Advice – What to Listen for – Track by Track

Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin II

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • A stunning copy that is absolutely guaranteed to rock your world like no other – QUADRUPLE Plus (A++++) on side two and nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) on side one
  • With Mint Minus Minus grades or BETTER on both sides, the surfaces are exceptional for this title, but there are some marks that play, carefully noted in the body of the listing below
  • The sound is freakishly good – we created a Top Ten list just to put this album at the top of it
  • We long ago gave up on anything but these killer RL (and SS) pressings, because nothing else comes close
  • With copies selling for $1000+ on ebay, sometimes $3k+, we’re having to pay big bucks for Zep II these days, but if any album is worth it, it’s this one

CONDITION ISSUES:

  • On side one, there’s a mark on the first track that makes about ten light to medium pops. At the beginning of the third track there are five to seven light ticks. There are some intermittent ticks on Thank You, the last track on this side and the hardest one to find playing quietly.No inner groove damage, which is rare in and of itself.
  • On side two, there’s a mark at the end of track five that makes six light ticks. Note that the basic playing condition of this side is as quiet as any copy we have ever listed and quieter than 95% of those that actually did make it to the site.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl not withstanding. If you can tolerate the surfaces on this pressing you are in for some amazing music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time. When you hear this copy you will know why we gave side two that fourth plus!

Quick Notes for Side One

Meaty bass and guitars. Big energy. Just not as spacious and resolving as the best. 2.5+

Quick Notes for Side Two

So much bass! The most yet and it’s huge! Big size and space, really gets huge and jumps out. I love it! Awesome. 4+ (more…)

Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

xxxxx

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

For the first time ever, an incredible Triple Triple (A+++) copy of Sinead O’Connor’s best-selling sophomore release. You won’t believe how good Nothing Compares 2 U sounds here. 

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is widely considered one of the best albums of the ’90s, a brilliant and unique piece of work. I positively love this album. The emotion is every bit as naked and compelling as that found on Joni’s Blue, and I do not say that lightly. I know the power of Blue, and this album has that kind of power. This is some heavy heavy stuff. Hearing it sound right is a thrill I won’t soon forget.

Although the record was popular in its day, it’s one of those albums that just never seems to show up in the record bins. I wish we could find more of them, but they just aren’t out there. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Heart Like a Wheel

 

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.

Heart Like a Wheel

and click on this link to the

Classic Tracks

entry for the album to read about it in real  depth

xxx

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

A key test on either side was to listen to all the multi-tracked guitars and see how easy it was to separate each of them out in the mix. Most of the time they are just one big jangly blur. The best copies let you hear how many guitars there are and what each of them is doing.

Pay special attention to Andrew Gold’s Abbey Road-ish guitars heard throughout the album. He is all over this record, playing piano, guitar, percussion and singing in the background. If anybody deserves credit besides Linda for the success of HLAW, it’s Andrew Gold. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

xxxxx

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

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. This vintage London Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Val Garay Rocks the Sound of JT

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.

JT

 

taylojt_x20

The good copies REALLY ROCK on a song like Honey Don’t Leave L.A. or I Was Only Telling A Lie, yet have lovely, sweet transparency and delicacy on the ballads such as Another Grey Morning or There We Are.

Just turn up the volume and play the opening to Honey Don’t Leave L.A. — this is James Taylor and his super tight studio band at the peak of their powers. Russ Kunkel hits the drum twice, then clicks his sticks together so quickly you can hardly notice it, then goes back to the drums for the rest of the intro. On a superb copy like this one, the subtleties of his performance are clearly on display. (Until copies like this one came along, we had never even noticed that stick trick. Now it’s the high point of the whole intro!)

Sound Equals Music

As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not. As with any pop album there are always some songs that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material.

The most important of all these Musical Values is ENERGY, and boy do the best copies have it!

Val Garay Is The Man

VAL GARAY is the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor’s JT (a Top 100 title), Simple Dreams (also a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc. They all share his trademark super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound. With BIG drums — can’t forget those. (To be clear, only the best copies share it. Most copies only hint at it.) (more…)

Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones

xxxxx

  • A superb pressing, earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides, right up there with the best we heard in our shootout all day
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • The superbly talented musicians and engineers deserve much of the credit for making this album a Grammy Winning Must Own Audiophile Favorite
  • 4 stars: “One of the most impressive debuts for a singer/songwriter ever, this infectious mixture of styles not only features a strong collection of original songs but also a singer with a savvy, distinctive voice that can be streetwise, childlike, and sophisticated, sometimes all in the same song.”

(more…)

This Is the Kind of Thing You Notice When You Play Dozens of the Same Album

hallaaband_depth_1259152255.jpg

If you have a copy or two laying around, there is a very good chance that side two will be noticeably thinner and brighter than side one. That has been our experience anyway, and we’ve been playing batches of this album for well over a decade. To find a copy with a rich side two is rare indeed.

Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars and mandolins that feature so prominently in the mixes.

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further. (more…)

Return to Forever – A Masterpiece of Jazz/Rock Fusion

returroman_depth_1404150817

Romantic Warrior is my favorite JAZZ/ROCK FUSION album of all time. As good as the music is, the sound is even better. This is the Jazz/Rock Demo Disc that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my experience, no record of this kind is more DYNAMIC or has better BASS. Not one. Demo Disc doesn’t begin to do this kind of sound justice.

Simply put, not only is this one of the greatest musical statements of all time, it’s one of the great recording statements. Few albums in the history of the world can lay claim to this kind of POWER and ENERGY.

But the Super Sound has a purpose, a raison d’etre. This is the kind of music that requires it; better yet, DEMANDS it. In truth, the sound is not only up to the challenge of expressing the life of the music on this album, it positively ENHANCES it.

Those monster Lenny White drum rolls that run across the soundstage from wall to wall may be a recording studio trick, but they’re there to draw your attention to his amazing powers, and it works! The drums are EVERYWHERE on this album, constantly jumping out of the soundfield and taking the music into the stratosphere where it belongs.
(more…)

Listening in Depth to Crosby Stills & Nash – with Bonus CD Advice

crosbcrosb_new

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s first album.

Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered and pressed poorly, that few copies actually make it to the site as Hot Stampers. We wish that were not the case — we love the album — but the copies we know to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound are just not sitting around in the record bins these days.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the Joe Gastwirt-mastered CD. It couldn’t be any more awful. (His Deja Vu is just as bad.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

What’s magical about Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young? Their voices of course. It’s not a trick question. They revolutionized rock music with their genius for harmony. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no value whatsoever. A CSN record with bad midrange reproduction — like most of them — is a worthless record.
(more…)

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

xxxxx

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

This White Hot Stamper side one is OUT OF THIS WORLD — the new KING for this album! We played a huge number of pressings — Pink Labels, United Artists originals and reissues — and this side one was completely UNMATCHED. What put it in a league of its own? BIG ENERGY for one thing. Side one of this copy was jumping out of the speakers in a way that took us completely by surprise. We had a dozen clean copies, that’s 24 sides, and this was the only one that showed us just how lively and clear that side one master tape must be.

What to Listen For – Side One

We learned something new this time around, and we learned it by simply playing an amazingly transparent copy that made it clear — for the first time — exactly what Winwood was doing on the piano with his left hand. There are two musical figures that alternate: one, involving the lower notes, which tend to be blurry, obscured and murky on most pressings, followed by two, the right-handed higher notes, which are usually much more clear and audible in the mix.

Out of the twelve copies we played no other copy let us “see” the bass notes of the piano so clearly and correctly. Next time you want to compare different pressings of Barleycorn, pay special attention to the lower notes of the piano on Glad. It is our contention, backed by mountains of evidence of course, that no two copies of the album will get that piano sound the same.

Flute and Snare

The resolving power of this side one is off the charts. The flute (a major element of the music if you know the album well) is airier than ever before. Chris Wood’s sax, which is all over the record, and beautifully recorded I might add, sounds amazing as well, with more body and harmonic texture than we heard on practically any other copy. Note how little processing there is to the sound of his horns and woodwinds; how real they sound. This is unusual to say the least in the world of pop records.

The snare drum sound is powerful, with a good meaty thwack that really drives the music. (more…)