Genre – Country & Country Rock

Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This original Capitol Orange Label LP has TWO SUPERB sides, with side two earning our top grade of A+++ for its White Hot sound! And side one was nearly as good at A++ to A+++. These are the highest grades we are awarding to any copy on the site, folks. It doesn’t get any better. The sound is uncharacteristically smooth, sweet, clear and Tubey Magical, light years from the grungy grit and grain that plagues most copies of Heart Like a Wheel.

Things are different since our last big shootout back in 2009. We learned a lot about the record and have added plenty of new commentary to back it up. If you’re a fan check it out.

Let’s be honest: the average copy of this album is an audio disaster. Those of you who love this album as much as we do are going to be shocked when you hear how wonderful it can sound. We bet you never imagined it could be this good, and we happily back up that bet with a full money back guarantee!

This shootout was no small project — we dropped the needle on more than a DOZEN copies.This is the only one to earn better than a Super Hot Stamper grade (A++) on both sides. I’ve been playing this album for years, and I can tell you it is no easy task to find this kind of smooth, sweet, analog sound on HLAW. On top of that it’s also full-bodied, lively, and super-transparent. The vocals are breathy and full with incredible immediacy. Folks, the Heart Like A Wheel magic is here. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Silk Purse – Reviewed in 2010

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

We played several copies of this album, and while it’s no demo disc by any means, this copy was far and away the best sounding of the group. We can’t quite bring ourselves to call it a Hot Stamper. Technically of course it is — it’s a pressing that’s superior to all the others we’ve played — but as the recording itself has some serious shortcomings we’ll just call it a Pretty Good Stamper. (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

I comment below about the ridiculous sound of the MoFi pressing. When you have a recording that is already plenty bright, adding more top end and taking out more lower midrange is the last thing in the world you should be doing. Since that is standard operating procedure for MoFi (and other Half-Speed mastering outfits), that’s exactly the approach they ended up taking.

The sound that Emmylou and her producers were going for here is clean, detailed and low distortion, which is exactly what the best pressings, the “hottest stampers”, deliver.

Those of you who have had the opportunity to play the Mobile Fidelity pressing of this record should know what a disaster it is.

Is brighter better? Apparently Mobile Fidelity thinks so. And they did the same thing to Gordon Lightfoot’s album. His voice sounds so phony on the MoFi that you’d swear it’s a bad CD. But it’s not a bad CD. It’s an expensive audiophile record! (more…)

The Dillards – Wheatstraw Suite

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  • Stunning sound for this original Elektra Gold Label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades and playing as quietly as these early pressings ever do
  • This is a SHOCKINGLY well recorded album, full of Tubey Magic and as relaxed, smooth and natural as any record from 1968 has a right to be
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It never got any better than this… 13 all-but-perfect tracks… this is a finer rural/rock fusion album than Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the first Flying Burrito Brothers album, or the Beau Brummels’ efforts during this same period, and an indispensable part of any collection of ’60s music.”

This vintage Elektra Gold Label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (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…)

The Flying Burrito Bros. – The Gilded Palace of Sin

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The Gilded Palace of Sin

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  • A wonderful original pressing of this Country Rock classic with very good Hot Stamper sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl from start to finish
  • Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman fused folk and country with rock and soul influences on this superb debut release
  • 5 stars: “The Gilded Palace of Sin, was where [Gram] revealed the full extent of his talents, and it ranks among the finest and most influential albums the [country-rock] genre would ever produce… no one ever brought rock and country together quite like the Flying Burrito Brothers, and this album remains their greatest accomplishment.” 

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The Flying Burrito Bros. – Burrito Deluxe

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Burrito Deluxe

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  • A superb copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are exceptionally low-distortion, lively, solid and dynamic – just what this music needs
  • This vintage pressing has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the 49 year old tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from those tapes) 
  • “Indeed with this album, Hillman and Parsons carved a substantial place in music history as one of the most influential bands of all time.” 

This vintage A&M pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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…)

Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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More Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fam

This is the first White Hot Stamper pressing of Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled LP to ever hit the site, and folks, you are in for shock if you know this album at all. Although for the most part this is no Demo Disc, this super-rare pressing is SO MUCH BETTER than any other version we know of that it just blows our minds. I had my mind blown about ten years ago when I found my first one, and nothing has changed. It’s still the best pressing ever. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Again – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame

This original Plum and Tan Atco label Hot Stamper pressing has TWO AMAZING SIDES and fairly quiet vinyl. A Double Plus (A++) Sound and Mint Minus vinyl makes the copy the Black Swan of this shootout, that’s for sure.

You have never heard a better pressing of what many consider to be Buffalo Springfield’s Masterpiece, Buffalo Springfield Again. We guarantee this copy will blow your mind or your money back! Only one side of one copy had better sound, and that one was noticeably noisier, so we crowning this one King of the Buffalo Springfield Again Shootout for 2007.

This album, like all of Buffalo Springfield’s recordings, has always been a tough nut to crack. We’ve never even attempted a shootout for the first album or Last Time Around, although I do know Hot Stampers for both. Watch for them in the coming months. [Since done, multiple times.]

So many copies of Again sound so bad and play so noisy that most audiophile record lovers probably had written it off many years ago as a lost cause. (more…)

Willie Nelson – Sings Kristofferson – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Sings Kristofferson

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

A MINDBLOWINGLY GOOD A+++ SIDE ONE, the best we heard in the whole shootout! Side two earned an A++, making this the best copy to ever hit the site! We’ve heard great copies of this one in the past, but after throwing one on just for fun last year and hearing pretty mediocre sound, we decided that we’d collect a bunch of them to find out just how good the best pressings could sound — and how mind-numbingly average the typical copy can be. It’s not easy to find a copy that gets EVERYTHING right, but this side one seems to do it all.  

This is one of the better Willie Nelson records, not quite in the same league as Stardust (musically or sonically, I’m afraid), but certainly one of his strongest efforts from the period. Some songs are recorded better than others (when ain’t that the case?) but just about everything sounds great and the best stuff is out of this world. (more…)