Genre – Rock – More Pop than Rock

Linda Ronstadt – Living In The USA

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Living In The USA

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

Both sides here are rich and smooth yet still clean and clear, precisely the kind of sound we’ve come to expect from the team of Val Garay and Peter Asher in the ’70s. The bass is deep and punchy, the keyboards tubey rich, and the whole of the ensemble displays both energy and conviction on this top quality batch of songs.

Check out the best of them, tracks that still get airplay today: Back in the U.S.A.; Just One Look; Alison; All That You Dream; Oh Baby Baby; Blowing Away and Love Me Tender. That’s a lot of great songs on one album! (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Toulouse Street – Templeman, Barncard and Landee Work Their Magic

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Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this one: STEPHEN BARNCARD and DONN LANDEE. This copy surely has all the Tubey Magic one could ask for, but it’s the size, space and clarity here that really shocked us.

After listening to one smeary, veiled mess after another it was a thrill to hear one rock like this.

The vocals have room to breathe, the acoustic guitars are big and up front with extended, correct harmonics, and the bass has more punch and definition than we had any right to expect.

The huge bass on the better copies of this album has to be the handiwork of STEPHEN BARNCARD (American Beauty, Tarkio), although DONN LANDEE (Little Feat, Van Halen), one of the other two engineers here, likes plenty of bass as well.

Back in the day I had no idea this record could sound so punchy in the bass, be this dynamic, yet still have smooth, silky, oh-so-analog vocals.

Some copies have wonky, bloated bass. Others have a bit of a boost at 10k, adding a sparkly unnatural quality to the vocals and cymbals, somewhat like a MoFi pressing.

The best copies have none of those problems. You have never heard ‘Listen To The Music’ sound better. It’s everything a good Ted Templeman produced rock record should be. (more…)

Crowded House – Woodface

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Woodface

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  • This original import copy of Woodface boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from start to finish
  • A special pressing with hard-to-find exceptionally quiet vinyl – this copy plays Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, as quiet as they come
  • Thankfully the care and effort that went into every aspect of the production of Woodface more than justifies the effort we put into finding good copies
  • Some of the most original, melodic, hook-laden, sophisticated popular music recorded in the last twenty-seven years
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The songs are easily their finest to date, combining flawless melodies and the outstanding harmonies of the brothers’ perfectly matched voices.”

The best copies of Woodface fulfill the promise of this extraordinarily well-recorded album beyond all expectations. The effect so totally immerses you in the musical experience that you forget you’re listening to a record at all. In your mind, you have the sense that you’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians, producers, and engineers intended it to sound. The sound is everything you want it to be as you experience every element of the music without limitation.

It only happens when the right record meets the right stereo, and that means rarely, but when it does the memory of the sound becomes fixed in the mind like no other, and it never leaves.  (more…)

Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This White Hot Stamper side one will BLOW THE DOORS OFF any Silk Degrees you have ever heard. Side one earned an A+++ grade with incredible clarity, a huge bottom end, silky sweet highs, and tons of energy. The strings have real texture, something you won’t hear on too many pressings of this album. The mids are clear, the vocals are breathy and the piano is super solid.  

Most copies SEVERELY lack presence and top end. Dull, thick, opaque sound is far too common on Silk Degrees, which may account for some audiophiles finding the half-speed preferable. Of course, our Hot Stampers give you the presence and highs that let this music come to life. If they didn’t they wouldn’t be Hot Stampers now would they? (more…)

Andrew Gold – What’s Wrong With This Picture? (2015)

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

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

The best copies of Gold’s sophomore release are incredibly rich, sweet and Tubey Magical. They also have tons of deep punchy bass and wonderfully breathy vocals.

If you own many Asylum records, you know this title is yet another example of classic Asylum Analog. Think of the sound of the Eagles first album and you won’t be far off.

AAndrew Gold is another talented popster who got little respect from the critics, or the public for that matter. His music has a lot of the same qualities as Buddy Holly’s: simple catchy tunes about love, with clever lyrics and tons of hooks. He covers one of Holly’s songs on this very album. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – The Middle of the Midrange Is Key

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Here’s what we learned when doing our recent shootout: many copies sounded like they were half-speed mastered. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a lot of things. In this case, these half-speed sounding ones had a little something phony added to the top of Linda’s voice, they had a little bit of suckout right in the middle of the midrange, the middle of her voice, and they had an overall diffuse, vague quality, with sound that lacked the SOLIDITY we heard on the best pressings. 

These hi-fi-ish qualities that we heard on so many copies reminded us of the audiophile sound we decry at every turn. We’ve played literally hundreds and hundreds of MoFi’s and other half-speed mastered records over the course of the last twenty years, and one thing we know well is THAT SOUND.

But think about it. What if you only had one copy of the album — why would you have more than one anyway? — and it had that Half-Speed Sound? You’d simply assume the recording had those qualities, assuming you could even recognize them in the first place. (Let’s face it, most audiophiles can’t, or all these companies would have gone out of business and stayed out of businesss, and their out of print records would sell for peanuts, not the collector prices they bring on ebay and audiophile web sites.) (more…)

Peter Frampton – Where I Should Be – A Personal Favorite

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One of my personal Records to Die For. This album presents a more mature Peter Frampton doing some of the most consistently inspired material of his career, including R&B covers like May I Baby and You Don’t Know Like I Know, with horn charts that really cook — in other words, a great album.

One of my personal Records to Die For. This album presents a more mature Peter Frampton doing some of the most consistently inspired material of his career, including R&B covers like May I Baby and You Don’t Know Like I Know, with horn charts that really cook — in other words, a great album. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Hasten Down The Wind

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Hasten Down The Wind

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

This copy is huge, rich and lively, with Linda’s vocals reproduced to near perfection.

The sound is rich, smooth, full-bodied and natural on both sides. In other words, this is Classic Analog from the ’70s, recorded by none other than Val Garay, one of our favorite engineers.

Most pressings of this album have quite obvious problems. If you own the record see if you don’t notice some of them on your own copy. Some have a boosted top end, a subject we have discussed on Linda’s records before. Some are just too fat and Tubey. Perhaps the result of too much Aphex Aural Excitement?

Some are thick, some are thin, some are too clean, some are not clean enough, every sonic issue you can imagine can be heard on this album if you have enough copies to play, and we had plenty. (more…)

Crowded House – Woodface – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This WHITE HOT STAMPER Woodface fulfills the promise of this extraordinarily well-recorded album beyond all expectations. We have an expression that we reserve for this kind of record — Master Tape Sound. When you drop the needle on a record this good you feel like you just threaded up the master tape and hit play. The effect so totally immerses you in the musical experience that you forget you’re listening to a record at all.

In your mind you have the sense that you’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians, producers and engineers intended it to sound. It’s perfection. The sound is everything you want it to be as you experience every element of the music seemingly without limitation. It only happens when the right record meets the right stereo, and that means rarely, but when it does the memory of the sound becomes fixed in the mind like no other, and it never leaves.  (more…)

Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks – Striking It Rich

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Striking It Rich

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

Normally this record sounds thick and dead. It’s very rare to find a copy like this that has any real transparency. The vocals are sweet and silky and the string instruments are more clear in the mix.

There’s nothing more frustrating than a record that defies every effort to hear into it, typically the feeling I get when listening to Dan Hicks’ recordings. But on this pressing I could actually appreciate the music without having to fight the sound.

The tracks with violin accompaniment tend to sound the best for some reason. Some tracks are recorded a bit dry for my taste, but others are just right.

This is probably the band’s masterpiece, all things considered. It’s the most consistent album of theirs overall and has wonderful high points in I Scare Myself and Canned Music.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

You Gotta Believe 
Walkin’ One and Only 
O’Reilly at the Bar 
Moody Richard (The Innocent Bystander) 
Flight of the Fly 
I Scare Myself 
Philly Rag

Side Two

The Laughing Song 
Canned Music 
I’m an Old Cowhand (From the Rio Grande) 
Woe, the Luck 
Presently in the Past 
Skippy’s Farewell  
Fujiyama

AMG Review

Striking It Rich features 14 more sides of hipster acoustic swing from Hicks and his helpmates, including the fan favorites “I Scare Myself” and “Canned Music.” The band’s musicianship remains mostly on the mark, but there are elements of the album that go beyond kitsch and the humor here is considerably darker than in the past…