Hot Stamper Histories

Richard Thompson – Amnesia – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

Original pressing. EXCELLENT SOUND — big and lively! With Mitchell Froom producing and Tchad Blake engineering this is to be expected.

The best songs here are Turning Of The Tide and Waltzing For Dreamers, but the others are lovely too. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Ellington Indigos – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Ellington Indigos

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

AMAZINGLY TUBEY MAGICAL SOUND for this album of romantic jazz ballads. We just finished a shootout for this album and this Six Eye pressing was the winner in a landslide. The overall sound is richer, wamer, and fuller than any other. The brass is breathy with the proper amount of bite; the trumpets sound particularly good. We played about ten copies of this album this week and didn’t hear any with the kind of life and energy on BOTH sides of this record. The transparency is amazing and you won’t believe all the DEPTH to the soundfield — you can really hear INTO the music. (more…)

Brewer & Shipley – Down In L.A. – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

One of the BEST copies we’ve played in many years, close to five I would guess. Brewer and Shipley’s first and only release for A&M has long been a Desert Island disc in my world. I consider it one of the top debuts of all time, although it’s doubtful many will agree with me about that since I have yet to meet anyone who has ever even heard of this album, let alone felt as passionate as I do about it.

To me this is a classic of Hippie Folk Rock, along the lines of The Grateful Dead circa American Beauty, surely a touchstone for the genre. It’s overflowing with carefully-crafted (B and S apparently were obsessive perfectionists in the studio) inspired material and beautifully harmonized voices backed by (mostly) acoustic guitars. The Beatles pulled it off masterfully on Help and Rubber Soul. (more…)

Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This minty avant-garde jazz record has AMAZING SOUND! The recording is by the famous engineer Bones Howe, the man behind some of the greatest pop and jazz recordings of all time. He gets some of that Rudy Van Gelder bite that we love, but with less distortion and more dynamic contrasts. Whether you’ll like the music or not is another question — this is free form jazz; not everybody’s into it, that’s for sure.

Ornette Coleman’s Atlantic debut, The Shape of Jazz to Come, was a watershed event in the genesis of avant-garde jazz, profoundly steering its future course and throwing down a gauntlet that some still haven’t come to grips with. The record shattered traditional concepts of harmony in jazz, getting rid of not only the piano player but the whole idea of concretely outlined chord changes.” — AMG

Rachmaninoff / Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini / Fiedler

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

Side two here earned a seriously good sonic grade of A++ for the two shorter works by Franck and Litolff respectively. The top end is extended and the overall sound is quite clear and natural. 

Side one is not quite up to the sound heard on side two. We rate it A+. It’s a bit dark and there is some smear on the piano. However, this is a wonderfully well-recorded album, so even at one plus the sound is still quite respectable. (more…)

Kansas – Leftoverture – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This copy of Kansas’ most consistent album, their masterpiece I might venture to say, has an OFF THE CHARTS A+++ side two! This is the ROCK album they recorded; the average copy of Leftoverture only hints at the power of the band.  

Side two just KILLED from start to finish, with the deepest, punchiest bass, moving up the frequency ladder to the clearest sweetest mids, and following it all the way to the top with the most extended grain-free, silky highs.

Most copies, like so many rock records from the era, are veiled and smeary. Often they lack extension at one or both ends of the frequency spectrum, more often than not up top, which results in harshness and shrillness, not the sound you want on a Kansas record! (more…)

Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This Shaded Dog pressing of the famous TAS List Super Disc title has TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a side two that is White Hot! We have never heard a copy with such a huge hall sound and so much weight down low. As we said last time we did a shootout for this title in 2007: “DEMO DISC QUALITY ORCHESTRAL SOUND like you will not believe. Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this for huge orchestral dynamics and energy.” 

As you know, if you’ve been on our site for any length of time at all, we’ve made a good number of significant improvements to our stereo and room since 2007, so it’s entirely accurate to say we have never heard this kind of Demo Disc sound for this album until now, because we haven’t!

Side One

A++. The hall is wide and deep as any you will hear. Tons of power and weight down low. A touch dark, otherwise it would have earned the full Three Plus top grade.

Side Two

A+++, White Hot and Hard to Fault! The strings are so richly textured — who does it better than Wilkinson? Cymbal really crash on this side, something you rarely hear correctly reproduced on recordings.

This could easily become your go-to record for demonstrating not just the Power of the Orchestra, but the power of Old Analog! (more…)

Mussorgsky / The Power of the Orchestra / Leibowitz – Awesome In Mono

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This is the kind of record that the mono cartridge owners of the world worship. And for good reason. But you don’t need to have a mono cartridge to hear how good — in fact, how much BETTER — this copy sounds than most of the stereo pressings out there.

I found out about mono classical records one day when I got a mono copy of The Power Of The Orchestra, VCS 2659. It sounded better than any stereo recording of that work I had ever heard. All the instruments were so much more solid sounding, so palpable, so free from distortion, that it made me recognize for the first time what the mono record lovers of the world were talking about. (more…)

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

The Beatles

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band

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

This British Import Parlophone pressing has, without a doubt, ONE OF THE BEST SIDE TWOS WE’VE EVER HEARD. I guarantee you’ve never heard A Day In The Life sound as good as it does here — we sure haven’t! The superb presence, clarity, and transparency allow elements to come through that are lost on all but the very hottest copies. Take a listen to how clear the piano comes through in the mix and compare it to any other copy you can find to see what I’m talking about.

Talk about energetic, jumpin’ out of the speakers, zero distortion sound! This A+++ side two is a MONSTER. The bottom end has all the weight, the mids are as tubey magical as they come, and the top end is fully extended and silky sweet. I’d feel good putting this side up against anything you could throw at it. Heck, I’d be surprised if the master tape itself sounded significantly better! (more…)

Art Pepper – At The Village Vanguard Vol. 4 – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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At The Village Vanguard Vol. 4

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This Minty Contemporary Demo LP has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! The highlight of this pressing is the well-defined DEEP bass — all the intricacies really come to life. The sound is rich and sweet! And holy crap, that piano sounds really nice. On More for Les, Pepper switches from sax to clarinet and the result is a wonderful, bluesy track that is completely original. The clarinet sounds like it is in the room with you. 

If I had to find a fault with this album, the sax can be a bit honky. The top end has its problems, but there are elements, like that piano, that REALLY COOK!

Overall, I’d say this is one of the better sounding live jazz albums you could hope to find from the late ’70s.

This album features the great Elvin Jones on drums, plus Geoge Cables on piano and George Mraz on bass.