Genre – Jazz/Rock Fusion

Donald Byrd – Electric Byrd

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this later Blue Note pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both of these sides are clean, clear and natural sounding with a lovely bottom end and lots of space around all of the players
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Donald Byrd’s transitional sessions from 1969-1971 are actually some of the trumpeter’s most intriguing work, balancing accessible, funky, Davis-style fusion with legitimate jazz improvisation. Electric Byrd, from 1970, is the best of the bunch, as Byrd absorbs the innovations of Bitches Brew and comes up with one of his most consistent fusion sets of any flavor… indisputably challenging, high-quality fusion.” – 4 1/2 Stars

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Weather Report – Heavy Weather – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES ON QUIET VINYL, including an A+++ side one! The sound was positively jumping out of the speakers and dynamic as all get out. The grit, grain and grunge of the typical pressing was nowhere to be found on EITHER side of this copy, and that alone puts it in a very special league. Drop the needle on either side and get ready for some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl.

As we noted on previous Hot Stamper listings of Heavy Weather, we’ve discovered that the key to the hot sounding pressings is a fairly simple one: the copies with high frequency extension and the tremendous energy that results from it are consistently the best sounding. You may have read elsewhere on the site that what separates many of the best Columbia LPs from their competition is an open, extended top end. For some reason, Columbia, more than any other label, seems to have a bad habit of making slightly dull records. Slightly dull does not work on this album. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Shadows and Light – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

FOUR INCREDIBLE SIDES! We had a huge shootout for this famous double album and this copy blew our minds with a pair each of White Hot and Super Hot sides and quiet vinyl throughout. In the high-stakes game of Better Records Double Album Poker, that’s a full house, my man! Sides one and three earned the A+++ grades while sides two and four were close behind at A++. This one gives you the kind of YOU ARE THERE immediacy and transparency that put you front and center for a late ’70s jazzy Joni Mitchell show. Not too many copies will do that!

If you’re a fan of Joni’s more experimental work from the mid to late ’70s, this album is a must-own. She takes a top-notch crew of musicians including Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious and Michael Brecker through a set including many of her best album tracks from the era.

Sides one and three were absolutely top-notch, earning the top grade of A+++. The sound is full-bodied, lively and very DYNAMIC. On so many copies the sax sounds thin and hard, but on a Hot Stamper like this one you get fuller, smoother sound for the instrument. Joni’s voice is breathy and present with real texture, and the three-dimensional imaging gives the music a real sense of SPACE — just like you’d get at a concert. This helps convey the intimacy of the songs and the performances, and isn’t that what we audiophiles got in this crazy hobby for in the first place? (more…)

Chicago – Chicago VI – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

The background vocals on these sides are super-breathy and clear, a far cry from the typically smeary, dark voices we heard on most of the pressings we played, all originals in this case.

More often than not the brass lacks bite and presence, but these sides had the Chicago horns leaping out of the speakers. What is a Chicago record without great horns? Without that big bold sound you may have something, but it sure ain’t Chicago.

The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key — it has to have just the right amount of transient bite yet still be full-bodied and never blary. In addition, on the best of the best pressings you can really hear the air moving through the horns. (more…)

Weather Report – Heavy Weather – Listening in Depth

More Weather Report

More Heavy Weather

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This one is for Weather Report’s MASTERPIECE of Jazz Fusion, Heavy Weather.

Our Track Commentary below has lots of What To Listen For (WTLF) advice to help you evaluate any copies you may have.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Birdland

Not an easy track to get right; there’s so much upper midrange and high frequency information to deal with. If the synthesizers and horns are too much, the effect is exciting but won’t wear well. Too much 6k is the problem on most copies, along with not enough above 10. That is a deadly combination.

A Remark You Made (more…)

Joni Mitchell – The Hissing of Summer Lawns

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  • An outstanding pressing, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them
  • Lots of Tubey Magic, textured synths, big bass and breathy vocals – this copy brings Joni’s jazzy folky fusion to life
  • Check out the big bottom end on The Jungle Line, which features the Drummers Of Burundi
  • Who made a more original, forward looking and interesting album in 1975 than this? I can’t think of anyone, can you?
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Joni Mitchell evolved from the smooth jazz-pop of Court and Spark to the radical Hissing of Summer Lawns, an adventurous work that remains among her most difficult records [as difficult as it is brilliant] … a strange and beautiful fusion of jazz and shimmering avant pop.”

Both sides here are airy, open, and spacious, with plenty of ambience. The bottom end is tight and punchy throughout with good solid weight, and the top end is silky sweet. Many copies of this album have a phony hi-fi “glare” that made us wince, but the sound here is warm and natural.

After hearing a few copies that bored us to tears years ago we had pretty much given up on finding good sound for this album, but once we found some truly hot Hot Stampers we found ourselves really enjoying this sophisticated Jazzy Folk Pop music. (more…)

Miles Davis – A Tribute To Jack Johnson

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

Two White Hot Stamper sides on quiet vinyl for this 5-Star Jazz/Rock Fusion classic! If you love the crazy music that Miles was making with John McLaughlin in the early ’70s, I’m sure you’re already a fan of this album, but I bet you’ve never heard it sound like this.

Check out the especially insightful Five Star All Music Guide Review linked above to get a better feel of what this album is all about. We’ve been trying to track down a good copy for ages, so it was a treat to hear this crazy, progressive jazz finally sound right. (more…)

King Crimson – Lizard – Our Shootout Winner from 2018

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

Incredible sound throughout with both sides of this copy winning our recent shootout and in the process earning our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++). Every bit the sonic equal of the first album, if you colorful Big Production Jazzy Prog Rock (with mellotron!) is your thing you can’t go wrong here. (more…)

King Crimson – Lizard – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This is a SUNRAY Island Records label British Import LP with No Bar Code — an Early Pressing. We can’t imagine Lizard sounding much better than this. Both sides have sweet and open sound. It’s rich, warm, and transparent! 

The dynamics on this pressing are unlike anything we have ever heard for this title. This copy has all of that and then some. There is big-time presence accentuated by sweet highs and rich lows. When we say this record is open and spacious, we mean it! You can peer directly into the soundstage due to it’s amazing transparency and detailed texture. Rounding out the bottom end is excellent bass tone with the WHOMP we love.

This is, in our humble opinion, a better record than the first King Crimson album, which is notoriously bass shy. Finding a quiet copy of either one of those titles would be an amazing feat. We are never going to have enough clean copies of this record to do a proper shootout, but in this case I am confident calling it as close to Right On The Money as it can get.

Miles Davis – At Fillmore – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Miles Davis

More At Fillmore

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

This is an Original Columbia 2 LP set on QUIET vinyl with tonally CORRECT sound. The music found here was recorded in the wake of Davis’ highly influential fusion opus Bitches Brew. Keith Jarrett is featured on organ along with a band that includes Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette and Dave Holland. It culls tracks from a four night stay at the Fillmore East in 1970. (more…)