Genre – Rock – More Pop than Rock

Ambrosia – One Eighty – A Little Soft Rock Never Hurt Anybody, Right?

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Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings. 

Of course that won’t be the case if you don’t like popular music. I’m glad to say I’m not the kind of snob who looks down his nose at a good soft rock hit. (I’m a snob in other ways of course; who isn’t?) I don’t mind admitting I enjoy the hell out a good Hall & Oates jam, and I positively love Bread. Ambrosia can and does hold their own with the best of these soft-rockers. And they usually sound better doing it.

One Eighty (recorded on 1/80, get it?) kicks off with a real rocker: Ready, which is a great name for an opening track and really gets the album off to a high-energy start. Side two opens with my favorite track on the album, Livin’ On My Own. I actually used to demonstrate my system with it: the bass is huge, way up in the mix and really punchy. Additionally there are powerful multi-tracked vocal harmonies in the chorus that are wall-to-wall, surprisingly dynamic, yet sweet (all things considered; this is a modern recording after all). (more…)

Chicago – Chicago VIII

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Chicago’s 8th album
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, 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
  • Not a favorite with the critics, but that did not keep the fans from buying plenty of copies, sending the album straight to Number One
  • Harry Truman was the first hit single, followed by Old Days (which went all the way to #5)

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Elton John’s Caribou Is Usually Noisy and Sounds Bad – Why Is That?

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There’s a good reason you’ve practically never seen this album for sale on our site. In fact there are quite a number of good reasons.

The first one is bad vinyl — most DJM pressings of Caribou are just too noisy to sell. They can look perfectly mint and play noisy as hell; it’s not abuse, it’s bad vinyl. (Empty Sky is the same way; out and out bad vinyl, full of noise, grit and grain.)

The second problem is bad sound. Whether it’s bad mastering or bad vinyl incapable of holding onto good mastering, no one can say. Since so many copies were pressed of this monster Number One album (topping the charts on both sides of the Atlantic), perhaps they pressed a few too many after the stampers were worn out.

Or pulled too many stampers off the mother.

Or made too many stampers from the father.

Or used crap vinyl right from the start.

Of course there’s not an iota of evidence to back up any of these assertions, but I just thought I would throw it out there as a topic for speculation. (Have you noticed how much audiophiles and audiophile reviewers love to talk about things that they have no empirical evidence for one way or the other? Very little of that sort of thing can be found on our site. We like to stick to the sound of the records we’ve played and leave most of the “reasoning” about the sound to others.)

Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

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

For the first time ever, an incredible Triple Triple (A+++) copy of Sinead O’Connor’s best-selling sophomore release. You won’t believe how good Nothing Compares 2 U sounds here. 

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is widely considered one of the best albums of the ’90s, a brilliant and unique piece of work. I positively love this album. The emotion is every bit as naked and compelling as that found on Joni’s Blue, and I do not say that lightly. I know the power of Blue, and this album has that kind of power. This is some heavy heavy stuff. Hearing it sound right is a thrill I won’t soon forget.

Although the record was popular in its day, it’s one of those albums that just never seems to show up in the record bins. I wish we could find more of them, but they just aren’t out there. (more…)

Shawn Colvin – Steady On

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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 – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, 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
  • 4 stars: “Steady On is a triumph, with its emotional intimacy captured with smooth precision. Vocally, Colvin’s tender, sometimes whisper-like performances are astonishing and haunting, provocative and seductive all at once. Then there are the songs that flow so effortlessly into one another that to remove even one would seemingly upset the entire balance of the cosmos as we know it.”

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George Harrison – Somewhere in England

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  • KILLER sound for this Dark Horse pressing from 1981 with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • “Harrison’s first album since 1979 is one of his finest, featuring his moving tribute to Lennon, All Those Years Ago. Harrison’s signatures – crystal-clear production, buoyant backup and chimelike guitar runs are all here. This record is both entertainment and a musical giant’s defiant tribute to the value of life.”

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James Taylor – Dad Loves His Work – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Hot Stamper original Columbia is THE KING, the Best Sounding Copy we have ever played — the sound was OUT OF THIS WORLD! In fact, side two went so far beyond what we’ve come to expect from this album that we had to award it the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade.

The soundstage and depth on our Hot Stamper copies is HUGE — this is without a doubt the most spacious recording by James Taylor we’ve ever heard. If you want your speakers to disappear, replaced by a huge studio full of musicians playing their hearts out, this is the album that can do it. (more…)

Al Stewart – Year Of The Cat

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning copy and the first Triple Triple (A+++) to hit the site in years
  • This killer pressing knocked out everything we could throw at it on both sides
  • With engineering by Alan Parsons, the best pressings are every bit the Audiophile Demo Discs you remember
  • The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars: “A tremendous example of how good self-conscious progressive pop can be, given the right producer and songwriter — and if you’re a fan of either prog or pop and haven’t given Al Stewart much thought, prepare to be enchanted.”

Stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from beginning to end. This album can sound really wonderful (what else would you expect from an Alan Parson’s production?), but the typical pressings just can’t bring it to life. This one is a HUGE step up, miles away from the gritty, almost unlistenable copies we hear so often. (more…)

John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band

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  • Incredible sound for this early UK pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, an excellent way to hear these amazing songs
  • Working Man’s Hero, Love, Mother — these are immortal Lennon tracks, all with stunning sound on these White Hot sides
  • 5 stars: “It’s an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon’s catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.”

Incredible sound for this John Lennon classic! I would be hard pressed to tell you whether this or Imagine is his best sounding recording, because on the very best copies they can both be killer. Our first White Hot copy only made it to the site in 2016 — it took us a long time to find the right pressings of this album, and then years more to get enough in stock to do a major shootout. As you can imagine, clean early UK pressings of Lennon’s albums are hard to come by and pricey when you find them. (more…)

The Alan Parsons Project – Eye In The Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO TOP-NOTCH A+++ SIDES and QUIET VINYL on this Arista two-pack pressing, the first Alan Parsons Project White Hot Stamper to hit the site! Alan Parsons is the engineering guru behind Dark Side Of The Moon, Year Of The Cat and Ambrosia’s debut, among many others, so suffice it to say the man knows a thing or two about audiophile-quality recording techniques. That talent is on full display here, with two sides that give you the kind of sound you want for this music — big and lively with excellent presence and real weight to the bottom.   (more…)