Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (British)

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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Fairport Convention – What We Did On Our Holidays

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

This RARE Island Sunray British Import LP has Super Hot Stamper sound, full of the Tubey Magic you expect from a British Folk album in 1969 (and the unavoidable sonic shortcomings you should expect if you know much about this band and their records). It’s without a doubt the nicest copy we have ever seen, the acquisition of which was purely a matter of luck, as early pressings are virtually impossible to find in anything but beat-to-death condition.  (more…)

Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This White Hot Stamper side one of our beloved Tarkio, Brewer and Shipley’s Folk Rock Masterpiece, is without a doubt the BEST SOUND we have ever heard on any pressing bar none. This side sets a standard that no other copy on any side could touch. True, we awarded a Triple Plus grade to an amazing side two copy, but this side one is still the better of the two. We could easily have called it Four Pluses but chose to go with the simpler A+++ and this explanation.

However you frame it, this side is OFF THE CHARTS in a big way. It’s amazingly rich, yet clear and transparent as any we played — what a combination!

This, like Dark Side and so many other White Hot Stamper records we offer to the discriminating audiophile, is ANALOG at its finest. To our knowledge there hasn’t been a single record mastered in the last thirty years with this kind of sound, and we know whereof we speak: we’ve played them by the hundreds.

A Desert Island Disc for me with wonderfully NATURAL sound. This copy had the ULTIMATE Side One (A+++) and a very competitive Side Two (A++), making it the King of our Shootout. If you love this record as much as you should, this is the copy to own. I would love to keep it for my desert island, but we know there is surely a deserving soul out there who will treasure it as much as I do, and probably play it a lot more often, so if you know the album at all this is your chance at greatness. (And I still haven’t found a desert island I’m all that partial to anyway.)

Not Really One Toke Over the Line

Please don’t assume that this album has much in the way of uptempo country rockers like One Toke Over the Line, Flying Burrito Brothers style. Nothing could be further from the truth. Practically every other song on the album is better, almost all of them are taken at a slower pace, with none of them having the “poppy” arrangement of that carefully calculated Top Forty hit. The rest of the music on the album, the music you probably don’t know, is much better than the music that you do know if what you know is that song. (more…)

Shoot Out The Lights – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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SHOOT OUT THE LIGHTS is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it. 

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’ve never been able to make his guitar solos 20 dB louder than everything else, because they’re simply not on the record that way. That’s why live music can’t be reproduced faithfully 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. (And of course it helps to have big dynamic drivers.) (more…)

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Test for Proper Tonal Balance

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

One note on how to tell if you have a tonally balanced copy, at least on side two. Maggie May has multi-overdubbed, close-miked mandolins that should have strong midrange presence and an especially extended, harmonically correct top end. As soon as that song ends, a very sweet, smooth guitar opens the next track, Mandolin Wind. The two songs lean towards opposite ends of the tonal balance spectrum, but on a good copy, both of them sound right. One’s a little darker, one’s a little brighter, but they should both be right if your system is tonally balanced.    (more…)