Genre – Rock – Psych Rock

The Doors – Strange Days

More of The Doors

  • This excellent copy of Strange Days boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • An outstanding-sounding pressing of one of the most difficult-to-find records in the world of Hot Stampers
  • Demo Quality sound for so many classics: “When The Music’s Over,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Love Me Two Times,” and more
  • “… if The Beatles had Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and The Beach Boys had Pet Sounds, then The Doors’ answer was Strange Days. This experimentation can be heard in the very first notes of the title track, as Ray Manzarek’s spacey keyboards set the tone for Morrison’s eerie, distorted warning, ‘Strange days have found us.’ It’s the perfect introduction to a perfectly strange album.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Doors, this early pressing from 1967 surely belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1967 Tubey Analog sound can be, this copy will can do just that.

It’s spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Spirit’s Third Album, Clear – Another Useless Sundazed Heavy Vinyl LP

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Spirit

Hot Stamper Pressings of Psychedelic Rock Recordings Available Now

Sonic Grade: F

Although it’s been many years since I last played it, I’m fairly confidant that the Sundazed only hints at the real sound of the best copies. Most Sundazed records would end up in our Hall of Shame if we ever bothered to audition them.

Being in the “record business,” such as it is, I’ve played my share and more of awful sounding Heavy Vinyl.

Even back in the (embarrassing) days when we were selling them we carried only about one out of ten that were in print. A big portion of the nine we didn’t stock were just awful as I recall.

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Spirit – The Mono Rocks

More Psychedelic Rock

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Spirit

This review was written in 2010. I doubt we would prefer the mono pressings to the stereo pressings were we to do the shootout this year, but you never know. (Don’t get your hopes up. We simply can’t find clean copies of this album anymore.)

That’s what shootouts are for, to give you the data to back up your opinions and your guesses. Without more current data, who can say which of the two we would prefer?

Our old review:

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame, not for the best Hot Stamper stereo copies, but for this amazing MONO. 

This killer pressing from 2010 has almost EVERYTHING you want from this ’60s Psych Pop Masterpiece — the energy, presence and sheer rock and roll POWER made a mockery of every stereo copy we played.

Want a glimpse into the kind of energy the band was generating in the studio? Drop the needle on Fresh Garbage, the opening track of this amazing mono pressing, and you will hear this band come alive in a way you never imagined you’d ever hear them.

It’s positively startling how immediate and powerful the sound is here.

That said, from an audiophile point of view, mono does involve a sacrifice — the huge three-dimensional soundstage of the best stereo copies is nowhere to be found here.

From a musical or performance point of view, this mono cannot be beat; it shows the band at their best, fired up and ready to show the world that The Doors are not the only SoCal rock band who have innovative ideas about rock music and the performing chops to pull off their conceptions, not to mention the studio wizards backing them to get it all down on tape.

If I had to choose between The Doors’ first album and Spirit’s, say for a nice drive up the coast with the top down, no contest, Spirit would get the nod. I had the album on 8 Track back in high school and played it to death. Doing this shootout, hearing the album sound so good after so many years, was nothing less than a THRILL. (I went right up to Amazon and bought a CD for the car. Might just take a drive up the coast.)

If you like Surrealistic Pillow and Revolver/Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles and early Doors albums, and you don’t know this album well, you are really in for a treat. This album is a classic of its day that still holds up forty plus years later. I cannot recommend any current album on the site more highly.

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Sergio Mendes + Psych + Your Mind Will Be Blown

mendestill_depth_1102533608More of the Music of Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

Reviews and Commentaries for Stillness

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

This commentary was written sometime around 2010.

If you are looking for DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND with music every bit as wonderful, look no further — this is the record for you.

If I had one song to play to show what my stereo can really do, For What It’s Worth on a Hot Stamper copy would probably be my choice. I can’t think of any material that sounds better. It’s amazingly spacious and open, yet punchy and full-bodied the way only vintage analog recordings ever are.

This one being from 1970 fits the bill nicely.

Side two of this album can be one of THE MOST MAGICAL sides of ANY record — when you’ve got a killer copy. I don’t know of any other record like it. It seems to be in a class of its own. It’s an excellent test disc as well. All tweaks and equipment changes and room treatments must pass the Stillness test.

To fail to make this record sound better is to fail completely. The production is so dense, and so difficult to reproduce properly, that only recently have I begun to hear just how good this record can sound. There is still plenty to discover locked in these grooves, and I enthusiastically accept the challenge to find all the sounds that Sergio created in the studio, locked away in the 40 year old vinyl.

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Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow

More of the Music of the Jefferson Airplane

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of the Jefferson Airplane

  • This outstanding stereo copy of the band’s sophomore release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) from first note to last
  • It’s the rare copy of this ’60s Psych Classic that has this kind of freedom from grit and distortion – it’s also swimming in Tubey Magic, the glorious sound of vintage analog vinyl, found on the real thing and, let’s be honest, nowhere else
  • An incredibly difficult album to find with audiophile sound, but this pressing has the goods and will is guaranteed to beat – and by a large margin – whatever you throw at it
  • 5 stars: “Every song is a perfectly cut diamond … a groundbreaking piece of folk-rock-based psychedelia that hit — literally — like a shot heard round the world…”

Check out the breathy vocals on “Today” — now THAT is what we call the magic of vintage analog!

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The Doors – Morrison Hotel

More of The Doors

  • A wonderful early pressing of this hard-rockin’ Doors album, with top quality sound from start to finish
  • Rich, big and full-bodied, with clarity and energy to spare, this is the way you want to hear the Doors’ Bluesy Rock
  • Roadhouse Blues, Waiting For The Sun and Maggie McGill are KILLER on this pressing – all you Doors fans are gonna flip
  • Circus Magazine praised it as “possibly the best album yet from the Doors” and “Good hard, evil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jim and the boys, this classic from 1970 deserves a place in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

A great many pressings are neither rich nor present enough to get Jim Morrison’s voice to sound the way it should. He’s The Lizard King, not The Frog Prince for crying out loud. When he doesn’t sound present, big, powerful, and borderline scary, what’s the point?

Not to worry. On these sides he sounds just fine. Just listen to him screaming his head off on “Roadhouse Blues” and projecting the power of his rich baritone on “Blue Sunday.” Nobody did it any better.

All the other elements are really working too — real weight to the piano, amazing punch to the bottom end, lovely texture to the guitars and so on. The sound is clean and clear but not overly so; you still get all the Tubey Magic you need.

The sound of the organ on “Blue Sunday” is really something, check it out. Where has that sound gone?

It’s hard to find clean Doors records at all these days, we find a small handful each year — not nearly enough to do these shootouts as often as we would like.

Both sides here have the deep, powerful bottom end this music absolutely demands. You’ve got to hand it to Bruce Botnick — he knows how to get real rock-’em, sock-’em bottom end onto a piece of magnetic tape.

And sometimes that bottom end whomp actually makes it onto the record, as is the case here, making for one helluva Demo Disc for Bass (if you have speakers big enough to play it, of course.)

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Love on Heavy Vinyl – Indefensible Dreck from Sundazed

More of the Music of Love

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Love

Sonic Grade: F

Two Audiophile Hall of Shame titles, and another two Sundazed records reviewed and found seriously wanting.

We got hold of a minty original pressing of the first Love album back around 2007, so in preparation for the commentary I pulled one of the Sundazed pressings off the shelf, (Forever Changes, the only one we ever bothered to sell), cracked it open and threw it on the turntable. 

Gag, what a piece of crap. When I had auditioned them all those years ago (2002), it was — I’m not kidding — the best of the bunch.

The sound to me back then was nothing special, but not bad. Knowing how rare the originals were, we gave it a lukewarm review and put it in the catalog, the single Sundazed Love album that (just barely) made the cut.

Now I wish I hadn’t, because no one should have to suffer through sound that bad. Here’s what I wrote for the shootout:

You’d never know it from those dull Sundazed reissues, but the right pressings of Love albums are full of Tubey Magic! With Bruce Botnick at the controls you can expect a meaty bottom end and BIG rock sound, and this recording really delivers on both counts.

With Sundazed mastering engineers running the show, you can expect none of the above.

No Tubey Magic, no meaty bottom end, no big rock sound.

After the shootout, I took the two copies we had in stock right down to my local record store and traded them in. I didn’t want them in my house, let alone on my site.

I’m glad that title didn’t sell very well because now I feel I owe a personal apology to anyone who might have bought one from me, thinking they were getting a half-way decent record.

They were getting no such thing. They were getting a piece of garbage. 

A textbook case of Live and Learn.


Love – Revisited

More Love

More Psych Rock

This is a very old review. The sound of this “greatest hits” compilation, on even the best copies, is unlikely to be good enough to qualify for Hot Stamper status these days. We will never really know of course, as we no longer buy these pressings or take the time to clean and play them.

Love is a shocking well-recorded band, one that deserves to be heard on top quality vintage pressings.

Our review from way back when:

This album was made from dub tapes and has some of that dubby sound (smeary, veiled, lacking in space), but in its defense we can say that it was very well mastered from those copy tapes and for the casual fan of the band is worth picking up if the price is right.

We had a chance to shootout a handful of copies recently and didn’t hear any others that could compete with this Elektra Original Pressing. We are HUGE fans of Love and this copy will show you why.

Both sides are lively and full-bodied and the bottom end is KILLER throughout. In short, it’s EXACTLY the sound you want for this music. Give it a chance and you’ll hear for yourself!

Compared to some other copies, this one had more impact, more power and more energy. The vocals are full-bodied and rich with excellent presence. Most copies we heard were pretty blurry down low, but you can actually make sense of the bass on this one. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield / Again – Listening for Tubey Magic Down Low

More of the Music of Buffalo Springfield

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Buffalo Springfield

Music Does the Driving

On even the best copies I regret to say there’s a bit too much Tubey Magic in the bass. Tubbiness and bloat were par for the course. This may explain why so many copies have rolled off bass; the engineer cut the bass because he heard how tubby it was and figured no bass is better than bad bass. 

Which is just not true. Cutting the bass leans out and “modernizes” the sound, making the voices sound thin and dry. This pretty much ruins everything on this album, just the way it ruins everything in practically every modern recording I hear.

Having your bass under control on the playback side isn’t easy — in fact it’s probably the hardest thing to achieve in audio — but it can be done, and with good bass control the slightly wooly bass is just part of the sound you learn to accept.

It doesn’t actually interfere much with your enjoyment of the music, mostly because all the other instruments and voices sounds so magical. (more…)

Listening in Depth to In Search Of The Lost Chord

More of the Music of The Moody Blues

Reviews and Commentaries for The Moody Blues

Achieving just the right balance of Tubey Magical, rich but not too rich “Moody Blues Sound” is no mean feat. You had better be using the real master tape for starters. Then you need a pressing with actual extension at the top, a quality rarely found on most imports. Finally, good bass definition is essential; it keeps the bottom end from blurring the midrange. No domestic copy in our experience has ever had these three qualities, and only the best of the imports manages to combine all three on the same LP.

On the best of the best the clarity and resolution comes without a sacrifice in the Tubey Magical richness, warmth and lushness for which the Moody Blues recordings are justifiably famous. In our experience the best LPs are correct from top to bottom, present and alive in the midrange, yet still retain the richness and sweetness we expect from British (and Dutch) Moody Blues records. They manage, against all odds, to remove the sonic barriers put up by most pressings of the Moodies’ unique music. Who knew, after so many years and so many bad records, that such a thing was even possible?

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Departure

Ride My See-Saw

The beginning of this track is fairly quiet and noise will be audible behind the music. Side two will suffer likewise.

Also, for some reason this track tends not to sound as good as those that follow. We had never really noticed that effect before but during a shootout many years ago it became obvious that the real Moody Magic starts with track two.

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