Genre – Rock – Big Production Rock

The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know – Kiln House

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Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

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The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know – Kiln House

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

Kiln House is one of the all-time great Fleetwood Mac albums. It’s the first they recorded after Peter Green left. With Green gone Jeremy Spencer’s influence came to the fore. He was apparently quite a fan of Buddy Holly. His songs are straightforward and unerringly melodic.

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The co-leader here is Danny Kirwan and he rocks the hell out of this album. Three of the best songs the band ever did, regardless of incarnation, are here: Tell Me All The Things You Do, Station Man and Jewel Eyed Judy, all written by Kirwan (with the help of others). His guitar work on these three songs is blistering. Any Fleetwood Mac greatest hits collection would be a joke without these tracks. Of course they are consistently missing from all such compilations, at least the ones with which I am familiar. The sad fact is that few people miss them because few people have ever heard them.

And Let’s Not Forget Christine McVie

It’s amazing to realize that this album was made by just four guys. Actually that’s not true. Christine McVie (known as Christine Perfect at the time) not only did the lovely artwork for the cover, but she sings uncredited background vocals on some of the songs. Her contribution to Station Man is especially lovely. She would officially join the band on their next album, a personal favorite of mine, Future Games. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Electric Light Orchestra – A New World Record

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Listening in Depth

 

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As a result of Jeff Lynne’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production approach, it will be the rare copy that provides enough transparency and resolution to bring out all the elements in these incredibly dense mixes, strings included. But when you find a copy that does, what a THRILL it is. This is the band’s MASTERPIECE in my humble opinion. For audiophiles ELO on LP doesn’t get any better.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Tightrope

Both sides start off with a uptempo rocker, and this side’s is Tightrope.

Watch your string tone. If it’s shrill or grainy you are going to find yourself in trouble on practically every song on A New World Record — they all have strings and lots of them.

You need richness in the lower mids, harmonic extension up top, and just plain highly resolving sound if the strings are going to sound right in the mix.

Note that sometimes the highs get better on a record as it plays. Check to see if you don’t have more top end by the second track, or even halfway through this one. Happens to us all the time. (more…)

Eric Clapton’s Debut Album – A Classic of Classic Rock

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Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

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Eric Clapton

We had a killer pressing a few years back which sounded a whole lot better than I ever thought the album could sound. Man, what a revelation to hear an old favorite sound so amazingly spacious and sweet.

I’ve been playing this album since 1970, the year it came out. Back then my collection was made up of albums by The Beatles, The Doors, Buffalo Springfield, Crosby Stills and Nash, America, Rod Stewart, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, Chicago, James Taylor, Spirit, The Band, Loggins and Messina, Blind Faith, Bread, The Who …

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This was the music of my youth, and although many other artists and styles of music have been added to the playlist in the ensuing decades, Classic Rock still makes up a substantial portion of the music I play and enjoy today.

As is no doubt the case for many of you. It’s why Classic Rock is the heart and soul of our business. Finding quiet, exceptionally good sounding pressings of Classic Rock albums is probably the hardest thing we do around here. It’s what we devote most of our resources to, and if we can be indulged a self-compliment, it’s what we do best.

Of course having no competition to speak of is no little help in this regard. No one is even attempting to conduct the kind of record shootouts we find ourselves immersed in all week long. And who can blame them? It’s hard to put together the layers and layers of resources necessary to pull it off. There are a great many steps a record must go through before it finds itself actively for sale, and that means there are ten copies sitting in the backroom for every one that’s on the site. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Emerson Lake & Palmer

 

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Listening in Depth

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The Brit copies may take top honors for side one (“sweetness, openness, tubey magic, correct tonality, presence without aggressiveness, well-defined note-like bass, extended airy highs”) but the Hot Stamper Cotillion copies KILL on side two. They really ROCK, with greater dynamic contrasts and seriously prodigious bass, some of the best ever committed to vinyl.

The Brits tend to be a bit too “pretty” sounding. They’re too polite for this bombastic music. This music needs the whomp down below and lots of jump factor to work its magic.

The Brits are super-low distortion, with a more open, sweeter sound, especially up top, but the power of the music is just not as powerful as it can be on these very special Cotillions.

This Cotillion on side one is a rare gem indeed, one of the best domestics we’ve ever heard. It’s not quite as smooth and sweet as some, but it’s every bit as good in most other areas, and better in the bass. The Cotillion pressings of this album have bass that puts 99% of all the rock records in the world to shame. (And 100% of the half-speed mastered records!)

This is a case where, to get the ultimate sound, you not only need two copies, you need two copies made in different countries!

Not Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

The organ that opens side two is always going to break up a tiny bit. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. In fact, if it DOESN’T break up for you, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that either your copy or your stereo is too smooth. We played somewhere between two and three dozen copies this week, and you just can’t find a hot copy without at least a hint of distortion on the organ. (more…)

Poco – Poco

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Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

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Poco – Poco

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

Poco’s second album is an unusual blend of country-rock, with some long, jazzy instrumental breaks that center around Rusty Young’s pedal steel, which doesn’t sound like any pedal steel guitar you’ve ever heard. It’s played with a wah-wah pedal and, if that wasn’t enough, the resulting sound is sent through a Leslie organ speaker.

We know it sounds crazy, but it really works. There is nothing else like it on record, nothing that we’ve ever heard anyway.

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Country Prog Rock

Most of side two is taken up by a single track, Nobody’s Fool / El Tonto de Nadie, Regresa. It’s a suite in which the band stretches out instrumentally in a somewhat proggy way, although one could make the case that Bluegrass music is all about “stretching out instrumentally.” (more…)

Little Feat – The Last Record Album

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Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

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Little Feat – The Last Record Album

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from 1975.

This White Hot Stamper pressing has the sound I’ve been trying to find on a pressing of The Last Record Album for more than thirty years. Finally, here it is! This was my first Little Feat album, purchased way back in 1975, and it’s still my favorite by the band. The recording is notable for having amazing bass; it goes REALLY deep in places (Long Distance Love) and it’s punchy and rich throughout the album.

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The problem has always been an overly smooth top end and a serious lack of presence. The good news is that if you clean enough copies with the advanced cleaning techniques we’ve developed (using an $8000 RCM helps) and you make enough improvements to your stereo, room, etc., with the right copy you can actually get this album to sound REALLY GOOD. This is one of those amazingly good copies, the best we have ever heard. It easily won our shootout on both sides. From start to finish it’s As Good As It Gets.

Side One

A+++ White Hot stamper sound! So transparent, big and open, with huge space and 3-dimensional like no other copy we played, without sacrificing any of the richness and bass that the best copies have. This one does it all.

Side Two

A+++, not quite as rich in the lower midrange as the side one we discuss above, but very high-rez (listen for the vocal reverb, not audible on most copies) and by far the best side two we played. See if you don’t hear the change in the lower mids we mention when switching sides.

The piano is key here. On track three it should sound rich and full and solid, yet percussive. Rarely does it sound right, which is what makes it a good test for side two.

Whose Fault Is It?

Most copies of this album are ridiculously dull and compressed. The band itself sounds bored, as if they don’t believe in their own songs. But it’s not their fault. Whose fault it is is never easy to fathom; bad mastering, bad tapes, bad vinyl, bad something else — whatever it is, that thick, lifeless sound turns this powerfully emotional music into a major snooze-fest. It’s positively criminal but it happens all the time. It’s the reason we have to go through a dozen copies to find one like this.

This one has the kind of super transparency that allows you to hear the space around all the instruments. Most copies have a bad case of ‘cardboard drums”; even the best copies have a bit of that sound. But when you have one of these high-rez copies spinning, the sound of the drums doesn’t call attention to itself. It may not be the BEST drum sound you ever heard, but it’s a GOOD drum sound, and in a lot of ways you could argue that it’s the RIGHT drum sound. It’s rich and fat, a perfect match for the sound of the album as a whole.

A True Test

Now if you have mini-monitors or screens, some of that sound won’t come through nearly as well as it might with another speaker, a big dynamic one for example. To our way of thinking, this is the kind of record that one should bring to one’s favorite stereo store to judge their equipment. They can play Famous Blue Raincoat; they do it all day long. But can they play The Last Record Album and have it sound musical and involving.

This is a much tougher test, one that most systems struggle to pass. (That’s what makes it a good test, right?) Leaner and cleaner — the kind of audiophile sound I hear everywhere I go — is simply not going to work on this album, or Zuma, or Bad Company, or the hundreds of other classic rock albums we put up on the site every year. There has to be meat on those bones. To switch metaphors in the middle of a stream, this album is about the cake, not the frosting.

Keep that in mind when they tell you at your local audio salon that the record you brought in is at fault, not their expensive and therefore “correct” equipment. I’ve been in enough of these places to know better. To mangle another old saying, if you know your records, their excuses should fall on deaf ears.

One of the Greats

Little Feat is one of the ten best rock bands in the history of the world. Their live album Waiting For Columbus is, in my opinion, the greatest live rock album ever recorded. If you don’t own a copy of it, buy that Little Feat album next.

June Christy – Something Cool

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics

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June Christy – Something Cool

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

We are HUGE fans of this album at Better Records, but it’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make this shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble!

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Get the volume just right and June will be standing between your speakers and putting on the performance of a lifetime. This is one of our three or four favorite female vocal albums (along with Clap Hands, Julie Is her Name and not many others!) and this amazingly good copy will show you why — the sound and music are As Good As It Gets.

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This early mono pressing is the only way to find the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from modern records. As good as the best of those pressings may be, this record is dramatically more REAL sounding.

She’s no longer a recording — she’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Her voice is so rich, sweet, and free of artificiality you cannot help but find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Both sides of this 1955 All Tube Recorded and Mastered record are just as rich and relaxed as you would expect. The balance is correct, which means the top is there as well as the bottom, with good vocal presence throughout. (more…)

Listening in Depth to The Police – Synchronicity

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Listening in Depth

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The choruses get LOUD and are so POWERFUL on the best copies they make a mockery of most of the pressings out there. This is a Big Speaker Record if ever there was one.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Synchronicity I

One of the two title tracks on this record (huh?), it’s also one of the quickest ways to hear what is happening sonically on this side. It’s a high energy, take-no-prisoners rock track that usually ends up sounding bloated and brittle on the typical pressing. However, when it’s cut right it’s amazing! The bass guitar and kick should be driving the track, not making you want to skip to the next one. Also, when you can hear the separation and detail in the multitrack army of Stings during the chorus, you’re in good shape.

Walking in Your Footsteps

Is that a pan flute I hear? More than likely it’s a synth, but if you can hear the “air” going through it and all of the ambience surrounding it, you’re not off to a bad start. Also, the percussion should actually sound like a drum and not like a stack of textbooks getting smacked. (more…)

Today’s Mediocre LP – Pet Sounds on DCC

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Sonic Grade: C-

The no-longer-surprising thing about our Hot Stamper pressings of Pet Sounds is how completely they trounce the DCC LP. Folks, it’s really no contest. Yes, the DCC is tonally balanced and can sound decent enough but it can’t compete with the best “mystery” pressings that we sell. It’s missing too much of the presence, intimacy, immediacy and transparency that we’ve discovered on the better Capitol pressings.

As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing. Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a bad case of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can try turning up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want; they simply refuse to come to life.

Ranking the Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings

A Space in Time

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This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted. (Of course, as it turns out, recording technology only got worse as the decade wore on, and during the ’80s the sound of most records went off a cliff.)

Big Production British Rock & Roll just doesn’t get much better than A Space in Time.
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