Genre – Rock – Singer / Songwriter

Listening in Depth to Carly Simon’s No Secrets

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The immensely talented engineer ROBIN GEOFFREY CABLE worked his audio magic on this album. You may recall that he recorded a number of the greatest sounding rock records of all time, Elton John’s self-titled second album and Tumbleweed Connection, both in 1970, as well as this album and Nilsson Schmilsson in 1972, with Richard Perry producing.

One more note: having your VTA set just right is critical to getting the best out of this album. The loudest vocal parts can easily strain otherwise. Once you get your settings dialed in correctly, a copy like this will give you the kind of rich, sweet sound that brings out the best in this music.

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Janis Ian – Aftertones

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  • Janis Ian’s superb 1975 release returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “… Ian’s advanced folk sensibilities are emotional progressions away from the weepy and introspective nature heard from her mid-’70s singer/songwriter contemporaries. Part of Ian’s enticement is the marriage between achingly beautiful melodies and thoroughly personalized lyrics. The album commences with the title track setting the tenor and sonic ambiance.”

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Gordon Lightfoot / Summer Side of Life

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  • Gordon’s wonderful 1971 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • So transparent, open, and spacious that nuances and subtleties that escaped you before are now front and center
  • Everything you want in the sound of a good Folk Rock album is here in abundance – enjoy!
  • “. . . an album that has him curling up with both his guitar and his kind, fragile voice . . . . Summer Side of Life helped strengthen his songwriting and refine his delicate vocal style.”Summer Side of Life helped strengthen his songwriting and refine his delicate vocal style.”

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). (more…)

Neil Diamond / Tap Root Manuscript

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  • Tap Root Manuscript makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Exceptionally big, full-bodied and musical, with superb presence for the most important element of the recording, Neil’s voice
  • Cracklin’ Rosie is on this one, it’s Neil’s first Number One hit, with backup (and near-guaranteed success) by the Wrecking Crew
  • 4 stars: “The follow-up to Touching You, Touching Me was an ambitious set of songs, all originals except for a Top 20 cover of “He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother . . . this album confirmed Diamond’s breakthrough as a recording star.”

An album well ahead of its time, or at least it is on side two. The children’s chorus predates The Wall, and the African rhythms predate Peter Gabriel’s and David Byrne’s fascination with World Music. And this from Neil Diamond!

The biggest problem we ran into with Tap Root was Uni’s vinyl. Those of you who have tried to find a quiet pressing of Elton John’s self-titled second album or Tumbleweed Connection on Uni know exactly what we mean when we say they are few and far between. Stitches were the biggest problem, which actually isn’t a vinyl problem as much as it is an defective acetate problem or non-fill. (more…)

Randy Newman – 12 Songs

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy of what some consider Randy Newman’s strongest album is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • An excellent pressing, with a very strong bottom end, lovely richness and warmth, real space and separation between the instruments and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • The clarity of the piano and guitar perfectly support and complement Randy’s heartfelt vocals
  • 5 stars” “Superb material brilliantly executed, 12 Songs was Randy Newman’s first great album, and is still one of his finest moments on record.”

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Kris Kristofferson – Me and Bobby McGee

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  • Two strong sides each earning a Plus or better
  • The sound is big, rich and open with excellent presence
  • Unusually quiet Mint Minus vinyl throughout
  • A 5 Star album on Allmusic with great songs including Help Me Make It Through The Night and the title track

Two great sides on quiet vinyl, giving you a wonderful copy of Kristofferson’s classic debut. This album is an absolute tour de force — every last song on here is a winner. Me and Bobby McGee, Help Me Make It Through The Night, Sunday Morning Coming Down, For The Good Times… it just goes on and on.

Thankfully, the sound is excellent too — at least on a copy like this. We had a stack of originals and early reissues and this was one of a very small group of copies to really deliver. The best originals can be out of this world but good luck finding one that actually sounds great and plays with reasonable surfaces. Most of the reissues are dull and subgen sounding but we got our hands on a winner here. (more…)

Kris Kristofferson – Me and Bobby McGee

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  • An outstanding pressing of this Kristofferson Classic: Triple Plus (A+++) on side one, Double Plus (A++) on side two
  • Both sides are big and spacious with a huge three-dimensional soundfield and correct tonality in the midrange
  • We were struck by how much these songs have in common with those by writers such as Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan
  • 5 stars: “Kristofferson retained his gift for intimate love songs, and the album’s most memorable selections turned out to be “Loving Her Was Easier (Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again)” (which became a semi-standard) and “When I Loved Her.”

We’ve been really digging the early Kristofferson albums around these parts lately. The first album is an absolute classic, not a bad song on there, and this one (his second) ranks right up there with it. Obviously the man became a huge country star, but going back and listening to his earliest material now we were struck by how much it shares in common with guys like Leonard Cohen and even Bob Dylan.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a ’70s Singer Songwriter album. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this simple but sophisticated recording. (more…)

Billy Joel – The Stranger

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  • With solid Double Plus (A++) sound, this pressing of Joel’s 1977 breakthrough album (thanks Phil!) is outstanding from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Tonally correct, solid, open, clear, with plenty of hard-rockin’ energy and present vocals, what’s not to like?
  • The Stranger, Only the Good Die Young, Vienna, Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out, She’s Always A Woman – some of Joel’s strongest songwriting can be found right here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “None of his ballads have been as sweet or slick as “Just the Way You Are”; he never had created a rocker as bouncy or infectious as “Only the Good Die Young”; and the glossy production of “She’s Always a Woman” disguises its latent misogynist streak… Joel rarely wrote a set of songs better than those on The Stranger, nor did he often deliver an album as consistently listenable.”

We recently completed a shootout for the album and this was one of the better copies we heard. After playing a stack of mediocre Strangers, we are completely confident in saying that you’ll have a very hard time finding a copy that sounds this good.

The Stranger is chock full of some of Joel’s biggest hits, including Just The Way You Are, Movin’ Out, Scenes From An Italian Restaurant, Only The Good Die Young and She’s Always A Woman. AMG raves about this one (4 1/2 stars) and it’s easy to see why — this is the kind of pop music that still sounds fresh 40 years (!) after it was recorded and might just be good for another forty years. (more…)

Jackson Browne – For Everyman

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • David Lindley joins the band, and talented helpers include Bonnie Raitt, Glen Frey, David Crosby, Elton John and Joni Mitchell
  • “His work is a unique fusion of West Coast casualness and East Coast paranoia, easygoing slang and painstaking precision, child’s-eye romanticizing and adult’s-eye acceptance… Brilliantly conceived, incomparably immediate, For Everyman truly earns its title.” – Rolling Stone

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes a moderate stitch for the first 10 seconds of Track 1, Take It Easy.

The average copy of this record is MUD, but this pressing will show you that the master tape of For Everyman is a whole lot better than most music lovers and audiophiles might suspect. (The first album is the same way.)

Want a quick test for transparency? Listen to the piano on I Thought I Was a Child. On most copies you can’t really hear the attack of the hammers hitting the strings, but here you can. If the tonal balance is correct — and it is on this copy — then you know you are getting a pressing of very high quality.

Note that the first track on side one almost never sounds as good as those that follow. (more…)

Kris Kristofferson – Jesus Was a Capricorn

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  • An outstanding copy of Kristofferson’s 4th album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s richer, fuller, more musical and more natural – Kristofferson’s breathy voice is reproduced with a solidity and immediacy that’s not easy to find
  • The vocals sound particularly nice on this copy – rich, warm and full, just as they should
  • “Both album and single went gold, giving Kristofferson his greatest success as a recording artist.”

We played a bunch of these recently and this was one of the better copies we heard.

We’ve been really digging the early Kristofferson albums around these parts lately. The first album is an absolute classic, not a bad song on there, and this one is solid as well. (more…)