Labels We Love – Columbia/Epic

Leonard Cohen – Live Songs

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Live Songs

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

We had a big shootout for this live album, compiled from different shows Cohen performed in 1970 and 1972, and we’re pleased to report that the sound was killer on both sides of this copy.

Drop the needle anywhere and you’ll notice the impressive immediacy to the vocals, the clear transients on the guitars and the deep, note-like bass. Cohen’s voice sounds just right here — deep and gravely — and the overall sound is rich, warm and full. (more…)

Chicago – Chicago V

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

Triple Triple! The best copy to ever hit the site – Saturday In The Park is really rockin’ this side two. Both of these amazing A+++ sides are rich, full and warm – the brass has tremendous power and energy. 4 stars on Allmusic and one of the best sounding albums in their massive catalog, the last they recorded at Columbia’s 30th Street studios

Their first Number One, and The Biggest Selling Album of 1972 (!), spending nine weeks at the top of the charts.

Most pressings don’t reproduce percussion harmonics, the leading edge transients of the horns, or the big, open space around Peter Cetera’s vocals that we know is there, but a high-res, super-transparent copy like this one brings out all those qualities and more.

Both sides here have a sweet and open top end that really helps the vocals and guitars sound tonally and harmonically correct.

The presence here puts the vocalists right in the room with you, and when the band kicks in, the sound really starts jumping out of the speakers. That’s what I’m talkin’ about when I give these sides our highest grade: A Triple Plus. It just doesn’t get any better. (more…)

Al Dimeola – Elegant Gypsy

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

SHOCKINGLY GOOD SOUND on this original pressing of one of the all-time great guitar albums! We were positively BLOWN AWAY by how lively, dynamic and full-bodied this copy sounds. There’s real texture to all the instruments and the bottom end is tight and punchy beyond belief. They just don’t make records with this kind of tubey analog magic anymore.

If you’ve enjoyed the sonics on one of our Hot Stamper Return To Forever, Weather Report or Santana LPs, I think you’d find a lot to like about this record.

This album still holds up today. The All Music Guide gives it five big stars, and on a copy like this one I bet you’ll rate the music just as highly. When you have a pressing with this kind of clarity and transparency, you can really make sense of just how amazing the musicianship is. (more…)

Miles Davis – Nefertiti

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

This Columbia 360 Label pressing has excellent sound on both sides and unusually quiet vinyl throughout. The music is wonderful too — Miles and his late ’60s quintet featuring Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams are all in top form here, slowly working their way towards the electric fusion sounds that would be coming shortly. Many copies lack the kind of transparency and clarity you need to make sense of what each player is doing, but this Super Hot pressing gives you those qualities on both sides. (more…)

Aerosmith -Toys in the Attic

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

Looking for killer sound for both sides of this fun album? You’ve come to the right place! This unusually lively pressing combines a stunning A+++ side one with an equally wonderful, giving you White Hot Stamper sound from start to finish! The transparency here is exceptional, allowing you to hear all the musician’s contributions without the veiling and congestion that you get on most pressings. Sweet Emotion is a KNOCKOUT on this copy. 

Both A+++ sides have the kind of tight, meaty bottom end that is absolutely essential to this kind of music. While many copies we played suffered from a grainy, unpleasant top end, this one is smooth in all the right ways. It’s also got the kind of energy that makes this music still work well all these years later. Hot Stampers give you more presence, more weight down low and more fullness all around — the qualities that you really want for music like this.

I never really cared much for this band until recently, when I heard Sweet Emotion on my local classic rock station (The Octopus!) and realized that it would probably sound pretty amazing on a Hot Stamper vinyl version. Boy, was I right! It took quite a few copies and a whole lot of work, but the best sounding tracks on this one sound AMAZING. Sweet Emotion and Walk This Way are going to rock you!

Of course, not every copy sounds like this one. We’ve been picking these up for the last few months and I’m sorry to report that most of them leave much to be desired. This is bluesy hard rock a la The Faces, and if your copy is dull or smeared (as many of them are) you won’t get the full effect of this raw, ballsy rock ‘n’ roll. This ain’t polite music — you’re playing it for one reason and one reason alone: to ROCK OUT.

It’s hard to understand why this album didn’t get more love from audiophiles, while bands like Boston and Foreigner have gotten the full MoFi treatment. All you have to do is drop the needle on the intro to Sweet Emotion, and you’ll see why we decided to roll with this shootout. That’s not to say this is an amazing, top-shelf recording, but it certainly beats most of the dreck out there that passes for Audiophile-style classic rock. (If you disagree, I’ve got a nice copy of the Sheffield Track Record to sell you.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Toys in the Attic 
Uncle Salty 
Adam’s Apple 
Walk This Way 
Big Ten Inch Record

Side Two

Sweet Emotion 
No More No More 
Round and Round 
You See Me Crying

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

After nearly getting off the ground with Get Your Wings, Aerosmith finally perfected their mix of Stonesy raunch and Zeppelin-esque riffing with their third album, Toys in the Attic. The success of the album derives from a combination of an increased sense of songwriting skills and purpose. Not only does Joe Perry turn out indelible riffs like “Walk This Way,” “Toys in the Attic,” and “Sweet Emotion,” but Steven Tyler has fully embraced sleaziness as his artistic muse. Taking his cue from the old dirty blues “Big Ten Inch Record,” Tyler writes with a gleeful impishness about sex throughout Toys in the Attic, whether it’s the teenage heavy petting of “Walk This Way,” the promiscuous “Sweet Emotion,” or the double-entendres of “Uncle Salty” and “Adam’s Apple.” The rest of Aerosmith, led by Perry’s dirty, exaggerated riffing, provide an appropriately greasy backing. Before Toys in the Attic, no other hard rock band sounded like this. Sure, Aerosmith cribbed heavily from the records of the Rolling Stones, New York Dolls, and Led Zeppelin, but they didn’t have any of the menace of their influences, nor any of their mystique. Aerosmith was a gritty, street-wise hard rock band who played their blues as blooze and were in it for a good time; Toys in the Attic crystallizes that attitude.

Weather Report – Sweetnighter – 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 the album. What surprised us most about the dozen or so copies that we played for this shootout was how wrong most copies of this album sound. They’re SOUR in the midrange. On this kind of music, a sour midrange is the kiss of death. Those copies that aren’t sour are frequently just plain dull. On a recording like this, so full of percussion — which to be honest LIVES OR DIES on the quality of its percussion — dullness is devastating.   (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town – Cleaner and Clearer than You Might Think

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We used to say that Springsteen recordings from this era always suffered from some grit and grain. With the better cleaning technologies we employ now, and dramatically better playback quality as well, much of that gritty, grainy sound is simply no longer a problem. That change and the others like it come under the general heading of Revolutionary Changes in Audio. It’s what real Progress in Audio is all about. 

It’s not easy to find good sound on this record — or any Springsteen album, for that matter — but the better copies prove that this is a much better recording than we ever gave it credit for. Full and solid with a big, punchy bottom end, this pressing has the kind of energy and power to really communicate the passion and excitement of the music. (more…)

Santana’s Guitar Solos Soar on Inner Secrets

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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 the album.

On side two the final guitar solo Santana takes on Well All Right gets LOUDER in the mix than any guitar solo on any rock record with which I am familiar. The sound gets louder after the first chorus, then louder still right before the second solo, and then the solo itself gets even louder until it seems to be as loud as live music. (Operative word: seems.)

Some copies get loud and some do not. Some stereos are dynamic and some are not. If you have the right stereo, set at the right volume, and THIS copy, you will hear something that not one out of one hundred audiophiles (or music lovers) have ever heard on a record — LIVE ROCK SOUND. (more…)

The Dave Brubeck Quartet – Brubeck And Rushing

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

This Minty looking Columbia Six Eye Demo LP has SUPERB SOUND and some of the quietest Six Eye vinyl I’ve ever heard. If you’re a fan of either Dave Brubeck or Jimmy Rushing you can’t do better than this album. The sound is as close to perfection as I can imagine.

Boston – Boston

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  • Both Double Plus (A++) sides of this Top 100 Title offer superb Demo Disc Analog sound 
  • The multi-tracked multi-layered guitars are as big as life on this copy and are guaranteed to rock your world
  • Top sound for all the hits: More Than a Feeling, Long Time/Foreplay, Rock & Roll Band, Peace Of Mind…
  • “Boston is essential for any fan of classic rock, and the album marks the re-emergence of the genre in the 1970s.” — Allmusic, 4 1/2 stars

Boston’s first (and only good) album is a long-time member of our Top 100, and on a great pressing like this it’s easy to see why. It’s an incredible recording when you can hear it right, and this is about as right as it gets!

It’s obvious why the first Boston album became a Multi-Platinum Record. Practically every one of its songs still gets heavy radio play on every rock station in town. Consummately well-crafted music like this is almost impossible to find nowadays. I guess that’s why they call it Classic Rock. (more…)