Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (American)

America – Homecoming – Their Second Best Album

Homecoming

  • An outstanding copy of America’s second album, boasting Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This is a simply wonderful Green Label original pressing – big and rich with excellent transparency and breathy vocals
  • Some of the most tubey, warm acoustic guitar reproduction you could ever ask for – this is the sound of real analog!
  • Ventura Highway sounds amazing here, as does everything else; it’s a Demo Disc for acoustic guitars and vocals

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction quality. Most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. And when the guitars are perfection, the voices and all the other instruments are right as well. Let’s face it: they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like this anymore. You have to go back to 40+ year old records like this one to find that sound.  

Warner Brothers Green Labels

Green label Warner Brothers originals are sonically all over the map. The biggest problem these pressings suffer from is a lack of extreme top end to provide harmonics for the guitars. The guitars on this copy sound just right, really sweet and open. On the average copy, they sound veiled and dull. (more…)

Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

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We’ve mentioned how difficult some records are to reproduce: how the Revolutions in Audio of the last decade or two have profoundly changed the ability of the seriously dedicated audiophile to get records that never sounded good before to come to life musically in a way previously understood to be impossible.

This is one of those records. But you have to have done your homework if you want to play a record like this, as the commentary below explains.

’60s Sound

The problem here is the sound. It’s got a bit of that tinny ’60s pop production sound — too much upper midrange, not enough lower midrange and a slightly aggressive quality when things get loud. Still, it’s quite a bit better than recordings by, say, The Byrds or Jefferson Airplane from the era, and I have no trouble playing and enjoying those records, so…

I can also tell you that if you have a modest system this record is just going to sound like crap. It sounded like crap for years in my system, even when I thought I had a good one. Vinyl playback has come a long way in the last five or ten years and if you’ve participated in some of the revolutionary changes that I talk about elsewhere on the site, you should hear some pretty respectable sound. Otherwise, I would pass.

On the Difficulty of Reproduction scale, this record scores fairly high. You need lots of tubey magic and freedom from distortion, the kind of sound I rarely hear on any but the most heavily tweaked systems. The kind of systems that guys like me have been slaving over for thirty years. If you’re a Weekend Warrior when it comes to stereo, this is not the record for you. (more…)

Dan Fogelberg – Souvenirs

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  • This superb copy of Fogelberg’s sophomore release boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout, the sound is super big, full, lively and spacious with deep punchy bass
  • “… easily placed him alongside such California hitmakers as Joni Mitchell, the Eagles, and Jackson Browne… ‘As the Raven Flies’ revealed Fogelberg to be capable of making edgy, guitar-driven rock and exhibited his range as a vocalist.”

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Bread – The Best of Bread

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing will show you just how good Bread’s music can sound on All Analog vinyl
  • A Better Records Desert Island Disc if there ever was one — believe me, there are scores of them
  • This is one of the rare Greatest Hits compilations (and this band had a LOT of hits) that is sonically competitive with the original albums
  • You’ll find most of the best Bread ballads here, including Make It With You, Everything I Own, Baby I’m A Want You, and If
  • All Music on their first album – “… effectively the birth of Californian soft rock…” (We think this applies equally well to all of their early material)

A Better Records Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. Believe me, there are plenty of them.

Listening to these acoustic guitars brings back memories of my first encounter with a British original of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic — that sound knocked me out thirty years ago, and here it is again. I guess I’ve just always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. (I was buying Bread album in the early Seventies while still in high school.) If you are too, then this killer copy of The Best of Bread will no doubt become a treasured disc in your home as well.

When you hear sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. Over the years I’ve even come to enjoy the rockers on side two. I used to consider side two the weak part of the album. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to borrow a good line from Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate the music that came out more than thirty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself, “What went wrong with popular recordings over the last two or three decades? Why do none of them ever sound like this?”

Not to worry. Audiophiles with good turntables have literally an endless supply of good recordings to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you have, you can’t have scratched the surface of the recorded legacy of the last 60+ years. That’s the positive thought for the day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just another step on your journey through the world of music.

One further note. Records like this only get better over time. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in painfully stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings that reveal their phony, lifeless and often just plain weird sound as your stereo and critical listening skills improve. In other words, if you make a change to your stereo and this record starts to sound better, you did the right thing. (more…)

Judy Collins – In My Life

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one, this Elektra Gold Label stereo pressing will be very hard to beat – reasonably quiet vinyl too  
  • Two of the best tracks are here on this Nearly White Hot side two: Sunny Goodge Street and In My Life, and both sound every bit as good as you would expect from a side with such a high grade
  • Here’s the midrange magic that’s missing from the reissues and whatever 180g pressing has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “Judy Collins was already an accomplished interpretive singer before recording this album, but In My Life found her widening her horizons and revealing an even greater gift than one might have imagined.”

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Sandy Bull – Inventions

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  • Sandy Bull’s superb sophomore effort finally arrives on the site with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one, mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two
  • We dropped the needle on a clean vintage copy of this rare Vanguard release and heard rich, smooth, sweet, wonderfully natural sound
  • A few years later we had enough copies to do a shootout, and we now proudly present the result of our efforts, a top quality copy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “On his second and best album, Bull added more instruments and a bit of electricity. The centerpiece of the record is “Blend II.” Like “Blend” from his first album, it is a melange (somewhat more electric in tone) of folk, jazz, and the Middle East, this time 24 minutes’ worth.”

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Peter, Paul & Mary – Album

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  • The first copy of this classic from 1966 to hit the site in many years – arguably a better album than Album 1700!
  • Both sides of this original Warner Brothers Gold Label pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • These sides are full of ’60s analog Tubey Magic – rich and warm with real immediacy and transparency
  • Features top musicians and PPM versions of folk classics like And When I Die and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine 

Finding great copies of this album is no easy task. Many of the copies we played were just too noisy, and most of the quiet ones just did not impress us sonically. After listening to so much mediocrity we were shocked and gratified that this very copy managed to show us a world of sound we did not expect to hear. (more…)

Judy Collins – Fifth Album

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  • Fifth Album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on the Big Red E label
  • These sides are exceptionally good, especially compared to most of what we played – only the best early pressings managed to get Collins’ voice to sound natural and real
  • “… 5th Album, cut in late 1964, may very well be her definitive folk statement… A trio of Bob Dylan songs act as the album’s centerpiece, clearly showing Collins’ growth into more progressive songs. In addition to these, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” is given its classic reading, with Collins’ voice echoing the song’s melancholy and eerie but mellifluent precision and emotion. “

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Emmylou Harris – Luxury Liner – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO IMPRESSIVE A+++ SIDES for this White Hot Stamper 2-pack! We just finished our first-ever shootout for this album, and we’re pleased to report that the sound on the best sides is right up there with Emmylou’s best — clear, open and transparent with tons of texture and detail. We’ve bundled our best side one and our best side two together to give you As Good As It Gets sound for the entire album!

And if you want to hear exactly what you’re paying for in a White Hot Stamper, just flip either one of these copies over. (Or you could leave playing average sounding sides to us.)

As is usually the case with Harris’ albums, the sound they’re going for here is clean and clear with plenty of detail. Only a handful of copies really nail that sound, with most being either dull and recessed or pinched and edgy. When you get one that manges to have a punchy low end, full mids AND the open, extended top end, the sound gets out of the way and you can really enjoy the MUSIC. After all, isn’t that what this crazy hobby is about? (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – The River

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  • A superb pressing of The River with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The best sounding Springsteen album we have ever played – it’s open, spacious, full-bodied, Tubey Magical and rockin’ like no other Springsteen album we know of – go figure!
  • 5 stars: “Springsteen rises to his own challenges as a songwriter, penning a set of tunes that are heartfelt and literate but unpretentious while rocking hard, and the E Street Band were never used to better advantage, capturing the taut, swaggering force of their live shows in the studio with superb accuracy… [Springsteen] rarely made an album as compelling as this, or one that rewards repeat listening as well.”

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