Genre – Soul / R&B

Ray Charles – All Time Great Country and Western Hits

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  • A killer sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or better on all four sides!
  • What was especially shocking about this shootout is that in some ways the best sounding copies of the reissue not just equal but best their original album counterparts 
  • Twenty-two songs on two LPs, including huge hits like I Can’t Stop Loving You, You Don’t Know Me, Oh Lonesome Me, Bye Bye Love, and much more – no wonder AMG gave both discs 5 stars
  • This is some big, bold, absolutely glorious Tubey Magical analog – the tape to disc transfer is Hard To Fault (HTF), making a mockery of the audiophile remasters to come

The music is wonderful. Just listen to that swingin’ horn section behind Ray on Hey, Good Lookin’. They are hot! And Bye Bye Love just plain ROCKS. (more…)

Ray Charles – Ingredients In A Recipe For Soul

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  • Insanely good sound throughout with both sides earning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • These sides are doing it all right — richer, fuller, better bass, more Tubey Magic, and the list goes on!  
  • “The high points are very high — “Busted,” his hit reworking of a composition by country songwriter Harlan Howard, is jazzy and tough, and one of his best early-’60s singles…” – All Music

What the best sides of this Rhythm and Blues album from 1963 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl import pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Busted 
Where Can I Go? 
Born To Be Blue 
That Lucky Old Sun 
Ol’ Man River

Side Two

In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down) 
A Stranger In Town 
Ol’ Man Time 
Over The Rainbow 
You’ll Never Walk Alone

AMG  4 Star Review

Although it was a big commercial success, reaching number two on the LP charts, this record would typify the erratic nature of much of Charles’ ’60s output. It’s too eclectic for its own good, really, encompassing pop standards, lowdown blues, Mel Tormé songs, and after-hours ballads. The high points are very high — “Busted,” his hit reworking of a composition by country songwriter Harlan Howard, is jazzy and tough, and one of his best early-’60s singles, and the low points are pretty low, especially when he adds the backup vocals of the Jack Halloran Singers to “Over the Rainbow” and “Ol’ Man River.” A number of the remaining cuts are pretty respectable, like the tight big band arrangement of “Ol’ Man Time” and the ominously urbane “Where Can I Go?

Bill Withers – Still Bill – Surprisingly Well Recorded Soul

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  • A stunning sounding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Some of the best soul sound you’ll ever hear — incredibly natural, full-bodied and present
  • Excellent sound for the two hit singles — “Lean On Me” and “Use Me”.
  • Five Stars on Allmusic: “It’s warm and easily accessible, but it has a depth and complexity that reveals itself over numerous plays…”

This killer Sussex pressing was one of the best from our recent shootout. It positively massacred the other copies we put up against it with superb presence, top-notch clarity, full-bodied vocals and driving funky energy. I don’t think you could find a better sounding Bill Withers album no matter what you do. I wish there were more ’70s soul albums that sounded like this. (more…)

Prince – Purple Rain

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, this copy is practically as good as it gets
  • This copy was just BIGGER and RICHER than any other we played, with rock solid energy to beat them all
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – but here they are!
  • 5 Stars and “… a stunning statement of purpose that remains one of the most exciting rock & roll albums ever recorded.” – All Music

The shootout winner for this album earned top grades and showed us a Purple Rain we had never heard before.

The best copies sound pretty much the way the best copies of most Classic Rock records sound: tonally correct, rich, clear, sweet, smooth, open, present, lively, big, spacious, Tubey Magical, with breathy vocals and little spit, grit, grain or grunge. (more…)

The Immortal Otis Redding

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  • An incredible sounding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two
  • This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce
  • This vintage Plum and Tan label LP plays pretty darn quietly for an original Atco pressing – we’ve never heard one quieter
  • “…any Otis Redding recordings should be considered welcome (if not mandatory) additions to all manner of listeners.”

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real person singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

David Bowie – Young Americans – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Young Americans  
Win

My favorite track on the album, an undiscovered gem in the Bowie catalog. (more…)

Ray Charles & Betty Carter – A Forgotten Classic

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this vintage stereo pressing – it’s the first truly Hot Stamper to EVER hit the site 
  • This 1961 release showcases two of the most soulful singers to ever share a microphone, both at the height of their powers
  • Includes the still-popular “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (no one has ever recorded it quite like these two), People Will Say We’re In Love, Side By Side, and many more
  • 4 stars: “There is certainly a powerful, often sexy rapport between the two — Charles in his sweet balladeering mode, Carter with her uniquely keening, drifting high register — and they definitely create sparks in the justly famous rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.””

It’s EXTREMELY rare to find a stereo copy of Ray Charles & Betty Carter in anything but beat condition, but here’s one that not only sounds great, but plays exceptionally quietly for an album from this era.

We’ve raved about the DCC pressing in the past. If you own that one, this very record will show you what you’ve been missing. (more…)

Michael Jackson – Off The Wall – Listening in Depth

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Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Off The Wall.

On the better copies the multi-tracked chorus and background vocals are as breathy, rich, sweet and Tubey Magical as any pop recording we know of. An extended top end opens up the space for the huge, dense production to occupy. There is Midrange Magic To Die For exceeding anything to be found on Thriller.

Track Commentary

Side One

Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough

The first single from the album was designed to go to Number One and it certainly met all expectations in that regard.

On the properly mastered and pressed copies the vocals and percussion will be a bit brighter than those on most of the tracks that follow. The percussion is often somewhat brittle on even the best copies; it’s surely on the tape that way.

It should be big, clear and lively right out of the gate. (more…)

Michael Jackson’s Thriller Is White Hot

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  • The two INCREDIBLE sides here are guaranteed to make this by far the best sounding Thriller you have ever heard – Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it
  • The sound is HUGE – wide, deep, and open, with a solid bottom end and relentless rhythmic energy to spare 
  • Billie Jean and Beat It sound out of this world, but that’s not fair, since every track on this copy is good enough to blow your mind
  • “This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul — expanding the approach to have something for every audience.” AMG 5 stars

Note that the slightly better sounding of the two sides here is the second side, which we feel is the stronger side of the album. with Beat It, followed by Billie Jean and ending on the single most emotional song MJ ever sang, The Lady in My Life.

Clearly one of the greatest lineups to be found on any side of any album from any era. No other Michael Jackson album can hold a candle to it.

The sound on this copy is huge, with the kind of three-dimensional soundstaging that lets the music unfold in front of you and around you as well. The bass is meaty and well-defined, showing you the rhythmic foundation that the music needs. The overall sound is transparent with amazing texture to practically every element.

Michael’s voice is marvelous on this copy — breathy, textured, and positively dripping with emotion (just listen to him break down on The Lady in My Life). (more…)

Donny Hathaway Lives On

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This live recording has YOU ARE THERE sound! It’s so natural, rich and transparent, what is there to fault? The soundstage is wide and deep. Within moments of the needle hitting the groove your speakers disappear and the music just flows into the room. On the best original domestic pressings you can immediately understand and appreciate the honest, emotive sound that made Donny Hathaway the tremendous performer he was known to be.

I’ve been playing this record regularly since I first heard it back in the mid-’90s and even after twenty years it has never failed to thrill. If I could take only one soul album to my desert island, it would be this one, no doubt about it.

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