Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (British)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon – Live and Learn

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When we said this album was not the sonic equal of Teaser and the Firecat or Tea for the Tillerman, boy, We Was Wrong and then some. Read all about it in this White Hot Stamper copy review below.

It’s been about a year since we last found Hot Stampers of this album, and having made a number of improvements to the stereo over that time, I’m here to report that this album got a WHOLE LOT BETTER, better than I ever imagined it could get. Mona Bone Jakon now ranks as a DEMO DISC of the highest order, every bit the equal of Teaser and Tea.

To think that all three of these records came out in one fifteen month period is astonishing. The only other artists to have produced music of this calibre in so short a time would have to be The Beatles, and it took four of them to do it.

Which is not what we used to think, as evidenced by this paragraph from a previous Hot Stamper listing.

This album is one of Cat’s top four titles both musically and sonically. Tea and Teaser are obviously in a league of their own, but this album and Catch Bull At Four are close behind. The music is WONDERFUL — the best tracks (including I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light) rank right up there with anything from his catalog. Sonically it’s not an epic recording on the scale of Tea or Teaser, but with Paul Samwell-Smith at the helm, you can be sure it’s an excellent sounding album — on the right pressing.

That last line is dead wrong. It IS an epic recording on the scale of Tea and Teaser. This copy proves it! Now that we know just how good this record can sound, I hope you will allow me to borrow some commentary from another classic Cat Stevens album listing, to wit:

Right off the bat I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folk-pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

When you hear I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on a Hot Stamper copy you will be convinced, as I am, that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world. I don’t know of ANY other album that has more LIFE and MUSICAL ENERGY than this one. (more…)

Al Stewart – Past, Present & Future

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One of the few good copies of this album we’ve ever heard! Side one of this domestic pressing is a stunner, rating between A++ and A+++ with excellent sounding bass, incredible transparency and lots of energy. The vocals sound just right and the overall sound is wonderfully clean and clear. Side two wasn’t quite as amazing but still beat the pants off most of the copies we had — it was rich and full enough to earn an A+ grade.  

It took us ages to track down copies of this album that didn’t sound flat, boring, and stuck in the speakers. We played a large number of Brit and domestic copies, and while both versions can sound lovely on the best pressings, there are certainly plenty of bad sounding versions out there from both countries.

This is the album that comes before Modern Times, Year Of The Cat and Time Passages in the Al Stewart discography, so if you’re a fan of any of those albums I imagine you’ll find a lot to like here. (more…)

Mary Hopkin – Post Card

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  • KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it for both sides of this original Apple import pressing
  • These sides were doing everything right — clean, clear and full-bodied with wonderfully breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • Engineered by Ken Scott, Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” is simply amazing on this copy
  • “Paul McCartney produced this debut album of twee but pretty, romantic pop-folk… the highlights are Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” and “The Honeymoon Song,” which McCartney himself had sung with the Beatles way back in 1963 on the BBC…” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

The domestic pressings can sound very good but they can’t sound like this Brit original! This is clearly the master tape; all veils have been lifted, and the ambience and transparency of the soundstage are sublime on both sides. (more…)

Al Stewart – Orange

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  • Stewart’s fourth studio album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two, mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • At the right levels on the right system, this early import pressing will present you with a living, breathing Al Stewart standing right between your speakers
  • This is the more folky side of Al Stewart – it also features none other than a Mr. Rick Wakeman on piano and organ
  • 4 stars: “… the first signs of the mix of acoustic and electric guitar sounds that he would perfect on his next album, Past, Present and Future, two years later… gets something of the beat and the sound that Stewart would refine in achieving his subsequent success”

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Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio – Do All the Robert Ludwig Mastered Copies Have Hot Stampers?

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Even though all the original Pink Label pressings are mastered by Robert Ludwig, they have a marked tendency to be dull, thick and opaque. The sound is just too smooth. The best copies however have the top end and the transparency to let you hear all the guitar and vocal harmonics, surrounded by the large acoustic of the studio.

This time around we discovered something new: one specific stamper that seemed to be the only one with the potential for an extended top end. This special stamper did not always fare well; some copies with it were mediocre. We have always found this to be the way with the “right” stampers; they often let us down and sometimes they really let us down hard.

But this stamper, when it was right, had an extension on the top that no other copy could match. (The Robert Ludwig mastered Band second albums are the same way. Most have no top but boy, when they do, the magic you hear is phenomenal.) (more…)

The Kinks – The Great Lost Kinks Album

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s 1973 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This one knocks it out of the park – it’s lively and rich, with plenty of deep punchy bass, a nicely extended top and a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • If you enjoy the classic late ’60s Kinks albums such as Village Green, Arthur, and Lola, you are going to love this album
  • 4 1/2 stars: “An aptly titled collection; out of print for many years, there are even some Kinks cultists who have never been able to hear this ragtag but worthy collection of late-’60s and early-’70s outtakes and rarities… Kinks fans will find it quite worthwhile, and should be on the lookout for it…”

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Richard Thompson – Strict Tempo!

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  • Richard Thompson’s superb instrumental album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The sound is anchored by an exceptionally fat, rich, punchy low end on the best copies, and this pressing shows you just how big and punchy it can get
  • An original Elixer pressing, Thompson’s own label
  • “… on Strict Tempo! Thompson lets loose on an instrumental collection of traditional British and Celtic jigs and reels, with a swinging Duke Ellington cover thrown in for variety and one new original offered as the finale… it shows one of the finest guitarists on Earth showing just how well he can play, and that’s always a pleasure to hear.”

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Van Morrison – Into The Music – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

Two incredible sounding sides for this great Van Morrison album, one that Allmusic calls one of his best records! Not a lot of casual Van Mo fans are familiar with this album, but after a big shootout we were left very impressed with the sound of the best pressings and the quality of the music throughout. Morrison’s catalog after the early ’70s leaves plenty to be desired, but this one is a real return to form.

Side one is richer and fuller than most copies with much better bass. You get excellent presence and energy that are missing from the typical copy and the overall sound is clean, clear and natural. We gave it an A++ grade.

Side two is even better — A+++ all the way. It’s unusually dynamic with real immediacy, lots of texture to the instruments and amazing separation letting you hear every last detail. Most copies weren’t nearly this rich and practically none of them were this solid down low.

If you need a new Van Morrison album in your life and you want to have one with excellent sound, give this White Hot copy of Into The Music a spin — we think you’ll be as impressed as we were. In fact, we guarantee it… or your money back! (more…)

Steeleye Span – All Around My Hat – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

The best copy to ever hit the site! It ain’t easy to find clean British pressings of this one, which is why it’s taken us so long to get a copy like this up on the site. We played a good sized stack of these recently and only a couple did the job well enough to be considered Hot Stampers. This one is a big step up, with way less of the thick / murky / veiled sound that plagues many copies.

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well-controlled bass will have a tough time with this one. But never fear, it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment. (more…)

Richard & Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

The biggest problems with this record would be obvious to even the casual listener: gritty, spitty vocals; lack of richness; lack of bass; no real space or transparency, etc. etc.

When we came across this copy we knew we had something special as it had very few of the problems above. 

The Carthage pressings did not do well in our shootout, no surprise as these early Island records were mastered at one of our favorite cutting houses here in the Southland. (more…)