Demo Discs for Recordings that Are Doing It All

The Pentangle – Pentangling – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

STUNNING BRITISH FOLK SOUND! If you’re a fan of this kind of music, you will be bowled over by the sound on this Transatlantic pressing. The sound is full of that good ol’ British tubey analog magic that you just won’t find on any CD ever made. The top end is extended and silky sweet, and the soundfield is big and open. The title track is DEMO DISC QUALITY.

The sound is full of that good ol’ British tubey analog magic that you just won’t find on any CD ever made. The top end is extended and silky sweet, and the soundfield big and open.

When I was selling audio equipment back in the ’70s this was one of our Demo Discs. The song Pentangling has beautifully recorded drums and string bass. Also the vocals are excellent. The first track, I’ve Got A Feeling, is lovely as well.

The true foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. With Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them, this album presents the classic 1969 lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot. (more…)

Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection

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

A side two for the ages — it beat our best Ref Copy to earn a Four Plus (A++++) grade. Both sides are stunning with superb Demo Quality sound: huge, rich, spacious, dynamic and lively. An incredible recording and longtime member of our Top 100 — our pick for Elton’s very best music and sound. 

We rate records with a Four Plus grade so rarely that we don’t even have a graphic for it on our Sonic Grade chart seen above. The scale only goes up to three pluses, but this side two blew our minds to earn a fourth!  

This is an incredible recording, but finding killer pressings like this is no walk in the park. We’ve had countless copies with promising sound that were just not in any condition to sell, and plenty of clean ones that just didn’t sound good.

This copy really delivers on the sound side — you get stunning immediacy, big-time presence, tons of depth to the soundfield, full-bodied vocals, amazing transparency, and BOATLOADS of Tubey Magic. Elton John fans, today is your lucky day.  (more…)

Perez Prado – Prez – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This AMAZING sounding White Hot Stamper copy of Prez has a lot in common with the other Living Stereo / Exotica titles we’ve listed over the years, albums by the likes of Henry Mancini, Esquivel, Arthur Lyman, Dick Schory, Edmundo Ros, Ted Heath, Martin Denny and a handful of others. Talk about making your speakers disappear, these records can do it! 

An album like this is all about Tubey Magical Stereoscopic presentation. And of course the driving, syncopated, heavily percussive arrangements add immensely to the fun, with the timbre of every scratcher and drum rendered in glorious Technicolor sound. (If only Airto had been around in the ’50s!)

From the back cover.

In “Perez” two sides of the fabulous “King of the Mambo” are presented. One features Prado interpreting Latin rhythms as only he and his musical aggregation can. The other side of Prado is not as familiarly known but is sure to be equally appreciated, for it reveals that Perez Prado is a jazz impresario of the first order.

Side One

A+++. We cannot recall hearing a record that was this big and full-bodied, yet this clear, dynamic and energetic. The brass is never “blary” the way it can be on so many Big Band or Dance Band records from the ’50s and ’60s. (Basie’s Roulette records tend to have a bad case of blary brass as a rule.)

Lovely warmth, Tubey Magic, lack of smear, correct tonality, unerringly correct timbres, powerful brass — everything you want is here!

Play tracks one and three to hear this side at its best.

Side Two

A+++ again! Like side one it’s big, lively, clear and dynamic, with no smear, and exceptionally full-bodied.

Play tracks one and two to hear this side at its best.

This IS the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us with a good turntable could care less.

Truly a Spectacular Demo Disc in its own right.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Maria Bonita 
Cu-Cu-Rru-Cu-Cu Paloma 
La Borrachita (I’ll Never Love Again) 
Machaca 
Adios Mi Chaparrita (Goodbye My Little Angel) 

Side Two

Lullaby of Birdland 
Flight of the Bumblebee
Leo’s Special 
Come Back to Sorrento (Torna a Sorrento) 
Fireworks

Prez Prado

In “Perez” two sides of the fabulous “King of the Mambo” are presented. One features Prado interpreting Latin rhythms as only he and his musical aggregation can. The other side of Prado is not as familiarly known but is sure to be equally appreciated, for it reveals that Perez Prado is a jazz impresario of the first order. – from the back cover

All Music Guide Artist Biography

by Steve Huey

Universally known as the King of the Mambo, Pérez Prado was the single most important musician involved in the hugely popular Latin dance craze.

Whether he actually created the rhythm is somewhat disputed, but it’s abundantly clear that Prado developed it into a bright, swinging style with massive appeal for dancers of all backgrounds and classes. Prado’s mambo was filled with piercing high-register trumpets, undulating saxophone counterpoint, atmospheric organ (later on), and harmonic ideas borrowed from jazz.

While his tight percussion arrangements allowed for little improvisation, they were dense and sharply focused, keeping the underlying syncopations easy for dancers to follow. Prado played the piano, but was often more in his element as the focal point of the audience’s excitement; he leaped, kicked, danced, shouted, grunted, and exhorted his musicians with a dynamic stage presence that put many more sedate conductors and bandleaders to shame.

With this blueprint, Prado brought mambo all the way into the pop mainstream, inspiring countless imitators and scoring two number one singles on the pop charts (albeit in a smoother vein than the fare that first made his name) as the fad snowballed. He was a star throughout most of the Western Hemisphere during the ’50s, and even after his popularity waned in the United States, he remained a widely respected figure in many Latin countries, especially his adopted home of Mexico.

Prado is often best remembered for his softer, more commercial work, which has an undeniable kitschiness that plays well with modern-day lounge-revival hipsters. Unfortunately, that has served to obscure his very real credentials in the realm of authentic, unadulterated Latin dance music, and to this day he remains somewhat underappreciated.

Audio Issues

It’s clear to us that our stereo system loves this record. Let’s talk about why we think that is.

Our system is fast, accurate and uncolored. We like to think of our speakers as the audiophile equivalent of studio monitors, showing us to the best of their ability exactly what is on the record, no more and no less.

When we play a modern record, it should sound modern. When we play a vintage Tubey Magical Living Stereo pressing such as this, we want to hear all the Tubey Magic, but we don’t want to hear more Tubey Magic than what is actually on the record. We don’t want to do what some audiophiles like to do, which is to make all their records sound the way they like all their records to sound.

They do that by having their system add in all their favorite colorations. We call that “My-Fi”, not “Hi-Fi”, and we’re having none of it.

If our system were more colored, or slower, or tubier, this record would not sound as good as it does. It’s already got plenty of richness, warmth, sweetness and Tubey Magic.

To take an obvious example, playing the average dry and grainy Joe Walsh record on our system is a fairly unpleasant experience. Some added warmth and richness, with maybe some upper-midrange suckout thrown in for good measure, would make it much more enjoyable. But then how would we know which Joe Walsh pressings aren’t too dry and grainy for our customers to enjoy?

We discussed some of these issues in another commentary:

Our Approach

We have put literally thousands of hours into our system and room in order to extract the maximum amount of information, musical and otherwise, from the records we play, or as close to the maximum as we can manage. Ours is as big and open as any system in an 18 by 20 by 8 room I’ve ever heard.

It’s also as free from colorations of any kind as we can possibly make it. We want to hear the record in its naked form; not the way we want it to sound, but the way it actually does sound. That way, when you get it home and play it yourself, it should sound very much like we described it.

If too much of the sound we hear is what our stereo is doing, not what the record is doing, how can we know what it will sound like on your system? We try to be as truthful and as critical as we can when describing the records we sell. Too much coloration in the system makes those tasks much more difficult, if not a practical impossibility.

We think this copy has a near-perfect blend of Tubey Magic and clarity, because that’s what we hear when we play it on our system.

We are convinced that the more time and energy you’ve put into your stereo over the years, decades even, the more likely it is that you will hear this wonderful record sound the way we heard it. And that will make it one helluva Demo Disc in your home too.

Skip Martin – Perspectives In Percussion, Vol. 2 – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

Absolutely the best “Crazy Percussion Extravaganza” we have ever heard. The sound JUMPS out of the speakers like you will not believe. The best of its kind bar none? That’s exactly what this record is.

It is my belief that no one with an up-to-date, highly tweaked big system, a properly setup front end (with the VTA adjusted specifically for this record), and a carefully treated listening room can fail to have his mind blown by the sonics of this pressing.

The second image gives you the rundown on all the percussion instruments played on the album. I count 22! The recording is so good that if you listened to it enough times you might even be able to spot them all.

And it’s not just percussion. Click on the third image to see the many woodwinds and horns. Joining them are an organ, piano, electric guitar and of course bass.

Soundfield, Timbre and Dynamics

The spaciousness of the studio is reproduced with uncanny fidelity, with both huge depth and width, but there is another dimension that this record operates in that Bang, Baa-room and Harp, just to take one example, does not — the instruments here are capable of jumping out of your speakers, seemingly right into your listening room.

The effect is astonishing. I have never heard these instruments sound more real than they do here. The timbre is perfection. The dynamics are startling. As it says on the back cover, “the world’s greatest percussionists, soloists and section men [yes, your read that right, “section”, not “session”] recorded in HOLLYWOOD without attenuated dynamics…”

Add to those clearly unattenuated dynamics high and low frequencies that are also not the least bit attenuated, and microphones capable of deadly accuracy, and you have yourself a recording of unparalleled fidelity. I know of none to equal it. We’ve played these kinds of records by the score but I have never heard one do what this one is doing. (more…)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century – Loud Levels and Big Woofers

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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

The bass on the best copies is AWESOME. Playing a Hot Stamper copy at loud levels with big woofers will have your house quaking. Add to that the kind of ENERGY that the better pressings have in their grooves and the result is an album guaranteed to bring most audiophile systems to their knees, begging for mercy. 

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, don’t expect to hear Crime of the Century the way Ken and the boys wanted you to. The album wants to rock your world, and that’s exactly what our Hot Stamper pressings are capable of doing.

The typical Brit copy is dull, and that quality just takes all the magic out of the recording. The three dimensional space and clarity of the recording rely heavily on the quality of the top end. The MoFi, on the best copies, shows you what is missing from the typical Brit, domestic or other import LP. This is what impressed me back in the ’70s when I bought my MoFi. It was only years later that I realized what was missing and what was wrong. (more…)

Eagles – Eagles – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

A WHITE HOT side one that was so darn good, we had to break our own rules and give it FOUR BIG PLUSES — A++++! This side one is a DEMO DISC like you will not believe. When the big chorus comes in on Take It Easy — one of the toughest tests for side one — you will be amazed by how energetic and downright GLORIOUS these boys can sound. Believe us when we tell you, it’s the rare copy that can pass that test. 

This side one had some of the best ENERGY we heard in our entire shootout (composed of all original pressings by the way; nothing else comes close, a subject we discuss below). With big bass and huge scope, this may become your favorite disc for showing your friends just what analog is really capable of. (We’ve heard many times from customers that they use Hot Stamper pressings of this very album for that exact purpose.)

It won’t take the future owner of this record long to recognize what we’ve known for years: the Eagles first album is clearly and inarguably one of the Best Sounding Rock Recordings Ever Made. Want your speakers to disappear? Want to hear Live Rock Music in your listening room? This side one will make it happen!

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better. It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile pressing pale in comparison. (more…)

Mendelssohn / Scotch Symphony / Maag – Reviewed in 2011

More of the music of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

Scotch Symphony / Maag

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Both sides of this record have that classic Decca chocolatey, rich, sweet sound. It”s not for everybody, it”s probably not the sound one would hear in a concert hall, but we love it and so do many audiophiles. 

The performance here by Maag is legendary and definitive. The sound is perfectly suited for this music, with massed strings to die for. This is classic Tubey Magical Decca orchestral sound. If you want immediacy, buy a Mercury. If you want luscious, rich string tone, this London should be right up your alley.

Side two had less smear and less distortion and congestion than we heard on side one. It’s also even RICHER sounding, if such a thing is possible. More transparent too. A good balance of clarity and richness. A++ all the way. (more…)

Leonard Bernstein – Conducts Symphonic Dances…

More Leonard Bernstein

Conducts Symphonic Dances…

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this vintage Columbia pressing – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The best copies are out of this world, reproducing some of the most dynamic, exciting, richest, and most spacious sound we have ever heard from the man’s records
  • The music is wonderful of course, with the Suites giving you all the best parts of his marvelous compositions with none of the filler
  • Vibrant orchestrations, high quality sound and fairly quiet surfaces combine for an immersive and engrossing listening experience

One of the great Columbia recordings. I suspected it might have been done at the legendary 30th St studios in New York but I was wrong, Manhattan Center’s huge stage served as the venue. Either way the sound is no less glorious.

The big advantage this copy had over most is the fullness of the brass. The shrill sound of the brass on most Columbia albums is what gets them tossed in the trade pile. Fortunately the sound here is rich and clean, with solid deep bass. The stage is huge, with the multi-miking kept to a minimum so that you can really hear the space. (more…)

Return to Forever – Romantic Warrior – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Return to Forever

Romantic Warrior

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

This White Hot Stamper Romantic Warrior has a side one that will blow your mind. It’s 100% guaranteed to bring any stereo to its knees! Turn this one up and prepare yourself for the kind of sound that perhaps one out of a hundred records has to offer, with cymbal crashes that really crash, bass that threatens to move your house off its foundation and energy that is hard to believe was encoded into a thin piece of vinyl decades ago. But here it is! This copy is all that and more. 

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 these kind of sonics 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. (more…)

The Music of Leonard Bernstein – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2012

More of the music of Leonard Bernstein 

More Rogers 

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This London Phase 4 British import has some of the most SPECTACULAR sound I have ever heard reproduced from disc. The sound is so BIG and BOLD that it handily puts to shame 95% or more of all the Golden Age Shaded Dogs, London Bluebacks, Mercury Living Presence’s, EMI’s and Decca’s we’ve ever played. If we had a Classical Top 100 list, this record would belong in a Top Ten taken from it, right near the top judging by what I heard when I played it.

Side two here is BEYOND White Hot, earning a sonic grade of A++++! I don’t know that any other copy has earned such a high grade for side two but this one sure did. It blew our minds. (more…)