Labels We Love – ABC/MCA

Joe Walsh – So What

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

Welcome to the Club and a remake of Turn to Stone are the big hits on the album. Bill Szymczyk produced and engineered, and most of the Eagles play on Joe’s third solo album, from 1974.

You’ll hear MASTER TAPE SOUND on side two of this 1974 classic, and side one did very well in our shootout as well. You would need a big stack of copies to beat either one of these Hot Sides. If that’s your thing — it’s obviously ours — we say welcome to the club (ahem) and more power to you!

We were impressed with how rich and punchy this copy sounded after hearing dozens of dry, thin, lifeless pressings over the years. Once we had heard at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make the shootout happen.

Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. This side two was a whole different story, earning our top A+++ grade with real energy, surprising dynamics, and lots of that ’70s Tubey Magic we love so much and never tire of talking about. (It’s also a sound that you will have a very hard time finding on most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days as you no doubt know.) (more…)

B.B. King – L.A. Midnight

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

An A++ side one backed with an A+ side two! We had the chance to sit and play a big stack of these recently and only a few copies sounded any good. This was one of the better overall copies, especially on side one which is full of tubey magic. Check out how cool the tuba sounds anchoring the bottom end on the opening track! Both sides were more open and transparent than most of what we played.

Side one is open and transparent with lots of tubey magic. The overall sound is clean, clear and natural. Side two isn’t quite as rich but it’s still very lively, musical and natural. (more…)

Steely Dan – A Killer Can’t Buy a Thrill (and Some Lessons We Learned)

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From the moment the needle hit the groove on side one, we were treated to some of the best sound we’ve ever heard for this album.

Both sides have an incredibly tight and punchy bottom end, with the kind of energy and WHOMP that brings this music to life! The soundfield is BIG, WIDE, and OPEN, with a three-dimensional quality that we didn’t hear on other copies. The top end is silky sweet — just listen to the cymbals on Do It Again.

Dirty Work sounds superb here — rich and sweet mids, breathy brass, and lots of texture to the vocals. Often this track sounds dull and dubby, but it’s actually just a case of the mix being smoother than most of the other songs on the album. If this track sounds smooth, and the other songs sound right, the tonality is correct for the whole side, because that’s what the best copies sound like.

Flip the record over and the good times begin all over again. Elliot Randall’s guitar on Reeling In The Years has the meaty texture and uncanny presence to take the song to an entirely new level. Fire In The Hole is exceptionally dynamic with real weight to the piano, and the double tracked vocals on Turn That Heartbeat Over Again sound rich and poppy the way they should.

Combine two sides this good and press them on fairly quiet vinyl and you have yourself an LP that’s practically a FLUKE. (more…)

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This BEYOND White Hot side one (A++++) has nothing less than MASTER TAPE SOUND. Our Four Plus ranking is rare enough, but in this case it has the added benefit of conferring upon this very pressing the status of the BEST SOUNDING STEELY DAN RECORDING we have ever heard.

There is no recording better in the Steely Dan catalog, and I don’t think there’s a copy anywhere that’s any better than this one. (more…)

James Gang – Thirds

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  • An incredible copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Big, present and lively, with good weight to the bottom end, this is clearly the right sound for this music
  • A copy sure to make you a fan of Joe Walsh’s grungy guitar artistry – turn up Walk Away on this Shootout Winning side one and it will blow your mind
  • 4 Stars: “… Walsh was being hailed as a guitar hero to rank with the best rock had to offer… Thirds quickly earned a respectable chart position and eventually went gold…” 

NOTE: On side one, the end of track one is a little noisier than Mint Minus Minus and there is a mark that plays at the start of track two six times at a light to moderate level.

The copies that did well in our shootout managed to keep the grit and grain in the sound under control without smothering the top end or smearing the upper midrange. Clear, breathy vocals that don’t strain when loud were tough to find, but some copies did a whole lot better than others, and those are typically the ones we preferred.

Plenty of tight bass and lively rock energy are every bit as important of course. Nobody wants a leaned-out or boring James Gang record.  (more…)

John Lee Hooker – Free Beer and Chicken

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

  • KILLER sound from start to finish with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it
  • Hooker’s albums are surprisingly good sounding – they have the open, immediate, dynamic qualities of a live-in-the-studio session – my understanding is that most of them are recorded precisely that way
  • These sides are doing it right – they’re big, rich and Tubey Magical, with wonderfully present vocals and huge amounts of energy
  • Free Beer And Chicken is one of the better sounding John Lee Hooker records we’ve ever played lately – an interesting lineup of guests too, including the one and only Mr. Joe Cocker!

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John Lee Hooker – Simply The Truth

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this ABC Bluesway pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades 
  • Our vintage ABC Bluesway pressing here has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce, so if you want to know what this album from 1969 is REALLY supposed to sound like, we guarantee you cannot do better than this very copy
  • “Overseen by noted jazz producer Bob Thiele, this session had Hooker backed by some of his fullest arrangements to date, with noted session drummer Pretty Purdie and keyboards in addition to supplementary guitar and bass… Another of his many characteristically solid efforts…”

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Neil Diamond – Hot August Night

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

Our two White Hot sides here are bigger, richer, clearer, livelier and more tonally correct than the two others — two others which are guaranteed to be bigger, richer, clearer, etc. than any sides of any copy you own or even any copy you have ever heard .

In fact, the sound here presents a textbook case of just what the basic elements we listen for would be, for Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening to lots of copies played on top quality equipment — no more, no less. 

The sound here presents a textbook case of the basic elements we listen for, on Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this is rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening of lots of copies played on top-quality equipment, no more, no less. (more…)

Steppenwolf – Gold: Their Great Hits

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Gold: Their Great Hits

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s first greatest hits album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are rockin’ like crazy, with mostly ull-bodied, natural, smooth, tonally correct sound
  • This surprisingly good sounding greatest hits album is packed with hits, including Born To Be Wild, Magic Carpet Ride, The Pusher, and more
  • 4 stars: “The term heavy metal was rightfully named for this band. Steppenwolf fused traditional rock and R&B with late ’60s contemporary heaviness. “Born to Be Wild,” their signature tune, has aged amazingly well. Aside from the song’s power and performance, its engineering and production is stellar. This goes for most of Steppenwolf’s catalog as well.”

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Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf

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Steppenwolf – Steppenwolf

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  • This outstanding copy of Steppenwolf’s debut album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Both sides here are really rockin’ — big and full-bodied with tight punchy bass and lots of energy
  • Condition is often an issue with extremely popular rock records from this era, but this one is scratch free and fairly quiet throughout
  • Includes killer hits “Born To Be Wild” and “The Pusher,” both featured in the 1969 movie Easy Rider
  • 4 stars: “…a surprisingly strong debut album from a tight hard rock outfit… The playing is about as loud and powerful as anything being put out by a major record label in 1968…”

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