Advice – What to Listen For – Grain

Joe Walsh – So What

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

Welcome to the Club and a remake of Turn to Stone are the big hits on the album. Bill Szymczyk produced and engineered, and most of the Eagles play on Joe’s third solo album, from 1974.

You’ll hear MASTER TAPE SOUND on side two of this 1974 classic, and side one did very well in our shootout as well. You would need a big stack of copies to beat either one of these Hot Sides. If that’s your thing — it’s obviously ours — we say welcome to the club (ahem) and more power to you!

We were impressed with how rich and punchy this copy sounded after hearing dozens of dry, thin, lifeless pressings over the years. Once we had heard at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make the shootout happen.

Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. This side two was a whole different story, earning our top A+++ grade with real energy, surprising dynamics, and lots of that ’70s Tubey Magic we love so much and never tire of talking about. (It’s also a sound that you will have a very hard time finding on most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days as you no doubt know.) (more…)

Joe Walsh – But Seriously, Folks…

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  • This solo effort boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A hard album to find with sound like this AND quiet surfaces, but here one is@
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an undiscerning record buying public
  • 4 1/2 stars: “As far as studio albums go, But Seriously Folks is Joe Walsh’s most insightful and melodic… The album’s introspective outlook glides through rejuvenation (‘Tomorrow,’ ‘Over and Over’), recapturing the simple pleasures of the past (‘Indian Summer’), mid-career indecision, and a melancholy instrumental.”

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Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This original Capitol Orange Label LP has TWO SUPERB sides, with side two earning our top grade of A+++ for its White Hot sound! And side one was nearly as good at A++ to A+++. These are the highest grades we are awarding to any copy on the site, folks. It doesn’t get any better. The sound is uncharacteristically smooth, sweet, clear and Tubey Magical, light years from the grungy grit and grain that plagues most copies of Heart Like a Wheel.

Things are different since our last big shootout back in 2009. We learned a lot about the record and have added plenty of new commentary to back it up. If you’re a fan check it out.

Let’s be honest: the average copy of this album is an audio disaster. Those of you who love this album as much as we do are going to be shocked when you hear how wonderful it can sound. We bet you never imagined it could be this good, and we happily back up that bet with a full money back guarantee!

This shootout was no small project — we dropped the needle on more than a DOZEN copies.This is the only one to earn better than a Super Hot Stamper grade (A++) on both sides. I’ve been playing this album for years, and I can tell you it is no easy task to find this kind of smooth, sweet, analog sound on HLAW. On top of that it’s also full-bodied, lively, and super-transparent. The vocals are breathy and full with incredible immediacy. Folks, the Heart Like A Wheel magic is here. (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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More Bayou Cosmo’s Factory

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

Clean copies of the album are rare enough as it is; good sounding clean copies are as rare for this title as for practically any we offer.

Fortunately we’ve made some strides of late finding the “right’ pressings for this band, and with better cleaning technologies we are 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 enervated, small, lifeless and boring just can’t be what audiophiles want, can they?

Those of you who have been watching the site for a while have probably noticed that we hardly ever list Hot Stamper copies of Creedence records. That’s because it is DARN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE to find copies that sound any good, a fact that many of you have probably stumbled upon on your own.

The typical copy of this album is grainy, murky, and veiled — and that’s just for starters. It took us a HUGE stack of copies to find ANY that had bottom end weight, midrange presence, freedom from grain (mostly) and real energy. (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This is the first White Hot Stamper copy of Bayou Country to ever hit the site. We were shocked at how good this one sounds — on both sides — compared to the copies we’ve heard over the years. It is TOUGH to find a pressing of this album that didn’t turn out bright and edgy, but here’s one that was worth the headache of playing a ton of mediocre copies. Seriously, we played a huge stack of these and most had us running for cover.

Man, the average copy of this album is an unmitigated disaster. Let’s start with the vocals. I’m not sure who’s idea it was to have John Fogerty’s vocals sound as if they were recorded via telephone, but every copy we played had an edgy quality to Fogerty’s voice. On some copies the edge is bad enough to render the copy completely worthless sonically. Who can sit and listen to a record that makes you cringe every time the singer says anything? Not us.

Furthermore, most copies are badly congested and far from transparent. After dropping the needle on the first few copies and hearing the muddy music and gritty vocals we nearly gave up, but I’m glad we stuck to it long enough to find a few copies that did a good job conveying this classic music. (more…)

Jellyfish’s Bellybutton – Not a Perfect Recording, a Good One for Testing Though

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Now She Knows She’s Wrong — another in our series of Home Audio Exercises

I spent quite a few hours tuning up the stereo with side two of the album, specifically the song Now She Knows She’s Wrong, with its glockenspiel, loudly clanging tubular bells and yelling chorus at the end. 

It’s exceedingly hard to get everything right at the same time: the energy, the deepest bass, the extension at the very top of the top end, the greatest transparency, just to mention a few of the main ones. There are always trade-offs, and being able to balance the trade-offs against the gains in these areas and others is a real test of your critical listening skills.

It’s not a perfect recording, and those are usually the ones that can teach you the most about your system’s strengths and weaknesses.

DMM

The problem with the typical copy of this record is gritty, grainy, grungy sound — not the kind that’s on the master tape, the kind that’s added during the mastering and pressing of the record. When that crap goes away, as it so clearly does on side one of the copy we played recently, it lets you see just how good sounding this record can be. And that means REALLY good sounding.

While during the shootout I had completely forgotten that all the domestic pressings of Bellybutton are direct metal mastered. (The import pressings are clearly made from copy tapes and are to be avoided.) It was only afterwards, when looking for stamper variations, that I noticed the DMM in the dead wax . (more…)

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…)