Genre – Rock – Art Rock

Crack The Sky – Crack The Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This White Hot Stamper pressing of the first and best album by the legendary-but-now-mostly-forgotten American Prog band Crack The Sky shows just how amazingly well recorded their debut really was.

This is Big Production rock that pulls out all the stops and then some, with a massive Beatlesque string section, horns, synths, backward guitars and every other kind of studio effect that they could work out.

Much like Ambrosia’s debut (another unknown band on a small label), such an ambitious project was clearly an effort to make a Grand Musical Statement along the lines of Sgt. Pepper, Crime of the Century, Close to the Edge, The Original Soundtrack and Dark Side of the Moon, all albums I suspect this band revered, having played them countless times.

In the ’70s I was a huge fan of those albums too. (Still am of course; check out ouTop 100 if you don’t believe me. They’re all in there.) I played them more times than I can remember, with Crack The Sky’s albums spending plenty of time — heavy rotation you could say — on the turntable in those days. To my mind, speaking as a fan and an audiophile, the first Crack the Sky album succeeds brilliantly on every level: production, originality, songwriting, technical virtuosity, musical consistency and, perhaps most importantly for those of you who have managed to make it this far, Top Quality Audiophile Sound.

This is simply a great album of adventurous, highly melodic proggy rock. If you like the well known bands that made the classic albums cited above, there’s a very good chance you will like this much less well known band’s first album also. (more…)

Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This Charisma double LP was the uncontested winner of our shootout, earning a whopping 12 PLUSES across all four sides! In fact, this is BY FAR the best we’ve ever heard this album sound. After our last shootout — in which no side earned a top grade — we had almost given up hope of finding a true White Hot Stamper copy. Well, folks, our perseverance has finally paid off and this copy is the proof! When you find a killer pressing this complex, theatrical music really WORKS. 

No other copy in our shootout came close to this one. The bass, which can lack weight on the typical copies, is big and solid throughout, and the vocals are present and rich with great ambience. Bigger and more present, richer and fuller, with more space and transparency, this copy is absolutely As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) for this album!

This recording is always going to have a few issues. Certain tracks — particular the more rocking, guitar-heavy material — are ALWAYS going to get a little hard in the midrange, but on a good copy the issue is much less apparent and doesn’t get in the way of the music. And the more open, spacious keyboard and acoustic -driven songs which comprise the bulk of the album can sound really wonderful! (more…)

Frank Zappa – Chunga’s Revenge – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Chunga’s Revenge

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

This Bizarre Blue Label LP plays about as quietly as they ever do. Zappa in this period provides a musical wild ride on record like no other artist of his day. For those of you who appreciate his music this album is guaranteed to provide plenty of entertainment and will surely reward repeated plays. I listened to it hundreds of times in my high school days; to this day it holds a special place in my collection.

Like many Zappa records from the period, especially the two releases that immediately preceded this one, Weasils and Burnt Weeny, the sound is all over the place. The most you can hope for is that the best sounding tracks sound right, and here they definitely do. Play Twenty Small Cigars on side one, or The Clap on side two to hear that there is good sound on both sides. (more…)

Peter Gabriel – So – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

TWO A+++ SIDES give you AMAZINGLY ANALOG SOUND for this digital recording! I don’t think you could find another copy of this album that sounds this good no matter what you do! We recently finished another big shootout for So, and we can tell you that the majority of copies — even the ones with the right stamper numbers — tend to be fairly harsh, edgy, and altogether unpleasant. When you find a copy like this, though, it’s worth all the trouble.    

With grades of A Triple Plus for both sides, this copy is SUPERB — punchy down low, sweet up top, full-bodied, lively, and above all, not too bright, spitty, or grainy. The vocals are present and clear and the bottom end is less opaque, blurry and bloated than on any copy you are ever likely to play. (more…)

Frank Zappa – Weasels Ripped My Flesh

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Weasels Ripped My Flesh

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  • This lively Zappa pressing boasts two excellent Double Plus (A++) sides – one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout!  
  • All Analog Tubey Magical sound from 1970, with a spacious, three-dimensional soundstage and a big bottom end
  • Clear, high-rez sound, crucial to making sense of this complex music – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • “Zappa’s anything-goes approach and the distance between his extremes are what make Weasels Ripped My Flesh ultimately invigorating.”

The sound is big and bold throughout with excellent clarity, presence, and wonderful transparency.

If you’re not already a Zappa fan, be warned that experimental song structures, feedback, dirty lyrics, avant-garde jazz freakouts and gas mask solos (yes, you read that right) all figure into the mix here. I don’t know of anyone other than Frank Zappa who could shape that all into one amazing, fairly cohesive LP. (more…)

Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

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The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

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  • This is an outstanding Island Sunray domestic pressing offering spacious Tubey Magical Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Low Spark is clearly one of the best sounding Proggy/Arty Rock records ever made – the space it recreates in your listening room is HUGE 
  • A Better Records Top 100 album and a real Demo Disc on a pressing that sounds as good as this one does
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The commercial and artistic apex of the second coming of Traffic… The standout was the 12-minute title track, with its distinctive piano riff and its lyrics of weary disillusionment with the music business. “

After doing the shootout for John Barleycorn recently, a record we love in spite of its problematic sound, this album was truly a breath of fresh air. I can honestly and enthusiastically say that the sound we heard on the best pressings was OUT OF THIS WORLD. This album is a permanent member of our Rock And Jazz Top 100, that’s how good it is. (more…)

Frank Zappa – Zappa In New York

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on all four sides of this classic Zappa Double Live album from 1977 
  • The first copy EVER to hit the site – after looking for years for enough clean copies to do a shootout, our hard work finally paid off with this outstanding vintage pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • 4 Stars: “The Zappa band, which includes bassist Patrick O’Hearn, percussionist Ruth Underwood, and keyboard player Eddie Jobson, along with a horn section including the two Brecker brothers, was one of the bandleader’s most accomplished. Zappa also was at the height of his comic stagecraft, notably on songs like “Titties & Beer,” which is essentially a comedy routine between Zappa and Bozzio…”  

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Genesis – Wind and Wuthering

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a superb Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy will be very hard to beat 
  • These two outstanding UK-pressed sides are dramatically more present, dynamic and detailed than you’ve heard elsewhere, guaranteed
  • Their Masterpiece is still A Trick of the Tail, the album before this one, but Wind and Wuthering certainly has much to offer as well
  • “Wind & Wuthering followed quickly on the heels of A Trick of the Tail and they’re very much cut from the same cloth, working the same English eccentric ground that was the group’s stock in trade since Trespass.”

We have struggled like crazy to find copies of the album that are able to present the music as well as this one does. Most of the pressings we’ve gotten our hands on were a disaster, and that includes everything that does not say Made in England on the label. (more…)

Genesis – A Trick Of The Tail

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GENESIS AT LAST! Here’s an amazing Trick Of the Tail that absolutely blows the typical pressing out of the water! The sound is BIG, BOLD and OPEN, breaking free from the grainy and cloudly qualities that screw up the average copy.

It was a thrill to finally hear this album sound great after all these years. The cymbals are clean and silky, the vocals are present, the bass has real weight and the overall sound is balanced and natural! You’ve got to clean and play a TON of copies to have any hope of finding one that’d come anywhere near this one.

At the end of the second track on side one, Entangled, there is a wonderful sounding choral effect which Alan Parsons liked so much he decided to use it liberally on his own recordings. He’s famous for having admitted to analyzing classic rock records, then taking the best bits and pieces, cobbling them together and producing the “music” that he is known for. I prefer the original bits and pieces myself.  (more…)

Genesis – Selling England By The Pound – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES on this Charisma Import pressing! This is only the second Hot Stamper copy of Selling England By The Pound to EVER hit our site, and with both sides rating at least A++, it’s a monster! It’s beyond difficult to find good sounding copies of the early Genesis albums, but we managed to pull together enough clean copies to get this shootout going and eventually found a few copies that got the job done. The overall sound is big, open, transparent and tubey.   

Anyone who has tried to find good sounding copies of this album knows what a tough task it is. We’ve tried to do this shootout numerous times in the past five years and until this week had only come up with one great copy to show for it. Most of them that we’ve played are just too thin and/or lifeless to let this big production prog work its magic. The domestic copies we’ve heard have been uniformly hopeless, but most Import copies we’ve played haven’t been worth getting excited about either. (more…)