Labels We Love – Atlantic/Atco

Milt Jackson – Bags & Flutes

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  • This original Atlantic stereo pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days (as well as the early mono pressings) – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album from 1959, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • “Jackson is partnered alternately with Frank Wess and Bobby Jaspar — two of the leading pioneers that helped bring the flute into the mainstream of jazz. For these performances, the rhythm section blends and balances superbly, creating supple, meaty, hard bopping grooves for Jackson’s limitless capacity for invention and for the stellar, swinging performances of Jaspar and Wess.”

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The Rolling Stones – Some Girls – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

Side one is an absolute knockout — we’ve never heard one like it and we don’t expect to find a better one. Our standard top grade of A+++ only begins to tell the story here. No other copy we played had bass this deep and meaty, or drums so full and punchy.You aren’t going to believe how hard it rocks, with all the WHOMP and ENERGY we hoped for when we began shooting out this title. The sax solo in Miss You sounds incredible — it actually has some balls, something you just don’t get with the typical pressing. The hi-hats sound incredibly natural and clear, and the vocals are Right On The Money (ROTM).

HARD ROCKIN’ STONES MAGIC! We’ve always loved the music on this album, but we sure didn’t know it could sound like this. Side one has MASTER TAPE QUALITY A+++ SOUND and side two is just a step behind at A++. When you drop the needle on Miss You you are going to FREAK OUT. 

This is probably the Stones’ last truly great album, IMHO. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers, and with hits like Miss You, Shattered, and Beast Of Burden on here, it’s easy to see why.

One of the keys to getting this album to sound right is fullness. Many copies lack weight to the bottom end, which robs this funky music of its very foundation. Other copies suffer from lean, thin sounding vocals — do you think that’s the sound Mick Jagger was going for?

Side two is close behind at A++. It’s got the life and presence that bring this music to life. Beast Of Burden sounds amazing — warm, rich, and sweet with tons of ambience. The guitars and drums sound great and the overall sound is BIG and BOLD.

King Curtis & Champion Jack Dupree – Blues at Montreux

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this original Atlantic LP with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades  
  • Here’s the midrange magic that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “… Curtis and Dupree find a great deal of common musical ground. Dupree has quite a few witty vocals (particularly the near-classic “Junker’s Blues”) while taking choruses of irregular length that keep his sidemen continually guessing. Curtis’ distinctive tenor is also heard from, making one truly regret that this was his final recording.”

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Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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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.

SUPERB A+++ SOUND! We play dozens of these each year, and almost never find one that sounds amazing and plays this quietly. When a copy sounds this good, the music REALLY works — we had fun with this one. It’s rich, full-bodied, and ALIVE like you wouldn’t believe.

Both sides here are As Good As It Gets! The sound is very rich and full-bodied with lots of extension up top. The bass is deep and well-defined, and the piano sounds just right. On a super transparent, super low distortion copy like this one, all the subtleties really come to life. Too many copies we played were a bit grainy — you could really hear it on the cymbal crashes. This copy is as smooth and sweet as you could ever ask for. It’s open and spacious, and the vocals are Right On The Money. The bottom end is SUPERB here, with deep, well-defined bass and an exceptionally punchy kick drum sound that really takes the music to another level. There’s lots of extension up top and a silky quality to the vocals and cymbals. The presence is staggering — the guitar solo on All My Love positively JUMPS out of the speakers. (more…)

Stevie Nicks – The Wild Heart

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  • The Wild Heart finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too! 
  • The size, presence, and (relative) warmth on this one give you the sound you want for this music
  • Features a host of stellar guest musicians, including Tom Petty, Mick Fleetwood, Steve Lukather (Toto), and even Prince, though he wasn’t credited on the album
  • 4 stars: “The Wild Heart sold to the faithful … if you loved Bella Donna, you would like The Wild Heart very much.”

It’s easy to spot the good sounding copies. They’re big and rich, not thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect to hear on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the batch for sonics. (more…)

Average White Band – Reviewed in 2007

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

FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! We’ve been playing this record for years, but we’ve sure never heard it sound like this! The bass — so crucial to this music — is ABSOLUTE PERFECTION.

Keepin’ It To Myself sounds OUT OF THIS WORLD! (more…)

Ornette Coleman – The Shape of Jazz to Come – Reviewed in 2005

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

This minty avant-garde jazz record has AMAZING SOUND! The recording is by the famous engineer Bones Howe, the man behind some of the greatest pop and jazz recordings of all time. He gets some of that Rudy Van Gelder bite that we love, but with less distortion and more dynamic contrasts. Whether you’ll like the music or not is another question — this is free form jazz; not everybody’s into it, that’s for sure.

Ornette Coleman’s Atlantic debut, The Shape of Jazz to Come, was a watershed event in the genesis of avant-garde jazz, profoundly steering its future course and throwing down a gauntlet that some still haven’t come to grips with. The record shattered traditional concepts of harmony in jazz, getting rid of not only the piano player but the whole idea of concretely outlined chord changes.” — AMG

Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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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. 

A TRULY STUNNING COPY of this classic album! Both sides here are rich, warm and full-bodied with tons of energy and presence. It just doesn’t get much better than this, folks! We gave side two a Four Plus grade — note that we don’t even have a graphic for that! — and side one was also very strong.

Side two earned the rare Four Plus grade (making it the first copy of Houses ever to do so, I believe) with an insane combination of clarity, presence, size, richness, transparency, bottom end punch and more. Side one is not quite in the same heady league but is certainly very strong with a Double Plus grade. You’re going to have a ridiculously hard time finding another copy that can hold its own against this one. Frankly, I don’t think it can be done without the kind of operation we have here! (more…)

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics.

Bella Donna may not reach those exalted heights, but it’s still quite good, especially for 1981. As the decade wore on things went south very quickly, sonically and musically, so we must be thankful that this record came out early in the decade and not much later. (more…)

Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners – Greatest “Copy” Ever

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

WHOA! We’ve paired up two FOUR PLUS sides to create this stunning 2-pack with mindblowing Demo Quality sound for the whole album. These A++++ sides will show you just how amazing it can sound: super full-bodied, rich, warm and natural. 

Please note that we award this very special grade so rarely that we don’t even have a graphic to represent it in our sonic grade box. The scale usually only goes to three pluses, but these two sides went up to four!

This is an incredible recording, and on a copy like this the sound is truly stunning. When you hear Chicago here you will not believe how CINEMATIC the sound is! It’s everything we love about ANALOG, and then some.

Most of the credit must go to the team of recording engineers, led here by the esteemed Bill Halverson, the man behind all of the Crosby Stills Nash and Young albums. Nash was clearly influenced by his work with his gifted bandmates, proving with this album that he can hold his own with the best of the best. Some songs (We Can Change The World, Be Yourself) are grandly scaled productions with the kind of studio polish that would make Supertramp envious. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better than this. (more…)