Genre – Rock – Singer / Songwriter

Carly Simon – Anticipation – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO INCREDIBLE SIDES ON QUIET VINYL! We just finished our first big shootout for Anticipation in three years, and here’s the copy that finished at the top of the heap. Both sides have the kind of warm, sweet sound that perfectly conveys the emotional qualtity of Carly’s performance. Drop the needle on the song “I’ve Got To Have You” for some of the best Carly Simon sound you will ever hear — we were blown away!

Note that the first song, the title track, has a bit of a “radio EQ” feel and doesn’t sound as good as the rest. It’s a shame but there’s still a whole lot to like here.

The acoustic guitars sound particularly good on this copy, with just the right balance of pluck and body. The vocals are breathy and full-bodied with extraordinary immediacy. The tonality from top to bottom is Right On The Money. I don’t think you could find a much better sounding copy of this album no matter how hard you tried. We went through a lot of copies to find this one, I can tell you that!

If Those Guitars Sound Familiar… 

When you hear the incredibly lush, highly detailed acoustic guitars on this record, you won’t be surprised to find out that the album was produced by Mr. Paul Samwell-Smith, who handles the same duties on Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat. You’ll hear his signature sound all over this album, particularly on the track I’ve Got To Have You. That’s not to say that we’d put this recording on the same level with those audiophile knockouts, but the richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies is exactly what you’d expect from the team of Samwell-Smith and Carly Simon. (We wish the drums had a little more punch, but that’s just our inner rock-and-roller speaking!)

AGAIG! (more…)

Judy Collins – Colors of the Day – DCC Discussed

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A classic case of Live and Learn, maybe. Previously we had written:

Superb sonics. Judy has never sounded better. Not a big seller for DCC but it should have been. Those sweet acoustic guitars are hard to beat. No modern recording has sounded like this for over twenty years, so if you’ve forgotten what a real acoustic guitar sounds like, buy this record and get reacquainted with that sound. Tons of breath of life, superb production and mastering so you can clearly hear her hitting those flat notes (!), and some of the best sounding echo ever recorded.

Addendum to the above comments, posted 11/07

I wrote the above review many many years ago. As you may have read countless times on the site by now, it is my opinion that all such dated judgments are suspect. The major REVOLUTIONS in vinyl playback that have occurred over the last dozen years have turned many of these old comments on their heads.

Hot Stamper pressings again and again have revealed magic in the mass-produced copies that is simply nowhere to be found in their audiophile counterparts.

Whether this is true for this particular title I can honestly say I don’t know.  We are going to play some copies of the album and will report our findings down the road, so Judy Collins fans, stay tuned.

Van Morrison – Wavelength

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

Richer, warmer and bigger than most of the other copies we played, with the kind of smoothness that’s essential to the album’s enjoyment. His biggest selling album to date? Seems hard to believe but that’s what is says on Wikipedia – it went gold in 3 months. 

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, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and on and on down through the list.

When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side we provisionally award it a grade of “contender.” Once we’ve been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides matched up. (more…)

Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones

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  • A superb pressing, earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides, right up there with the best we heard in our shootout all day
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • The superbly talented musicians and engineers deserve much of the credit for making this album a Grammy Winning Must Own Audiophile Favorite
  • 4 stars: “One of the most impressive debuts for a singer/songwriter ever, this infectious mixture of styles not only features a strong collection of original songs but also a singer with a savvy, distinctive voice that can be streetwise, childlike, and sophisticated, sometimes all in the same song.”

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K.D. Lang – Ingenue

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  • You’ll find very good Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this copy of Lang’s 2nd solo album 
  • The sound of this rare import is full, lively, and warm, with solid bass and breathy, clear vocals
  • Includes Lang favorites Miss Chatelaine and Constant Craving – both sound very good here
  • 4 stars: “… the craft of the album is impressive indeed, and few artists have reinvented themselves with as much poise and panache as lang did on Ingénue.”

By 1992 records like this were only released on import vinyl and typically went out of print soon after they started their descent down the pop charts. I used to sell them back in the day and supplies were extremely limited and unpredictable. And once they were gone they were virtually never reissued. All of those factors conspire to make the cost of acquiring the mintiest pressings from overseas fairly high, and of course the main reason you have never seen the album on our site before.

Be that as it may, we have this copy available and it is not only very good sounding but the music is every bit as good as I remember it. (more…)

Gordon Lightfoot – Summertime Dream

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • Both of these sides are wonderfully rich, warm and full-bodied with a lovely bottom end and tons of space around all of the instruments
  • “With Summertime Dream, Gordon Lightfoot produced one of his finest albums, and wrapped up a six-year period of popularity that he would not recapture… Lightfoot and his band deliver a tasty smorgasbord of intelligent, grown-up music. As for “Edmund Fitzgerald,” its continued popularity more than 20 years after its release attests to the power of a well-told tale and a tasty guitar lick.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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John Sebastian – John B. Sebastian – Reviewed in 2012

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

This Super Hot side one was clearly better than every other side one we played, with the exception of our shootout winner of course. It’s big, full-bodied and rich; in other words, it has that classic 1970 analog rock sound that we love. Bruce Botnick and his brother are two of the many engineers on the project, along with John Haeny, the man who recorded his share of legendary albums, some of our favorites by Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt and others.

Side One

A++, clear and harmonically rich. Tonally correct and ROCKIN’ too. It’s got a bit of smear and is not resolving at 100% but is awfully good in every other way.

Side Two

A+, it’s big and open but a bit thin, so the rockers don’t rock the way they should. The quieter songs work fine though. (more…)

Jim Croce – Life and Times

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  • This copy of Croce’s superb 4th studio album boasts superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, and vocal presence on this copy than others you’ve heard
  • “Released at the height of the singer-songwriter era, Life And Times put Jim Croce up there with the best of them. Containing the upbeat top forty songs such as “One Less Set Of Footsteps” and “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” along with such ballads as “These Dreams,” and “Alabama Rain.” High rollicking fun for anyone who likes enjoyable music.”

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Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

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  • With two Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, – just shy of our Shootout Winner – we guarantee you’ve never heard Nebraska sound as good as it does here – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • There’s more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others we’ve played, but please take the time to read about the recording of the album so you know what to expect from the sound
  • 5 stars: “[A] recording artist’s demos of new songs often come off better than the more polished versions later worked up in a studio. But Bruce Springsteen was the first person to act on that theory, when he opted to release the demo versions of his latest songs, recorded with only acoustic or electric guitar, harmonica, and vocals, as his sixth album, Nebraska”

This famously compromised recording certainly has its limitations, but here is a copy that shows what Bruce recorded on four-track cassette tape in the best possible light. (more…)

Van Morrison – Veedon Fleece – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

HOT STAMPERS DISCOVERED for a mostly forgotten gem from Van Morrison’s early catalog! We managed to pull together enough reasonably clean copies for this shootout, which took us YEARS. Most of the copies we played weren’t even in the arena with this one, which earned grades better than A+ on both sides. The All Music Guide calls this album “brilliant” as well as “every bit the creative equal of its more famous predecessors”.

Both sides of this original Warner Brothers pressing have excellent energy and presence with nice extension up top. There’s plenty of weight to the bottom end and the piano sounds just right. Most copies weren’t nearly this rich, warm and sweet. (more…)