Five Star Albums

The Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink

More The Faces

More A Nod Is As Good As A Wink

xxxxx

  • Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one backed with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on side two, this copy is a MONSTER!
  • Rich and solid, yet open, spacious, and transparent — nothing like the muddy, congested sound we heard all day
  • 5 stars: it “doesn’t feel cobbled together and it serves up tremendous song after tremendous song.”

This Warner Bros. Green Label LP has MASTER TAPE sound on the first side and not far from it on the second! If you like your hard rock dirty and bluesy, you can’t do much better than this record. You’re going to freak out over the meaty guitars, the HUGE bass, and the live-in-the-studio vocals. We played a ton of copies and none of them could hold a candle to this one. 

You won’t be a minute into this record before you’re blown away by all the ambience and echo. You can really hear the sound of the big room around these guys as they rock out. The vocals sound Right On The Money — smooth, but with all of the raspiness that Rod Stewart is famous for.

The drums are big and punchy and the guitars sound grungy and  right. (more…)

Ray Charles – All Time Great Country and Western Hits

More Ray Charles

More All Time Great Country and Western Hits

xxxxx

  • A killer sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or better on all four sides!
  • What was especially shocking about this shootout is that in some ways the best sounding copies of the reissue not just equal but best their original album counterparts 
  • Twenty-two songs on two LPs, including huge hits like I Can’t Stop Loving You, You Don’t Know Me, Oh Lonesome Me, Bye Bye Love, and much more – no wonder AMG gave both discs 5 stars
  • This is some big, bold, absolutely glorious Tubey Magical analog – the tape to disc transfer is Hard To Fault (HTF), making a mockery of the audiophile remasters to come

The music is wonderful. Just listen to that swingin’ horn section behind Ray on Hey, Good Lookin’. They are hot! And Bye Bye Love just plain ROCKS. (more…)

Which One’s Pink? – And What Do All Those Numbers Mean?

More Which One’s Pink?

xxxxx

An erstwhile customer sent us an email a while back asking this question: “What is the FULL stamper matrix for this record… all the way around the dead wax?”

I replied that we never give out stamper numbers for the records we sell. The only way to find out the stampers for our records is to buy them. And while we’re on the subject, you might enjoy reading this commentary I wrote a while back pointing out how misleading the matrix numbers can be: The Book of Hot Stampers.

He then countered with this bit of information:

Well, ok. I don’t understand the logic, but it’s your show.

Floyd stampers are probably the most uniquely well documented stampers on [a site that no longer exists] that they’re pretty much common knowledge. If I understand your logic, a first pressing may not be a “Hot Stamper” while a 3rd, 4th or 5th might be. Just a function of the stars aligning when that record is pressed. So what’s the diff?

I would think this would be pretty obvious. If we say pressing X is the best, this is information that you cannot get anywhere else, certainly not on the site you sent us a link to. The day that such a site tells you which stampers sound the best is the day that such a site will have any value to those who are not collecting for the sake of collecting, but actually want to find pressings with the best sound to play (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

More The Grateful Dead

More Workingman’s Dead

xxxxx

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy was one of the best in our most recent shootout
  • A Top 100 album, and a truly superb recording of the Dead at the peak of their creativity (along with American Beauty)
  • We love the amazingly rich, weighty and huge bottom end found on the truly killer sides such as these
  • 5 stars in Allmusic: “The lilting Uncle John’s Band, their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly.”

This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot 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 control room hearing the master tape being played back, or, better yet, the direct feed from the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Analog Recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

More Pink Floyd

Wish You Were Here

xxxxx

  • An excellent sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides and vinyl that is as quiet as any vintage copy out there 
  • Demo Disc Quality Floyd Magic — big and present with life, clarity and richness like you have never heard for WYWH before
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, Top 100 and RIDICULOUSLY tough to find with the right sound and surfaces
  • “Showcasing the group’s interplay and David Gilmour’s solos in particular… the long, winding soundscapes are constantly enthralling.”

*The intro to Wish You Were Here is always going to be a little noisier than the overall play grade you see above. (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River – WHITE HOT STAMPER

More Creedence Clearwater Revival

More Green River

xxxxx

  • This insanely good pressing boasts superb Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Both sides are rich and full-bodied yet clean, clear and spacious, with note-like bass and relatively smooth vocals
  • An essential, Must Own album for every CCR collection, this LP includes some of the band’s biggest hits: Green River and Bad Moon Rising, Lodi and plenty more
  • 5 stars ” CCR’s third album Green River represents the full flower of their classic sound initially essayed on its predecessor, Bayou Country.”

This copy is bigger, livelier, harder rockin’, more spacious and more relaxed than most all of the other pressings we have played over the years.

Clean copies with great sound are incredibly hard to find from CCR (but worth the search), and it took us a good-sized stack to find a few with bottom end weight, midrange presence, real energy, and freedom from grain. This pressing will show you just how good this album can sound.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Here are some of the things we specifically listen for in a vintage Creedence Swamp Rock record.

Our hottest Hot Stamper copies are simply doing more of these things better than the other copies we played in our shootout. 

The best copies have:

  • Greater immediacy in the vocals (most copies are veiled and distant to some degree);
  • Natural tonal balance (many copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; those with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);
  • Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);
  • Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);
  • Tubey Magic, without which you might as well be playing a CD;
  • And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sometimes simple, sometimes complex and sophisticated recording.

Heavy Vinyl

If you own any of the new heavy vinyl pressings of CCR’s albums mastered by SH and KG, hearing this Hot Stamper pressing will surely be a revelation. (more…)

Bill Withers – Still Bill – Surprisingly Well Recorded Soul

More Bill Withers

More Still Bill

xxxxx

  • A stunning sounding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Some of the best soul sound you’ll ever hear — incredibly natural, full-bodied and present
  • Excellent sound for the two hit singles — “Lean On Me” and “Use Me”.
  • Five Stars on Allmusic: “It’s warm and easily accessible, but it has a depth and complexity that reveals itself over numerous plays…”

This killer Sussex pressing was one of the best from our recent shootout. It positively massacred the other copies we put up against it with superb presence, top-notch clarity, full-bodied vocals and driving funky energy. I don’t think you could find a better sounding Bill Withers album no matter what you do. I wish there were more ’70s soul albums that sounded like this. (more…)

John Coltrane – Lush Life – DCC and OJC Reviewed

More John Coltrane

More Lush Life

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B or so (DCC) 
Sonic Grade: C or so (OJC) 

The DCC heavy vinyl pressing is a nice record; I remember liking it back in the day. I’m guessing it’s a bit better than the ’80s OJC, which is, like most OJC pressings, typically thin and hard. Neither one of them can hold a candle to the pressings we offer on the site. If for some reason we could not find copies of the album that substantially beat the sound of either of these two remastered LPs, we simply would not have anything to offer, since neither of these versions could be considered Hot Stampers. Nice records, sure, but Hot Stampers? Not a chance.

It was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have.

Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? No doubt. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league, a league we had no idea even existed until just this year.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album. By far. (more…)

Paul Simon – Graceland – What to Think When the New Version Is Completely Unrecognizable?

More Paul Simon

More Graceland

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Where did this thick, dull, bloated, opaque turd come from? Having played at least 50 copies of the album over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have never heard one that sounded very much like this new version (maybe some record club copy we picked up by accident did, can’t say it never happened).

Can that possibly be a good thing?

Well, in favor of that proposition I guess you could say it sounds less like a CD now. On the other side of the ledger, it now sounds a great deal more like a bad LP.

We listen to piles of pressings of Graceland regularly. We know what the album generally sounds like, the range from bad to good, and we know what qualities the very best copies must have in order to win one of our shootouts.

Above all the one thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals. The best of the best copies have all these qualities, but the one quality any good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s good about the sound of the record. Without clarity the music doesn’t even work.

The new version has been “fixed”. It got rid of all that pesky grit and grain and CD-like sound from the original digital mix by heavy-handedly equalizing them away.

Cut the top, cut the upper mids, boost the lower mids and upper bass and voila – now it’s what Graceland would have sounded like had it been all analog from the start, AAA baby!

Or at least analog for those who don’t know what good analog sounds like. (more…)

Prince – Purple Rain

More Prince

More Purple Rain

xxxxx

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, this copy is practically as good as it gets
  • This copy was just BIGGER and RICHER than any other we played, with rock solid energy to beat them all
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – but here they are!
  • 5 Stars and “… a stunning statement of purpose that remains one of the most exciting rock & roll albums ever recorded.” – All Music

The shootout winner for this album earned top grades and showed us a Purple Rain we had never heard before.

The best copies sound pretty much the way the best copies of most Classic Rock records sound: tonally correct, rich, clear, sweet, smooth, open, present, lively, big, spacious, Tubey Magical, with breathy vocals and little spit, grit, grain or grunge. (more…)