Heavy Vinyl Winners

Roxy Music – A Heavy Vinyl Winner!

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Roxy Music

Sonic Grade: B-

Hey, this is a good sounding pressing! I had to pull out my best imports to beat it, which they did handily of course, but the typical audiophile trying to find a pressing superior to this one will have to do a fair bit of homework in order to succeed. We had multiple copies of Islands, Polydors, Atcos, Reprises and one copy of the Heavy Vinyl import I used to like. This pressing trounced most of them, and it’s cheap. 

I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Art Rock from the ’70s and is never going to lay out the kind of bread our Hot Stamper pressings command. For around $20 you just can’t beat it.

 

Mozart / Symphony #35 – A Cisco Recommended LP

More of the Music of Mozart

 

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Sonic Grade: B-

I wrote this review in 2001 and disagree with a great deal of what I said about the sound.  The music and performance are great but the sound has all the hallmarks of bad cutting equipment and dead-as-a-doornail RTI vinyl.

Hearing this performance from Thomas Nee and his orchestra is like hearing the work for the first time. It may be difficult to reproduce the magic in these grooves but wonderfully rewarding when you do. You won’t be bored! The sound is intimate and immediate; this is the record for those of you who appreciate more of a front row center seat. Count me in; that’s where I like to sit myself.  

I worked hard on my system for about 4 hours one night, using nothing but this record as my test, because of its wealth of subtle ambience cues, excellent string tone, and massed string dynamics. There is a lot to listen for, and a lot to get right, for this album to sound right.

The performance of the Mozart’s 35th Symphony is definitive. Without a doubt this is the best Mozart record currently available, one that belongs in any serious record collection. I give it a top recommendation for its sublime musical qualities that set it apart from other current releases. In short, a Must Own! 

Now I know better. Now I would say:

As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing.

Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a bad case of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can try turning up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want; they simply refuse to come to life.

“One of Mozart’s most popular symphonies is given a visceral and driving performance. Instead of slowing down the tempo in service to lyricism, conductor Thomas Nee chose to adhere to Mozart’s written instructions: ‘The first movement must be played with fire; the last, as fast as possible.’ Even if you own several recordings of this bright and joyous work, you’ve never heard it played like this, and certainly never with this kind of audiophile sound!” Cisco Music

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King – A Good Pressing from Mobile Fidelity

More King Crimson

More In the Court of the Crimson King

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

The MoFi pressing shown here is surely one of their best. Unfortunately we have little tolerance for the dynamic compression, overall lifelessness and wonky bass heard on practically every record they ever remastered. One of the reasons your MoFi might not sound wrong to you is that it isn’t really “wrong.” It’s doing most things right, and it will probably beat most of what you can find to throw at it. But it’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing, even one as good as MoFi’s.

But it’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing of In The Court Of The Crimson King, even one as good as MoFi’s.

Side by side the comparison will surely be striking. How much energy, size and power and passion is missing from the record you own? There’s only one way to find out, and it’s by playing a better copy of the album. 

Size and Space

Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center of the soundfield.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / 1812 Overture – Alwyn – Speakers Corner Reviewed

More Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

More 1812 Overture – Alwyn

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Sonic Grade: B

Excellent, one of the best of the Deccas. Better sound by far than the Classic with Reiner, although of course the original of that record is quite good. You may get better results if you reverse your absolute phase when playing this record. It’s been a while since I did it so better to check it yourself and see how you like it each way.

Mozart’s Wonderful Clarinet Concerto on Speakers Corner

More Mozart

More Clarinet Concerto / Maag

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Sonic Grade: B?

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca reissue.

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90 when this record came out, but here it is anyway. 

“One of the best of the Deccas. I raved about this one years ago when it came out. If I had to pick a record to demonstrate how wonderful Decca recordings are, musically and sonically, this would be an easy choice.”

Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

Check out our new section: The Better Records Hall of Fame for Orchestral Music.

We have a section for all the Classical Records we have reviewed on the site to date.

We also have a section for all the Heavy Vinyl Classical Records we have reviewed on the site.

We have a number of Commentaries specifically addressing issues we’ve encountered when playing classical recordings.

Schubert Great C Major Symphony with Krips on Speakers Corner

More Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Deccas. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway. 

“Superb sound with a great performance to match. A TOP TOP TITLE in every way. This performance has never been equaled and probably never will be (on any format I can stand to listen to!)”

Sarah Vaughan – A Winner from Speakers Corner

More Sarah Vaughan

More Sarah Vaughan – Sarah Vaughan

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Sonic Grade: B

A TOP TITLE from Speakers Corner on 180 gram. This is an outstanding Sarah Vaughan album with very good sound and top players like Clifford Brown on trumpet, Paul Quinichette on tenor sax and Herbie Mann on flute. 

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

[We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds.]

“The Jazz World, instrumentally and vocally, may be said to be split into two camps. There are the followers and the followed; the imitators and the inimitable. True, there are many who have managed to graduate out of the first class into the second (didn’t Dizzy Gillespie once sound just like Roy Eldridge?), but in the case of Sarah Vaughan it can safely be assumed that this talent has been sui generis from the very beginning; that the Newark neighbors who heard her first infant cries in 1924 could tell immediately when it was Vaughan who was wailing.”

“It is doubtful whether anyone, including Sarah herself, is likely to be able to find any more completely satisfying representation of her work, or any more appropriate musical setting, than are offered in this LP. These sides are sure to rank among the foremost achievements of her decade as a recording artist.” – from the original liner notes

TRACK LISTING

Lullaby of Birdland
April in Paris
He’s My Guy
Jim
You’re Not The Kind
Embraceable You
I’m Glad There Is You
September Song
It’s Crazy
Lullaby Of Birdland

Crowded House – Woodface – A Simply Vinyl Winner

More Crowded House

More Woodface

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Sonic Grade: B (or better!) 

Woodface easily meets the definition of a Desert Island Disc. I’ve played it hundreds of times and enjoy it more with each play, which insures that on my desert island I’ll never get sick of it. To my way of thinking it contains some of the most original, melodic, hook-laden, sophisticated popular music recorded in the last twenty years. Astonishingly (to me, anyway) it didn’t even chart here in the states, a sad commentary about the state of the music biz, a state that only seems to worsen as the decades roll on.

In Defense of Simply Vinyl – Are Their LPs Really Worse Than Anybody Else’s?

More In Defense of Simply Vinyl

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Making Movies on Simply Vinyl had been out of print for quite a while, so when it was repressed recently [in the mid-2000s I would guess] we took the opportunity to give it a fresh spin and were SHOCKED — that’s right, SHOCKED — to hear how good it sounded, every bit as good as we remember it from years ago.

It sounded like a good British import, not some 180 gram remastered wannabe. Most 180 gram records don’t do anything for us these days [circa 2008] — they leave a lot to be desired as we point out left and right in our commentaries — but here’s a wonderful exception to the dismal heavy vinyl rule.

But it is a good British (or Dutch, same thing) import, because Simply Vinyl is not in the remastering business.

Addedum 2012 

We played another copy on SV a year or so later, 2009 or 2010 as I recall, and it did not sound nearly as good as the one we describe above, for what that’s worth.

Also SV has “newer” masterings of many of their records which in our experience are uniformly inferior to the earlier ones. I would not buy any SV if I were you unless I heard it first or could return it.

 

Ray Charles and Betty Carter – DCC Reviewed & Recommended

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More Ray Charles

More Ray Charles and Betty Carter

Sonic Grade: B+

Folks, I have to hand it to Steve Hoffman — this is the BEST SOUNDING DCC LP we have played in years.

We’ve been harshin’ on DCC for quite a while now. Whenever we do a shootout for The Eagles or The Doors or Bonnie Raitt or Queen or you name it, the DCC pressing almost always gets a serious drubbing from our listening panel. Not so here. This one took TOP HONORS against the other copies we played and was head and shoulders better sounding in practically every way.

Do all the copies of the DCC sound this good? I would bet money right now they don’t. Folks, I’m guessing this is a Hot Stamper. It was pressed just right and all the Hoffman magic is in these grooves. But that’s just a guess, and I could easily be wrong. If you have a few copies at home, shoot them out! What, you don’t have a bunch of these? Me neither, so no shootout will probably ever be done. This album is just too rare and pricey these days.

Bottom line: We know a good record when we hear one, and this is a very good record indeed! Bravo to Steve for a job well done.