Genre – Rock – More Pop than Rock

Toto’s Debut and Copy Number Three

More Toto

xxxxx

  • This superb pressing of Toto’s debut studio album boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Lukather’s overdriven guitar adds so much power to the music – the perfect combo of Grungy guitars and Rock Star vocals makes Hold the Line a staple of rock radio to this day
  • Exceptional vinyl throughout – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus – they didn’t press them any quieter
  • “Toto had already influenced the course of ’70s popular music by playing on half the albums that came out of L.A. All they were doing with this album was going public.”

This is analog, make no mistake about it. Those smooth sweet vocals, open top and rich full bottom are a dead giveaway that you are playing a record and not a CD. (I understand the CD for this title is awful; bright, thin and downright painful. This is the problem with the CD: if they do a bad job making it, and you no longer own a turntable, what are your options? Squat, pretty much.)

Pop production techniques were very advanced by 1978, providing plenty of natural sounding roomy reverb around the vocals and guitars. Lukather’s overdriven, distorted guitar has near-perfect tonality; it adds so much power to the music.

Just like the Hot Stampers for Aqualung, when the guitar sounds this good, it really makes you sit up and take notice of the guy’s playing. When the sound works the music works, our definition of a Hot Stamper in seven words or less.

Turn up the volume? You better believe it! (more…)

Dog and Butterfly – Listen for the Fat Snare on Straight On

More Heart

More Dog and Butterfly

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

Take five copies of the album, clean them well and then cue up Straight On. Now listen for how fat and solid the snare sounds. At least three will have a snare that doesn’t have the heft of the real thing. At most one will show you what it should really sound like.

Of course the copy with the right snare sound may have other problems, most assuredly does have other problems, which is why you need about ten to fifteen copies to really do a proper shootout.

Side Two

The vocals were breathy and clear on this side two, and the overall sound was punchy and energetic. The main areas we took points off for were a lack of warmth and a bit of smear on the acoustic guitars. Most copies have trouble getting all the transient information to resolve properly. The acoustic guitars are the place where this is most easily heard.

Side one earned the full Three Pluses for sound, with some of the breathiest background vocals we heard on any copy. That is a key sign of transparency — the background vocals are clear and breathy behind the lead singers. Most of the time they will be audible but the texture of the voices will be compromised.

Rich full sound is of course key to any rock record; it’s a quality that we rarely find on Heavy Vinyl reissues these days. (Granted we play very few but the ones we do play don’t sound very good so why bother?)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Cook With Fire 
High Time 
Hijinx 
Straight On

Side Two

Dog & Butterfly 
Lighter Touch 
Nada One 
Mistral Wind

AMG Review

Like their Magazine album, Dog & Butterfly peaked at number 17 on the charts, but the material from it is much stronger from every standpoint, with Anne and Nancy Wilson involving themselves to a greater extent. The light, afternoon feel of the title track peaked at number 34, while the more resounding punch of Straight On went all the way to number 15 as the album’s first single. With keyboard player Howard Leese making his presence felt, and the vocals and guitar work sounding fuller and more focused, the band seems to be rather comfortable once again.

Barbra Streisand – Guilty – Bab’s Best and Most Underrated Album (By Too Many Audiophiles Anyway)

More Barbra Streisand

More Guilty

xxxxx

This ain’t no zombie audiophile BS, the kind of sleep-inducing reverb-drenched trash that passes for “female vocals” in bad audio showrooms around the globe. (Paging Diana Krall.) This is Barbra and The Bee Gees at the peak of their Pop Powers. It just doesn’t get any better.

This is THE BEST ALBUM Babs ever made, and you can take that to the bank. It’s also one of the best sounding, if not THE best sounding of her later Monster Pop Productions. Can’t say for sure as I haven’t played all that many. Her first album is a true Demo Disc as well, but that one’s all about the Tubey Magical ’60s Columbia era, the Golden Age of Natural Sound, a world away from Guilty and its layers and layers of tracks. Having said that, there are multi-tracks and then there are multi-tracks. (more…)

Seals & Crofts – Summer Breeze

More Seals & Crofts

More Summer Breeze

xxxxx

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

This copy had a side one that could not be beat. The vocals were especially clear and breathy. 

Speaking of stampers, all our best copies had the same numbers and letters in the dead wax, which — contrary to popular opinion — doesn’t happen all that often but does from time to time. (more…)

Atlantic Crossing – The Last Good Rod Stewart Album

More Rod Stewart

More Atlantic Crossing

xxxxx

  • You’ll find superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last on this vastly underrated Rod Stewart classic
  • One of the few to hit our site in the last four years, and for that we apologize – Atlantic Crossing should be enjoyed by everyone in Hot Stamper form
  • This is some of the best Muscle Shoals rock- and soul-inflected pop from producer Tom Dowd we know of
  • AMG raves that “Three Time Loser and Stone Cold Sober catch fire,” and on this copy we guarantee they do

The last consistently good Rod Stewart album? Atlantic Crossing definitely gets my vote.

The copies we liked best were the biggest and richest, the least thin and dry. Many of the brighter copies also had sibilance problems which the richer and tubier ones did not.

What do the best pressings give you?

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music? The best copies rock like only “The Memphis Horns and three-quarters of Booker T. and the MG’s” can. We’ve been playing this record (at least I have) since it came out in 1975 and love the way it can sound on the better pressings.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks for the guitar notes, not the smear and thickness so common to most LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Domestic Vs. British Vinyl

On some of the Rod Stewart albums that we happen to know well, the British pressings are clearly superior; the first two Rod Stewart albums come immediately to mind. After that, strange as it may seem, all the best pressings are domestic. This album is certainly no exception. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – Look To The Rainbow

More Astrud Gilberto

More Look To The Rainbow

xxxxx

  • An outstanding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side two and a side one that’s close to it 
  • This kind of spacious, warm, rich, Tubey Magical analog sound is gone forever – you have to go back to 1966 to find it
  • Creed Taylor (the CTI man) produced, Gil Evans did most of the arrangements, Rudy Van Gelder and Val Valentin engineered – what’s not to like?
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This was a beautiful bossa nova record of Astrud Gilberto’s vocal stylings… “

(more…)

Blondie – Parallel Lines – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

More Blondie

More Parallel Lines

xxxxx

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

Can this kind of music get any better? This album is a MASTERPIECE of Pure Pop, ranking right up there with The Cars first album. I can’t think of many albums from the era with the perfect blend of writing, production and musicianship Blondie achieved with Parallel Lines.

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album like this one, sooner or later you will stumble upon The One, and boy did we ever. This side two had OFF THE CHARTS with presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums. It was positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air. There was not a trace of grain, just the silky sweet highs we’ve come to expect from analog done right.  (more…)

Bryan Ferry – These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)

More Bryan Ferry

More of These Foolish Things

xxxxx

  • One of the best copies to ever hit the site, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to it on both sides 
  • This original UK Island pressing is bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, clearer, and with better bass – it knocked us out
  • Outside of the first three Roxy albums, there is simply no recording by the band that as good as the first three Bryan Ferry solo projects
  • “Ferry for the most part looked to America, touching on everything from Motown to the early jazz standard that gave the collection its name… Wrapping up with a grand take on “These Foolish Things” itself, this album is one of the best of its kind by any artist.” – All Music

We had a nice stack of British copies to play and are happy to report that this one had an unbeatable Triple Plus (A+++) side two backed with a killer Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, both on very quiet vinyl. Anyone who digs Roxy Music or Bowie’s Pin-Ups is going to find a lot to like here. Check out the cool cover of A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall that kicks off side one!

The sound positively JUMPS out of the speakers and fills the room. There’s loads of Tubey Magic, big punchy drums, and depth to the soundfield. (more…)

Paul McCartney and Wings At the Speed of Sound – Our Mindblowing Four Plus Copy

More Paul McCartney

More Wings At the Speed of Sound

xxxxx

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

This is a classic case of Live and Learn. We were wrong about At the Speed of Sound as a recording. As to whether or not there are great sounding pressings of it, having just done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are. 

Previously we had written:

I can’t even begin to convey to you what a rough shootout this was. Copy after copy bored us to tears and most of them were too noisy. It was one of those shootouts that almost just defeated us, but we persevered and managed to find a few Hot Stampers. They didn’t do miracles and turn Speed Of Sound into a stunning Demo Disc, but they sounded musical, correct and enjoyable, and that seems to be all you can ask for on this album. 

This is not true. We played a copy that we awarded our very special grade of Four Pluses to (on one side, two sides would be too much to ask for) because it showed us an At the Speed of Sound that we had no idea could possibly exist, this after having played them by the dozens for years.

It was DRAMATICALLY bigger and more transparent, with no sacrifice in richness or smoothness. (more…)

If You Like Power Pop, Get The Knack

More from The Knack

xxxxx

  • The Knack’s debut finally returns to the site and with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • With plenty of bass punch, the music comes to life like you’ve never heard before
  • Wall to Wall Live-in-the-Studio Rock Sound to rival Back in Black and Nevermind
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Get the Knack is at once sleazy, sexist, hook-filled, and endlessly catchy — above all, it’s a guilty pleasure and an exercise in simple fun.”

This Monster Power Pop Debut by the Knack is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with the kind of Wall to Wall Big Beat Live Rock Sound that rivals Back in Black and Nevermind — if you’re lucky enough to have a copy that sounds like this! (If you’re not then it doesn’t.)

This is a Rock Demo Disc that is very likely to lay waste to whatever rock demo disc you currently treasure. My Sharona is simply STUNNING here. You just can’t record drums and bass any better! 

And let’s not forget the song Lucinda. It’s got exactly the same incredibly meaty, grungy, ballsy sound that Back in Black does, but it managed to do it in 1979, a year earlier!

Mike Chapman produced this album and clearly he is an audiophile production genius. With a pair of Number One charting, amazing sounding Pop albums back to back — Blondie’s Parallel Lines in 1978 and this album early the next year — how much better could he get? The answer is: None more better. (more…)