Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (British)

Richard Thompson – Action Packed: The Best of the Capitol Years – Reviewed in 2001

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

Another top outing on TWO clear vinyl LP’s from the master of modern electric folk music. It doesn’t get any better than this.

The sound is excellent and the music is some of the best Richard Thompson has ever made. If I had to choose one later Richard Thompson album, this would probably be it.

Almost every one of these is very slightly dished, but this should not have any effect on the sound, which is excellent. Thompson’s lovely duet with his son on Persuasion is worth the price of the album.

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy – Where’s the Bass?

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This Pink Label Original Island pressing has amazingly sweet, open, extended and transparent mids and highs. It has two major shortcomings: a lack of bass, and a fair amount of surface noise. If you can add a few dB around 50 cycles and can put up with some surface noise and scratches, you are guaranteed to hear some wonderful sound in the best tubey Island tradition. 

Side two sounds better than side one; it has more bass and therefore is more tonally correct.

Traffic – Traffic – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Traffic – Traffic

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

UNBELIEVABLE! Here’s an Island Pink Label pressing of Traffic’s self-titled second album that has a STUNNING side one, a GREAT side two, and plays close to Near Mint! It has been YEARS since we’ve had such a beautiful Pink Label copy, and I doubt we’ve ever heard a pressing on any label that could better this side one. The sound is as close to PERFECTION as we ever expect to hear for this music — super tubey magical, unbelievably transparent and tonally correct from top to bottom.  (more…)

Traffic – Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory

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Shoot Out At The Fantasy Factory

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

Import versus domestic? You would be hard pressed to find better sound than on the best of these DOMESTIC pressings, and that includes Low Spark of High Heeled Boys!

We just finished a huge shootout for this album and didn’t find a copy that could hold a candle to this one in the huge stack we played. This may not be the best Traffic album ever, but on a copy that sounds this good it’s very enjoyable and certainly an impressive sonic spectacular. 

Side one earned an A+++ grade and side two was close behind at A++. The vocals sound just right and the percussion is full of energy, which really kicks up the excitement here. Check out how open, spacious and transparent the soundfield is, letting you appreciate everything that’s going on musically. (more…)

Mary Hopkin – Post Card

Mary Hopkin – Post Card

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

This British original pressing has a White Hot side two and a nearly White Hot side one. Side two is unbelievably huge and open in a way that no other side of any copy could touch. It’s taken us close to ten years to find enough clean copies with which to do this shootout. Engineered by Ken Scott, Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” is simply amazing on this copy.    (more…)

Dire Straits – Communique

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  • This stunning sounding copy of the band’s sophomore release earned shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • Simply bigger and fuller than the competition, this vintage pressing has massive amounts of energy and rich punchy bass 
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s debut release, you’ll find much to like on this underappreciated follow up
  • It is insanely difficult to find good copies of this album, which is why we’ve only had a handful of Hot Stampers hit the site in all these years
  • “…an album full of the delicate subtleties that make Mark Knopfler shimmer — that deep tobacco-soaked voice, the quick, fluid guitar, and the wit behind many of his lyrics… a rich, abundant source of beauty.”

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Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, this copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you are now revealed as never before 
  • When you play I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This one has it ALL going on — all the tubey magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high resolution yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings. (more…)

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die

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John Barleycorn Must Die

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  • A stunning copy of this Traffic Classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to the last 
  • Both sides have the vintage analog sound we love – rich and smooth, with plenty of Tubey Magic, bottom end weight and studio space
  • Arguably their best album, certainly their most groundbreaking, original and involving – Low Spark would rank a close second
  • “…the band sounds utterly grounded. As the grooves percolate effortlessly along, it becomes clear that unity, not any technical skill, is what makes the music levitate.”

This killer United Artists LP has the sound we love on Barleycorn (and pretty much any Classic Rock album from the era). It’s rich, smooth, sweet; in short, it has the sound you find only on the best vintage vinyl.

Note that we do not say “original” — some of our highest scoring copies were on the second, plain brown label. We believe the term vintage is more accurate. “Old” works well too for that matter. Stick with the stuff from the ’70s and you’ll save yourself a lot of grief (not to mention dough) chasing after the kind of analog sound that is found practically nowhere else. (more…)

Rod Stewart – An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down

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  • This UK Vertigo copy of Rod Stewart’s debut solo album boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing has a lovely musical quality that’s missing from most copies 
  • Titled The Rod Stewart Album for US release, this is Rod the Mod’s acclaimed debut
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The music and the songs are so vivid and rich with detail that they reflect a whole way of life, and while Stewart would later flesh out this blueprint, it remains a stunningly original vision.”

This vintage British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even 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…)

Shoot Out The Lights – Loud Versus Live Versus The Heavy Vinyl Reissue

Shoot Out The Lights

 

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Here’s a thought: if 180 gram records are supposed to be an improvement over the original pressings, why is it that they NEVER sound Big and Bold like this pressing? And I do mean never; I’ve played hundreds of them over the years and have yet to hear this kind of sound on any of them. At this point I would have to conclude that it is simply not possible.

If you have big speakers, a large listening room and like to play your records loud, there is no modern reissue that will ever give you the thrill that a record like this can. (Of course, to fully appreciate the effect it obviously helps if you have a White Hot Stamper copy to play.)

Loud Versus Live

I’ve seen Richard Thompson on a number of occasions over the years, and as loud as my stereo will play, which is pretty darn loud, I could never make his guitar solos 20 dB louder than everything else, because it’s not on the record that way. That’s why live music can’t be duplicated properly in the home: the dynamic contrasts are much too great for the typical listener or his stereo.

Having said that, when you actually do turn this record up, way up, you get the feeling of hearing live music, and that’s not easy to do! Only the best recordings, in my experience, can begin to give you that feeling. We discuss this subject in a number of commentaries under the heading of Turn Up Your Volume.
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