Soul / R&B

Tower of Power – Back To Oakland

Reviews and Commentaries for Tower of Power

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Both of these sides are incredibly rich, warm and dynamic with TONS of Tubey Magic and a big meaty bottom end
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Back to Oakland had tougher, funkier and better-produced cuts, stronger vocals from Lenny Williams, and included an excellent ballad in “Time Will Tell,” and a rousing tempo in “Don’t Change Horses (In the Middle of a Stream).”
  • We’re keeping the price down not this one due to some condition issues, see below

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Bill Withers – Live at Carnegie Hall

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  • KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on sides two and three and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides
  • These sides are incredibly spacious, clear, rich and chock full of analog Tubey Magic – exactly the right sound for this surprisingly well recorded live album
  • 4 stars: “A wonderful live album that capitalizes on Withers’ trademark melancholy soul sound while expanding the music to fit the room granted by a live show… One of the best live releases from the ’70s.”

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Little Milton – We’re Gonna Make It

Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for this classic Little Milton album – both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus
  • This pressing showed us the sound we were looking for, in spades – it’s clear, rich and natural, with not a trace of “modern mastering” (thank goodness) – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The title track spent three weeks at Number One on the R&B Charts back in ’65 – it’s a classic
  • Allmusic raves: “Towering above it all, though, is Milton’s powerful voice: a solid combination of gospel intensity and fluid phrasing that sprang from Roy Brown, moved through B.B. King, and found its way to both Bobby Bland and Milton, among others.”

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Aretha Franklin – Soft and Beautiful

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  • Aretha’s wonderful 1969 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • This 360 Stereo pressing offers lively and tonally correct sound, with Franklin’s soulful vocals well reproduced and especially Tubey Magical, as would be expected from a Columbia recording from 1964 
  • Clean pressings of this title are hard to come by – this one is about as quiet as any we played in our shootout
  • Mark Bego, in Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul, called it “the most consistently paced album of her later Columbia years.”

This vintage 360 Stereo LP 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.

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.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Aretha Franklin singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 50 years old), 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 can serve as a guide. (more…)

Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, and plays as quietly as the originals Atco LPs ever do
  • It’s a well-recorded album – the better copies are big, rich and smooth, yet the vocals are clean, clear and present
  • We love Otis Redding’s albums, but finding clean copies of his classics is all but impossible these days
  • 5 stars: “…this is an impossible record not to love … Cropper chose his tracks well, selecting some of the strongest and most unusual among the late singer’s orphaned songs… No one could complain about the album then, and it still holds more than four decades later.”

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Sade – Promise

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More Titles Only Offered on Import LP

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  • Sade’s Best Album returns with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides of this UK disc are simply amazing sounding compared to what you’ve heard – rich and full yet clean, clear and open 
  • There’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it – she is on fire on this album
  • Her best song is on side one here – Is It a Crime – and the big band arrangement will surely send chills up and down your spine, especially with Triple Plus sound quality

Not many copies manage to have this kind of consistently stunning sound across both sides. This copy gives you the kind of present, breathy vocals this music absolutely requires to work its magic.

If you know this album at all you know that most pressings are just too damn dark sounding. Sade herself is typically recessed in the mix and veiled; it takes an exceptional copy such as this one to make her voice both present and breathy. (more…)

Sade – Diamond Life

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More Titles We Only Offer on Import LP

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  • Triple Triple” for this British import pressing of Sade’s debut — both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++)
  • The right UK pressings are dramatically better than the domestic and Dutch pressings we played
  • The key to the best copies is Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, and this vintage analog copy has plenty of both
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[Sade] projects a wised-up sensuality, and the record neither creaks with the revivalism of Harry Connick nor the sterility of Simply Red, to name but two of Sade’s neo-cocktail rivals.”

This copy gives you the kind of present, breathy vocals absolutely critical to this music. There’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it. All it takes is a top copy such as this to make her talents — and those of her bandmates — abundantly clear. (more…)

Michael Jackson – Off The Wall

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this MJ classic with some of the most heartfelt, emotional and powerful music he ever recorded
  • Off the Wall is substantially sweeter, tubier, more natural, richer, more relaxed and more ANALOG than any other Michael Jackson album
  • We’re constantly blown away by just how good the best copies of Off the Wall sound – what a recording!
  • Clearly MJ’s best sounding release – 5 stars: “This was a visionary album … part of a colorful tapestry of lush ballads and strings, smooth soul and pop, soft rock, and alluring funk.”

As consistently brilliant as Thriller may be musically — it is the biggest selling album of all time after all [scratch that, the Eagles Greatest Hits just took the top spot away from Thriller recently] — speaking strictly in terms of sonics the sound of the best copies of Off the Wall is substantially sweeter, tubier, more natural, richer, and more ANALOG than Thriller.

Thriller is clearly more aggressive and processed-sounding than Off the Wall. The Girl Is Mine or Human Nature from Thriller would fit just fine anywhere on Off the Wall, but could the same be said for Beat It or Thriller? Just thinking about them you can hear the artificiality of the sound of both those songs in your head. Think about the snare that opens Beat It. I’ve never heard a snare sound like that in my life. Practically no instrument on Off the Wall has that kind of overly processed EQ’d sound.

Normally when you have a copy with plenty of presence, it can be somewhat sibilant in places. Sibilance is hardly a problem here. For some reason this copy has all the highs, but it’s cut so clean it practically doesn’t spit at all. Even on the song I Can’t Help It, which normally has a problem in that respect. Since that’s my favorite song on this album, and probably my favorite MJ song of all time, hearing it sound so good was a revelation. (more…)

Earth, Wind and Fire – All ‘N All

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  • This outstanding copy of All ‘N All boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Balanced, musical and full throughout – this pressing is a big step up from every other copy we played
  • These sides are doing it all right — richer, fuller, better bass, more Tubey Magic, and the list goes on
  • 4 stars: “Earth, Wind & Fire’s artistic and commercial winning streak continued with its ninth album, All ‘N All, the diverse jewel that spawned major hits like ‘Serpentine Fire’ and the dreamy ‘Fantasy.’ . . . a highly rewarding addition to EWF’s catalog.”

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The Fifth Dimension – The Age of Aquarius

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  • An outstanding copy of The Age of Aquarius with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • Tubey Magical sweetness and richness is key, and here you will find plenty of both, with virtually no sacrifice in presence, clarity or resolution
  • You can thank legendary engineer and producer Bones Howe, the man behind the phenomenal recordings of The Association, The Turtles and even the likes of Tom Waits(!)
  • 4 stars: “The Age of Aquarius, the 5th Dimension’s fourth album, was the group’s commercial peak… The 5th Dimension were the successors to the L.A. vocal group mantle passed on by The Mamas and the Papas… their work had a sheen and a zest that sometimes contrasted with the original tone of the material.”

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