Labels We Love – A&M

Cat Stevens – Izitso – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including THE BEST SIDE TWO WE’VE EVER HEARD! We just finished our first shootout for Izitso, and this was the overall champion with an A++ side one backed with an AGAIG A+++ side two. It’s no Teaser and the Firecat, but there’s enough Cat Stevens magic here to satisy casual fans and die-hards alike. 

It wouldn’t be unfair to call this Stevens’ disco album, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some great songs on here. Old Schoolyard is a great uptempo rocker, while Life — on a good copy — is pure audiophle gold. Child For A Day, which closes out side two, is great as well — it sounds like many of the gems from Cat’s earlier albums. The instrumental track Was Dog A Doughnut? (featuring Chick Corea) certainly ain’t our cup of tea, but we imagine some of you will have fun with its synthesized dog barks and its goofy electronic vibe. If you were a fan of Herbie Hancock’s work in the ’80s, you’ll probably get a kick out of all those synths and sequencers. (more…)

The Police – Reggatta de Blanc

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

This A&M LP has PUNCHY LOW-END that really drives this rhythmically charged music! Sting’s pulsing bass lines and the massive assault of Stewart Copeland’s kick drum really come to life on this White Hot Stamper domestic pressing.

This and Ghost In The Machine are my two favorite Police albums. Reggatta, like Ghost, is consistently good from start to finish. (Their other albums are much less consistent, the first especially so.) It also has the distinction of being the only Police album that has a real Guitar Solo, heard on the song “It’s Alright For You”. With a seriously blistering guitar break that really kicks the song into high gear, you have to wonder why Andy Summers chose to play that way so rarely.  (more…)

The Police – Outlandos d’Amour – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

This Minty A&M LP has TWO AMAZING SIDES on QUIET VINYL! We listened to more than a dozen copies of this album — imports, promos, and domestics — and nothing came close to this copy! 

Halfway through this shootout, our mood here had become somber. We were innundated with dull, overly compressed, harsh sounding copies of a record that’s supposed to be upbeat and fun — especially on Side Two. Muck!! (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Ye-Me-Le – our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

THE BEST SIDE ONE WE’VE HEARD! It’s big and bold, with dramatically less grit and grain than the average copies. This White Hot Ye-Me-Le has MINDBLOWING, YOU ARE THERE IMMEDIACY and MASTER TAPE SOUND on side one. The sound is punchy and lively with wonderful transparency. You can really hear the sound of the room around the musicians! Many of the tracks on this copy are DEMO DISC quality. 

Side one has virtually no strain, EXTENDED highs, and is overall fairly quiet. Listen to track two (a great version of Norweigan Wood)– it doesn’t get any better than that! Track one is so silky and sweet, it may become your favorite song to demonstrate your stereo. It’s certainly one of mine. Even the last track here, which almost never sounds good, is fairly sweet on this pressing. (more…)

Burt Bacharach – Reach Out

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard on Reach Out
  • This copy was super full-bodied and dynamic with real weight down low, nice bite to the brass, tons of energy and a lot of Tubey Magic. 
  • Tons of hits – The Look Of Love, Message To Michael, Alfie, What The World Needs Now, I Say A Little Prayer and more
  • Engineering by Phil Ramone (Casino Royale) and Henry Lewy (Sergio Mendes, Joni Mitchell) each doing their own tracks – compare and contrast for yourself
  • “[Reach Out] present[s] Bacharach’s vision of his work at its most straightforward, and it is enjoyable on its own terms, as a snapshot of his own sensibilities at that time.”

We were surprised at how lively and dynamic the best pressings of Reach Out can be. (more…)

George Benson – Other Side of Abbey Road

More George Benson

More Other Side of Abbey Road

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

An A++ side one backed with an A+++ side two! We just shot out a bunch of these and this copy finished way ahead of the pack. George Benson and a top-notch backing crew (Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Ray Baretto, Freddie Hubbard and many more) knock these jazzy Abbey Road covers out of the park, and Rudy Van Gelder did a great job putting it to tape. Of course not every pressing sounds good, but the best copies like this one are killer!  (more…)

Chuck Mangione – Feels So Good – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This better than Super Hot stamper side one of arguably Chuck Mangione’s best album gets what is inarguably his most famous song to come alive in a way that practically no other copies in our shootout were able to. It’s shocking just how lifeless and pointless Feels So Good can sound on some copies; after only a few minutes the band seems to be having a hard time staying awake. But the same performance is captured on every pressing, so how can the band sound so inspired here and so uninspired elsewhere? It’s one of the mysteries of recorded media, one which still takes us by surprise on a regular basis, every week in fact.

This idea that most pressings do a poor job of communicating the music still has not seeped into the consciousness of the audiophile public but we’re diligently working to change that, one Hot Stamper at a time.

The copies that are present, clear, open, transparent and energetic, with a solid rhythmic line driving the music, are a hundred times more enjoyable than the typical pressing that can be found practically unplayed (gee, I wonder why?) sitting in most record collections.

By the way, if you know Feels So Good only through the radio, you may be surprised to find that it’s close to ten minutes long, not the three minutes you’re familiar with. The band stretches out quite a bit and the solos are fairly inventive, as AMG noted.

This very side two has that problem to a fair degree; it’s a bit too murky and veiled to be as much fun as side one. But so few copies were any good at all that it still earned an A+ grade. If you turn it up it helps it quite a bit. Still, it lack extension high and low compared to this side one. (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Fool on the Hill – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

EXCELLENT SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It’s rich, full-bodied, and sweet, with super-low distortion and breathtaking transparency. Side Two rates A+++, As Good As It Gets! The vocals on this copy were as sweet as we have ever heard for this record.

The average copy of this record is thin, aggressive and irritating. What separates the best copies like this one from the typical bad sounding copies is more extension on the top end to balance out the upper midrange and lower highs, as well as more weight on the bottom end, to anchor and balance out the sound. (more…)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century – Loud Levels and Big Woofers

More Supertramp

More Crime of the Century

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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

The bass on the best copies is AWESOME. Playing a Hot Stamper copy at loud levels with big woofers will have your house quaking. Add to that the kind of ENERGY that the better pressings have in their grooves and the result is an album guaranteed to bring most audiophile systems to their knees, begging for mercy. 

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, don’t expect to hear Crime of the Century the way Ken and the boys wanted you to. The album wants to rock your world, and that’s exactly what our Hot Stamper pressings are capable of doing.

The typical Brit copy is dull, and that quality just takes all the magic out of the recording. The three dimensional space and clarity of the recording rely heavily on the quality of the top end. The MoFi, on the best copies, shows you what is missing from the typical Brit, domestic or other import LP. This is what impressed me back in the ’70s when I bought my MoFi. It was only years later that I realized what was missing and what was wrong. (more…)

Sting – The Dream Of The Blue Turtles

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The Dream Of The Blue Turtles

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

This album has long been a favorite among audiophiles and it’s pretty easy to see why. What Sting does here with jazz music is very similar to what Paul Simon later did with African music on Graceland. Sting surrounded himself with legitimate jazz musicians and together they’ve created an album that gives you the loose, relaxed feel of jazz mixed with Sting’s distinct pop sensibility. There are elements of worldbeat, reggae and soul here as well, but the album never feels disjointed; Sting managed to pull it all together to create a sound that is somehow unique and familiar at the same time. 

The stamper numbers for this one are all over the map, so it’s ridiculously tough to find The Real Sound for this album. We went through a huge stack of copies and finally managed to find a few winners that broke through the digital grain and hash that we heard on most pressings. (more…)