Genre – Folk

Peter, Paul & Mary – A Song Will Rise

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  • Incredible sound for this Warner Brothers stereo pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades; the first copy to hit the site in years!
  • “The fifth album, A Song Will Rise, appeared in March 1965. It was, in a sense, the last of a quartet of albums that made up the early Peter, Paul and Mary sound. Again employing two-acoustic-guitars-and-acoustic-bass instrumentation, it featured a combination of recent cover tunes, songs associated with the groups’ predecessors, such as the Weaver’s ‘Wasn’t That A Time,” and a collection of revised traditional songs.”

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Mark Knopfler – Local Hero

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  • A KILLER Warner Brothers pressing of Knopfler’s 1983 soundtrack album, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one
  • This one is doing everything right– it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than anything else we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Dire Straits leader Mark Knopfler’s intricate, introspective finger-picked guitar stylings make a perfect musical complement to the wistful tone of Bill Forsyth’s comedy film, Local Hero… The low-key music picks up traces of Scottish music, but most of it just sounds like Dire Straits doing instrumentals, especially the recurring theme, one of Knopfler’s more memorable melodies.”

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John Renbourn – So Clear (John Renbourn Sampler, Vol. 2)

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  • An amazing sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second 
  • This wonderful Transatlantic pressing is incredibly clean, clear and open with plenty of energy and space around all of the instruments, just the right sound for this superb guitarist’s music
  • This copy is about as quiet as we can find them – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • A stellar collection showcasing one of the finest fingerstyle players in the world

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The Weavers – The Weavers’ Almanac

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

White Hot stamper sound on side two – a Demo Disc for acoustic folk music. Better than Super Hot on side one – sound that’s sweeter than wine. This copy is stereo, and for good reason: the mono pressings are full of vocal distortion. Reasonably quiet vinyl for an early Vanguard pressing.

This early pressing on the early Black and Silver Vanguard label has glorious sound! It’s right up there with the best we have ever heard The Weavers.

Side One

Superb air and space, with a very extended top. Sweet vocals. Big, rich, tubey and clear, this side will be hard to beat. Play track three to hear the kind of guitar harmonics and vocal intimacy that are simply no longer possible on modern vinyl.

Side Two

The huge reverb sounds just right – very rich and tubey and smooth.

Listen to how rich the bass is on the third track. It’s not perfect but it’s right for this era and right for this music. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Moving

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  • An incredible sounding original WB Gold Label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – this is as good as it gets!
  • The overall sound is clean, clear and present with more Tubey Magic than makes their recordings such a joy to play
  • The vocals (obviously the main draw here) sound wonderful — breathy, natural and present 
  • PP&M’s second studio album, featuring Puff The Magic Dragon and This Land Is Your Land

This original stereo pressing of Peter Paul & Mary’s 1963 followup to their smash debut absolutely DESTROYED the competition. The warmth and presence of the vocals on this copy are OFF THE CHARTS!

Peter, Paul & Mary records live and die by the quality of their midrange reproduction. These are not big-budget, high-concept multi-track recordings. They’re simple, innocent folk songs featuring exquisite vocal harmonies, backed by straightforward guitar accompaniment. If the voices aren’t silky sweet and delicate, as well as full-bodied and present, let’s face it, you might as well put on another record.

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here — we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If P, P & M don’t sound like living, breathing human beings standing right between your speakers (and to either side), toss your LP and buy this one, because that’s exactly what they sound like here.

The TUBEY MAGIC of the MIDRANGE is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you almost can’t really even imagine it. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully.

This is high-rez ’60s style; not phony and forced like so much of what passes for audiophile sound these days, but relaxed and real, as if the recording were doing its best to get out of the way of the music, not call attention to itself. This, to us, is the goal, the prize we strive to keep our eyes on. Find the music, leave the rest. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Gold Versus Green

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In previous shootouts we felt strongly that the best Gold Label copies had the lock on Tubey Magic, while the best Green Label pressings could be counted on to offer superior clarity.

That was quite a few years ago, and as we never tire of saying, things have changed. Now the Gold Label pressings have the ideal combination of Tubey Magic and clarity.

In fact, based on our recent shootout we would state categorically that the best originals are clearly better in every way, with the most vocal presence, the most harmonic resolution, the most space, the most warmth and intimacy, the most natural string tone on both the guitars and bass — in sum, the most of everything that allows a Hot Stamper vintage LP to be the most sublime musical experience available to any audiophile fortunate enough to own it.

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here: we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If these three gifted singers don’t sound like living, breathing human beings standing across from you — left, right and center — toss your copy and buy this one, because that’s exactly what they sound like here.

The TUBEY MAGIC of the midrange is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you really can’t even imagine it. It’s a bit shocking to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully, sounding so much like live music.

This is high-rez ’60s style; not phony and forced like so much of what passes for audiophile sound these days, but relaxed and real, as if the recording were doing its best to get out of the way of the music, not call attention to itself. This, to us, is the goal, the prize we must constantly strive to keep our eyes on. Find the music, leave the rest.

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Townes Van Zandt – Live At The Old Quarter

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  • Outstanding sound for this original Tomato LP with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on sides two and three and Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides
  • Big, full-bodied, clean and clear with a punchy bottom end and a lovely musical quality that’s missing from most copies
  • “Van Zandt could work magic in front of an audience under the right circumstances, and while a wealth of live recordings of Van Zandt have emerged since his passing on the first day of 1997, Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas ranks with the very best of his concert albums.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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Peter, Paul & Mary – Album 1700

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  • Stunning sound for this WB Gold Label original with both sides finishing top of the pile — Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • When the three of them sing good and loud on these tracks, not only can you hear them belting it out, you FEEL it too
  • The “breath of life” is alive and well on these old LPs, the best reason for the truly serious audiophile to stay committed to analog, for now and probably far into the future
  • Features their classic version of Leaving On A Jet Plane, a Number One smash that still holds up after more than 50 years(!)

We went through a big stack of Gold Label originals and various Green Label reissue pressings, in stereo of course, and this easily qualifies as the best copy we played all day.

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here: we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If these three gifted singers don’t sound like living, breathing human beings standing across from you — left, right and center — toss your copy and buy this one, because that’s exactly what they sound like here.

The TUBEY MAGIC of the midrange is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you really can’t even imagine it. It’s a bit shocking to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully, sounding so much like live music.

This is high-rez ’60s style; not phony and forced like so much of what passes for audiophile sound these days, but relaxed and real, as if the recording were doing its best to get out of the way of the music, not call attention to itself. This, to us, is the goal, the prize we must constantly strive to keep our eyes on. Find the music, leave the rest. (more…)

Odetta – At Town Hall in Mono

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this mono original pressing of At Town Hall, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Captured live in New York City in 1963, this superb pressing will transport a living, breathing Odetta right into your listening room
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical, you-are-there immediacy of this Odetta concert, this is the only way to go
  • The album features a wonderful mix of folk and blues, including “Let Me Ride,” “Hound Dog,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

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Odetta – At Town Hall in Stereo

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  • Here is an outstanding early stereo pressing of Odetta performing live – it boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout and plays as quietly as these Vanguard LPs ever do
  • Captured live in New York City in 1963, this superb pressing will transport a living, breathing Odetta right into your listening room
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical, you-are-there immediacy of this Odetta concert, this is the only way to go
  • The album features a wonderful mix of folk and blues, including “Let Me Ride,” “Hound Dog,” and “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”

This vintage Vanguard pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

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.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Odetta singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide. (more…)