Genre – Rock – Singer / Songwriter

Van Morrison – Saint Dominic’s Preview

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • It’s unusual (to say the least) to find copies of Moondance or Astral Weeks that sound anything like the better copies of Saint Dominic’s Preview (or His Band and Street Choir for that matter)
  • One of the best sounding Van Morrison recordings thanks to the superb engineering skills of Donn Landee at Wally Heider’s
  • 5 Stars in Rolling Stone: “The coexistence of two styles on the same record turns out to be very refreshing; they complement each other by underscoring the remarkable versatility of Van’s musical imagination… the best-produced, most ambitious Van Morrison record yet released.”

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Joni Mitchell – Clouds – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

The clarity and transparency on this ALL-TIME CHAMPION for Clouds allow the raw emotion of Joni’s performances come through like never before.

The intimacy of the recording is simply breathtaking. You have not begun to hear these songs with this kind of realism and power unless, like us, you’ve cleaned and played scores and scores of copies and have lucked into that one freakishly good side one that sounds like you just threaded up the master tape and hit Play. (more…)

Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night

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

Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides! This music ain’t for everyone, but when you find good sounding Tom Waits pressings like this one the sonics can be out of this world. It’s tough to find clean copies of this stuff these days and even tougher to find ones that really deliver the way this one does. Bones Howe sure knew how to record this kind of music, and a copy like this will really let you appreciate his work.  (more…)

Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

One of the better copies of Heartattack and Vine we’ve ever heard! We enjoy listening to the music of Tom Waits here because the music and sound can be excellent. His albums are certainly a nice change of pace from the stuff that’s usually on our table. We had quite a few copies of this one and none of the other ones were in a league with this bad boy. The sound is very rich and full with incredible immediacy to the vocals. You just couldn’t get the vocals to sound any better than they do on this copy. (more…)

Roberta Flack – Killing Me Softly

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard on Roberta’s brilliant Killing Me Softly, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • The superb clarity and transparency here is balanced with the kind of rich warmth that is the hallmark of vintage ANALOG from 1973
  • It’s increasingly hard to find good sound and reasonably quiet vinyl for this album – this is one of the few that made the cut in recent years
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The title track was another smash for Roberta Flack, and the album continued in the same tradition as Chapter Two and A Quiet Fire. She made simmering ballads, declarative message songs, and better-than-average up-tempo numbers, and at the time was among the top-selling female vocalists in any style.”

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Carole King – Tapestry – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

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

Please note that we do not have a graphic for our chart to indicate the Four Plus grade, since we award it so rarely. Our rating system usually only goes to three pluses, but this side one was so amazing we had to give it a fourth!

This White Hot pressing gives you TRULY KILLER SOUND for this classic album! It’s not easy to find great sound for Tapestry. Most pressings are either dull and veiled, or hard and edgy in the midrange — not exactly the kind of sound we’re after.

This kind of sound is not easy to find on this album. As we said above, the typical copies are either dull and murky or edgy and downright unpleasant, and on half the ones that DO sound good the vinyl is thrashed! On a copy like this, though, the sound gets out of the way and lets you focus on the MUSIC — and make no mistake, this album is a true classic.

We went nuts for this album during our big shootout. Since most of the time we’re playing testosterone-fueled, raging classic rock, it was a nice change of pace for us — and certainly easier on our poor eardrums! Our man JT makes an appearance playing acoustic guitar on a number of tracks, most notably You’ve Got A Friend, and his pals Russ Kunkel and Danny Kootch turn up too, with Kootch handling most of the electric guitar duties.

What’s surprising, if you haven’t played this album in a while, is how good non-hit tracks like “Home Again” can be. But there aren’t many of those non-hits on this album, and that’s a good thing; almost every song was a hit or received a lot of radio play. The quality of the material is that good. (more…)

Tom Waits – Blue Valentine – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO GREAT SIDES on this wonderful album — A++ for the first and A+++ for the second! Both sides have a wonderful bottom end — check out all the WEIGHT to that rich, meaty bass. Many copies we played had a tendency to sound somewhat dull, but this one has all the extension up top you need. The overall sound is rich, full, sweet and warm. The strings have texture, the voice has lots of breath, and I just don’t think you could find a better sounding copy.

Drop the needle on Romeo Is Bleeding for some of the best music on here. When you’ve got the kind of bass definition that this copy offers, the sound for that song can be killer, as it is here. (more…)

Tom Waits – Closing Time

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

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Tom Waits record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are either bright or dark; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the piano and other instruments sound full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have studio ambience like you would not believe); and last but not least, TRANSPARENCY, the effect of being able to see INTO the soundfield all the way to the back, where there is plenty going on in this remarkable studio recording.

Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension that the best copies have.

You can easily hear that smear on the attack of the piano. More often than not the piano notes are a tad blunted, a quality you notice when you finally hear a pressing with the piano notes rendered clearly. (more…)

Commit the Resources

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

It took two records to make this White Hot Stamper 2-pack, with INCREDIBLE A+++ SOUND FROM START TO FINISH. The result? One of the best sounding, if not THE best sounding copy to ever hit the site. If you’re a Joni fan this is one of her strongest records, and one that definitely belongs in your collection. If you own any other pressing we’re confident that this copy will positively blow your mind.

These two sides have the kind of sound quality you probably never imagined would be possible — but it is! We played it, we heard it for ourselves, and now we offer it to you, the Joni Mitchell (nee Roberta Joan Anderson) fans of the world.

I’ve been trying to get this album to sound good for more years than I care to remember. If you own a copy you know what I’m talking about — the sound is typically drenched in echo, with Joni sounding like she’s standing at the back of a cave. Harmonically-challenged acoustic guitars. Vocals with no breathy texture (much like practically all the heavy vinyl reissues we’ve suffered through over the course of the last decade or two).

In its own way, it’s every bit the challenge that Blue is, just reversed. Blue tends to be bright, shrill, thin and harsh. Song to a Seagull is usually dark, veiled, smeary and dull. What’s an audiophile to do?

Commitment Issues

Simple. Commit the resources. Find more copies of the record, clean them and play them. Upgrade your system with some of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio that have come along in the last ten years. The recording may have its faults — you’ll get no argument from us about that, we just finished playing a big pile of copies so we are intimately aware of just how problematical the recording can be — but what holds it back from sounding musical, and in its own way, magical, is often the reproduction part of the equation.

We couldn’t get the album to sound right for ten years. Now we can. Something changed, and it wasn’t us simply lowering our standards. The magic in the grooves of the best copies has to have been there all along. It was up to us to figure out how to get the muck out of the vinyl with better cleaning technologies, then get the stereo to unlock and reveal the wonderful music in those nearly forty-year-old grooves.

And we did. The result is an album whose best copies are warm, sweet and rich, with breathy full-bodied vocals, clear guitar transients and a solid-sounding piano. These, as well as the other instruments captured in these grooves, are beautifully arrayed on a three-dimensional, wide and deep soundstage. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – The Hissing of Summer Lawns – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES of this Asylum LP, with each rating A++ – A+++ or better! We just finished a big shootout for this album and this copy was consistently excellent from the first song to the last. We had no idea this album could sound this good! We had pretty much given up on it after hearing a few copies that bored us to tears a while back, but once we found the Hot Stampers we started to really enjoy this music. (more…)