Labels We Love – A&M

Styx – In Pieces Of Eight

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  • A superb sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here is the kind of sound we want on our ELP, Yes and Queen-like multi-layered Proggy Pop Rock – big, full-bodied and lively
  • 4 Stars: Styx’s feisty, straightforward brand of album rock is represented best by “Blue Collar Man,” an invigorating keyboard and guitar rush… reaching number 21, with the frolicking romp of “Renegade” edging in at number 16 only six months later… the rest of the album includes tracks that rekindle some of Styx’s early progressive rock sound, only cleaner. Tracks like “Sing for the Day,” “Lords of the Ring,” and “Aku-Aku” all contain slightly more complex instrumental foundations…”

Who likes their Wall of Sound small and closed-in? Certainly not Big Speaker guys like us. By all accounts this band wanted their records to sound good, or at least as good as their contemporaries (and the bands that inspired them, name-checked above). There’s no shortage of production polish here and on the best pressings the sound really works. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Look Around – Then Listen for the Huge Room on Roda

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises

If you have a good copy of Look Around and a high-rez stereo/room and want to have some fun, play the second track on side one, Roda. In the left channel there is some double-tracked clapping (or two people, how could you tell the difference?) in a HUGE room. Actually although it sounds like a huge room it’s probably a normal sized room with lots of reverb added. Either way it sounds awesome. 

These hand claps drive the energy and rhythm of the song, and they are so well recorded you will think the back wall of your listening room just collapsed behind the left speaker. On the truly transparent copies the echo goes WAY back. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker (1972)

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  • A Killer Copy of Joe Cocker’s patented Blue Eyed Soul Album, rating an outstanding grade of Double Plus (A++) or close to it on both sides
  • Plays on some of the quietest vinyl we have ever heard for the album, a true Mint Minus throughout!
  • Pardon Me Sir; High Time We Went and Black-Eyed Blues, Midnight Rider; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and St. James Infirmary – so many of his best songs
  • “With “St. James’ Infirmary,” Joe Cocker has moved into a whole different sphere of musical activity, far distant from the rip-roaring anarchism of the Mad Dogs … This album is, when all be said and done, riddled with meaningful soul.” — Rolling Stone

Great sound for this rockin’ soul album with two live tracks. Just listen to the drums on Black-Eyed Blues — the way the percussion and bass mingle sonically with Alan White’s skins takes this listener right into the room where the magic happened.

Classic Tracks

On side one, three out of five you know or should know: Pardon Me Sir; High Time We Went and Black-Eyed Blues.

On side two, three out of four you know or should know: Midnight Rider; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and St. James Infirmary.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Solitude 
Where or When 
Mood Indigo 
Autumn Leaves

Side Two

Prelude to a Kiss 
Willow Weep for Me 
Tenderly 
Dancing in the Dark

Depanorama.net

Stunningly beautiful. The band plays perfectly. All the solos are fantastic. This album of romantic ballads is easily in the top 1% in my record collection of several thousand items. Picking highlights is an exercise in futility as every second of this album is wonderful. But don’t miss Duke’s piano with the full band on “Solitude” and in a trio setting on “All The Things You Are.” Ozzie Bailey’s vocal on “Autumn Leaves” is serene and lovely, but when coupled with the violin of Ray Nance, the beauty becomes more than we mere mortals deserve.

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

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  • A huge and powerful UK pressing of Supertramp’s Masterpiece, offering outstanding Double Plus (A++) quality sound or BETTER on both sides
  • Ken Scott engineered this one to have Cinerama-sized height, width and depth to rival the best albums you’ve ever heard
  • Clearly their Magnum Opus, a great leap forward and a permanent member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 Album List – fairly QUIET vinyl too
  • “The tuneful, tightly played songs, pristine clarity of sound, and myriad imaginative sound effects, helped create an album that Sounds magazine likened to ‘Genesis, The Beach Boys… a smattering of [Pink] Floyd.'”

This is engineer Ken Scott’s (and the band’s) MASTERPIECE, but the average copy sure can’t get your blood pumping the way this one will. We’ve long recognized that Crime of the Century is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock recordings, a member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 list right from the get go. We admit to being overly impressed with the MoFi back in the ’80s and the Speakers Corner pressing in the ’00s. Our Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to handily beat either one and any domestic or import pressing you care to put to the test as well.

When you hear the guitars come jumping out of your speakers on School or Bloody Well Right you can be sure that you’re playing a very special pressing of a very special recording indeed. (Yes, you need both. That’s why we’re here.) (more…)

Joe Cocker (1969) – With More Than a Little Help from Leon Russell

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  • A killer 2-pack, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound, or close to it, from first note to last – they don’t get much better than this!
  • Here it is – the energy, space, and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound this music needs to work
  • You get Triple Plus sound for some of his best tracks here: Dear Landlord, Bird on the Wire, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, and Hitchcock Railway
  • “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.” – 4 Stars

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music. (more…)

Stealers Wheel – Stuck in the Middle with You Rocks on These Early British LPs

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

Forget the dubby domestic pressings. Like so many British bands on the A&M label, when it came time to master the album for the domestic market, the people in charge (whoever they may have been) took the easy way out and simply ordered up a dub of the master tape to cut the album from.

Spooky Tooth, Procol Harum, Fairport Convention, (my beloved) Squeeze and too many others to think about all had their records ruined by sub-generation masters.

But this is the real British-pressed vinyl from the real master tape, and that makes all the difference in the world. (more…)

Sergio Mendes + Psych + Your Mind Will Be Blown

Stillness

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Allow me to quote a length a wonderful review from Brasil66.com before we get into What to Listen For on Stillness.

A radical departure from anything that had gone before, Stillness remains the one album that Brasil ’66 fans either love or hate. Most complaints about it center on the fact that the familiar bossa sound of the earlier records was now mostly gone.

Nonetheless, Stillness is arguably one of the most fluid albums of Mendes’ career. It takes its cue from the work of many of the singer/songwriters of the day (Carole King, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, etc.), with thoughtful lyrics and often delicate arrangements. It is a almost a concept album, with the theme expressed in the title song — the words of which are even printed on the front cover — and an outdoorsy, peaceful feeling running through many of the other lyrics. (This feeling is also reflected in the cover photos, which were shot in a rural setting.)

Stillness is also Lani Hall’s final album with Mendes; she left the group during these sessions and was replaced by Gracinha Leporace, who does lead vocals on several songs. Standout tracks include “Chelsea Morning” and “Viramundo,” both of which contain traces of the earlier Brasil ’66 sound; “Righteous Life” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” both of which reflect the mood of late ’60s America through their lyrics; and the very pretty “Sometimes in Winter,” featuring an elegant orchestral arrangement by Dick Hazard.

If you are looking for DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND with music every bit as wonderful, look no further — this is the record for you.

If I had one song to play to show what my stereo can really do, For What It’s Worth on a Hot Stamper copy would probably be my choice. I can’t think of any material that sounds better. It’s amazingly spacious and open, yet punchy and full bodied the way only vintage analog recordings ever are. (more…)

Burt Bacharach – Reach Out – What to Listen For

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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 Reach Out.

What to listen for? Brightness, Blare, Lifelessness, Smear.

We played a good-sized stack of these recently, but not many of them sounded like this one. The majority of copies had a tendency to be bright, which is MURDER when the horns start blaring at the levels we like to play our records at. (more…)

Joan Baez – Diamonds and Rust – We Broke Through in 2016

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  • A great copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finishi
  • If all you know are the originals you will be surprised at just how rich, natural and Tubey Magical the sound here can be
  • Guaranteed to handily beat the Nautilus Half-Speed as well as the TAS List-approved MoFi (which is awful by the way)
  • Five Stars: “…the real hit was the title track, a self-penned masterpiece and… her finest moment as a songwriter…”

Wonderful sound — rich, full, warm, and sweet. The vocals are full-bodied and breathy. The acoustic guitars are fairly natural for a pop recording from 1975.

Play Jesse on side two to hear the lovely space of the studio, as well as more harmonic extension on the acoustic instruments. Watch out for track two; the EQ on the vocal is always a problem.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Singer Songwriter album. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated Folkie Pop recording from 1975.

The sound varies quite a bit from track to track, no doubt a result of each recording having to be tailored to the different groups of studio cats and the necessity for various overdubs — strings, pedal steel guitars, even some tasteful(!) synths. (more…)

Tea for the Tillerman Is an Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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TEA FOR THE TILLERMAN is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries. 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Where Do the Children Play? (more…)