Heavy Vinyl Winners

James Taylor on Warners / Rhino 180g Vinyl EQ Anomaly Test

Yet another album we are clearly obsessed with

Click on the link below to pull up the many reviews and commentaries we’ve written, as well as Hot Stamper copies that are currently available on the site.

Sweet Baby James

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

There is one obvious and somewhat bothersome fault with this new pressing, an EQ issue. Anybody care to guess what it is? Send us an email if you think you know. Hint: it’s the kind of thing that sticks out like a sore thumb, the kind of obvious EQ error I can’t ever recall hearing on an original.

Our Heavy Vinyl Review

This Warner Brothers 180g LP is the BEST SOUNDING Heavy Vinyl reissue to come our way in a long long time. Those of you who’ve been with us for a while know that that’s really not saying much, but it doesn’t make it any less true either, now does it? Let’s look at what it doesn’t do wrong first.

It doesn’t sound opaque, compressed, dry and just plain dead as a doornail like so many new reissues do. It doesn’t have the phony modern mastering sound we hate about the sound of the new Blue. (We seem to be pretty much alone in not liking that one, and we’re proud to say we still don’t like it.)

The new Sweet Baby James actually sounds like a — gulp — fairly decent original.
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Dire Straits – Communique

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

Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the UK LPs are the only way to fly on Communique. If you’re a fan of the band’s debut release, you’ll find much to like on this underappreciated follow up. (more…)

The Who – Tommy – Simply Vinyl Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

One of the BEST titles on Simply Vinyl! Better than the Classic version, that’s for sure. This one has the bass that’s all but missing from the new 200 gram pressing.  

The Classic Tommy Has No Bass

It could have had amazing bass, like their Who’s Next, but it doesn’t. Why I have no idea. The overall sound is thin, so thin that we immediately knew there was no point in carrying it. (The only Classic Who record we ever carried was Who’s Next; the rest of them are dreadful, some of the worst sounding reissues out there.) Not when there’s a very fine Heavy Vinyl pressing already around. You guessed it: the Simply Vinyl pressing, the one from that label that some reviewer thinks is “screwing up the market.”

Who’s Screwing Whom?

We invite all our readers and listeners to do the shootout for themselves. Both versions of Tommy are in print and widely available. [Woops, not any more, both are out of print.]

If you do find the Classic to be more to your liking, we simply ask that you send us your copy with a note as to the tracks you compared and what you found, so that we can hear it for ourselves. As you know from reading about Nirvana Nevermind, no two records, not even new audiophile ones, sound the same, so if you managed to get hold of a hot copy of the Classic, we want to hear it too! (After we have picked our jaws up off the floor we will happily send it back to you.)

Dire Straits – Love Over Gold

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This copy is a FLUKE — we guarantee you have never heard a copy sound even remotely this good. We sure haven’t, and we’ve probably played fifty or more. This copy found itself running way ahead of the pack and never looked back. Two A+++ sides back to back — what are the chances?

Telegraph Road does something on this LP that you won’t hear on one out of twenty pressings: It ROCKS. It’s got ENERGY and DRIVE. (more…)

Dire Straits – Making Movies

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

Making Movies finally makes the grade on this White Hot Stamper copy! We’ve tried this one a few times over the years, very rarely having anything to show for it. The typical copy of this album tends to be dry, spitty, grainy, and somewhat dull, robbing the music of much of its charm. These guys obviously know their way around a studio — many of you must know just how good their first album can sound — so we’ve always been frustrated at what we hear on copy after copy that hits out table. 

Making Movies finally makes the grade on this White Hot Stamper copy! We’ve tried this one a few times over the years, very rarely having anything to show for it. The typical copy of this album tends to be dry, spitty, grainy, and somewhat dull, robbing the music of much of its charm. These guys obviously know their way around a studio — many of you must know just how good their first album can sound — so we’ve always been frustrated at what we hear on copy after copy that hits out table. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Wake Of The Flood

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  • Stunning sound throughout with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides and vinyl that is about as quiet as we can find
  • This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • A difficult album to find audiophile quality sound for, this is one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • “Wake of the Flood was certainly as good – if not arguably better than – most of their previous non-live efforts.”

This is the album that comes after American Beauty on the Grateful Dead timeline, and while it’s certainly not in the same league as that masterpiece, there’s still a lot of good music on here. The All Music Guide gives it four stars out of five and calls it “certainly as good — if not arguably better than — most of their previous non-live efforts”. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Grateful Dead

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this original WB Gold Label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both sides here are super rich and full-bodied yet still clean, clear and open with tons of energy and a great bottom end
  • A copy like this lets you hear what the band was going for without the grit and congestion (not to mention godawful surfaces) that you find on the typical pressing
  • “… a valiant attempt to corral the group’s hydra-headed psychedelic jug-band music on vinyl…” – All Music

We just finished a big shootout for this title and it was pretty difficult. The best Gold Label originals and Green Label pressings can be superb, but most of them are noisy and many of them don’t sound any good. Those of you who are familiar with this music are sure to be surprised at how good these songs sound here.

Unfortunately, Viola Lee Blues, the last track on side two, never sounds all that good. It’s pretty easy to imagine that high-fidelity audiophile-quality sonics were not what these guys were going for in 1966. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Europe ’72

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  • Stunning sound throughout with all six sides of this epic live collection earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • “No record album can replace a live appearance by the Dead — but those who can’t get enough of this exceptional band will be kept busy for a good little while with this one.” – Rolling Stone
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The band mixes a bevy of new material with revisitations of back-catalog favorites. Sadly, this European jaunt would be the last of its kind to include the formidable talents and soul of founding member Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, who was in increasingly fragile health. Although few in number, his contributions to Europe ’72 are among the most commanding not only of this release, but of his career.”

*NOTE: A mark makes three light ticks near the end of track one, Truckin’.

All six sides of this White Hot Europe ’72 have the best sound we have ever heard for the album!

A bunch of classic Dead songs that never appeared on a studio album are here in their definitive versions, including He’s Gone, Jack Straw, Brown-Eyed Woman, Ramble On Rose and Tennessee Jed. (more…)

Back In Bean’s Bag on Classic Records Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: B

Another Classic Records LP reviewed.

We’re not the least bit embarrassed to admit we used to like their version very much, and happily recommended it in our catalog back in the day.

Like many Classic Records, the master tapes are so good that even with their mediocre mastering — and pressing: RTI’s vinyl accounts for at least some of the lost sound quality, so airless and tired — the record still sounds great, at least until you get hold of the real thing and hear what you are missing.

What do you get with Hot Stampers compared to the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue? Dramatically more warmth, sweetness, delicacy, transparency, space, energy, size, naturalness (no boost on the top end or the bottom, a common failing of anything by Classic); in other words, the kind of difference you almost ALWAYS get comparing the best vintage pressings with their modern remastered counterparts, in our experience anyway.

The Classic is a nice record, a Hot Stamper is a MAGICAL one.

Led Zeppelin – A Classic Records LP that Can Beat Most Pressings (!)

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Sonic Grade: B

Another Classic Records Heavy Vinyl LP reviewed.

Considering how bad (or at best mediocre) the average copy of the first Zep album sounds, let’s give credit where credit is due and say that Bernie’s remastered version on Heavy Vinyl is darn good (assuming you get a good one, something of course that neither I nor you should assume).

It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Zeppelin titles, most of which we found none too pleasing to the ear.

Our Thinking Circa 2010

We like the Classic, albeit with reservations. It’s without a doubt the best of all the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissues of the Zeppelin catalog, most of which are not very good and some of which are just awful.

Why is this one good? It’s tonally correct for one thing, and the importance of that cannot be stressed too strongly.

Two, it actually ROCKS, something a majority of pressings we’ve played over the years don’t.

Three, it’s shockingly dynamic. It may actually be more dynamic than any other pressing we have ever played.

If you aren’t willing to devote the time and resources necessary to acquire a dozen or more domestic and import copies, and you don’t want to spend the dough for one of our Hot Stamper copies, the Classic is probably your best bet.

We would agree now with almost none of what we had to say about this Classic title when it came out back in the day. We’ve reproduced it below so that you can read it here for yourself. It’s yet another example of a record We Was Wrong about. Live and learn, right?

Our Commentary from the ’90s

A Classic Winner! Zep 1 Rocks! Beats my best domestic copy (the former champ) and all the imports I”ve heard (at least 10 I would say), even the expensive Japanese Analog version I used to recommend.

This version is a little (deep) bass shy — 2 or 3 db at 40 helps a lot — but it’s cleaner and more dynamic than any other copy I have heard. Things get loud on this version that never got loud before. And that is, to quote one of my competitors, awesome!

Maybe Bernie trimmed the bass because it’s distorted, which would be a mistake, as the distortion is on the tape and rolling off the bottom end solves nothing. Zep II is the same way, maybe even more so.

Since 90% of all the audiophile systems I’ve ever heard were bass shy, this may not be as obvious as it should be. But Led Zeppelin without deep punchy bass emasculates the music in such a fundamental way that it’s hard to imagine this album could have much effect on its audience without it. It’s called head banging music for a reason. Like Wayne, Garth and their buddies driving down the road in Wayne’s World, when it’s really rocking you have an uncontrollable desire to bang your head up and down to the beat, and you need bass to make it rock. No bass, no headbanging.