Genre – Rock – More Pop than Rock

Leon Russell’s Carney – Classic Analog from 1972

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  • The best copy to ever hit the site! Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side, better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) on the first
  • Carney as a recording is classic analog from 1972 – the best vintage copies are exceptionally rich, solid and smooth
  • Russell’s highest charting album, making it all the way to Number Two if you can believe that, no doubt on the strength of the hit single, “Tight Rope,’ but “This Masquerade” is on here too
  • “The music is good, the lyrics are entertaining, the album worthwhile. Leon Russell – the only man around that can pull it off when he’s not trying.” – Cameron Crowe (San Diego Door, Aug. 1972) 

 

If you have full-range speakers (the bigger the better) some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are weight and warmth. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

In other words, like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and misaligned tonearms that scrape off the high frequencies. But some copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, revealing to us the kind of sound we would never expect from an old Leon Russell record. (more…)

Badfinger – Straight Up Power Pop

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  • This KILLER copy boasts Double Plus sound (A++) on both sides of this brilliant early Apple pressing with some of the quietest vinyl we have heard in a long while
  • Clean, clear and dynamic with tons of space and transparency, this is the way to hear this band’s masterpiece 
  • The sound here just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies of the album are supposed to (but rarely) do
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This fine songwriting, combined with sharp performances and exquisite studio craft, make Straight Up one of the cornerstones of power-pop, a record that proved that it was possible to make classic guitar-pop after its golden era had passed.” 

For fans of the band — and Power Pop in general — this is the Straight Up you have been waiting for!

We rarely do shootouts for this album, not because we don’t like the record or have enough customers for it; rather it’s the fact that clean copies of the album just aren’t out there in the bins the way they used to be. Two or three a year is all we can find, and that’s with hitting the stores every week. Subtract the noisy and groove-damaged ones and you don’t have much to work with until years have gone by. (more…)

Bryan Ferry – Boys and Girls

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this classic Ferry album from 1985 
  • This copy was super big, full and lively with plenty of presence and bottom end weight
  • On this record, bigger bass and punchier drums make all the difference in the world
  • “Instead of ragged rock explosions, emotional extremes, and all that made his ’70s work so compelling in and out of Roxy, Ferry here is the suave, debonair if secretly moody and melancholic lover, with music to match…”

Excellent sound and quiet vinyl on both sides! If you’ve spent any time with this album, you will be blown away by how great both sides of this copy sound.

Key Listening Test

The song Valentine, the second track on side two, is a key test for that side. Note how processed Ferry’s vocals are; on the best copies they will sound somewhat bright. The test is the background singers; they should sound tonally correct and silky sweet. If Ferry sounds correct, they will sound dull, and so will the rest of the side. That processed sound on his vocal is on the tape. Trying to “fix” it will ruin everything. (more…)

The Who – My Generation

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • Some tracks do sound better than others, but that’s par for the course with early Who material
  • “An explosive debut, and the hardest mod pop recorded by anyone.” — All Music

We recently finished a shootout for this record and this copy blew away most of the competition. Some tracks do sound better than others, but that’s par for the course with this kind of material. On the best songs, it had all the top-end, bass and presence that was missing from other copies. I’ve never heard these songs sound better than they do here.

What do the best pressings give you? (more…)

Roxy Music – Avalon

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  • A stunning early UK pressing of this Roxy classic: Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first 
  • Superb sound from start to finish — full-bodied and warm with wonderfully sweet vocals
  • Copies that are exceptionally open, clear and big present this music the way it was meant to be heard
  • Credit Rhett Davies with creating the sonic space that clearly displays so many singers, instruments and sounds
  • “Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics.” – Allmusic, 5 stars

It is records like Avalon that get people (often known as audiophiles) to spend wads and wads of money in pursuit of expensive analog equipment good enough to bring this wonderful music to life. (more…)

Crowded House – Woodface

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  • This killer original British import copy of Woodface boasts nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A++) sound from start to finish
  • Thankfully the care and effort that went into every aspect of the production of Woodface more than justifies the effort we put into finding this copy
  • Some of the most original, melodic, hook-laden, sophisticated popular music recorded in the last twenty seven years 
  • “The songs are easily their finest to date, combining flawless melodies and the outstanding harmonies of the brothers’ perfectly matched voices.” – All Music

This excellent copy of Woodface fulfills 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. (more…)

The Moody Blues – To Our Children’s Children’s Children

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  • Lush but clear Tubey Magical Double Plus (A++) British Decca LP sound on both sides, on quiet vinyl to boot
  • You get richness, fullness and warmth on both of these sides, which is exactly what you want for the Moodies’ music
  • “It is the fourth of what are popularly considered the group’s “core seven” (or Classic Seven) albums from 1967 to 1972, and as such represents the peak of their career to some.”
  • “There are no extended suites on this album, but Justin Hayward’s “Watching and Waiting” and “Gypsy” have proved to be among the most popular songs in the group’s history.”

This British Decca pressing has two excellent sides. Most aren’t nearly this airy, open or spacious. The bottom end is strong with nice weight and much improved bass definition. The vocals are big and solid. (more…)

Paul Simon – Graceland – What to Think When the New Version Is Completely Unrecognizable?

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

Where did this thick, dull, bloated, opaque turd come from? Having played at least 50 copies of the album over the last ten years, I can honestly say I have never heard one that sounded very much like this new version (maybe some record club copy we picked up by accident did, can’t say it never happened).

Can that possibly be a good thing?

Well, in favor of that proposition I guess you could say it sounds less like a CD now. On the other side of the ledger, it now sounds a great deal more like a bad LP.

We listen to piles of pressings of Graceland regularly. We know what the album generally sounds like, the range from bad to good, and we know what qualities the very best copies must have in order to win one of our shootouts.

Above all the one thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals. The best of the best copies have all these qualities, but the one quality any good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s good about the sound of the record. Without clarity the music doesn’t even work.

The new version has been “fixed”. It got rid of all that pesky grit and grain and CD-like sound from the original digital mix by heavy-handedly equalizing them away.

Cut the top, cut the upper mids, boost the lower mids and upper bass and voila – now it’s what Graceland would have sounded like had it been all analog from the start, AAA baby!

Or at least analog for those who don’t know what good analog sounds like. (more…)

The Moody Blues – In Search Of The Lost Chord

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  • This early UK pressing offers excellent Double Plus (A++) sound, OR BETTER, from beginning to end
  • This copy is tubey and rich and, most importantly, doesn’t sound murky or muddy
  • The first Moody Blues album to feature their trademark mellotron arrangements
  • “…the album on which the Moody Blues discovered drugs and mysticism as a basis for songwriting and came up with a compelling psychedelic creation, filled with songs about Timothy Leary and the astral plane and other psychedelic-era concerns.”

Achieving just the right balance of Tubey Magical rich-but-not-too-rich “Moody Blues Sound” and transparency is no mean feat. You had better be using the real master tape for starters. Then you need a pressing with actual extension at the top, a quality rarely found on most imports. Finally, good bass definition is essential; it keeps the bottom end from blurring the midrange. No domestic copy in our experience has ever had these three qualities, and only the best of the imports manages to combine all three on the same LP.

On the best of the best, the clarity and resolution come without a sacrifice in the Tubey Magical richness, warmth and lushness for which the Moody Blues recordings are justifiably famous. In our experience the best LPs are correct from top to bottom, present and alive in the midrange, yet still retain the richness and sweetness we expect from British (and Dutch) Moody Blues records. They manage, against all odds, to remove the sonic barriers put up by most pressings of the Moodies’ unique music. Who knew, after so many years and so many bad records, that such a thing was even possible? (more…)

Toto’s Debut and Copy Number Three

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  • 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…)