton of 360s and Red Labels and copies that sound as good as this one are clearly the exception and not the rule.

The Red Label pressings from the ’70s can be quite good if you know which are the good stampers and which to avoid, information that the average audiophile record lover would have a hard time coming by. (more…)

Blind Faith – Blind Faith – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This early British pressing SLAUGHTERED all the other pressings we played it against! It’s the Blind Faith you’ve been waiting for: Tubey Magical, Transparent, full of Life and Energy — dear friends, it’s all here! And the vinyl is some of the quietest we’ve ever heard for this album.

Sick of buying one harsh, thin, distorted, murky LP after another in a vain attempt to find a copy that reminds you of why you LOVED this record so much when it came out back in 1969?

(Assuming you’re as old as I am; we had the 8 track tape that could play in the car and the house — music was so convenient back then!)

Well look no further! This is no audiophile made-from-the-master-tape snake oil. This is the real thing. This copy is guaranteed to blow the bad memories of all those bad versions you’ve owned in the past right out of your memory banks. (E.G., MoFi LP and Gold CD, Simply Vinyl LP, the new Heavy Vinyl version if there is one, and anything else that comes out from here until the end of time.) Face it: It’s all JUNK compared to a record like this. (more…)