Labels We Love – Atlantic/Atco

AC/DC – Highway To Hell

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  • Superb sound for this AC/DC classic with solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • The open, spacious soundstage, full-bodied tonality and Tubey Magic here are obvious for all to hear – huge, punchy, lively and rockin’ throughout
  • A real turning point for the band – the last album with Bon Scott, the first produced by Robert Mutt Lange, and the first to crack the Top 100 in America (with the gazillion selling Back in Black waiting right around the corner)
  • 5 stars: “AC/DC has never sounded so enormous, and they’ve never had such great songs, and they had never delivered an album as singularly bone-crunching or classic as this until now.”

This vintage Atlantic 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…)

AC/DC – Back In Black – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

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

Musically Back In Black has everything you’d want from this kind of hard rock — a tight, punchy rhythm section; raging guitar riffs; and deliciously decadent lyrics screamed to perfection. What surprised us is how amazing this music sounds on the right copy. You’ve probably heard these songs a million times, but we bet you haven’t heard them sound like this. This is the kind of record that you’ll want to keep turning up. The louder you play it, the better it gets — but only if you’ve got a great pressing like this.

Side two earned our rare A++++ grade. Our sonic grade graphics only go up to three pluses, but this side two took it all the way to four!

We awarded this copy our very special Four Plus A++++ grade on side two, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea could even exist. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that. (more…)

Bee Gees – Trafalgar

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  • An outstanding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound form start to finish – the first to ever hit the site!
  • The code has finally been cracked – this specific early Atco domestic pressing showed us a huge, rich, Tubey Magical Trafalgar we had no idea could even exist, mostly because all the British LPs we had on hand for the shootout were a joke next to it
  • The lead single “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?” was the first Bee Gees’ No. 1 single in the United States
  • 4 stars – “Trafalgar remains one of the Bee Gees’ most critically acclaimed albums and can be found within the pages of 1001 Albums to Hear Before You Die.”

This vintage Atco 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…)

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name…

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If I Could Only Remember My Name

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

BEYOND TRIPLE TRIPLE! This Top Copy had a side one that blew us away enough to earn FOUR Pluses!

Here it is, folks… a TRUE ROCK DEMO DISC! A White Hot Stamper copy such as this will show you why we’ve long considered it one of the All Time Top Ten Rock Albums for Sound and Music. You will not believe how Tubey Magical and three-dimensional this album can be when you have a pressing with this kind of sound. The harmonic complexity and extension on the acoustic guitars are absolutely stunning!

Please note that the grading scale pictured above only goes up to three pluses, as that is our standard top grade. Every now and then we’ll hear a side of an album we know well that goes beyond our expectations and our ref copies to earn a fourth plus. This side one did just that! (more…)

Amor!: The Fabulous Guitar of Luiz Bonfa – Reviewed in 2005

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

Atlantic Black Label LP with lovely sound! This is a famously rare and collectible jazz record by the amazing Brazilian guitarist Luiz Bonfa. 

1958, the year this record was made, was a very good year for high quality recordings of all types of music. 

Click here to see the records currently on the site that were recorded or released in 1958 and here to see the records from 1958 that we’ve reviewed, a substantially larger group as you can imagine, more than 100 in fact.  (more…)

The Allman Brothers – Idlewild South

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

The first Top Copy to ever hit the site! Double Plus (A++) on side one, Triple Plus (A+++) on side two

  • Easily the group’s best sounding studio recording and especially impressive on a copy like this

Drop the needle on Midnight Rider or In Memory Of Elizabeth Read to hear what this copy can do. You get lots of extension here both up top and down low that makes the overall sound far more engaging and musical than what you’d hear on a typical copy.

One of the biggest problems we ran into with this shootout was thin, recessed or edgy vocals. This is a band known for their rockin’ guitar jams, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the vocals are not where they focused their energy when recording. I wish the vocals here were a bit fuller but at least they have enough presence to put them front and center. (more…)

Roxy Music – Siren

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

Siren is one of our favorite Roxy albums, right up there with the first album and well ahead of the commercially appealing Avalon. After reading a rave review in Rolling Stone of the album back in 1975 I took the plunge, bought a copy at my local Tower Records and instantly fell in love with it. As is my wont, I then proceeded to work my way through their earlier catalog, which was quite an adventure. It takes scores of plays to understand where the band is coming from on the early albums and what it is they’re trying to do. Now I listen to each of the first five releases on a regular basis.

Somehow they never seem to get old, even after more than thirty years.

Of all the Roxy albums (with the exception of Avalon) this is probably the best way “in” to the band’s music. The earlier albums are more raucous, the later ones more rhythmically driven — Siren catches them at their peak, with, as other reviewers have noted, all good songs and no bad ones. (more…)

Bryan Ferry – The Bride Stripped Bare

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

It’s been years since I last played this album, and I’m happy, ecstatic even, to report that it sounds far better than I remember it sounding. In the old days I recall it as somewhat dry, flat and transistory. Now it’s BIG and BOLD, revealing a band that’s on fire in the studio. 

This White Hot side two had by far the most energy of any side we played, showing us just what a monster rocker this album can be when it’s mastered and pressed right. The reviews were mixed when the album was released in 1978 but time has been kind to it — after hearing the killer copies I would rank it up at the top with the best of Ferry’s and Roxy’s work.

The first three tracks are uptempo barn burners sure to get you out of any funk you may find yourself in, day or night. (more…)

Yes’s First Album on Plum and Orange

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  • Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and the first to hit the site in many years
  • This UK Original Plum and Orange pressing is by far the best way to hear the album, but finding a clean one was no walk in the park
  • “In an era when psychedelic meanderings were the order of the day, Yes delivered a surprisingly focused and exciting record that covered lots of bases…” – All Music

I wish I could say that this was the sonic (or musical) equivalent of Fragile of The Yes Album — or even the second album, Time and a Word — but that’s simply not the case. Still, there’s a lot to like here and it’s fun to hear the band developing their style and growing into the pop-prog behemoth they would become with their third release.

What shootout winning sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above. (more…)

Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay

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  • A stunning copy of The Dock of the Bay — Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second
  • A well-recorded album, with sound that’s incredibly big, rich and Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and spacious
  • About as quiet as we can find them, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout – most copies we see are just wrecked
  • “…this is an impossible record not to love … Cropper chose his tracks well, selecting some of the strongest and most unusual among the late singer’s orphaned songs…” — All Music

This vintage Atco pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)