Blue Eyed Soul

Hall and Oates – H2O

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  • A stunning copy of this Hall and Oates classic from 1982 with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two, mated with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on side one – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • It’s lively, open, and natural – the voices of the two leads sound especially full-bodied, real and tonally correct from top to bottom, which is pretty much all you need to earn top grades in a shootout
  • Much more consistent than most of their releases, this one boasts three killer hits including Maneater, Family Man and my All Time Favorite by the band, One on One
  • 4 stars: “Private Eyes solidified Hall & Oates’ status as one of the most popular acts in America in the early ’80s, and…… with 1982’s H2O, they capitalized on its success, delivering an album that turned out to bigger than its predecessor, as it climbed higher on the charts and launched three Top Ten singles…”

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Elvis Presley / From Elvis in Memphis

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Elvis Presley

Of the handful of Elvis albums to ever make it to the site, this is clearly the critics’ favorite, and one listen will tell you why. This is the album that single-handedly revived Elvis’ fortunes, setting the stage for his record-breaking series of shows in Las Vegas doing pretty much the type of music he had recorded for it.

The next year he would go on tour for the first time since 1957 (!).


This is an Older Review.

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we developed starting in the early 2000s.

We found the records you see in these listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced according to how good the sound and surfaces were.

We were often wrong back in those days, something we have no reason to hide. Audio equipment and record cleaning technologies have come a long way since those darker days.

Currently, 99% (or more!) of the records we sell are cleaned, then auditioned under rigorously controlled conditions against a number of other pressings, awarded sonic grades, and then condition checked for surface noise.

As you may imagine, this approach requires a great deal of time, effort and skill, which is why we currently have a highly trained staff of about ten. No individual or business without the aid of such a committed group could possibly dig as deep into the sound of records as we have, and it is unlikely that anyone besides us would ever be able to do the kind of work we do.

Every record we offer is unique, and 100% guaranteed to satisfy or your money back.

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Simply Red / A New Flame – A Personal Favorite

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More Personal Favorites

  • This excellent UK import copy of A New Flame boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are amazingly clear and transparent, with present and breathy vocals throughout
  • The key qualities for a record from this era are richness, smoothness, naturalness and Tubey Magic — with those, and clarity and presence, you have pretty much everything you need for a top quality pressing
  • Simply Red’s third (and in our opinion their BEST) album – this is where it all came together for the band, with “It’s Only Love” and “A New Flame” being the two best tracks the group ever recorded
  • Their cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” on side two sounds FANTASTIC

This outstanding UK import pressing has some of the best sound we have ever heard for the album, Simply Red’s third and in my opinion their BEST.

This is where it all came together for the band, especially in the writing department. These songs about love (few popular songs are about anything else when you stop to think about it) harken back to the days when there was such a thing as “Blue-Eyed Soul Music,” a cross between real soul music and the standard radio-friendly pop song. Hall and Oates, Smokey Robinson (not exactly blue-eyed but definitely the right sound); the music of these artists combines pop craftsmanship with real soul.

I love this album. Every track is good; the slow ones are the best but unlike their previous records the uptempo tracks are taken at a more modest and listenable pace. The two tracks that open side one are two of the best the band ever recorded.

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Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

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  • This copy of Cocker’s sophomore release boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy with sides that play this quiet, and the first ever to hit the site with our condition grade of Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than this one?
  • Take a gander at this track listing: “Dear Landlord,” “Bird on the Wire,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Something,” “Delta Lady,” “Darling Be Home Soon” – and there’s plenty more where those came from
  • Records like these are getting awfully hard to find these days in audiophile playing condition, which explains why you so rarely see them on the site
  • 4 stars: “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.”

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music.

This album is a ton of fun, with Cocker and his band putting their spin on some of the best songs of the era. You need energy, space and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound if this music is going to sound right, and on those counts these copies deliver. (more…)

Simply Red – Picture Book

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More Debut Albums of Interest

  • Big, spacious and clear, but also remarkably analog-sounding, with the kind of fullness and richness that’s so rare on records from this era 
  • “Holding Back the Years” was the big hit (#1), but what really sold me on the album was the band’s cover of The Talking Heads’ “Heaven” – not an obvious choice, and a truly inspired one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The band finds a steady R&B groove reminiscent of ’60s Stax house band the MG’s, and, as with the MG’s, it’s all in the service of a big-voiced soul singer, in this case a British redhead.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s, this classic from 1985 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1985 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Finally, Analog Sound for this wonderful music. The average copy of this album may sound like you’re playing a CD, but not this one. Here is the warmth and richness and depth you didn’t know you could find on Simply Red’s Masterpiece (assuming you were even looking).

That flat, opaque, dry CD sound that we all love to hate is nowhere to be found on this pressing.

The domestic pressings can be good, but they sure don’t sound like this killer import.

A recording from 1985 is unlikely to have the Tubey Magic and warmth of an old Columbia. Let’s be serious, the 1980s – unlike the three decades that preceded them — were not known for the naturalness of their recordings. A few would make our Top 100 list (Let’s Dance springs to mind) but the pool of available candidates is shallow, not wide and deep like that of the decades before, in which so many records sound so good we could not begin to squeeze them nto a list limited to merely one hundred. Two hundred would easily make the cut, maybe more.

For the ’80s, it would be hard to come up with even a dozen I should think. Which is neither here nor there. The record must stand or fall on its own merits, not those of other records from the same decade, and fortunately this one stands very tall, with A Triple Plus As Good As It Gets sound on side one and a side two that nearly reaches such rarefied sonic heights. (more…)

Hall and Oates / Abandoned Luncheonette – Their Best Sounding Album

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Our Current Rock & Pop Top 100 List

  • This early Atlantic pressing was clearly bigger, smoother and more open than practically any other copy we played – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • By far the best sounding record these guys ever made, and for our money nothing in their recorded canon can touch it
  • A Better Records favorite, a longtime member of our Top 100, and an absolute thrill when it sounds like this
  • The early 4 Digit pressings are the only way to go on this one — all the reissues (including the worst reissue of them all, the MoFi) are terrible sounding
  • 5 stars: “Abandoned Luncheonette, Hall & Oates’ second album, was the first indication of the duo’s talent for sleek, soul-inflected pop/rock. It featured the single ‘She’s Gone,’ which would become a big hit in 1975 when it was re-released following the success of ‘Sara Smile.'”

We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

The list is purposely wide-ranging. It includes some famous titles (Tumbleweed Connection, The Yes Album), but for the most part I have gone out of way to choose titles from talented artists that are less well known (Atlantic Crossing, Kiln House, Dad Loves His Work), which simply means that you won’t find Every Picture Tells a Story or Rumours or Sweet Baby James on this list because masterpieces of that caliber should already be in your collection and don’t need me to recommend them.

Which is not to say there aren’t some well known masterpieces on the list, because not every well known record is necessarily well known to audiophiles, and some records are just too good not to put on a list of records we think every audiophile ought to get to know better.

Out of the thousands of records we have auditioned and reviewed, there are a couple of hundred that have stood the test of time for us and we feel are deserving of a listen. Many of these will not be to your taste, but they were to mine.


Don’t write these guys off as some Top 40 blue-eyed soul popsters from the ’70s that time has forgotten. They are all of the above, but they don’t deserve to be forgotten, if only on the strength of this album. Without question this is their masterpiece. We also consider it a Desert Island Disc and a true Demo Disc.

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, look no further. This record is ALIVE! Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track popular recording, this is about as good as it gets. It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth — most of the time (although the multi-tracked vocals might be a little much on some songs, depending on your front end) — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.

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Average White Band – Cut The Cake

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this Atlantic pressing with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Check out the title track and School Boy Crush for some funky fun with great sound
  • We’ve always been big fans of their AWB album, but it was only recently that we discovered how good Cut The Cake can sound on the right pressing
  • All Music Guide calls it “one of their finest, most engaging albums” and when it sounds this good, we sure aren’t going to argue!
  • Check out the title track and School Boy Crush for some funky fun with great sound!

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Joe Cocker / Mad Dogs and Englishmen – The Wrong Early Pressings Have Horrendous Sound

Well, for one thing, if you get the wrong stampers on this record, you will discover, as we did, that it’s clearly been mastered from a badly made dub. The “cassette-like” sound quality will not be hard to recognize. If you have stumbled onto one of those pressings, give up on it and try your luck elsewhere, making sure to note the bad stampers.

Most copies have a tendency to sound smeary and congested.

Listen for good transients and not too much compression.

Most copies are opaque, as well as dull up top; try to find the ones with some degree of transparency and as much top end extension as you can (the percussion will be helped most of all by the extended top).

And of course you need to find a copy that rocks, as this is a definitely a Rock Concert, although what it most reminds me of is Ray Charles doing a choice set of modern classics, mixing it up by off-handedly mixing in a few of his own. See how they all fit together? That’s how the pros do it. (The main pro in this case is Leon Russell, the mastermind of the whole operation. He clearly knows what he is doing.)

All tracks were selected and mixed by none other than the legendary Glyn Johns.

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Hall and Oates – Daryl Hall & John Oates

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  • Here the duo’s voices are rich, clear and present – they’re breathier and yet more natural, a combination that works wonders on this copy and is the main reason it won our shootout
  • Man, this is one tough nut to crack– gritty vocals, thin vocals, recessed vocals, smeary vocals — this music is all about the vocals and the vocals leave a lot to be desired on most of the copies we’ve played over the years
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… much of the album is lush and catchy, featuring ballads and midtempo numbers that are nearly as engaging as the duo’s breakthrough single, ‘Sara Smile.'”

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Hall and Oates – Remembering the Glorious Sound of Tubes

More of the Music of Hall and Oates

Our Current Rock & Pop Top 100 List

This record has the sound of TUBES. I’m sure it was recorded with transistors, judging by the fact that it was made after most recording studios had abandoned that “antiquated” technology, but there may be a reason why they were able to achieve such success with the new transistor equipment when, in the decades to come, they would produce nothing but one failure after another.

In other words, I have a theory.

They remember what things sounded like when they had tubes. Modern engineers seem to have forgotten that sound. They have no reference for Tubey Magic. If they use tubes in their mastering chains, they sure don’t sound the way vintage tube-mastered records can sound.

Transistor Audio Equipment with Plenty of Tubey Magic

A similar syndrome was then operating with the home audio equipment manufacturers as well. Early transistor gear by the likes of Marantz, McIntosh and Sherwood, just to name three I happen to be familiar with, still retained much of the rich, natural, sweet, grain-free sound of the better tube equipment of the day.

I once owned a wonderful Sherwood receiver that you would swear had tubes in it when in fact it was simply an unusually well-designed transistor unit. Anyone listening to it would never know that it was solid state. It has none of the “sound” we associate with solid state, thank goodness.

Very low power, 15 watts a channel. No wonder it sounded so good.

Stick With the 4 Digit Originals (SD 7269)

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further. Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track pop recording this is about as good as it gets (AGAIG as we like to say). It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth most of the time — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.   

Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars that feature so prominently in the mixes. (more…)