Labels We Love – Capitol

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

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

We’ve obviously been at this Hot Stamper business for a long, long time. Well folks, today is the day that an amazing A+++ copy of Pet Sounds finally makes it onto the site (we’ve found a few before, but they always sold before they got a chance to be listed!). I’m not sure if you want to hear the story of how we finally found these good pressings or just snap this one up before the next man does — I think we all know this record isn’t going to last long here!

There have been a ton of Pet Sounds vinyl releases over the years and most of them are awful. I’m not going to give away what pressing this is, it took us a lot of work to figure out what the best ones are. So do not buy this with any assumption of what you might be getting, except for a great sounding Pet Sounds!

Perhaps one day we’ll do a long commentary about what the various pressings get right and wrong, which ones are worth a shot and which ones to avoid. Unfortunately, there’s no money in that for us and we are first and foremost a business here. Investing a couple of hours into telling the world what Pet Sounds versions to buy really doesn’t do us a lot of good. So for now, let’s just describe this one.

Pet Sounds in not a perfect recording and you can not expect “perfect” sound. But go ahead and play this copy against every other Pet Sounds in your collection — I think you’ll be more than impressed. Your satisfaction is of course guaranteed.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Wouldn’t It Be Nice 
You Still Believe in Me 
That’s Not Me 
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder) 
I’m Waiting for the Day 
Let’s Go Away for Awhile 
Sloop John B.

Side Two

God Only Knows 
I Know There’s an Answer 
Here Today 
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times 
Pet Sounds 
Caroline, No

AMG Review

The best Beach Boys album, and one of the best of the 1960s. The group here reached a whole new level in terms of both composition and production, layering tracks upon tracks of vocals and instruments to create a richly symphonic sound. Conventional keyboards and guitars were combined with exotic touches of orchestrated strings, bicycle bells, buzzing organs, harpsichords, flutes, Theremin, Hawaiian-sounding string instruments, Coca-Cola cans, barking dogs, and more. It wouldn’t have been a classic without great songs, and this has some of the group’s most stunning melodies, as well as lyrical themes which evoke both the intensity of newly born love affairs and the disappointment of failed romance (add in some general statements about loss of innocence and modern-day confusion as well)… Massively influential upon its release (although it was a relatively low seller compared to their previous LPs), it immediately vaulted the band into the top level of rock innovators among the intelligentsia, especially in Britain, where it was a much bigger hit.

Rachmaninoff & Liszt / Favorite Classics for Piano / Pennario – Reviewed in 2014

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Favorite Classics for Piano / Pennario

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fam.

White Hot Stamper sound on side two of this solo piano recording. It’s big, rich and above all REAL sounding, with natural studio space. The legendary soloist Leonard Pennario is presented here at the height of his powers. Superb choice of material, from Clair De Lune to Liebestraum to the Hungarian Rhapsody No . 2.

On the rare Stereo pressing of course — we want to hear all that studio space reproduced, just as your two ears would have heard it (more or less). (more…)

June Christy – Fair And Warmer!

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Fair And Warmer!y

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  • An incredible sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear just how good an All Tube Capitol recording, in mono, from 1957 can sound, this record is guaranteed to do the trick
  • All the top West Coast Cool School jazz vets are here: Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, and the arrangements are by the wonderfully talented Pete Rugolo
  • “… the cool-toned singer is the main star. Highlights include a definitive “I Want to Be Happy,” “Imagination,” “When Sunny Gets Blue,” and “It’s Always You.” All of June Christy’s Capitol dates are well worth picking up.” 

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Crowded House – Crowded House

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

This original domestic pressing offers killer Hot Stamper sound for both sides of Crowded House’s wonderful debut. 

Musically side one is absolutely brilliant from first note to last. Crowded House may have wanted to be the New Beatles, but those are some pretty big shoes to fill. They fell a bit short — who can compete with The Beatles? — but in their heyday, 1985-1993, they were better at making intelligent, original, melody-driven pop than practically any other group I was listening to. If you like the Art Rock of the ’70s, this album shows that smart, adult rock music could still be made a decade or more later. (more…)

The Band – The Band (2011)

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

Holy mother of god, this is one KNOCKOUT copy of The Band’s self-titled masterpiece! Both sides earned our top grade of A+++ and beat the pants off every other copy — including quite a few RL-mastered originals — in the shootout. On top of that, both sides play between Mint Minus and Mint Minus Minus, which is pretty dan quiet for this album. We love this music, but most copies out there have flimsy sound, trashed vinyl, or both. Here’s the exceedingly rare copy that does just about everything right WITHOUT the typical crackly campfire surface noise!

This Capitol Green Label pressing mastered by Robert Ludwig has TWO KILLER SIDES. When you play either side of this copy, you are going to lose your mind. It’s got Master Tape clarity, You Are There presence, and unbelievable transparency. Drop the needle on Night They Drove Old Dixie Down or Up On Cripple Creek and get ready for some SERIOUS MAGIC! (more…)

Nat King Cole – Nat King Cole Sings/ George Shearing Plays

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

Excellent sound on both sides! We picked up a bunch of pressings of this great collaboration album featuring the vocals of Nat King Cole and the piano work of George Shearing. The better pressings like this one are wonderful sonically, putting Cole’s voice right up front with lots of breath and texture. It’s very tough to find great sound for Nat King Cole, so here’s a rare chance to hear what he can sound like on a strong pressing.

We played a bunch of these and most of them were pretty mediocre. The mono copies were uniformly awful — small, congested and gritty. The Hot Stamper copies give you fuller vocals, more transparency, more weight to the piano and lots of tubey warmth. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – The Stone Poneys Featuring Linda Ronstadt

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The Stone Poneys Feat. Linda Ronstadt

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our shootout for these later pressings – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Much more folk than pop, for the most part the sound here is tubey, rich and sweet
  • The originals from 1967 have never impressed us much – re-released when HLAW hit big, it features three great Linda solos
  • “It doesn’t have “Different Drum,” but the first Stone Poneys album is their folkiest and best, dominated by close harmonies and strong original material by the group’s guitarists, Bob Kimmel and Ken Edwards.” 

This copy was one of the better pressings we played in our shootout, but the sound varies a fair amount from track to track. The best tracks are rich, tubey and clear; the worst thin, bright and hard.

The first track on side one rarely stayed clean when loud, but here for the most part it does. It’s a good test for whether or not you have a copy with high quality, low distortion mastering. Listen for the least amount of smear and congestion and the most resolution.

The second track is richer and tubier – it proves that side one is mastered correctly.

On side two the first track is rough, the second track better, the third richer, sweeter and smoother still. (more…)

The Band – Music From Big Pink (2012)

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

This Capitol pressing has some of the best sound we’ve ever heard for this album! It’s beyond frustrating to try to find great sound for Big Pink — most copies tend to be an absolute nightmare. The sound is rich, warm, sweet, and full-bodied with exceptional clarity and transparency. There’s tons of ambience and you can really hear the sound of the room around the drums. The sound of the organ is AMAZING!

Side one earned an A++ grade. It has a strong bottom end and the vocals sound correct. The sound can be a bit murky at times, but that’s pretty much the case for every Band record we’ve ever played — it’s just kind of their sound. (The Moody Blues are another band whose records always sound murky, for whatever reason.)

Side two was a bit better — fuller, cleaner, livelier and more transparent than just about any copy we’ve ever heard. There’s tons of tubey magic and real weight to the bottom. We gave it an A++ to A+++ — you’ll have a VERY hard time finding one that sounds even close to this good if our experience is any guide. (more…)

The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this original Reprise pressing 
  • They revolutionized the popular music of their day with their genius for harmony, and this copy gets their voices right
  • Includes classics Don’t Go Near the Water, Long Promised Road, Till I Die, and of course the title smash hit, Surf’s up
  • 4 stars: “A masterpiece [which] defined the Beach Boys’ tumultuous career better than any other album … The album closer, ‘Surf’s Up,’ is a masterpiece of baroque psychedelia, probably the most compelling track from the Smile period.”

When it works, boy can this album sound AMAZING. Full of tubey magic, not to mention analog warmth and sweetness, this is clearly one of the band’s best albums of the 70s. (more…)

Peggy Lee – In Love Again!

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  • KILLER sound for this original Capitol Rainbow Label stereo pressing with both sides earning Triple Plus (A+++) grades 
  • This vintage Capitol stereo pressing is rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical – we’re talking All Tube Analog from 1963 after all – with relatively sweet, breathy vocals
  • Stick with stereo on this album. The Mono pressings — at least the ones we’ve played — aren’t worth anybody’s time (scratch that: any audiophile’s time)
  • “… 12 quality performances from a highly identifiable singer who is not shy about taking other people’s material and re-imagining it or about coming up with her own vehicles.”

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