Genre – Rock – British Blues Rock

Free / Tons Of Sobs – A Classic of British Blues

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  • Crazy good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close it from start to finish, this was clearly the best copy from our shootout – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • This early UK Island pressing gave us exactly what we were looking for from these British Blues Rockers – it’s smooth, weighty, and overflowing Tubey Magical richness
  • It’s tough to find these imports in audiophile condition, which is why they only hit the site at most every two years or so
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…a blistering combination of youth, ambition, and experience that, across the course of their debut album, did indeed lay the groundwork for all that Zeppelin would embrace. …Tons of Sobs has a density that makes Zeppelin and the rest of the era’s rocky contemporaries sound like flyweights by comparison.”

Here is just the kind of sound you want on an album like this — Big and Bold!

If you’ve got the full range dynamic speakers to play Tons of Sobs good and loud, you will discover, as we have, what a powerful British Blues Rock album this is. No hits, just heavy electric blues played with feeling, months before Zeppelin would come along and take the genre to a whole new level.

Years ago — in 2011 to be exact — we said the following in a listing for a very good sounding domestic pressing:

Solid bass, present vocals, plenty of energy — the only thing missing here is the Tubey Magical richness and sweetness that only the British originals (in our experience) have, and in spades by the way. But try to find one. Over the last two or three years I think we’ve managed to get hold of exactly one clean copy.

Fast forward a number of years and we’ve only had a couple more! I personally have seen the original British pressing of this album sell on the web for more than 1000 dollars, which explains why we rarely have them. (more…)

Thin Lizzy – Jailbreak

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  • Jailbreak makes its Hot Stamper debut here with superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This copy has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and lovely analog warmth
  • 5 stars: “. . . this myth-making is married to an exceptional eye for details; when the boys are back in town, they don’t just come back to a local bar, they’re down at Dino’s, picking up girls and driving the old men crazy. This gives his lovingly florid songs, crammed with specifics and overflowing with life, a universality that’s hammered home by the vicious, primal, and precise attack of the band.”

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Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

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  • Cocker’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than these?
  • How’s this for a 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 more
  • 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.”

*NOTE: Side two Track Four, Hello, Little Friend, is slightly noisier, on the low end of Mint Minus Minus.

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…)

Humble Pie – What Other Live Rock Record Sounds This Good?

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

And One We Also Just Added to Our Rock & Pop Top 100 List

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One of the best — if not THE best — rock concert albums we have ever heard. Can you imagine if Frampton Comes Alive sounded like this? If you want to hear some smokin’ Peter Frampton guitar work from the days when he was with the band, this album captures that sound better than any of their studio releases, and far better than FCA on even the best copies.

Grungy guitars that jump out of the speakers, prodigious amounts of punchy deep bass, dynamic vocals and drum work — the best pressings of Rockin’ The Fillmore have more firepower than any live recording we’ve ever heard.

Who knew? 

We didn’t, of course, until not that many years ago (2014 maybe?). But we are in the business of finding these things out. We get paid by our customers to find them the best sounding pressings in the world. It’s our job and we take it very seriously.

Did any audiophile reviewers ever play the album and report on its amazing sound? Not that we are aware of.  Do they have the kind of playback systems — the big rooms, the big speakers, the freedom from compression and artificiality — that are required to get the most from a recording such as this one?

Doubtful. Unlikely in the extreme even. They don’t know how good a record like this can sound because they aren’t able to play it the way it needs to be played.

And when was the last time you read a review of a record that hadn’t just been reissued on Heavy Vinyl? There was a time when audiophile reviewers wrote about exceptionally good sounding vintage pressings they had come across. Harry Pearson comes immediately to mind, but there were many others following his lead. Now they it seems none of them can be bothered. More’s the pity.

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Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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FREAKISHLY GOOD LIVE ZEP SOUND! This Swan Song LP is just full of the Zep Magic — super lively and full-bodied with a whole lotta WHOMP. Bonzo’s drum sound is LARGER THAN LIFE on this copy. Three of the four sides here rate ABOVE A++. 

We’ve never heard a copy of this album sound anywhere near amazing before. Most of the copies we’ve played sound like bad, second-generation bootleg cassettes. We still pick them up every time we see them — hey, it’s Zep, man — but we weren’t sure we’d ever hear a decent copy. We dropped the needle on this one and were SHOCKED at how hard it rocked. Inspired, we pulled out all of our clean copies, — as we imagined, none of them came anywhere close to this monster!

How big is the difference between our top dog here and the rest of the pack? Our second place winner had four and a half pluses between the four sides — this one has NINE PLUSES. Furthermore, no other side on ANY other copy we play rated higher than A++, while this one rates above A++ on three sides. Talk about a landslide! (more…)

Savoy Brown Blues Band – Shake Down

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  • Shake Down finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Big, with a punchy bottom end and driving blues/rock energy, as well as the all-import British Tubey Magic, here you will find all the elements critical to the best sounding copies
  • “… a raw and immediate album of hard primal blues and blues-rock with huge bass guitar, lots of guitar solos, piano and powerful drums… if you like the British Blues in the vein of early Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall or Chicken Shack, don’t hesitate ! This is enthusiastic and thrilling top-notch album.”

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Deep Purple – Made In Japan

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More Recordings Engineered by Martin Birch

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • This outstanding UK pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound or BETTER on all four sides 
  • Surprisingly clean, undistorted sound for a live album, yet every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Live Album should be
  • In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness, Made In Japan might just be The Best Sounding Live Album of All Time
  • Rolling Stone: “They’ve done countless shows since in countless permutations, but they’ve never sounded quite this perfect.”

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan I’d put the album right up there with the best of the best. In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan would be very likely to take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Album of All Time.

Yes, the sound is that good.

Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought Martin Birch along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles. (more…)

John Mayall with Eric Clapton – Blues Breakers

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Far more richer, smoother and livelier than most, with Tubey Magic and space you won’t believe
  • The Decca UK vinyl on this superb pressing is as QUIET as we ever expect to find for this album
  • 5 stars: “Bluesbreakers was Eric Clapton’s first fully realized album as a blues guitarist — more than that, it was a seminal blues album of the 1960s, perhaps the best British blues album ever cut, and the best LP ever recorded by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.”

This copy is guaranteed to be clearly superior to virtually all imports, all domestic pressings, whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl they’re making these days — in short, any version of this music on any format that you’ve ever played. This is it folks. They cut this one right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to know it. Blues Breakers finally sounds the way you always wanted it to sound.

We’ve been searching for copies of Bluesbreakers for years — everyone wants a great copy of this Five Star Classic, the only album John Mayall ever made that we would consider a Must Own. After many, many years of experimentation and dozens of copies purchased we’ve finally discovered the British pressings that deliver the best sound we’ve ever heard for this music.

But they don’t come easy and they sure don’t come cheap, so don’t expect the floodgates to open with White Hot Stamper after White Hot Stamper hitting the site. One was it and it will be a year or two at the very least before we have a big enough stack of copies with which to do a shootout fo find another.

Until then this is a great copy that belongs in your collection, and it’s QUIET. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

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  • A Sticky Fingers like you’ve never heard — amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Finally, with the best vintage pressings we can hear the power and the beauty of this truly superb recording
  • A landmark Glyn Johns / Andy Johns recording, our favorite by the Stones, a Top 100 Title (of course) and 5 stars on Allmusic (ditto)
  • Q magazine said this was “the Stones at their assured, showboating peak … A magic formula of heavy soul, junkie blues and macho rock.”
  • 5 stars: “With its offhand mixture of decadence, roots music, and outright malevolence, Sticky Fingers set the tone for the rest of the decade for the Stones.”

A Very Special Pressing

On this copy you will find the best sounding side of any Stones album ever made. Nothing in our last few shootouts could touch it. We kept it as reference copy for a year or two, but decided that it would be better if someone enjoyed it rather than have it sit on a shelf in our stockroom.

We used to give a side like this Four Pluses, but we decided not to do that anymore, so the grade you see in the listing is Three Pluses. Make no mistake, these are the best sounding Three Pluses on the site right now, bar none.

Sure, it’s a lot of money for a record with condition issues. However, since almost every copy of Sticky Fingers has condition issues of some sort, they should be more acceptable here than they might be were they found on a different title.

Those of you who want to acquire one of the best copies of Sticky Fingers we’ve ever played — better than the last ten or fifteen we auditioned, and we only buy the ones with stampers that have Shootout Winning potential — may find the price not too out of line with the quality of the goods once the needle hits the groove. (more…)

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

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A stunning early WB Green Label pressing with shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish. The first “Triple Triple” copy of Paranoid to hit the site in a long long time — that’s how tough these are to come by! This copy has the kind of energy, presence, and fullness needed to bring the best out of this hard rock / heavy metal classic. (more…)