Genre – Rock – Psych Rock

Ten Years After – A Space In Time – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND on BOTH sides of this White Hot Stamper copy! Folks, it just does not get any better than this. It’s been more than two years (08/08) since last we embarked on a Hot Stamper shootout for this great album. I always knew it could sound good, but I sure never heard it sound like this! (I said that last time around too you may recall. Two years is a long time in audio. If your stereo and room are undergoing regular improvements, as they can and should be, the sound will be noticeably better every year, dramatically better after two.) 

This is some of the best high-production-value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of these songs is similar to that of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and the like. In other words, no effort was spared to make the home listening experience as compelling as possible.

Big Production British Rock & Roll

Just listen to the guitar solo on ‘Let The Sky Fall’. It comes complete with multiple guitar parts, acoustic and electric, with some backwards guitar thrown in for good measure! This kind of dense aural soundscape, presented with so many carefully placed elements from side to side and front to back, truly rewards repeated listening.

No matter how many times you play the album you will hear (and hopefully appreciate) something new in the mix. I’ve been playing ASIT for thirty years and I heard lots of things this time around I never knew were there. This is why we keep improving our systems, right? There is never going to be a time when these nearly forty year old recordings have nothing new to offer. (more…)

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

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

This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best.

We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG.

Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

Love and Forever Changes – Dreck from Sundazed

 

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Sonic Grade: F

Two Hall of Shame titles, and another two Sundazed records debunked.

We got hold of a minty original pressing of the first Love album back around 2007, so in preparation for the commentary I pulled one of the Sundazed pressings off the shelf, (Forever Changes, the only one we ever bothered to sell), cracked it open and threw it on the turntable. 

Gag, what a piece of crap. When I had auditioned them all those years ago (2002) it was — I’m not kidding — the best of the bunch. (more…)

Love – Revisited

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

Two incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sides! We had a chance to shootout a handful of copies recently and didn’t hear any other copies that could compete with this Elektra Original Pressing. We are HUGE fans of Love and this copy will show you why. Both sides are lively and full-bodied and the bottom end is KILLER throughout. In short, it’s EXACTLY the sound you want for this music. Give it a chance and you’ll hear for yourself!

Compared to some other copies, this one had more impact, more power and more energy. The vocals are full-bodied and rich with excellent presence. Most copies we heard were pretty blurry down low, but you can actually make sense of the bass on this one. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

HARD ROCKIN’ STONES MAGIC AND QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES! We’ve never heard another copy of this album that sounded as amazing as this one. Both sides took top honors in our shootout — A+++ for side one, and A++ – A+++ for side two.

Not only is it hard to find great copies of this album, it’s hard to play them when you do find them. You’re going to need a hi-res, super low distortion front end to play this properly, but if you’ve got the goods this is one hot record! Play this with a budget cart / table / arm and you’ll hear very little of the magic that we heard. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Piper at the Gates of Dawn

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

Rich, Tubey Magical and full-bodied with a big, solid bottom. The energy is phenomenal, with tremendous separation between the instruments and real depth to the soundfield. This is the sound of the Master Tape, make no mistake about it. 

Side two is nearly as amazing, earning a Super Hot grade for so many of the sonic qualities we enjoyed on the first side. It’s smooth in a good way, allowing you to really crank the levels and trip out with the crazy psych-rock these guys were making back then.

Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive are especially impressive.

Without a doubt this is by far the best sounding early Floyd record we’ve ever played. You have to wait for 1971’s Meddle before you find sound this good again for Pink Floyd. Once the ’70s arrive the band went on to release four of the best sounding albums of the decade: Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. All four are in our Top 100. Dark Side I would put in any Top Ten worthy of the name.

The Beatles may have owned the ’60s but the ’70s clearly belong to Floyd. (more…)

The Moody Blues – A Question of Balance – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This British Threshhold pressing is one of the best copies of this album we’ve heard. Both sides have tons of tubey magic (natch), BIG BASS, and better transparency than the copies we played it against. Most Moody Blues records are too murky to make much sense of, but this Hot Stamper copy breaks through that mud and gives fans of this band the sound they’ve been wishing for and likely never found.

It has the tubey magic missing from the reissues and the typical import pressings. (The domestic copies of course are a bad joke.) When you hear the acoustic guitars strumming on a song like Question, the strongest song on the album, you would think you had a pair of 1954 McIntosh MC-30 vintage tube amps hooked up to your speakers. (I know that sound well; I owned those amps and they are hard to beat for midrange magic.)

Of course the problem with these vintage Moody Blues records (and the problem with vintage McIntosh amps too!) is that transparency and clarity are not their strong suits. In other words, there’s a certain “murky” quality to the sound that some may find less than appealing.

However, this is the sound the Moody Blues wanted. (There’s a long story behind that but I won’t go into it now.) Trying to “fix it” can only result in one outcome — a disaster. This is what modern recording engineers don’t understand. Brightening up a record like this adds nothing to its sound. The richness and the sweetness are what’s good about these recordings, and making them brighter causes them to lose a great deal in those two areas. (A judicious bit of boost in the extreme highs, one or two DB at 10 or 12K might have some benefit. The problem is that anyone messing with the sound is going to want to add some below that, in that dangerous 3 to 5K range, and that’s the last thing in the world that should be done.)

You can EQ this all you want. It is what it is and nothing you are likely to do will make it any better. (more…)

Frank Zappa / Captain Beefheart – Bongo Fury – Our Shootout Winning Copy from 2006

More Frank Zappa

Bongo Fury

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

This Minty looking Discreet LP has STUNNINGLY GOOD SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It’s very transparent and full-bodied from top to bottom. The bass is meaty and punchy, and the top end is wonderfully extended. You can hear lots of ambience the cymbals and hi-hats. It doesn’t sound like there’s anything between you and the music. I can’t remember ever hearing this record sound so good. 

Some of this music is recorded live and some of it is studio material. The live tracks offer some of the best live Frank Zappa sound you will EVER hear.

This recording is just plain wacky fun. You get the maximum entertainment value with this one. Muffin Man is the high point of this album. It’s one of my favorite Zappa tracks. (more…)

Traffic – Best of Traffic – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Traffic

Best of Traffic

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

This Island British Pink Label pressing has SOME OF THE BEST TRAFFIC SOUND YOU’LL EVER HEAR! We’ve been flipping out over Hot Stamper copies of this greatest hits comp for ages for a very simple, yet likely shocking, reason — the sound on the best copies can be BETTER than the best original pressings! How can that be you ask, dumbfounded by the sheer ridiculousness of such a statement? Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. Follow me over the jump to find out. 

It’s a dirty little secret in the record biz that sometimes the master for the anticipated Hit Single (or singles) is pulled from the album’s final two track master and used to make the 45, the thinking being that the 45 is what people are going to buy, or, having heard it sound so good on the radio, cause them to buy the album. One way or another, it’s the single that will do the selling of Traffic’s music. (more…)

The Doors – The Soft Parade – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

More The Doors

More The Soft Parade

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

This incredibly rare, exceptionally quiet Elektra Gold Label LP sounds AMAZING, As Good As It Gets (AGAIG)! The sound is BIG, RICH, and FULL-BODIED, exactly the way it should be. As good as the Hot Stamper Big Red E Label copies can be, and that’s very good indeed, the right first pressing is still The King. It just can’t be beat. 

The difference might only be 5%, but on a big dynamic speaker playing at loud levels that 5% can really give the sound the boost it needs to go over the top into crazy Demo Disc Land. (more…)