Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (American)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Album – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

AN AMAZING A+++ SIDE TWO, and an excellent A++ SIDE ONE! Finding great copies of this album is no easy task. Many of the copies we played were just too noisy, and most of the quiet ones just weren’t impressive sonically. This one is a HUGE improvement — easily the best copy to emerge from our latest shootout! 

In many ways this is a better album than Album 1700; it’s certainly less commercial. Pack Up Your Sorrows is great here, as is And When I Die, and there are many many more. Top session players on this one too. (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, The Innocent… – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

White Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this original copy, much better sound than we ever expected to hear. Side one here was the richest, clearest, biggest and most energetic of any side one we played. Side two is nearly as good, but such a big jump over all the rest that it easily earns its Three Pluses. Side one is doing it all. Nothing came close.

Side two is more often than not notably worse sounding than side one. There is a certain stamper that’s quite common and not as good sounding on that side. A shootout winning copy such as this will never have that stamper (as far as we can tell; who knows what we may hear in the future?).

It’s not easy to find good sound on this record — or any Springsteen album, for that matter — but the better copies prove that this is a perfectly fine recording for what it is. Full and solid, this copy has the kind of energy and power to really communicate the passion and excitement of the music.

What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, presence, frequency extension, transparency, whomp factor, Tubey Magic, texture (also known as freedom from smear), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and on and on down through the list.

Yes, we listen for all these things. This copy was doing more of them right than any other. (more…)

Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing At Baxter’s – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This RCA pressing was a BIG step up from most copies we played. Most copies we’ve played are too lean down low, which takes a lot of the power out of this crazy psychedelic music. This one gives you more weight down low and good energy, which helps these songs sound the way The Airplane must have intended.

I’m not familiar with the Sundazed pressing, but I would be shocked if it was even in the ballpark with a Super Hot Stamper copy like this one. Is anyone seriously buying their records for sound quality these days? (more…)

Seals & Crofts – Year of Sunday – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

The best album by this duo – their strongest songwriting and arrangements. Nearly White Hot on side one, with vocals that are full-bodied, rich and solid.

A forgotten Classic from 1971, the album holds up very well forty plus years on.

Their commercial breakthrough would come with their next album, Year of Sunday, helped out by scores of session cats, but I much prefer the less commercial — although it’s far from uncommercial — sound of Year of Sunday. I am apparently not alone in my love for this album. Of the thirteen reviews on Amazon, every one gives it Five Stars(!).

The consistency of the songwriting is very strong here as well, with surprisingly powerful emotional currents. There’s not a dog in the bunch, and many of the better tracks are gems of popcraft. Some of the my favorites are When I Meet Them, Cause You Love, and Antoinette on side one, and Paper Airplanes, Irish Linen and Springfield Mill on side two.

Side One

Smooth and very rich, with big bass, this is without a doubt precisely the right sound for the album. Very few copies managed to pull off the rich tonal balance that this side has going for it.

Side Two

It’s big and clear, a bit thinner but still very good. (more…)

Jefferson Airplane – Crown of Creation

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • This may actually be their most well recorded album from the ’60s – it’s rich, smooth, sweet, open, natural, and very analog sounding
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more presence and energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying some Heavy Vinyl LP
  • “The album captured the group’s rapidly evolving, very heavy live sound within the confines of some fairly traditional song structures, and left ample room for Slick and Marty Balin to express themselves vocally, with Balin turning in one of his most heartfelt and moving performances…”

This is not an easy album to find good sound for, and finding a copy with this kind of richness and transparency is nearly impossible. If you’re a fan, you’ll be hard pressed to do any better than this one.

We played a pile of these recently, and let me tell you — it is tough sledding finding good sounding copies of this one that play quietly. Of course, it didn’t surprise us too much having been through a number of shootouts for Surrealistic Pillow, but it was frustrating just the same.

The sound of the recording itself varies quite a bit from track to track, with songs like Lather sounding amazing but other tracks not so much. These crazy San Francisco hippies were high as a kite and running around with the Grateful Dead, so I’m guessing that getting audiophile quality sound onto vinyl was pretty far down their list of turn-ons. Still, they managed to produce an album with sonic qualities that should appeal to most audiophiles. (more…)

The Band – The Last Waltz

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  • The Band’s second live album returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) Hot Stamper sound or close to it on all SIX sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, dynamic and natural sounding with low end weight, midrange smoothness and powerful, punchy bass
  • Features an A-list of brilliant artists, including Van Morrison, Ringo Star, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters, just to name a few
  • 4 stars: “It’s the Band’s “special guests” who really make this set stand out — Muddy Waters’ ferocious version of “Mannish Boy” would have been a wonder from a man half his age, Van Morrison sounds positively joyous on “Caravan,” Neil Young and Joni Mitchell do well for their Canadian brethren, and Bob Dylan’s closing set finds him in admirably loose and rollicking form.”

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Jefferson Airplane – 2400 Fulton Street

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

The big selling point of this compilation is that practically all of Surrealistic Pillow is on it it. Any Hot Stamper pressing of that album we offer will clearly sound better. It will surely be priced at many hundreds of dollars. It’s a single disc. And there is no question it is going to be noisier.  

That’s if we can even find one! When was the last time you saw one on the site? It’s exceedingly rare to find one that’s not scratched, inner groove damaged or just plain worn out. We’re buying them all the time, but most end up going back to the sellers who mis-graded them (or can’t be bothered to play their records, even the ones that command high prices).

The sound here is big, open, rich and full, with the performers front and center (as well as left and right). The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than others by a long shot.

This 1987 compilation also has some of the midrange magic that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissues have been made from the 50+ year old tapes. However good those pressings may be, we guarantee that this one is clearly more REAL SOUNDING. (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle

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  • An incredible sounding copy and the best to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • These sides are As Good As It Gets — clean, clear and full-bodied with lots of energy and lovely breathy vocals 
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl – Mint Minus to Minus Minus Minus – they don’t come quieter in our experience
  • 5 Stars: “He would later make different albums, but he never made a better one. The truth is, The Wild, The Innocent & the E Street Shuffle is one of the greatest albums in the history of rock & roll.”

It’s not easy to find good sound on this record — or any Springsteen album, for that matter — but the better copies prove that this is a perfectly fine recording for what it is. Full and solid, the best pressings have the kind of energy and power to really communicate the passion and excitement of the music. (more…)

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This original Two Tone Super Hot Stamper pressing had condition issues — they all do don’t you know — but it also had KILLER Neil Young LIVE ROCK Sound. The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality, with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY. (Our commentary about Zuma to the left gets more heavily into the subject.) Suffice to say we love that sound.

Full-bodied and transparent, a combination that balances the best qualities of the recording beautifully, this copy has the goods. The sound is Big and Bold in the best Neil Young tradition, with studio ambience bouncing off the walls and into the open mics he favors. Not quite in the league with the likes of Gold Rush or Zuma, the best sounding tracks — and that does not mean all of them by any means — are a rough guide of what was to come as Neil and his engineer David Briggs got better and better, until they were As Good As It Gets. (For which they get no credit outside of Better Records of course.)

Sibilance Is Key

When the sibilance is cut clean, kept to a minimum and not grainy or gritty sounding, that’s the sign you have a copy with real Hot Stamper potential. This is one of those copies. (more…)

Rita Coolidge – The Lady’s Not For Sale

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  • Rita Coolidge’s superb third album arrives with superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Fans of Linda Ronstadt’s ’70s music are going to find a lot of Tubey Magical sound to like here – this is a simply wonderful example of the kind of album that makes record collecting fun
  • John Haeny, the principal engineer for Rita and hubby Kris Kristofferson during the ’70s, in fact worked on some of Linda’s albums, as well as those by Judy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Little Feat and many others
  • “… a fine mixture of covers and originals that manages to showcase her fine vocal abilities as well as show off an impressive array of friends.”

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