Genre – Jazz/Rock Fusion

Chicago – Chicago VI

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  • An outstanding copy of Chicago VI, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key and these sides have the horns sounding clear and really jumping out of the speakers
  • VI was propelled to the top of the charts for five full weeks by two of the band’s best tracks: “Just You ‘n’ Me” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day”
  • 4 stars: “Chicago VI is an undeniably strong effort – supported at the time by its chart-topping status…”

The background vocals on these sides are breathy and clear, a far cry from the typically smeary, dark voices we heard on most of the pressings we played, all originals in this case.

More often than not the brass lacks bite and presence, but these sides had the Chicago horns leaping out of the speakers. What is a Chicago record without great horns? Without that big bold sound you may have something, but it sure ain’t Chicago.

The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key — it has to have just the right amount of transient bite yet still be full-bodied and never blary. In addition, on the best of the best pressings you can really hear the air moving through the horns. (more…)

Donald Byrd – Fancy Free

More Donald Byrd

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  • Fancy Free makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom
  • The overall sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the jazz energy and performance space of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
  • “1969’s Fancy Free marked the beginning of Donald Byrd’s move away from hard bop, staking out fusion-flavored territory… the rare Donald Byrd album that holds appeal for rare-groove fanatics and traditionalists alike.”

If you’re ready to take a mindblowing jazz fusion trip with sonics to match, you should definitely check this one out. (more…)

Caldera – Carnavalito! Louder Is Better

Records You Can Buy that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Carnavalito is a track that really comes ALIVE when you Crank Up the Volume. I played it FULL BLAST on two different occasions for audiophile friends of mine just to show them what happens when a Big Speaker Stereo meets a Large Scale Recording with absolutely AMAZING audiophile quality sound — BIG and BOLD, wall to wall and then some!

It’s my favorite track not only for the album as a whole but for the band’s entire recorded output. It just doesn’t get any better than this if you have the system for it.

Hearing the megawatt energy in the section when the soprano saxophonist jumps in, right into an ongoing orgy of wild percussion, who then proceeds to blow his brains out — now that is a thrill beyond belief. Played REALLY LOUD it’s about the closest to The Real Thing, the Live Event, that you will ever hear in your living room. (Unless you have a very large living room and lots of latin jazz musician friends.)

Even a year ago there was no way I could get that music to play that LOUD, that CLEANLY, and that tonally CORRECT, from the deepest bass to the highest highs, with the wild swings in dynamics that the recording captures so well. The Audio Revolution Is Alive and Well and making progress all the time. It’s never too late to join in the fun.

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King Crimson – Lizard

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this vintage Island Sunray pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them
  • Every bit the sonic equal of the first album – if colorful Big Production Jazzy Prog Rock (with mellotron!) is your thing, you can’t go wrong here
  • 4 stars: “Lizard is very consciously jazz-oriented — the influence of Miles Davis (particularly Sketches of Spain) being especially prominent — and very progressive, even compared with the two preceding albums.”

This is probably the last White Hot Stamper pressing you will see on the site for many years to come. Our sources for records such as this — really, anything by the band — have dried up. It is unlikely we will find many new ones. For the time being this is it. Fans of rare records such as this one may want to get while the gettin’ is good. (more…)

Frank Zappa – Listening in Depth to Hot Rats

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

Side One

Peaches En Regalia

This track tends to be a bit dull and could use a little sweetening on the top end on almost any copy you find. 1 or 2 dB at 10k might be just what the doctor ordered.

Willie the Pimp

This is one of the two extended tracks on the album; the second track on each side is “the long one,” and they both suffer from the same slight upper midrange boost. This song and The Gumbo Variations on side two are both difficult to turn up due to their tendency to be slightly aggressive.

Son Of Mr. Green Genes

One of the best sounding tracks on the album, and probably the best sound to be found on side one.

Side Two

Little Umbrellas

Possibly the best sounding song Zappa ever recorded. With the right pressing, the sound is PERFECTION.

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Chicago – Chicago II

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  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last on this outstanding copy of the band’s sophomore release
  • Big, rich, and present throughout, with real Jazz Rock energy – this is just the right sound for this album all things considered
  • One of the most difficult rock albums to find good sound for, bar none – it’s by far the toughest nut to crack in the entire Chicago catalog
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The contents of Chicago II underscore the solid foundation of complex jazz changes with heavy electric rock & roll that the band so brazenly forged on the first set.”

*NOTE: On side three, a mark makes 8 moderate pops at the beginning of Track 1, Fancy Colours.

This album spawned three top 10 singles and can sound very good on the right copy. Finding that copy, though, can be incredibly difficult — that’s why you won’t often find top copies of the album on our site. (more…)

Weather Report – Sweetnighter

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Side two earned a grade of A+++, absolutely As Good As It Gets! The top end is fully extended here in a way the average copy barely hints at, and the overall sound is amazingly transparent and three-dimensional. The brass is full and rich, the percussion is lively and present, and the bass is weighty and defined.

Side One

The energy is excellent, with only very slight smear. Smear kills what’s good about this record — the percussion transients lose their snap and the harmonics get lost — so being less smeary lets this side really work its funky magic. This side is also very high-rez; the echo trails from all the studio reverb go on for days.

The bass is superb as well, which means that this copy was pretty much doing everything right!

Since side one has the best track on the album, Boogie Woogie Waltz (which isn’t even a waltz!), that makes this a VERY special copy indeed. You could easily play twenty and not find one that sounds like this on side one. And finding twenty clean copies of the album even here in Los Angeles, the record capitol of the world, might take you a decade or more. Here’s a killer copy ripe for the taking to save you all that work. (more…)

Jeff Beck – Wired

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  • An excellent copy of Jeff Beck’s third solo effort with Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big and full with a punchy bottom end and driving jazz/rock energy, here are the elements critical to the best sounding copies
  • Wired, the sequel to the hugely successful Blow by Blow, was produced by Sir George Martin and mixed by Geoff Emerick
  • “Within a two-year span, the twin towers Blow by Blow and Wired set a standard for instrumental rock that even Beck has found difficult to match. On Wired, with first-rate material and collaborators on hand, one of rock’s most compelling guitarists is in top form.”

Copies with the most bass, the richest lower midrange and the most extension up top (to keep the upper midrange from becoming too hard and shrill) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record. We know, we heard them all. We’re glad to report this copy was doing just about everything right, hence the high Hot Stamper grades. (more…)

Weather Report – Heavy Weather

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  • With outstanding Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish you will not believe how BIG and BOLD this copy is
  • Birdland on this pressing has some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl
  • Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius are both here and at the absolute peak of their creative powers – this is a work of GENIUS
  • Allmusic 5 Stars: ”Birdland’ is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band.”

The hottest of the hot stamper pressings demonstrate that this is a truly amazing recording, with some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl. The grit, grain and grunge of most pressings is nowhere to be found on these killer sides, and that alone puts them in a very special league indeed.

What To Listen For (WTLF)

We’ve discovered that the key to the hottest sounding pressings is a fairly simple one: the copies with high frequency extension and the tremendous rhythmic energy that results from it are consistently the best sounding.

You may have read elsewhere on the site that what separates many of the best Columbia LPs from their competition is an open, extended top end. For some reason, Columbia, seemingly more than any other label, had a bad habit of making slightly dull records. Slightly dull does not work for this album.

My notes on Palladium in the Track Listing sum it up: when the highs on the record are right, it almost always comes together. Unfortunately, most copies don’t have those highs. There’s more to it of course: some copies lack bass, some sound a bit grainy and gritty — the normal problems associated with vinyl records are all here.

But when you have good highs, you are way more than halfway hom; you are about 80 to 85% of the way toward a Hot Stamper. Just fill in the last few details (bass, dynamics, etc.) and the sound will more than likely blow your mind. (more…)

Al Di Meola – Casino

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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Di Meola’s 1978 release finally makes it to the site, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too. A fusion classic featuring the stunning technique and superb improvisations that keep us on the hunt for great Di Meola pressings like this one.   (more…)