CD Advice

Jellyfish – Fan Club – 4 CD Box Set

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“The Jellyfish box set is here! Not Lame has worked with EMI on something VERY special. We have unearthed a bevy of unreleased material by one of the most important power pop bands of 90s, JELLYFISH!”

Great for fans (like me); others may want to pass.

“Packaged in a classic high-quality long-box format and featuring a full color 24 page booklet with essays, track info, and comments. “Fan Club” will feature the tracks shown below and features the input and many personal tapes and observations from all the members of the band, including Roger Manning and Andy Sturmer. Longtime J-fish soundman, Shalom Aberle helped oversee the re-mixing of some tracks and all of the mastering and Jack Puig supplied memorabilia galore! Rest assured if you are a fan, you will NOT be disappointed as Not Lame assays the task of of capturing the unique spirit of Jellyfish. This is a limited pressing, so DO NOT wait to order this now.”

Donovan – Storyteller on SACD – Reviewed in 2003

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This is a Factory Sealed Audio Fidelity Dual Layer Hybrid SACD (playable on any CD player) with superb sound.

One of the best sounding CDs I’ve ever heard! I can’t play the SACD layer anymore — my SACD player broke and I decided the medium was not for me. I’m a record guy and don’t want to invest the time and money to find a player that gets the SACD layer right. My CD player tells me that this is some of the best digital around and that’s good enough for me.

This disc is so rich and sweet you would swear it was an LP. Hoffman did an AMAZINGLY good job with this title. Same with The Searchers. Both are highly recommended. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / Deja Vu – The Joe Gastwirt CD Is a DOA Abomination

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More than a decade ago we wrote:

If you bought the Classic Record and you can’t tell what’s wrong with it, this may not be the right hobby for you. I highly recommend you buy the Joe Gastwirt mastered CD and either play it on your system or take it to a hi-fi store in your area. It’s tonally correct and undistorted. The Classic version is neither. Now when a stupid $15 CD is correct in a way that a $40 LP is not, something is very very wrong.

The part where we said this may not be the right hobby for you if you like Classic’s godawful remastering of Deja Vu is still true, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish in the audio hobby. If you’re not too picky about sound quality and just want to play new records, perhaps because old records are hard to find and often noisy, then fine, the Classic should get that job done for you. We of course want nothing to do with it because we want good sounding vinyl, and the Classic is definitely not good sounding by any stretch of the imagination.

No, the problem we see above is that we were recommending the currently available CD. Yes, it’s mostly tonally correct and not distorted, but it has as bad a case of dead-as-a-doornail sound as any badly remastered CD I have ever heard. There is no top, there is no space, there is no life, there is no immediacy, there is no Tubey Magic — in short there is almost nothing left of what makes the best copies of Deja Vu so good. We’ve known this for about five years, just never got around to correcting the record.

And it’s not the fault of digital. There is an earlier CD, not cut by Joe Gastwirt, that sounds amazingly good. I own a few of them and pick them up whenever I see one. And Gastwirt’s version of the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album is every bit as bad. If I see Joe Gastwirt’s name on a CD I put it back where I found it.

So there you have it, Live and Learn circa 2016. (more…)

The Beatles – The Original A Hard Day’s Night on CD

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The Old CD – You Know, the Original Mono One that Everybody Used to Like…

I have the early generation mono CD of this album. Although my car has a very good stereo system, you would never know there was any magic to the sound of these recordings by playing that CD. The whole thing is hopelessly flat and gray.

It starts to perk up by the song Things We Said Today, the 10th(!) track. Before that it just sounds compressed, with all the voices and instruments mashed together. There’s no transparency to the sound. It reminds me of listening to this music on the radio. If that’s the effect George Martin was going for with the old mono mix, he succeeded brilliantly. I prefer the twin-track unapproved stereo mixes found on the LPs.

CDs that Sound Nothing Like Their Vinyl Counterparts

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I made the mistake of buying both Back in Black and Sticky Fingers on CD for my car, and both are a disaster — no bass, no rock weight, with boosted upper mids, no doubt a misguided attempt to provide “clarity”. I couldn’t get three songs into either of them. If this is what the digital lovers of the world think those albums actually sound like, they are living in some kind of parallel universe.

The best pressings on vinyl sound nothing like them. In fact the best pressings sound so good they are on our Top 100. Rest assured that you don’t get to be on our Top 100 with anemic, upper midrangy sound.

City Boy – Young Men Gone West

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  • Super Hot Stamper or better sound on both sides of this Arty Glam Rock album
  • Produced by Robert John “Mutt” Lange before he hit it big with Foreigner and Def Leppard
  • As far as I know Mr Lange never produced an album that sounds this good
  • Plenty of Tubey Magical richness, which only the UK Vertigo pressings seem to have

Like many of my personal favorites, this is a band that never caught on in the states. I saw them live back in the late ’70s and thought they were killer — they reminded me of a more accessible version of 10cc. They write amusingly witty, clever lyrics and mate them to catchy melodies with lots of pop hooks, all produced with meticulous care and engineered with top audiophile sound.

They might fit in the general category of Glam Rock, owing, as they do, so much to Supertramp, Badfinger, Queen, 10cc, Ziggy-period Bowie and the like, but even as I write that it seems unfair to the band, which had a unique style all its own, worthy of the respect and admiration due any of these artists (well, maybe not all the respect, but some of it anyway). Fortunately for us record lovers, this is their best album. (more…)

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

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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 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…)

Elvis Costello – Girls Girls Girls – Skip It on Vinyl (But Buy the CD Set)

More Elvis Costello

Girls Girls Girls

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

This is a British Import Demon Records LP that sounds decent — better than you’d find on any domestic copy — and the songs, spanning the period from 1976 to 1986, are GREAT! 

But the CD has much better sound than any vinyl I have yet to hear. (more…)

A Killer Audio Fidelity Gold CD

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A Great CD Is Born

By the way, the BGO Import CD of this album is excellent. No match for a Hot Stamper of course, but dramatically better than the average classic rock CD, and quite a bit better than the domestic CDs we’ve auditioned.

Newsflash (3/2014)

The Audio Fidelity Gold CD mastered by Steve Hoffman is even better. If you don’t want to buy a Hot Stamper LP, that CD is your best bet (assuming it sounds as good as mine).