Genre – Rock – More Rock than Pop

Van Halen – 1984

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  • A stunning copy of this hard rock classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are rockin’ like crazy – lots of energy, impressive size and big-time presence
  • Tons of hits: Panama, Hot For Teacher, Jump, and you won’t believe how good they sound on this copy
  • 5 stars: “It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band… the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall.”

Want to hear three of the best songs these guys ever did — Jump, Panama and Hot For Teacher — sound incredible? We recently had a chance to shoot out a bunch of these, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you that most copies were a JOKE. Most of them just do not have the kind of weight to the bottom end that this music needs to work. Put simply: if your Van Halen LP can’t rock, then what’s the point? (more…)

Iron Butterfly – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida – Dubby Da-Vida

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The craziest thing we learned in our shootout is that something close to half of all the yellow label, authentic, non-record-club Atco copies we played had clearly been mastered from a dub tape on side two, the side with In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

We’re guessing that at some point after 1968, when it came time to recut the record, the cutting master for side two was either damaged or couldn’t be found. Not a problem the label says to itself, we have a safety tape we can copy and use for side two.

Problem solved, except for the fact that on those copies In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida sounds like a cassette playing on a machine with worn out heads. The sound is smeary, veiled, small and recessed — all but unlistenable.  (more…)

Grand Funk Railroad – Closer To Home – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO STUNNING A+++ SIDES, giving you As Good As It Gets sound for this hard-rockin’ album! We just finished a shootout for this album, and most pressings were off our table in moments. The difference between this and the rest of our copies was NIGHT AND DAY! If you’re a fan of this album, you are going to flip out when you hear this copy.   (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Tattoo You

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

THE BEST SIDE TWO WE’VE HEARD, which means we’ve never heard Waiting On A Friend sound this good on any other copy! We just finished a huge shootout for this 1981 Stones album, one that the All Music Guide tags as “essential latter-day Stones”. In the tradition of other late ’70s / early ’80s Stones albums (Some Girls, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock And Roll), the sound is a bit raw at times, but a copy like this one gives you enough energy, body and richness to make for some very enjoyable serious listening.

Side one is big and rich, with more “meat on the bones” as we like to say. The guitars are chunky and powerful, which exactly the sound you want for a song like Start Me Up, which leads things off here. This side one had more extension up top than most copies and more size to the soundfield as well. It doesn’t have all of the presence of the very best copies, but it’s certainly a nice step up from most.

Side two is even better, doing everything side one did and then some, impressing us enough to earn our top A+++ grade. The sound is super clean and clear with amazing immediacy, putting Mick Jagger’s vocals right up front where they belong. It’s also very open, spacious and transparent — qualities that we certainly wouldn’t ascribe to most copies we’ve played. The piano has real weight, the guitars sound just right and the overall sound is usually rich and full.

As with any Stones album, don’t expect any sonic miracles. Hot Stampers aren’t going to turn this into Tea For The Tillerman. If you want to hear an amazing sounding Demo Quality record, this ain’t it, but if you love this music and are frustrated with the sound of the typical pressing I bet you’ll enjoy the heck outta this one. (more…)

INXS – Listen Like Thieves

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Listen Like Thieves

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  • Superb sound throughout with each side earning a sonic grade of Double Plus (A++) – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The Big Rock sound is courtesy of Chris Thomas’ production – if you know his work, you know this sound
  • AMG: “INXS completes its transition into an excellent rock & roll singles band with this album.”
  • “…with Thomas they “forge an unlikely union between the sonic extremism of Led Zeppelin-style crunch rock and the step-lively beat of disco” such that the album “rocks with passion and seals the deal with a backbeat that’ll blackmail your feet.”

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It!

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You’re Gonna Get It!

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  • A solidly hard rockin’ copy with seriously good grades of Double Plus (A++) or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich and open with a killer bottom end, musically it’s surely the best record Tom Petty ever made – a late ’70s Rock Classic 
  • Three of Petty’s best songs are on this one – Restless, I Need To Know and Listen To Her Heart – and they sound amazing
  • “Overall, the current LP boasts an impressive stylistic cohesiveness with its predecessor, but what makes the album exciting are the fresh hints of openness and expansion just beneath the surface. The rhythms are a bit looser, and there’s a new emphasis on Petty’s rough, driving, rock & roll guitar in the mix.” Rolling Stone

Sweetly textured guitars, breathy vocals — all the subtleties of a High Quality Recording are here, along with prodigious amounts of bass and powerful dynamics. Check out that drum sound! If you can play this one at the levels it demands you might just be shocked at how good it sounds. (more…)

Steppenwolf – Gold: Their Great Hits

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Gold: Their Great Hits

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s first greatest hits album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are rockin’ like crazy, with mostly ull-bodied, natural, smooth, tonally correct sound
  • This surprisingly good sounding greatest hits album is packed with hits, including Born To Be Wild, Magic Carpet Ride, The Pusher, and more
  • 4 stars: “The term heavy metal was rightfully named for this band. Steppenwolf fused traditional rock and R&B with late ’60s contemporary heaviness. “Born to Be Wild,” their signature tune, has aged amazingly well. Aside from the song’s power and performance, its engineering and production is stellar. This goes for most of Steppenwolf’s catalog as well.”

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Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf

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Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf

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  • This outstanding copy of Steppenwolf’s debut album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Both sides here are really rockin’ — big and full-bodied with tight punchy bass and lots of energy
  • Condition is often an issue with extremely popular rock records from this era, but this one is scratch free and fairly quiet throughout
  • Includes killer hits “Born To Be Wild” and “The Pusher,” both featured in the 1969 movie Easy Rider
  • 4 stars: “…a surprisingly strong debut album from a tight hard rock outfit… The playing is about as loud and powerful as anything being put out by a major record label in 1968…”

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Van Halen – Van Halen

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Van Halen – Van Halen

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  • This outstanding copy of the band’s debut album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are smooth, rich and Tubey Magical, with soaring guitars and huge choruses that really get loud 
  • One of the most powerful rock recordings of its day (if you get one that sounds like this)
  • 5 stars: “They sound vital, surprising, and ultimately fun — and really revolutionary, because no other band rocked like this before Van Halen, and it’s still a giddy thrill to hear them discover a new way to rock on this stellar, seminal debut.”

Turn up your nose if you like, but this music is widely considered classic rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but this album does exactly what it’s trying to do — it really ROCKS. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue – The Stones Album You Don’t Know

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Emotional Rescue

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and one of the better late-period Stones albums, in this case from 1980. 

Side two of this copy ranks up there with the very best we’ve ever heard, earning an A+++ grade and DESTROYING our preconceived notions about the kind of sonics we might get from the ultimate copies. This one DOES IT, plain and simple. It’s got serious punch down low, superb clarity, all the extension up top, and a HUGE open soundfield that lets you hear every last detail. She’s So Cold sounds amazing, we’ve never heard it sound better.

We had a great time shooting this one out — we had forgotten how good the music was and were pleasantly surprised by how good the better copies can sound. It’s tough to get great Stones sound, I’m sure most of you know that, but there’s lots of it here and a bunch of good songs. She’s So Cold, Summer Romance, Dance, the title track… not a bad line-up, and probably the last great album these guys put out. (more…)