Genre – Rock – Roots Rock

The Band / Music From Big Pink – Bad Bass Like This Is Just Annoying

More of the Music of The Band

Roots Rock LPs with Hot Stampers Available Now

Sonic Grade: D

In 2012 the “new” MoFi put out another remastered Big Pink. Since their track record at this point is, to be honest, abysmal, we have not felt the need to audition it.

It’s very possible, even likely, that they restored some of the bass that’s missing from so many of the originals.

But bad half-speed mastered bass — poorly defined, never deep and never punchy — is that the kind of bass that would even be desirable?

To us, it is very much a problem. Bad bass is just plain annoying. Fortunately for us it is a problem we have to deal with much less often now that we’ve all but stopped playing half-speed mastered records.

(Here are some other records with exceptionally sloppy bass. If the bass on these records does not sound sloppy to you, you have your work cut out for you. Some of our favorite records for testing bass definition can be found here.)

Sucked Out Mids

The Doors first album was yet another obvious example of MoFi’s predilection for sucked-out mids. Scooping out the middle of the midrange has the effect of creating an artificial sense of depth where none belongs. Play any original Bruce Botnick engineered album by Love or The Doors and you will notice immediately that the vocals are front and center. 

The midrange suckout effect is easily reproducible in your very own listening room. Pull your speakers farther out into the room and farther apart and you can get that MoFi sound on every record you own. I’ve been hearing it in the various audiophile systems I’ve been exposed to for more than 40 years.

Nowadays I would place it under the general heading of My-Fi, not Hi-Fi. Our one goal for every tweak and upgrade we make is to increase the latter and reduce the former.

And note also that when you play your records too quietly, it results in an exaggerated, artificial sense of depth. That’s one of the main reasons we play them loud; we want to hear the pressings that have real presence and immediacy, because they’re the ones that are most likely to win our shootouts.

If you have any of our White Hot stampers you surely know what I’m talking about.


FURTHER READING

Records that Are Good for Testing Bass and Whomp

Records that Are Good for Testing Midrange Presence

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Creedence Clearwater Revival – Self-Titled

  • An incredible copy of the band’s debut album with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish, and impossibly quiet vinyl for a vintage Fantasy pressing
  • These sides are exceptionally low-distortion, solid, dynamic, with the neutral tonality completely missing from the current spate of reissues
  • Featuring classics such as I Put a Spell on You, the extended-length jam Susie Q (8:37, perfect for Underground Radio), The Working Man, Porterville and more
  • 4 stars: “CCR’s self-titled debut album was gloriously out-of-step with the times, teeming with John Fogerty’s Americana fascinations. … the band’s sound is vibrant, with gutsy arrangements that borrow equally from Sun, Stax, and the swamp.”

It’s unlikely you will be demonstrating your system with this record, but you may find yourself enjoying the hell out of it for what it is — an early example of Roots Rock that still holds up today.

This is an album that’s nearly impossible to find with excellent sound and clean surfaces. This is one of the best copies we’ve managed to come across. (more…)

The Band / Northern Lights – Southern Cross

More of The Band

More Roots Rock

  • These sides are bigger, more natural, more warm and more solid than those of any other copy you’ve heard or your money back
  • This is The Band’s undiscovered gem, containing the most powerful tearjerker they ever wrote: “It Makes No Difference”
  • 4 stars: “…the Band’s finest since their self-titled sophomore effort … “Acadian Driftwood” stands out as one of Robertson’s finest compositions, the equal to anything else the Band ever recorded.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This album by The Band is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

Thankfully both sides here are rich and full-bodied. This pressing is not nearly as dry and flat as the vast majority of pressings we run across. Both sides have a nicely extended top end to go along with the weighty bottom. The guitars and keyboards are Tubey Magical as well, a quality we we focused on, and one that we believe is essential if the album is to sound its best. (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River

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More Roots Rock LPs

  • An essential, Must Own for every Classic Rock collection, this LP includes some of the band’s biggest hits: Green River and Bad Moon Rising, Lodi, Wrote a Song for Everyone and plenty more
  • 5 stars “If anything, CCR’s third album Green River represents the full flower of their classic sound initially essayed on its predecessor, Bayou Country. One of the differences between the two albums is that Green River is tighter, with none of the five-minute-plus jams that filled out both their debut and Bayou Country, but the true key to its success is a peak in John Fogerty’s creativity.”

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Creedence Clearwater Revival – Bayou Country

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Bayou Country

  • This outstanding pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • “Proud Mary” and “Good Golly Miss Molly” are two of the better sounding tracks found on the album, and you can be sure this seriously good side two has them swamp rockin’ like crazy
  • Our pick for the best sounding CCR record – but only if you have a copy with sonics like these
  • 4 1/2 stars: “All the songs add up to a superb statement of purpose, a record that captures Creedence Clearwater Revival’s muscular, spare, deceptively simple sound as an evocative portrait of America.”

The sound is big and open with real weight to the bottom. The top end has a much more natural extension than most, and much less of the harshly brightened-up upper midrange you might be familiar with. On side two you can even pick out the piano in “Good Golly Miss Molly,” which is barely audible on most pressings.

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John Fogerty – Eye Of The Zombie

More of the Music of John Fogerty

More Roots Rock LPs

  • Insanely good sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them
  • Don’t waste your money on whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of Fogerty’s second solo album, a vintage ’80s pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl with both sides playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • John’s last album for over a decade and while not quite as good as Centerfield, there’s still some excellent tracks here, such as “Change in the Weather” and “Knockin on Your Door”

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Why Would Anyone Want to Take All the Fun Out of CCR’s Music?

More of the Music of Creedence Clearwater Revival

Sonic Grade: F

The last time I played the MoFi pressing mentioned below I found the sound so weirdly colored as to defy understanding. Ten years ago when I wrote the commentary below I apparently found it more tolerable.

More recently I obviously did not. When an audiophile record sounds worse than it used to, there is a very good chance that you have made some Progress in Audio.

Of course this is not something to be assumed. (Speaking of assumptions, you can find more on the subject here).

Rather it is something to be tested. (You can read more about some of the rigorous and extensive record testing we have conducted over the last twenty years here.)

Even if 99 times out of a hundred it turns out to be the case that the modern remastered record can now be seen for the fake it always was, there is still a one out of a hundred chance that the record may in fact be better than you remember.

These audiophile records are easily called out for their illusory superiority for the simple reason that the better your stereo gets, the more obvious their colorations and shortcomings become. This was my experience, and I pass this information on in the hopes that you will make progress with your stereo system and find them every bit as wrong as I did.

We’ve created a section for the worst of them, and even with 266 entries we could easily double that number if we were remotely inclined to audition more of them and catalog their shortcomings.

With the number of Heavy Vinyl records being pressed today, triple or quadruple that number I suspect would be doable.

Thank god we are in the business of selling good records and not in the business of reviewing bad ones.

Analogue Productions 

As for the AP pressing discussed below, the last time I played one it had all the bad qualities of the Bonnie Raitt disc on DCC that I’ve grown to dislike so much. But what the new AP version really gets wrong is the guitar sound. Creedence’s music lives or dies by its guitar sound, and the AP pressing is as wrong as they come.

The fat, smeary, overly-smooth guitars you hear on the record, lacking any semblance of the grungy energy that are the true hallmarks of this band’s recordings, probably means that some audiophile mastering engineer got hold of the tapes and tried to “fix” what he didn’t like about the sound.

You know, the sound that is all over the radio to this very day. Something was apparently wrong with it. So now that it’s been fixed, everything that’s good about CCR’s recordings is missing, and everything that has replaced those sonic elements has made the sound worse.

Nice job! Keep up the good work. Chad is proud of ya, no doubt about it.

Our old commentary follows, some of which we obviously no longer agree with:

Years ago a customer sent me his copy of the Analogue Productions LP (mastered by Hoffman and Gray) in order to carry out a little shootout I had planned among the five copies I could pull together: two MoFi’s, the Fantasy ORC reissue, a blue label original, the AP, and another reissue. 

Let’s just say there were no real winners, but there sure were some losers.

My take on the Hoffman version is simply this: it has virtually no trace of tubey analog magic. None to speak of anyway.

It sounds like a clean, tonally correct but fairly bass-shy CD. No pressing I played managed to be so tonally correct and so boring at the same time.

The MoFi has plenty of weird EQ colorations, the kind that bug the hell out of me on 98% of their crappy catalog, but at least it sounds like analog. It’s warm, rich and sweet.

The AP copy has none of those qualities.

More pointless 180g sound, to my ear anyway. I couldn’t sit through it with a gun to my head.

You would need a lot of vintage tubes in your system to get the AP record to sound right, and then every properly mastered record in your collection would sound worse.

The approach we recommend? Get Good Sound – Then You Can Recognize and Acquire Good Records


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory

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  • The sound is present and punchy, with plenty of bass, grungy guitars that jump out of the speakers, and the kind of swamp rock energy that no audiophile record on the planet can claim
  • So many great songs: Run Through the Jungle, Lookin’ Out My Back Door, Who’ll Stop the Rain, etc.
  • A 5 star album and arguably the best record the band ever made: “…an album made during stress and chaos, filled with raging rockers, covers, and intense jams.
  • If you’re a CCR fan, this masterwork from 1970 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

In 2015 we achieved a major breakthrough for some of CCR’s albums, especially this one. With improved cleaning technologies and continued playback improvements, we’re finding that the right copies of Cosmo’s are sounding better with every shootout.

Note that the Hoffman reissues and the MoFi pressing sound nothing like the Creedence records we all grew up with, and records that sound that small, lifeless, boring or just plain wrong can’t really be what audiophiles want, can they?

Judging by the robust sales of those ridiculously lame LPs, I’m sorry to say they can.

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The Band – Rock Of Ages

More of The Band

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  • A superb vintage Capitol pressing of Rock of Ages with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides
  • The best copies are surprisingly TRANSPARENT – just listen to all the “room” around the vocals on these four sides
  • With tracks from their first four albums, as well as a few handpicked favorites (“Don’t Do It”), not to mention killer horn charts on 11 songs, this is a superb overview of the group’s uniquely rootsy rock
  • A classic double live album with a consistently well-arranged and energetically performed set of songs – if you could only have one album by The Band, wouldn’t it have to be this one?
  • 4 stars: “It could be argued that it captured the spirit of the Band at the time in a way none of their other albums do.”

The performances are uniformly excellent, and the live five-piece horn section adds a lot to the fun and energy of the music. (The same can be said for Little Feat’s live album, Waiting for Columbus. We’ve been offering Hot Stampers on that album for years; it’s the best way to hear the band at their best, outside the studio.)

There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals, in-your-listening-room presence, and plenty of rock and roll energy.

All four sides here are just plain bigger, richer, clearer and smoother than the other copies we played. The energy level is off the charts. This is The Band playing live at the peak of their powers. Hearing this outstanding pressing should be unlike anything you have experienced before, unless you saw them back in the day, some fifty years ago, and how many of us can honestly say we did? (“Honestly” being the operative word there.)

It should go without saying that this is music that belongs in any popular music collection. My favorite song here is “I Don’t Want To Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes.” It’s The Band at their best — LIVE.

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Marshall Crenshaw / Mary Jean & 9 Others – A Desert Island Disc

Hot Stamper Pressings of Roots Rock LPs

Reviews and Commentaries for Roots Rock LPs

More Masterpieces of Rock and Pop

This is my favorite roots rock record of all time. I love the album and have played it many, many hundreds of times. It starts off with the driving This Is Easy and never lets up until the very last song, a beautiful ballad, They Never Will Know.

The All Music Guide had this to say about MC’s first 3 albums: “…an irresistible combination of masterful pop and vibrant, timeless rock & roll.” They weren’t that impressed with this album, but I cannot for the life of me understand why.

I think this is the album where Marshall got it all together: his best songs, his best production, his most tightly knit band, his best guitar solos — the best the guy had to offer is right here.

How does somebody play the same record 100’s of times? I have it on tape in my car, backed with one of my favorite Bonnie Raitt albums, Nine Lives. I can sing along with every song and know every guitar lick by heart. This music may sound simple on the surface, but it has the essence of great popular music. The songs are both heartfelt and catchy, with the kinds of hooks that remind me of the early Beatles.

If you like Buddy Holly, or any of the people that have been influenced by him to produce straight ahead rock and roll, you should like this.

If you have the kind of “delicate” stereo that can’t play loud, hasn’t much bass, or can’t move much air, this is not the record for you. This record is supposed to ROCK. If you don’t have a big system that can do that, you’re wasting your time trying to get this record to do what it wants to do.

It’s not a particularly good sounding record, which is why you have never seen a Hot Stamper pressing of it on our site. But the music is so good we think you can get past the sound and just enjoy the songs for what they are: great.