Blues, Electric Blues and R&B

Muddy Waters – The Real Folk Blues

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  • An outstanding copy of this compilation album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • Like its Audiophile Favorite brother, Folk Singer, also on Chess, The Real Folk Blues is another exceptional live-in-the-studio recording, with some of the best sound Chess ever managed
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Once Chess discovered a white folk-blues audience ripe and ready to hear the real thing, they released a series of albums under the Real Folk Blues banner. This is one of the best entries in the series…”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 very light ticks at the end of track 2, Screaming And Crying.

This 1965 recording pressed on ’80s vinyl has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Lightnin’ Hopkins – Volume II

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout  
  • A shockingly well-recorded album – we had no idea an old Everest reissue could sound like this (since most of them are just awful)
  • Real down home blues with killer sound featuring Lightnin’ backed by drums and horns – this one is a lot of fun
  • For some strange reason unknown to us, the musician depicted on the front cover here isn’t Lightnin’ Hopkins, but T-Bone Walker!

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Junior Wells – It’s My Life

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  • A superb copy of Junior Wells’ recording from Chicago in ’66 (this is the read deal, folks!) with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of that “you-are-there-immediacy” of a live performance that set the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else might be out there
  • “Cut from the same cloth as Wells’ classic Hoodoo Man Blues LP from the same period, It’s My Life, Baby! captured the Junior Wells-Buddy Guy team in great form, both in the studio and live at Pepper’s Lounge on 43rd Street. This album tends a bit more towards slow blues, including a rare example of Wells’ chromatic harmonica playing on ‘Slow, Slow,’ but there are fine uptempo pieces…”

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Muddy Waters – The Best of Muddy Waters

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  • This outstanding copy of The Best of Muddy Waters boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
  • Huge, Tubey Magical and lively, with solid weight down low and lots of space around all the instruments
  • Comprised of twelve killer tracks, all originally released as singles, including Rollin’ Stone, Long Distance Call, Hoochie Coochie, and many more
  • 5 Stars: “The material this artist cut for Chess during this period is nothing short of a blues revelation. There has never been anything quite like it, before or after, and when one has heard Muddy Waters from this period, one has simply heard the best blues has to offer.”

Don’t be put off by the Best Of designation in the title. ALL these songs were recorded as individual tracks to be released on individual discs. Muddy Waters would go into the studio and cut a few “sides,” the best of which would be approved for distribution. There was no concept in those days of an “album.” Albums were basically just collections of songs, and that means lots of filler. What’s great about this pressing is that it gives you all the classics with none of the filler. (more…)

Muddy Waters – The London Muddy Waters Sessions

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout making this the best copy to ever hit the site!
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of these wonderful sessions, this is the way to go
  • The London Muddy Waters Sessions won the 1972 Grammy Award for Best Ethnic or Traditional Folk Recording! 
  • A great lineup: Blues fans Rory Gallagher, Steve Winwood and Mitch Mitchell are all featured here, along with many other Bluesmen

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John Mayall – Empty Rooms

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

With only keyboards, guitars, saxes and flutes — the absence of a drummer is especially noteworthy — the group creates a mystical, low-key atmosphere in the studio within which JM tells his stories. In other words, it’s different. When it comes to John Mayall’s recorded works, that’s not a bad thing. 

We’ve auditioned a good dozen or more of his albums over the years, most of which we found interesting but not especially compelling (not at our prices anyway). He averaged about two albums a year through the ’60s and ’70s and on most of the ones we’ve played it seems that he struggled to come up with material good enough to fill them all.

That said, we took a liking to this one and proudly offer it here for the first time.

Side One

Excellent energy and vocal presence. Clear and full, with good lots of studio space.

The second and third tracks tended to sound better to us than the first by the way.

Side Two

Natural and balanced, with rich and tubey 1970 sound. The second track is especially Tubey Magical and smooth in the right way. (more…)

Big Joe Williams – Blues For 9 Strings

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  • Blues for 9 Strings, featuring the great Willie Dixon on bass, makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Tubier, more present, more alive, with more of that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Big Joe Williams was an incredible blues musician: a gifted songwriter, a powerhouse vocalist, and an exceptionally idiosyncratic guitarist… When appearing at The Fickle Pickle, Williams played an electric nine-string guitar through a small ramshackle amp with a pie plate nailed to it and a beer can dangling against that. The total effect of this incredible apparatus produced the most buzzing, sizzling, African-sounding music one would likely ever hear.”

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The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – East-West

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this Gold Label stereo pressing of the band’s sophomore release – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s tough to find an original with good sound and audiophile surfaces – a copy that plays this quietly is almost unheard of!
  • Big and full-bodied with a huge bottom end – Elektra was killing it in ’66
  • 5 stars: “… it was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s greatest achievement… East-West captures a great group in high flight as the bandmembers join together in something even more remarkable than their estimable skills as individuals would suggest, and its importance as a nexus point between rock, blues, jazz, and world music cannot be overestimated.”

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Willie Dixon – Hidden Charms

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market

It was pretty easy to separate the men from the boys in this shootout. A quick drop of the needle on each side would immediately answer our number one question: “How BIG is the sound?”. The copies that lacked top end extension or bottom end were just too boring. This is the BLUES, baby — you think it’s supposed to sound small?

Another problem we ran into on many copies was excessive smoothness. When a copies was overly rich or smeary, it usually lacked the “gritty” feel that music like this should have. I don’t know about you, but if I’m listening to the blues I am not looking for glossy sound. Give me the texture and the detail and the other qualities that Willie Dixon put on the tape. I don’t want his sound to be “fixed” after the fact.

This is some of the best modern blues sound money can buy! We picked up a bunch of these and shot ’em out, and most of the copies left us cold. The average pressing is still a decent sounding record, but the music works so much better on a Hot Stamper. A copy like this one gives you more detail and texture, more extension up top and real weight to the bottom end — absolutely crucial for this music.

Hidden Charms was produced by T Bone Burnett, a man who understands this music as well as any living soul, and also a man who knows how to get the most out of the artists he works with. The sound and the arrangements are perfectly suited to Willie’s material. Since most vintage blues recordings leave a lot to be desired sonically, and most modern “hi-fi” blues recordings are less than engaging musically, this album is the cure for the blues-lovin’ audiophile’s blues! (more…)

Joe Turner – Singing the Blues

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  • Joe Turner’s wonderful 1967 release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is an exceptionally well recorded blues album by one of the greats, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound that music such as this absolutely demands
  • “Backed by some top studio players of the era (Buddy Lucas on tenor and harmonica along with a four-piece rhythm section), the 56-year old classic blues singer shows that he was still in prime form.”

For years we have been touting a select group of albums Joe Turner did for Pablo in the ’70s — Life Ain’t Easy comes to mind — but this is our first foray into his Bluesway period. Mobile Fidelity did this title on CD right at the start of the digital era. As deaf as they are (seriously; who has made more bad sounding reissues than this group of so-called audiophiles?), apparently they could still hear that the sound of the original album was so good that it justified its release to the new audience armed with CD players as opposed to turntables. And now here we are, having gone full circle, back to vintage vinyl. (more…)