Soul / R&B

Roberta Flack – Chapter Two

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  • Amazing sound for Roberta Flack’s sophomore title with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • You will hear dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than all others, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 stars: “A great album and the release that made Roberta Flack a major soul and R&B artist in the early ’70s. She had a soft, compelling, alluring voice, and was able to convincingly switch gears and also convey anger, regret, hurt, or despair. Those who thought Flack was a one-hit wonder, or didn’t think she could make the transition from doing mostly jazz to other styles, were convinced otherwise.”

This is the best sounding Roberta Flack solo album to ever hit the site! (I say “solo” because the best copies of Flack / Hathaway are also incredible.)

We fell hard for this album when we started comparing these a while back but it usually takes us years to get a shootout going. Most in the bins are way too noisy for us to sell and few of them sound anything like this! If you’re a Roberta Flack fan or just enjoy amazing sounding soul music, you won’t want to miss out on this one!

It’s a matter of opinion, of course, but for my money the opener “Reverend Lee” is the best song on here. Roberta absolutely knocks that one outta the park and on a copy like this one it is magical.

If you want to hear some amazing sounding ’70s soul, you just found The Golden Ticket! Take this one home and I think you’ll be very impressed with both the sound and the music. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Soul ’69

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  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound brings Aretha’s underrated Soul Album from ’69 to life on this early Atlantic pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful record, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Tough to find this quiet – Aretha made a lot of amazingly good records in the ’60s and they got played good and hard
  • “One of her most overlooked ’60s albums, on which she presented some of her jazziest material. Her vocals are consistently passionate and first-rate, as is the musicianship; players include the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and respected jazzmen Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, et al.”

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Ray Charles – Ingredients In A Recipe For Soul

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  • An outstanding pressing of Charles’ 1963 release, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • These sides are doing it all right — richer, fuller, better bass, more Tubey Magic, and the list goes on
  • Ray Charles was a genius and the music on this record is just more proof of the undeniability of that fact
  • 4 stars: “The high points are very high — ‘Busted,’ his hit reworking of a composition by country songwriter Harlan Howard, is jazzy and tough, and one of his best early-’60s singles…”

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Aretha Franklin – Laughing On The Outside

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  • An excellent sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • 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 pressing like this one is the way to go
  • Aretha’s records for Columbia feature a more pop-oriented sound than her later works. This is a great record for those interested in checking out the early roots of one of the greatest singers of all time!
  • “She gives new songs like ‘I Wonder’ (for which Aretha wrote the words), ‘If Ever I Would Leave You’ and ‘I Wanna Be Around’ distinctive, unforgettable interpretations, the kind that set standards for time and singers to come.” – All Music

This Columbia 360 pressing 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…)

Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it 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 pressing like this one is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Wonder naysayed the trends and continues to do what he did best. Solid songwriting, musicianship, and production are evident in the majority of Hotter Than July… It is the portrait of an artist who still had the Midas touch…”

*CONDITION NOTES: On side two, the last 2-3 seconds of Track 5, Happy Birthday, are somewhat crackly.

Most copies lack the presence, energy and bottom end weight to let these funky songs work their magic, but a copy like this will let you appreciate the music without the mediocre sonics of the average pressing getting in the way.

This album was recorded right at the beginning of the digital era (1980) and most pressings won’t let you forget that. So many copies we played were just too sterile to get into — clean and clear bit lacking richness and fullness. We’re huge Stevie Wonder fans around here and we’ve fallen in love with Innervisions and Songs In The Key Of Life over and over again because of their lush, analog sound on the best pressings. It took a ton of work (and a whole lot of copies) to find a Hotter Than July that we could get excited about. I don’t think there’s a copy out there that can compete with his earlier recordings sonically but at least the Hot Stamper pressings present the music in a way that audiophiles can enjoy. (more…)

Earth, Wind and Fire – Gratitude

Earth, Wind and Fire

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  • A superb sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides
  • My personal favorite EWF song of all time is here on side four, Can’t Hide Love, and on that same side you can find Sing a Song, Gratitude and Celebrate
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, 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
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Gratitude brilliantly captures the excitement EWF generated on-stage at its creative peak… Neither hardcore EWF devotees nor more casual listeners should deprive themselves of the joys of the live versions of “Shining Star” and “Yearnin’ Learnin’.”

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Wilson Pickett – I’m In Love

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  • Stunning sound throughout with both sides of this original Atlantic Green and Blue label stereo LP earning superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an unsuspecting record buying public
  • “… the Wicked Pickett sounds a lot more convincing on this album’s romantic numbers than anyone would have had a right to expect from one of the baddest cats of Southern soul… it’s a good set of tunes, performed with Pickett’s usual high level of passion and skill, and if you’re any kind of fan you’ll revel in it.”

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Isaac Hayes – Shaft

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  • Shaft is back, and this superb pressing boasts nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound or BETTER on all four sides – right up there with some of the best sounding copies we have ever palyed
  • It took us years to find enough copies with good enough sound and quiet enough vinyl to do a shootout, and this fine pressing is the result of all that digging, cleaning and critical listening
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Isaac Hayes was undoubtedly one of the era’s most accomplished soul artists, having helped elevate Stax to its esteemed status… And with “Theme from Shaft,” he delivered an anthem just as ambitious and revered as the film itself, a song that has only grown more treasured over the years, after having been an enormously popular hit at the time of its release.”

This copy of the Shaft Soundtrack has wonderful sound throughout, and that ain’t no jive talkin’! We collected a bunch of these and after putting them through the shootout process we were delighted to find out that some of the material on here can sound amazingly good on the best pressings. What earned these four sides such good grades? They’re simply richer, fuller and livelier than most. They’re also more open and transparent, with notably improved clarity, much less smear, and tighter, more note-like bass.

Find your favorite song on here, drop the needle, and see if the dramatically improved sound doesn’t bring back some special memories, and maybe even inspire you to bust a move. (more…)

Al Green – Let’s Stay Together

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  • Two insanely good sides each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades and the first copy to hit the site in over two years!
  • Both sides here are incredibly big, rich and Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and spacious; the bottom end is punchy and solid and the vocals are wonderfully breathy and present
  • One of our favorite soul albums that sounds OUT OF THIS WORLD on a copy like this; I can’t imagine this music sounding any better than it does here
  • “Green’s ingenuity produced one of the all-time classics, which has the bounce of a dance cut and the passion of a ballad.” – All Music

It’s very rare that we have copies of this brilliant record up on our site, and it’s not for a lack of effort on our end. (more…)

Al Green – I’m Still In Love With You

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing of Al Green’s 1972 release
  • One of the fullest, richest, smoothest, cleanest and most energetic copies we played in our shootout – this is how good the album can sound
  • 5 stars: “[It] shares many surface similarities with its predecessor, from Al Green and Willie Mitchell’s distinctive, sexy style to the pacing and song selection. I’m Still in Love With You distinguishes itself with its suave, romantic tone and its subtly ambitious choice of material. There isn’t a wasted track on I’m Still in Love With You, and in many ways it rivals its follow-up, Call Me, as Green’s masterpiece.”

This is The Memphis Sound at its best — big Hammond organs with whirring Leslie speakers, funky drums, punchy brass blasts, and lovely string arrangements.

Al Green’s vocal performance is superb, of course, but one thing that really stands out after hearing the best Hot Stamper copies is the quality of the musicians’ performances. The rhythm section on this album really drives the music. Just listen to the punchy kick drum and deep, note-like bass on a song like Love and Happiness — the band is rockin’.

The Hodges Brothers — the house band at Hi Records, known for their “telepathic interplay” — deliver rock solid musicianship just brimming with energy and soul. The brass is handled by the truly great Memphis Horns, of Stax Records fame.

Just play the beginning of I’m So Glad You’re Mine to hear what we’re talking about. The drummer opens with a tight, funky beat that gets the song going right out of the gate. The kick drum is as punchy as they come, and just listen to that big room around the rimshots.

When the rest of the band joins in, you’ll be treated to some of the best Hammond organ sound you’ll ever hear. You can really hear the effect of the rotating Leslie speaker. When Al joins in on vocals with a very emotional, expressive performance, you’ll understand just why we’re so crazy about this record — it’s pure soul magic, baby! (more…)