Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (American)

Joni Mitchell – For The Roses

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this White Label Asylum pressing was one of the best we played in our recent shootout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is especially rich, warm and natural, with exceptional immediacy to Joni’s vocals and Tubey Magic for days
  • One of the best sounding Joni records, on a par with Court and Spark and Blue – fine company indeed
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The lyrics here are among Mitchell’s best, continuing in the vein of gripping honesty and heartfelt depth exhibited on Blue…. More than a bridge between great albums, this excellent disc is a top-notch listen in its own right.”

This copy has real energy and dynamics that just could not be heard on most of the pressings we played. With dynamics AND the warmth and richness found here, this copy will be hard to beat.

Listen to how huge the piano is. No two copies will show you the same piano, which makes it a great test for sound. Both sides have clear, present, breathy vocals, about as good as Joni can sound on vinyl, which is saying a lot. (more…)

America – Homecoming

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  • An outstanding copy of America’s second album, boasting Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the most tubey, warm acoustic guitar reproduction you could ever ask for – this is the sound of real analog!
  • AMG raves; “The songs here are tighter and more forthright… The sound quality is clear and bright; the colorful arrangements, while still acoustic guitar-based, feature more electric guitar and keyboards. The performance quality is more assured, among the most urgently committed the group would ever put on vinyl. This top-flight album is a very rewarding listen.”

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction quality. Most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. And when the guitars are perfection, the voices and all the other instruments tend to be right as well.

Let’s face it: they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like this anymore. You have to go back to 49 year old records like this one to find that sound. (more…)

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

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Reviews and Commentaries for Bridge Over Troubled Water

  • It took us years, but we found a few outstanding Columbia 360 label pressings of Bridge Over Troubled Water in audiophile playing condition, and here is an awfully good one
  • This pressing of Simon & Garfunkel’s classic boasts Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • There’s a reason it’s been quite a few years since you’ve seen this title on our site – we have a devil of a time finding lightly-played 360s without marks or significant surface noise, especially for the title track
  • The sound is big, lively, and clear, with the kind of Tubey Magical richness that only the best 360 pressings can offer
  • Surely this is BY FAR the toughest album of theirs to find with top quality sound and decent surfaces
  • This Magnum Opus ended the duo’s collaboration with a ginormous over the top production, which taxed the recording technology of the day and is sure to tax any system that attempts to reproduce it
  • 5 stars: “Perhaps the most delicately textured album to close out the 1960s from any major rock act… the songs matched the standard of craftsmanship that had been established on the duo’s two prior albums”

Hey Guys and Gals, What’s With the High Prices for Common Rock Records?

The reason we never have this record in stock is that our failure rate for the copies we buy is probably between 70 and 80%. Some of those records we pay a hundred bucks for these days, five times what they cost us five or ten years ago. And they are few and far between.

The sound of these sides is a step up from almost everything else we played. The strings on the title track actually have some texture, and “Cecilia” comes to life in a way we guarantee you have never heard before. There’s also much less of the spit and grit that you find on many copies. (Less, but not none, that would be impossible, it’s on the tape.)

The sound is much more musical than you would expect if you own a reissue on the red label or an audiophile pressing of any kind. All our copies are on the 360 label, and none of them are on Heavy Vinyl or Half-Speed Mastered. If it’s not a 360, it’s not a Hot Stamper in our book.

If you own any modern Heavy Vinyl pressing, from the Classic Records version through whatever they are peddling now, you are in for a mind-blowing experience with this Hot Stamper pressing.

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Neil Diamond / Stones – His Best Sounding Studio Album?

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I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and not many held our interest.

Problems to Watch For

Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension that the best copies showed us.

You can easily hear that smear on the guitar transients. Usually they’re a tad blunted and the guitar harmonics don’t ring the way they should.

Smeary, veiled, top end-challenged pressings were regularly produced over the years. They are the rule, not the exception.

Good cleaning techniques can help, but bad vinyl and worn stampers limit the encoding of the highs, and bad mastering or the use of sub-generation tapes both can work plenty of mischief on their own.

Engineering

On the Hot Stamper copies that do have sweet and rich ANALOG sound, credit naturally belongs with Neil’s go-to engineer, ARMIN STEINER. He was one of the engineers on Spirit’s first album (a truly phenomenal recording from 1968), assisted on Ram, recorded some of the best sounding, most Tubey Magical Chart-Topping Pop Rock for Bread in the early ’70s, and, if that’s not enough, has more than a hundred other engineering credits. He’s also the reason that Hot August Night is one of the best sounding live albums ever recorded.

When you find his name in the credits there’s at least a chance, and probably a pretty good one, that the sound will be excellent. You need the right pressing of course, but the potential for good sound should be your working hypothesis at that point. Now, all it takes is some serious digging in the bins, cleaning, and listening to determine if you’ve lucked into a “diamond in the rough.”

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

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One of Our Favorite Titles from 1969


  • This outstanding copy of Neil’s second studio album boasts superb Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality Neil is famous for (of which Zuma is the best example), with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY
  • Includes some of Neil Young’s most beloved classics: “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Down by the River” just to name three
  • 5 stars: “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general, and it reversed his commercial fortunes….”

Although not quite in the league with the best of the best — the likes of Gold Rush, Harvest, or Zuma, all titles we have a devil of a time keeping in stock — the best sounding tracks here are a rough guide to what was to come as Neil and his producer, David Briggs, got better and better until they were As Good As It Gets by the time they got around to After the Gold Rush in 1970 (for which they seem to get no credit, outside of Better Records’ raves for the album of course).

We absolutely love the Live-in-the-Studio quality that only the best pressings of this album can give, with minimal processing and maximum energy. Man, with a good copy played back on a big pair of speakers this album can ROCK like nobody’s business. Nine minutes of “Down by the River”? A ten minute long version of “Cowgirl in the Sand”? “Cinnamon Girl”? We are so there!

This kind of musical, natural sound is not easy to come by. If you own any copy of the album you know what we mean. (more…)

Judy Collins – Who Knows Where The Time Goes

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Judy Collins

  • The sweetness and transparency to the guitars and vocals on this wonderful pressing won us over
  • “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” – one of our favorite Judy Collins songs – is achingly powerful here
  • 4 stars: “Enthusiasts of Judy Collins rank this among their favorite recordings and it is likewise a perfect touchstone for the burgeoning listener as well.”
  • If you’re a fan of Judy’s, this early pressing from 1968 surely belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Finding the Best Sound

Most copies were a bit thinner than ideal, and even the best pressings we heard had a bit of that quality. Frequency extension high and low was also hard to come by.

If the sound is rich and full-bodied, yet clear and transparent, you probably have yourself one of the few that were mastered and pressed properly — and one of the few that survived the turntables of their day to be playable forty-plus years later on the revealing equipment you undoubtedly own.

If you don’t own such a copy, and with all due respect chances are you don’t, we have a lovely copy right here for you, only a click away.

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Neil Diamond – Stones

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  • A Shootout Winner – Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – this is the way to hear Neil Diamond!
  • Armin Steiner engineered the album, and it’s Neil’s best recorded release (that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers)
  • Stones and I Am… I Said are killer on the A+++ side one, but both sides have outstanding sonics
  • 4 Stars: “Stones is a stronger album than most of Neil Diamond’s late-’60s records. An engaging collection of mainstream pop.”

I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and only a small number held our interest. (more…)

Neil Young / Comes A Time – What to Listen For

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So many copies we played just sounded flat, with dull guitars and hard vocals. Some made Neil sound like he was singing from the back of the studio. Still others noticeably lacked leading edge transients of any kind, blunting the attack of the various stringed instruments.

Believe me, a Neil Young record with dull guitars is not worth playing, owning or writing about. You won’t find one on our site.

But there’s one very special quality that this recording has that few of his others do: lovely female vocal harmonies. Nicolette Larson is all over this record, adding an extra layer of mellow magic to the proceedings. Maybe it’s the woman’s touch that makes this album so relaxed and heartfelt. Neil is completely and utterly in the zone here, so whatever put him in that special state of mind is fine by me. (To quote Mr. Young himself, A Man Needs a Maid.)

As for the music, all of side one is wonderful from start to finish; I wouldn’t change a note. Side two is not as strong musically, but the sound can be every bit as good if you’ve got the right pressing.

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Dave Mason / It’s Like You Never Left – Key Tracks

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The first track on side one has huge bass and is very rich.

Check out the sweet vocals on the second song and the Tubey Magical richness of track three.

On side two note how big the piano sounds, and how much space surrounds it.

Then in comes the solid snare; followed by rich, meaty horns; breathy, silky vocals and big guitars.

This album is very well recorded and you don’t need a pair of golden ears or a state-of-the-art system to hear it — assuming you have a great copy like this one.

If you don’t have a good copy of the album, no amount of money spent on stereo equipment is going to get this album to sound the way it should.

I Was a Fan in ’73

I was a big fan of this album when it came out in 1973. I used to play it all the time in fact. Now I hear why – it’s big and rich with a solid bottom end and a smooth, sweet top, perfect for the big but not especially sophisticated speakers (the Fulton J System) I had back in the day.

This album has the kind of sound that the typical CD just doesn’t want anything to do with. Not that the Compact Disc couldn’t pull it off — there are good sounding CDs in this world, I own hundreds of them — but it doesn’t seem to want to even try.

Graham Nash helps out on vocals on tracks one, two and five on the first side. Stevie Wonder plays a lovely harmonica solo on The Lonely One on side two, and George Harrison guests on guitar on If You’ve Got Love, the third track on side one. (more…)

The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn!

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  • This outstanding 360 Label pressing of the band’s sophomore release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • You will not believe how punchy, lively, dynamic, and exciting some of these tracks sound here
  • One of the better sounding Byrds recordings, with a number of their best songs, including the title track
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…more Bob Dylan covers were included, as well, and “Satisfied Mind” was their first foray into country-rock, a direction they would explore in much greater depth throughout the rest of the ’60s.”

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