Blues, Electric Blues and R&B

John Lee Hooker – If You Miss ‘Im … I Got ‘Im

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  • Hooker’s wonderful 1970 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two married with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing has a lovely musical quality that’s missing from some of the copies we played
  • A delightful collaboration between John Lee and his cousin, Earl Hooker – AMG says he “definitely benefits from keeping it in the family” here
  • “Heard here less than a year before his death, Earl still sounds frisky and versatile, often utilizing a funky wah-wah style without ever descending into the psychedelic excesses that plagued so many late-’60s electric blues albums.”

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Muddy Waters – Hard Again

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  • An amazing Triple Triple (A+++) copy of this great album – one of the best to ever hit the site!
  • Both of these Shootout Winning sides are big, lively and jumpin’ out of the speakers — just right for this down and dirty music
  • A Grammy Winner, an Allmusic Five Star album – simply a superb recording and one of our favorites for ’70s blues
  • 5 stars: “Christgau attributed the record’s intense quality to ‘the natural enthusiasm of an inspired collaboration,’ and remarked on its standing in Chicago blues, ‘except maybe for B.B. King’s Live at the Regal and Otis Spann’s Walking the Blues… I can’t recall a better blues album than this.'”

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The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Keep On Moving

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • 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 this wonderful album, a vintage Elektra stereo pressing is the only way to go
  • “People who liked Butter long ago usually don’t like what he’s become. I’ve only dug him over the past two years and I think he just gets better and better. This record, vocally oriented and produced by Jerry Ragavoy, is his best yet, hard-driving and very tight. ” – Robert Christgau (A)

I would have never guessed this band’s records could sound so good! We’ve been trying to find good sound for the Butterfield Blues Band with no luck for years, but we lucked into a seriously hot Red Label Elektra pressing here. There’s serious weight down low, nice extension up top, tons of tubey magic and surprising transparency to be found. Good luck finding better sound for this kind of bluesy rock and roll! (more…)

The Electric Flag / A Long Time Comin’

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The first White Hot copy to ever hit the site and it has KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides. The all-star lineup here features Michael Bloomfield, Buddy Miles, Richie Havens and many more. It’s raunchy and bluesy, somewhat reminiscent of Super Session, but without Al Kooper.    (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Soul To Soul

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Electric Blues Available Now

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  • Superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout this Classic of Electric Blues Guitar – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • A copy like this one soars above the pack with its hard-rockin’ energy, rich, solid bass, open top end, and freedom from congestion
  • This is one of the better copies to hit the site in years – good SRV albums are getting tough to find nowadays
  • “[SRV] wanted to add soul and R&B inflections to his basic blues sound, and Soul to Soul does exactly that. [T]he Curtis Mayfield-inspired closer, ‘Life Without You,’ captures Vaughan at his best as a composer and performer. It’s such a seductive number — such a full realization of his soul-blues ambitions…”

Vaughn’s guitar playing is as fiery as ever, and the addition of keyboards and saxophone here gives the music broader scope and range than was possible on his previous albums.

Messy But Real

These killer sides get Stevie’s room-filling guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as a recording of it can. When playing this record, first make sure the volume is up good and high. Now close your eyes and picture yourself in a blues club, with the volume ten times louder than your stereo will play. Electric Blues played at loud levels in a small club would sound pretty much like this album does, a bit messy but also real.

If you’re one of those audiophiles who insists on precise soundstaging, with layered depth and pinpoint imaging, forget it. That’s not in the cards. The producers and engineers were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one (and most of his other albums it seems), which means it’s a bit of a jumble image-wise.

But that’s the way you would hear it performed live in a club, so where’s the harm?

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Sonny Terry ‎/ Sonny’s Story – Skip the OBC

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Some OJC (or OBC) Pressings Sound Good, Some Don’t – This One Doesn’t

The copy we auditioned did not impress us sonically, so don’t expect to see Hot Stampers of this title on OJC coming to the Better Records website any time soon.

The music might be wonderful — we unreservedly follow the maxim de gustibus non est disputandum — but the sound of this pressing is unlikely to be of audiophile quality.

There may be great sounding pressings of the album – how could we possibly know there aren’t without playing every version ever pressed? — but we’re pretty sure the OJC will always fall short of the mark.

We created two sections for the OJC label: one for the (potentially, it’s what Hot Stampers are all about) good sounding OJC pressings and one for the (probably, see the paragraph above) bad sounding ones.

If you know of a great sounding pressing of the album, feel free to let us in on what pressing you have and we might just pick one up and give it a listen.

We’ve auditioned countless pressings like this one in the 33 years we’ve been in business — buying, cleaning and playing them by the thousands. This is how we find the best sounding vinyl pressings ever made.

Not the ones that should sound the best. The ones that actually do sound the best.

If you’re an audiophile looking for top quality sound on vintage vinyl, we’d be happy to send you the Hot Stamper pressing guaranteed to beat anything and everything you’ve heard, especially if you have any pressing marketed as suitable for an audiophile. Those, with very few exceptions, are the worst.

And if we can’t beat whatever LP you own or have heard, you get your money back.  It’s as simple as that.

Tom Port

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Willie Dixon / I Am The Blues – First Question: How Big Is the Sound?

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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 heft in the bottom end were just too uninvolving. This is the BLUES, baby — you think it’s supposed to sound small and distant?

Another problem we ran into on many copies was excessive smoothness. When a copy 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 raw texture and the detail that was put on the tape. I don’t want the sound to be “fixed” after the fact, and  I definitely don’t want it to be modified to give it more audiophile appeal. (more…)

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee – A Long Way From Home

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More Classic Blues Albums

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  • A Long Way From Home makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this original Bluesway pressing
  • The sound here is shockingly good – the space is huge, the vocals and instruments clear, and there is a surprising amount of solid, note-like bass, the kind we did not expect to find on a Bluesway album from this era
  • Recorded over two days, this album is basically a live-in-the-studio affair – having neither the time nor the budget to screw up the sound of the band means that this album has the audiophile goods like practically no other Blues album you may have heard
  • 4 stars: “Solid, relaxed, rockin’ grooves are the hallmarks here with both artists in fine form.”

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The Curtis Counce Group ‎/ You Get More Bounce With Curtis Counce, Vol. 2 – Skip the OJC from the ’80s

Potentially Good Sounding OJC Pressings

Not Very Good Sounding OJC Pressings

This album is findable on the OJC pressing from the ’80s, but we found the sound of the OJC pressings we played seriously wanting. They were thinner and brighter than even the worst of the ’70s LPs we had auditioned. They did not make the cut for our shootout. That is not our sound. It’s not the sound Roy DuNann was famous for, so why should we like it either?

Some OJC pressings are great — including even some of the new ones — some are awful, and the only way to judge them fairly is to judge them individually, which requires actually playing a large enough sample.

Since virtually no record collectors or audiophiles like doing that, they make faulty judgments – OJC’s are cheap reissues sourced from digital tapes, run for the hills! – based on their biases and inadequate sample sizes.

You can find those who subscribe to this approach on every audiophile forum there is. The methods they have adopted do not produce good results, but as long as they stick to them they will never have to worry about discovering that inconvenient truth. (more…)

John Lee Hooker – Simply The Truth

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this ABC Bluesway pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades 
  • Our vintage ABC Bluesway pressing here has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce, so if you want to know what this album from 1969 is REALLY supposed to sound like, we guarantee you cannot do better than this very copy
  • “Overseen by noted jazz producer Bob Thiele, this session had Hooker backed by some of his fullest arrangements to date, with noted session drummer Pretty Purdie and keyboards in addition to supplementary guitar and bass… Another of his many characteristically solid efforts…”

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