Labels We Love – A&M

Cat Stevens Albums – Lee Hulko Cut Them All – Good, Bad and Otherwise

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Is the Pink Label Island original pressing THE way to go? That’s what Harry Pearson — not to mention most audiophile record dealers — would have you believe.

But it’s just not true. And that’s good news for you, Dear (Record Loving Audiophile) Reader.

HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY FROM JOHN BARLEYCORN

Since that’s a Lee Hulko cutting just like Tea here, the same insights, if you can call them that, apply. Here’s what we wrote: (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Ye-Me-Le – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Ye-Me-Le.

The first three tracks on side 1 are the best reason to own this album, especially the first two (Wichita Lineman and Norwegian Wood), which are as good as anything the group ever did. I’m a big fan so that has to be seen as high praise indeed.

Let’s be frank: the average LP of this album is terrible. Shrill, aggressive sound is the norm, but compression and overly smooth (read; thick and dull) sound are also problems common to Ye-Me-Le. There’s also a “strained” quality to the loud vocal passages on almost every copy; only the best are free of it.

Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

This recording is quite Difficult to Reproduce, which means it ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale (DORS). Do not attempt to play it using any but the best front ends. Unless you are using a very good cartridge and arm the vocals are apt to tear your head off when they get loud (which they do; this is a dynamic recording).

In a way, this is the perfect record to demonstrate how much progress you have made in audio. I remember playing these albums many years ago and hearing lots of harmonic distortion and other unpleasant sonic qualities. Those very same pressings sound DRAMATICALLY better today. (more…)

Sting – Nothing Like The Sun

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Nothing Like The Sun

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

Sting’s killer double album from 1987 arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound for sides one and three and outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on sides two and four. The sound here is clearly bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any other contender in our recent shootout. Features phenomenal contributions from legendary musicians, including Andy Summers, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler, and Hiram Bullock.

Note that this copy won the shootout for side four. No copy earned the full Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grade on that side, which basically means that the first three sides of the album sounded better than the fourth for some reason. If we had had five more pressings to play, it’s likely that one of them would have had sound comparable to the first three sides, but that would have made for one very long afternoon. (more…)

The Flying Burrito Bros. – The Gilded Palace of Sin

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The Gilded Palace of Sin

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  • A wonderful original pressing of this Country Rock classic with very good Hot Stamper sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl from start to finish
  • Gram Parsons and Chris Hillman fused folk and country with rock and soul influences on this superb debut release
  • 5 stars: “The Gilded Palace of Sin, was where [Gram] revealed the full extent of his talents, and it ranks among the finest and most influential albums the [country-rock] genre would ever produce… no one ever brought rock and country together quite like the Flying Burrito Brothers, and this album remains their greatest accomplishment.” 

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The Flying Burrito Bros. – Burrito Deluxe

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Burrito Deluxe

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  • A superb copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are exceptionally low-distortion, lively, solid and dynamic – just what this music needs
  • This vintage pressing has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the 49 year old tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from those tapes) 
  • “Indeed with this album, Hillman and Parsons carved a substantial place in music history as one of the most influential bands of all time.” 

This vintage A&M pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Antonio Carlos Jobim – Wave – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame

This A&M / CTI Brown Label LP is the first Hot Stamper copy to hit the site in many years! It’s noticeably more TRANSPARENT than most copies. You really HEAR INTO THE MUSIC on this LP in a way that just doesn’t happen on the typical pressing. Side one is tonally correct and natural with good size and big bass — we gave it an A++. 

I love the music of Antonio Carlos Jobim. This is one of his best albums. It belongs in any serious Latin Jazz record collection. We’ve had some luck with Tide and The Composer Of Desifinado plays, but for the most part it’s pretty darn difficult to find copies of his albums that sound good. (more…)

Sting – Mercury Falling

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Mercury Falling

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

We had some brand new, long out of print Universal Heavy Vinyl pressings of this Sting title sitting on the shelf and decided that, since this was one of the better pressings they’d remastered, perhaps a shootout was in order for fans of Der Stingle.   

Sure enough no side of any copy sounded the same as the side of any other copy, which just goes to prove that, regardless of how carefully you master and press your records, there will always be sonic variations from copy to copy –if your stereo is capable of revealing them. 

Since you’re on our site I’m guessing that your stereo must be pretty good, which means that our copies of Mercury Falling will be much more enjoyable than you might expect.  (more…)

The Police – Ghost in the Machine

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Ghost in the Machine

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both side, this vintage UK pressing sounds rich, smooth and sweet – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the band’s most sophisticated hits: Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, Invisible Sun, Spirits In The Material World, and more
  • Hugh Padgham took over engineering duties for Ghost and The Police’s next album, resulting in a dramatic improvement in the quality of their recordings
  • “This album has more variety than the menu in a Bangkok brothel. In particular, Sting’s voice has taken on a new depth and fresh maturity. The opening song, ‘Spirits In The Material World’, may have what sounds like a dumb title, but the song is a dream of close harmonies and nicely understated drums.” Record Mirror

If you’re looking for big hits, this album is for you. I mean, get three tracks in and you’ve already heard Spirits In The Material World, Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic and Invisible Sun — not a bad way to get things started!  (more…)

Sting – Bring on the Night

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Bring on the Night

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  • This outstanding copy of Sting’s epic double album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides AND exceptionally quiet vinyl
  • Sting and his jazzy pals work through a good portion of his extensive catalog, including both Police songs and solo tracks
  • “Sting really got carried away with the idea that his supporting crew for Dream of the Blue Turtles was a real jazz band, and technically, he was kind of right … the loose, rather infectious performances show what Sting was trying to achieve with his debut.”

Sting said to Bring On The Night and who were we to argue? We finally collected enough of these import pressings to get a proper shootout going, and the best copies really impressed us.

The best copies like this one give you more transparency and separation between the various bandmembers. Many copies had a sterile/dry quality, but this one remains rich throughout with more analog warmth. (more…)

The Police – Outlandos d’Amour

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Outlandos d’Amour

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  • One of the best copies to hit the site in quite a while – Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Few audiophiles (I’m guessing) know how well recorded this album is – you need just the right UK pressing to show you what’s really on the tape
  • Roxanne, So Lonely, Can’t Stand Losing You all sound amazing on these Shootout Winning (or close to them) sides
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Although Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland were all superb instrumentalists with jazz backgrounds, it was much easier to get a record contract in late-’70s England if you were a punk/new wave artist, so the band decided to mask their instrumental prowess with a set of strong, adrenaline-charged rock, albeit with a reggae tinge. ” 

What’s amazing about this copy? There are SWEET HIGHS and AMBIENCE that we didn’t think were possible – and it ROCKS! Whatever it’s doing, it sure doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it.

Not only does the high end exist, but it sounds sweet and doesn’t rip your ears out of your earsockets (trust me, I’m a doctor). This is vitally important in songs like “Roxanne” where Andy Summers’ reggae influenced guitar can sound squawky and brittle if there is too much compression. (more…)