Advice – What to Listen For – Grain

Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now – What to Listen For

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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.

Her vocals on both sides can be very DYNAMIC, but only the best copies will present them with no hint of STRAIN or GRAIN, two problems that make most pressings positively painful to listen to at the loud volumes we prefer.

Linda really belts it out on this album — face it, it’s what she does best — and only the rarest copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing. (more…)

Paul Simon – Graceland – When Clarity Is King

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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 Graceland

We regularly do shootouts for Graceland. Having played so many copies over the years we’re become quite familiar with the range of sound on the album, what constitutes good, better and best, and we understand precisely what qualities the premier copy must have in order to win one of our shootouts. 

Above all the thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It has many other good qualities as well: It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals.

The better copies have all these qualities to some degree, but the one thing a good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s especially good about the sound of Graceland. (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…)

Emmylou Harris – Elite Hotel – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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Elite Hote

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

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES, including an AMAZING A+++ SIDE ONE! It is TOUGH to find great sound for this album, but this copy really nailed it. Emmylou’s voice, obviously the key element, is just killer here. Most copies we play have their fair share of problems, but when you get one like this the sonic issues fade into the background, letting you focus on one thing — the MUSIC.   (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country

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Bayou Country

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  • A KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) copy – you won’t find better sound for this band on vinyl 
  • Proud Mary and Good Golly Miss Molly are absolute MONSTERS on this early pressing – you will be floored
  • Our pick for the best sounding CCR recording – when you have a copy that sounds like this one, and, trust me, a copy as good sounding as this one is tough to find
  • 4 1/2 stars: “All the songs add up to a superb statement of purpose, a record that captures Creedence Clearwater Revival’s muscular, spare, deceptively simple sound as an evocative portrait of America.”

It’s beyond tough to find copies that aren’t bright, gritty, grainy or edgy — that’s how most Creedence records sound I’m afraid — but here’s a Bayou Country that’s fairly smooth, exceptionally lively, mostly transparent and just plain rockin’ enough to make your day. (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory

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Cosmo’s Factory

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  • KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last – it doesn’t get any better than this folks! 
  • The sound is incredibly present and punchy with great clarity, excellent bass, freedom from grain and real swamp rockin’ energy
  • So many great songs: Run Through the Jungle, Lookin’ Out My Back Door, Who’ll Stop the Rain, etc.
  • A 5 star album and arguably the best record the band ever made: “…an album made during stress and chaos, filled with raging rockers, covers, and intense jams…”

We’ve made some strides of late (in 2015 as a matter of fact) finding the “right’ pressings for this band on some of their albums, especially this one, and with improved cleaning technologies we’re finding that the better copies such as this one are sounding the way we want our Creedence records to sound.  

Note that the Hoffman reissues and the MoFi pressing sound nothing like the Creedence records we all grew up with, and records that sound that small, lifeless, boring or wrong just can’t be what audiophiles want, can they? (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Creedence Clearwater…

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

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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

I Put a Spell on You 
The Working Man
Suzie Q

Side Two

Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)
Get Down Woman 
Porterville 
Gloomy 
Walk on the Water

AMG Review

Released in the summer of 1968 — a year after the summer of love, but still in the thick of the Age of Aquarius – Creedence Clearwater Revival’s self-titled debut album was gloriously out-of-step with the times, teeming with John Fogerty’s Americana fascinations. While many of Fogerty’s obsessions and CCR’s signatures are in place — weird blues (“I Put a Spell on You”), Stax R&B (Wilson Pickett’s “Ninety-Nine and a Half”), rockabilly (“Susie Q”), winding instrumental interplay, the swamp sound, and songs for “The Working Man” — the band was still finding their way. Out of all their records (discounting Mardi Gras), this is the one that sounds the most like its era, thanks to the wordless vocal harmonies toward the end of “Susie Q,” the backward guitars on “Gloomy,” and the directionless, awkward jamming that concludes “Walking on the Water.” Still, the band’s sound is vibrant, with gutsy arrangements that borrow equally from Sun, Stax, and the swamp.

We Shootout Cosmo’s Factory

[Note that we have not played the Heavy Vinyl pressing of CCR’s first album. Having heard AP’s Cosmo’s Factory we have no intention of playing any CCR title on that label. We’re assuming, rightfully or otherwise, that the AP versions will not be to our liking. Ultimately we guarantee that our Hot Stampers will beat any pressing you may have, including, perhaps especially, any of those by Analogue Productions.]

Our story begins: Years ago a customer sent me his copy of the Analogue Productions LP (mastered by Hoffman and Gray) in order to carry out a little shootout I had planned among the five copies I could pull together: two MoFi’s, the Fantasy ORC reissue, a blue label original, the AP, and another reissue.

Let’s just say there were no real winners, but there sure were some losers.

My take on the Hoffman version is simply this: it has virtually no trace of TUBEY ANALOG MAGIC. None to speak of anyway. It sounds like a clean, tonally correct but fairly bass-shy CD. No pressing I played managed to be so tonally correct and so boring at the same time. The MoFi has some funny EQ colorations, the kind that bug the hell out of me on 98% of their crappy catalog, but at least it sounds like analog. It’s warm, rich and sweet. The AP copy has none of those qualities.

This is simply more pointless 180g sound, to my ear anyway. I couldn’t sit through it with a gun to my head.

It’s an all-but-IMPOSSIBLE record to find with good sound. It’s shocking how bad most of the original blue label pressings are. No top, no bass and hard mids — not exactly a recipe for audiophile happiness. The ORC (Original Rock Classics) Fantasy reissues we’ve played are usually a joke as well; there’s not a whole lot above 6k on most of those pressings and the bass is hollow.

Bottom line: You would need a LOT of vintage tubes in your system to get the AP record to sound right, and then everything else in your collection would sound wrong.

Jellyfish – Bellybutton

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Bellybutton

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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

One of the very best copies we’ve ever heard! Both sides earned top honors in our shootout, with side one even surpassing our reference copy to earn a “Four Plus” A++++ grade. It goes far beyond anything we’ve heard before.

Out of the thousands of Hot Stampers we’ve listed over the years, less than twenty have earned Four Pluses. That alone makes this a very special copy indeed. (more…)

Badfinger – Straight Up – What to Listen For

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

The best sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can’t begin to reproduce. The sound on the right pressings just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies are supposed to (but rarely) do.  (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River (from Way Back)

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

The first White Hot copy of Green River to ever hit the site! We’ve been trying this one for years but it’s insanely tough to find copies that really deliver. Creedence recordings tend to be somewhat rough and raw and this one is no exception, but this copy brought the music to life in a way that very few before it ever have on our system.

Green River isn’t ever going to be a knockout demo disc, but a copy like this allows you to enjoy the music as it was recorded. Most copies are so dull, grainy and lifeless that someone would have to wake you at the end of a side! (more…)