Labels We Love – ABC/MCA

B.B. King – Lucille

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Lucille

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  • Lucille (the album, not the guitar) finally comes to the site with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it throughout 
  • An exceptionally hard album to find with good sound, but here it is – clean, clear and spacious with a solid bottom end – qualities that bring out the best in B.B.’s Blues
  • It has taken us years to find clean copies with the right stampers for Lucille, but finally our efforts have paid off with this Hot Stamper copy
  • “Lucille is an album alive and pulsing with a beautifully thick blues soul that is showcased everywhere, from Mr. King’s roaring vocals to the blazing brass in the background.”

Lucille is by far the toughest ’60s B.B. King record to find nowadays in audiophile playing condition. Most copies are just beat, and the ones that aren’t tend to be rare and pricey. The reason for all of the above is simple enough: it’s one of the man’s most consistently enjoyable, best sounding albums. Who can blame people for playing it to death when the music is so good?

Mobile Fidelity remastered the record in the ’90 for their for their consistently awful Anadisq series on Heavy Vinyl, and we used to sell it, albeit somewhat reluctantly. It’s not nearly as bad as most of their catalog from the period, but I would it goes without saying that our Hot Stamper pressing will show you a Lucille that a Heavy Vinyl pressing or Half-Speed can only hint at. (more…)

B.B. King – Blues On Top Of Blues

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Blues On Top Of Blues

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last on this 1968 pressing, BB King’s fourteenth studio album
  • This is the album he made right before Lucille, so the man was definitely on a roll and doing some great work in the late ’60s
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Featuring brassy arrangements by Johnny Pate, it presents King’s sound at its fullest without sacrificing any of his grit or sophisticated swing … the material is very strong throughout.”

Watch for more B. B. King albums coming to the site soon. Some of the Bluesway pressings we’ve auditioned recently have had exceptionally big, rich, lively sound, and that’s the way we like to hear our music. There are plenty of dogs in the King canon, especially in the ’70s, so you have to be a bit careful with the man’s recordings, but good titles in the ’60s with excellent sound can still be found if you’re willing to do the work (or you’re willing to let us do it for you). (more…)

Tom Petty – Hard Promises

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Hard Promises

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  • An impressive copy of this 1981 release, with KILLER nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Recorded at Sound City, home to some of the greatest analog sound ever recorded
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…filled with great songwriting, something that’s as difficult to achieve as a distinctive sound… The Waiting became the best-known song on the record, but there’s no discounting A Woman in Love, Nightwatchman, Kings Road, and The Criminal Kind, album tracks that would become fan favorites… it has a tremendous set of songs and a unified sound that makes it one of Petty’s finest records.”

Two stunning sides for one of our favorite Petty records! This one is a huge step up from most, which tend to be bright, thin, edgy, pinched and gritty — radio friendly, maybe, but not especially audiophile friendly.

We hate that sound but we are happy to report that some copies manage to avoid it, and this is one of them. Is that richer, fuller sound the sound of what’s on the master tape or did the mastering engineer “fix” it? We’ll never know, now will we? What we can know is the sound of the pressings we actually have to play, and this one is killer.

Recorded by Shelly Yakus at Sound City, Van Nuys and at Cherokee Studios, Hollywood, CA. (more…)

John Lee Hooker – Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive

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Never Get Out Of These Blues Alive

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  • With KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this copy will show you just how insanely big and rich this record can be; super quiet vinyl too!
  • It’s one of the best sounding John Lee Hooker albums we’ve heard – exceptionally well recorded at Wally Heiders’ right here in L.A..  
  • Features a host of “the greats” lending a hand, including Van Morrison, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, and Steve Miller
  • “…this album continues his work with mostly younger musicians and predates similar projects The Healer and Mr. Lucky by about 20 years.”

With STUNNING sound from beginning to end on this pressing, Hooker is in the room with you, as he should be. The sound is big, rich and lively with a huge bottom end, lots of space, wonderful transparency and real immediacy.

You may have noticed that records like this rarely make it to the site. Many don’t sound good, and the ones that do usually have surfaces that most audiophiles would find unacceptable. This is an exceptionally nice copy of we’re glad to say it sounds as good as it looks. (more…)

Tom Petty – Full Moon Fever

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Full Moon Fever

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  • This original UK pressing offers excellent sound throughout with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades
  • Big, full-bodied, clean, clear and spacious with a huge bottom end and tons of big rock energy!
  • Forget the dry, flat domestic LPs – these UK pressings are the only ones with the Tubey Magical richness the music needs
  • “… the real reason Full Moon Fever became Petty’s biggest hit is that it boasted a selection of songs that rivaled Damn the Torpedoes. Full Moon Fever didn’t have a weak track… [it] might have been meant as an off-the-cuff detour, but it turned into a minor masterpiece.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

*NOTE: On side one a mark makes eight light ticks during the start of track one.

You have not begun to hear how good this record can sound until you play a good import, and this is a very good import indeed. (more…)

The Crusaders – Chain Reaction – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

The Crusaders – Chain Reaction

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

When you play the MoFi against a Hot Stamper, the audiophile version reeks of phony top end EQ, compression and sloppy bass. (What half-speed mastered record doesn’t?) So if you could use a little jazz-funk in your musical diet, this is the ticket. (more…)

B.B. King – Friends

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Friends

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  • A superb sounding copy of Friends with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • One of the better sounding B.B. King records we’ve heard – it’s a treat to hear B.B. singing, playing guitar and backed by a horn section without the mediocre sonics that take all the fun out of listening to most copies
  • “… a gritty, soulful real stage performance where BB earns his living and forged his unique style… His voice was at its peak and this [recording] has captured his essence. It’s that good.”

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John Lee Hooker – Endless Boogie

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Endless Boogie

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  • This original ABC pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES! 
  • These sides are out of this world — rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a big punchy bottom end and lots of energy
  • “… the timeliness of Endless Boogie is an unmitigated plus, and producers Bill Szymczyk and Ed Michel get a relaxed groove out of a cast of supporting musicians who can boogie Canned Heat right out of the studio.” – Robert Christgau

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B.B. King – L.A. Midnight

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L.A. Midnight

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  • The best copy to hit the site in over a year with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Dramatically better than practically every other pressing we played – super lively, full-bodied and clear with real extension up top and down low
  • Check out how cool the tuba sounds anchoring the bottom end on the opening track 
  • “The King is at his sly peak on ‘I Got Some Help I Don’t Need,’ uproariously humorous and hurt at the same time, with crazy wah-wah filigrees laced within, and ‘Can’t You Hear Me Talking to You” is also tight and right.’

We had the chance to sit and play a big stack of these recently and only a few copies sounded very good. This one was our shootout winner! Check out how cool the tuba sounds anchoring the bottom end on the opening track! Both sides here were bigger, fuller, more open and more transparent than any other. (more…)

Ray Charles – Have a Smile With Me

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More Have a Smile With Me

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • The richness in the vocals and the wonderfully Tubey Magical sound makes this copy especially impressive
  • It’s not easy to find a Ray Charles record from the Sixties that plays this quietly: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • AMG writes, “…He elevates the material with soulful vocals and good arrangements, particularly when the Raeletts back him up (as they do on half the tracks).”

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the female backup singers, the Raelets. sweet and clear) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record. We know, we hear practically all of them whenever we sit down to do one of these shootouts. (more…)