Advice – What to Listen For – Presence

The Doors – The Doors – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

Another MoFi LP debunked.  

If anyone still thinks that this pressing is anything but a bad joke played on the audiophile public — so sucked out in the midrange, bass-shy and compressed to death — that person has a way to go in this hobby. A very long way. You can hear how bad it sounds from another room.

But wait a minute. I liked the MoFi just fine when it came out. I guess I had a way to go in this hobby too. That was back in the early ’80s. I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in the last thirty five plus years. I’m pretty sure we can offer you a better record now. (more…)

Julie London – Julie… At Home in 1959

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

If you’re a fan of intimate female vocals – the kind without a trace of digital reverb – you should get quite a kick out of Julie… At Home. And unless I miss my guess you’ll be the first and only person on your block to own it! (That’s not a bad thing considering the average person’s taste in music.) 

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These Liberty pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience (or at least as much ambience as can be heard in Julie’s living room), dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here. (more…)

The Who – Live At Leeds

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  • A hard-rockin’ copy – this British Track pressing boasts huge and powerful Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • The recording is huge and lively with startling dynamics and in-the-room-presence like nothing you’ve heard
  • The drums are so solid, punchy and present they put to shame 99 out of 100 rock records you’ve ever played
  • 5 stars in Allmusic – a Rolling Stone readers’ poll in 2012 ranked it the best live album of all time!
  • Cited as the best live rock recording of all time by The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the BBC Q magazine, and Rolling Stone. In 2003, it was ranked number 170 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Killer sound for this classic live album! Get ready to rock out, as this is one of the BEST SOUNDING live albums ever recorded. Young Man Blues on a copy such as this has drums that are so solid, punchy and present they positively put to shame the drum sound on 99 out of 100 rock records! Keith Moon lives on! (more…)

The Doors Debut – What to Listen For

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What to Listen For? you ask?

ENERGY and RAW POWER. Few audiophiles have any idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don’t do a very good job of encoding the life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day, regardless of whether that day is in 1967 or 2017.

The first Doors album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most powerful recording in the entire Doors catalog.

Huh? I’m guessing this statement does not comport well with your own experience of the album, and there’s a good reason for that: not many copies of the album provide strong evidence for any of the above qualities. Most pressings are opaque, flat, thin, veiled, compressed, lifeless and sound exactly the way so many old rock records sound: like an old rock record. (more…)

The Eagles’ Long Run – Don’t Blame Bill Szymczyk If Your Copy Doesn’t Sound Good

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  • This copy has a rockin’ Long Run like you have never heard, with Double Plus (A++) sound all around 
  • The sound is full, rich and vibrant with impressive punch down low and relatively smooth up top
  • The best songs prove that the Eagles were still at the height of their powers in 1979
  • “Overall, The Long Run is a synthesis of previous macabre Eagles motifs, with cynical new insights that are underlined by slashing rock & roll. There’s a stark simplicity to the album, especially when compared with the hyperslick Hotel California. Not a collection of hot car-radio singles. The Long Run is easily the band’s most uncommercial effort.” Rolling Stone 

What these sides of The Long Run are doing better than most other copies is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1979
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the guitars and drums having the correct sound for a Bill Szymczyk recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Problems Or Not?

Most copies have a smeary, veiled, stuck-in-the-speaker quality that makes for some painful listening. Cardboard drums. Non-existent ambience. No energy. (Unless you get one of the hard, edgy, thin ones — we’re not sure which is worse!).

This one is a while different story, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands.

What’s Bill Szymczyk’s problem anyway, you might ask. Can’t the guy record an album any better than this after being in the studio for all these years?

Yes he can! Don’t make the mistake of judging his work by the typical bad pressing of it, the kind that Elektra was churning out by the millions back in the day. Believe me, the master tape must be AWESOME if the sound of some of the records we played is any indication (which of course it is).

The True Test for Side One

Want to know if you have a good side one on your copy? Here’s an easy test. Timothy B Schmit’s vocal on I Can’t Tell You Why rarely sounds right. Most of the time he’s muffled, pretty far back in the soundstage, and the booth he’s in has practically no ambience. On the good copies he’s not exactly jumping out of the speakers, but he’s clear, focused, and his voice is breathy and full of emotional subtleties that make the song the heartbreaking powerhouse it is.

This is why you need a Hot Stamper. Most copies don’t let you FEEL the emotion in the song. Not like this one does. And the rest of the band is cookin’ here as well. From the big, full-bodied bass to the fat, punchy snare, this side is doing practically everything we want it to.

The Music

The best songs on this album show the Eagles at the height of their powers. The first two songs on both sides are practically as good as it gets for mainstream rock from this era – they’re playlist staples of Classic Rock stations from coast to coast to this day.

The last song on side two, The Sad Cafe, is also a standout. Others, as they used to say in school, “need improvement.” But five Killer Eagles songs is nothing to sneeze at. This is an album that belongs in your collection, even if you choose to listen only to the best material on it.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Long Run
I Can’t Tell You Why
In the City
The Disco Strangler
King of Hollywood

Side Two

Heartache Tonight
Those Shoes
Teenage Jail
The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks
The Sad Café

Wikipedia

The Long Run is the sixth studio album by Eagles, released in 1979. This was the first Eagles album not to feature founding member Randy Meisner, who was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit… The Long Run took almost two years to complete and saw the Eagles move in a more hard rock direction that they started going in with its predecessor, 1976’s Hotel California.

Rolling Stone

By Timothy White
November 15, 1979

By day, the stardom-obsessed City of Angels depicted on the Eagles’ The Long Run is a dreary land of blank vistas and empty promises, baking slowly under an unsentimental sun. But when the night comes, the landscape is suddenly infested with mad shadows: inky, menacing configurations that provide an ominous depth. Unbridled by reality, this is the time when desperate dreams emerge from their lairs. Such dreams stalk the back streets, bistros, board rooms and bedrooms where the deals for success are struck — and then metamorphose into nightmares.

The Long Run, the Eagles first album in three years, is a chilling and altogether brilliant evocation of Hollywood’s nightly Witching Hour, that nocturnal feeding frenzy first detailed by Warren Zevon on his haunting Asylum debut (Warren Zevon, 1976) and the equally powerful Excitable Boy. Both Zevon and the Eagles have employed the desperado and the ghoul as antiromantic symbols of the star caught in the devil’s bargain. And both eventually came to realize that they had to give up the guise of observers and confess their roles as participants.

The Eagles live and thrive in a town where rock & roll is the foremost fame machine. Commercially, they’ve risen as high as a band possibly can, and yet, as individuals, they still have trouble getting in touch with a girlfriend, with any true comfort or satisfaction, with their own dreams. Their backyard is a thicket of fast cars, witchy women, outrageous parties and wasted time, so their perspective on the maw is doubtlessly an informed one.

Since their first LP in 1972, the Eagles have been adept at portraying the dark side of stardom, the sordid milieu of its beneficiaries and the various modus operandi used to secure notoriety. From Eagles’ “Chug All Night,” “Most of Us Are Sad” and “Take the Devil,” through all of Desperado, to “James Dean” and “Good Day in Hell” on On the Border and the title tracks of One of These Nights and Hotel California, the themes of evil exhilaration, dissolution and despair that attend tinseled glory were relentlessly hammered home. These recurring themes finally reached their apex in the song whose title has since become synonymous with high living and self-destruction: “Life in the Fast Lane.”

On first listening, The Long Run seems a modest, flawed project that’s virtually devoid of the gloss, catchy hooks and flashy invention that typified earlier Eagles records. The title tune sets an unambitious tone: the group lopes along in a familiar country-rock framework, singing about youthful hopes and the virtues of tenacity. But it slowly becomes apparent that the “long run” is a metaphor for a host of secret concerns and passions that are either career- or relationship-oriented. What starts out as a mildly encouraging number about hanging in there ends up a grim homily on the solitary pleasures of flirting with the precipice:

The Awful Sound of the Heavy Vinyl Reissues Doug Sax Mastered in the ’90s

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Longstanding customers know that we have been relentlessly critical of most audiophile LPs for years, especially in the case of these Analogue Productions releases from back in the early ’90s. A well-known reviewer loved them, I hated them, and he and I haven’t seen eye to eye on much since.

Newflash!

Just dug up part of my old commentary discussing the faults with the orginal series that Doug Sax cut for Acoustic Sounds. Check it out!

In the listing for the OJC pressing of Way Out West we wrote:

Guaranteed better than any 33 rpm 180 gram version ever made, or your money back! (Of course I’m referring to a certain pressing from the early ’90s mastered by Doug Sax, which is a textbook example of murky, tubby, flabby sound. (Too many bad tubes in the chain? Who knows?)

This OJC version also has its problems, but at least the shortcomings of the OJC are tolerable. Who can sit through a pressing that’s so thick and lifeless it communicates none of the player’s love for the music? If you have midrangy bad transistor equipment, go with the 180 gram version (at twice the price). If you have good equipment, go with this one.

The following commentary comes from our catalog from the mid- to late-’90s, back when I could still find great jazz records like Alternate Takes. Note also that the AP records were in print at the time. (more…)

Aimee Mann – Bachelor No. 2 – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

I had never actually played the LP when I reviewed the MoFi CD (my bad, apologies to all), noting that the CD sounded great and that I expected the vinyl to be even better. Was I ever wrong, sorry! The vinyl has a bad case of sucked-out half-speed MoFi mids. It’s far too polite and lifeless to be taken seriously.

The comments about the music of course still apply — it’s brilliant — but I recommend the Gold or regular CD over this audiophile Heavy Vinyl pressing.

I used to consider this Mann’s Masterpiece. It’s actually her co-masterpiece, taking its place alongside the amazing I’m With Stupid, which is more the rocker side of Mann. This is her Burt Bacharach side, prettier, sweeter and more melodic. Both are brilliant.

Aimee Mann is one of a handful of artists in the last decade or two who actually makes music that can hold its own against the best popular recordings of the last forty years. There are few albums that I prize more highly or that have provided me with more musical satisfaction than those by Aimee Mann. If you don’t know her music try one or both of the above-mentioned titles. Modern pop music just doesn’t get any better.  


TRACK LISTING:

How Am I Different
Nothing Is Good Enough
Red Vines
The Fall of the World’s Own Optimist
Satellite
Deathly
Ghost World
Calling It Quits
Driving Sideways
Just Like Anyone
Susan
It Takes All Kinds
You Do

 

 

Listening in Depth to Rickie Lee Jones

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Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with plenty of advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of RLJ.

On the best of the Hot Stamper copies it becomes abundantly clear just how well the string bass was recorded — assuming you like the close-miked, maximum-presence quality they were after. You hear all the fingering, the wood of the body resonating; all the stuff you could never hear live unless you were ten feet from the guy. Natural it’s not, but natural is not what most hit records are all about anyway.

Credit — or blame — belongs squarely with LEE HERSCHBERG

There’s no question that he knew exactly what he was doing, he’s the pro’s pro, so let’s give him credit for making the sound of the record really POP. (more…)

Bad Company – Straight Shooter – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • Incredible sound on both sides with each rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it – size, clarity, balance, energy; it’s all here
  • If you’re playing this one good and loud you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out the jams
  • This is the right sound for this album – take it from us, it is not easy to find a copy that’s this right
  • “Vocalist and songwriter Paul Rodgers wrote two acoustic-based rock ballads that would live on forever in the annals of great rock history: “Shooting Star” and the Grammy-winning “Feel Like Makin’ Love” 4 stars

See all of our Bad Company albums in stock

The sophomore jinx is nowhere to be found on this album. In fact, you could make a pretty good case that this is actually a better album than their debut. The best pressings of Straight Shooter have ROCK ENERGY that cannot be beat!

What You Want

It’s got exactly what you want from this brand of straight ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals; solid, note-like bass; big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound that Bad Company (and Free before them) practically invented. (AC/DC is another band with that kind of live studio sound. With big speakers and the power to drive them YOU ARE THERE.) (more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fandango

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Warner Brothers remastered Fandango in 2008, so we took some domestic pressings and put them up against their Heavy Vinyl LP. The results were mixed; most of our originals pressings were lackluster, many were noisy, and we just weren’t hearing anything with the sound we thought deserved to be called a Hot Stamper.

We shelved the project for another day. In the interim we kept buying domestic pressings — originals and reissues — in the hopes that something good would come our way.

Fast forward four years. It’s 2015. We drop the needle on a random pressing and finally — finally — hear a copy that rocks like we knew a ZZ Top album should. With that LP as a benchmark we got a shootout up and running and the result is the record you see here.

How did the WB remaster fare once we had some truly Hot Stamper pressings to play it against?

Not well. It’s tonally correct, with a real top and bottom, something that a substantial number of copies cannot claim to be. (more…)