Labels We Love – Columbia/Epic

Weather Report – Heavy Weather – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

This one is for Weather Report’s MASTERPIECE of Jazz Fusion, Heavy Weather.

Our Track Commentary below has lots of What To Listen For (WTLF) advice to help you evaluate any copies you may have.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Birdland

Not an easy track to get right; there’s so much upper midrange and high frequency information to deal with. If the synthesizers and horns are too much, the effect is exciting but won’t wear well. Too much 6k is the problem on most copies, along with not enough above 10. That is a deadly combination.

A Remark You Made (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Couldn’t Stand The Weather – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Couldn’t Stand The Weather

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

This SUPER HOT STAMPER side one gets Stevie’s bluesy guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as any recording of it can. Just picture yourself in a blues club. Now imagine the volume being about ten times as loud. This is the kind of music you would hear and it would tend to sound pretty much like this, a bit messy but also real. If you’re one of those audiophiles who likes pinpoint imaging, forget it. They were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one, which means it’s a bit of a jumble image-wise. But that’s the way you would hear it in a blues club, so where’s the harm? (more…)

Miles Davis – Sorcerer – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

STUNNING, TOP QUALITY SOUND on this A+++ side two! We played a bunch of these recently and didn’t hear any other side twos quite like this one! It’s got more energy, more presence, and more body than we heard anywhere else. Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious it is. The soundfield is HUGE — bigger, wider, and deeper than on any other copy we played. Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has texture, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite and so on.

Side one is nice but not amazing. The bass is a bit bloated and the soundfield doesn’t fully open up. Play the sides against each other to understand what A+++ White Hot Stampers give you that A+ Hot Stampers don’t. This side is also very ticky, so we’ve based the price solely on the killer side two. (Thankfully the A+++ side is quiet.) (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Live Alive

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Live Alive

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

We just finished a big shootout for this bluesy live album, and this was one of just a handful of copies that impressed us from start to finish. Most copies we played were thick, murky, overly smooth and/or veiled, but this one almost never suffers in any of those areas. The sound is clean, clear, transparent and lively throughout.

This is one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s better albums. We’ve heard reissues on both heavy and regular vinyl, but I guarantee this will KILL them all or your money back. (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – The Sky Is Crying – Beyond White Hot Stamper Sound

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and another record that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Little Wing ROCKS AS HARD on this Four Plus pressing as any song we have ever heard, with DEMO DISC SOUND to rival the greatest rock records of all time.

The Guitar Solos on Little Wing are as HUGE and LIVELY as any we have ever heard (assuming you have a copy that sounds like this one). 

If you have BIG DYNAMIC SPEAKERS and the power to drive them to serious listening levels, you will be blown away by the sound found on the best copies of The Sky Is Crying.

This is one of the most blistering recordings of electric blues-rock we’ve ever played. Few other records recorded in the ’80s, or pressed in the ’90s, have this kind of BIG, BOLD SOUND. Maybe none. The sheer impact and wallop of this music is a real treat, but only if you have the right pressing (and the right kind of stereo to play it on, of course). (more…)

The Byrds – Untitled

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

WOW! The best pressing to ever hit the site, and it’s Triple Plus (A+++) on ALL FOUR SIDES. The overall sound is really rich, full-bodied, and open with impressive transparency and presence. Features a 16 minute Eight Miles High on the live disc that just kills — especially on a lively copy like this.

On the better copies songs like Chestnut Mare reveal a huge soundstage with delicate guitars, sweet vocals, and lively drums. Most of the pressings we’ve played over the years were nothing to get worked up about, but the sound here is wonderful. It’s exceptionally musical and natural with a nice, fat, tubey quality to the guitars and real strength and definition down low. (more…)

Leonard Cohen – New Skin For the Old Ceremony

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

Leonard Cohen was a poet long before he decided to pick up a guitar. Despite singing in a dry baritone over spare arrangements, Cohen is a gifted lyricist who captivates the listener. New Skin for the Old Ceremony may be Leonard Cohen’s most musical album, as he is accompanied by violas, mandolins, banjos, and percussion that give his music more texture than usual. The fact that Cohen does more real singing on this album can be seen as both a blessing and a curse — while his voice sounds more strained, the songs are delivered with more passion than usual. (more…)

Miles Davis – A Tribute To Jack Johnson

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

Two White Hot Stamper sides on quiet vinyl for this 5-Star Jazz/Rock Fusion classic! If you love the crazy music that Miles was making with John McLaughlin in the early ’70s, I’m sure you’re already a fan of this album, but I bet you’ve never heard it sound like this.

Check out the especially insightful Five Star All Music Guide Review linked above to get a better feel of what this album is all about. We’ve been trying to track down a good copy for ages, so it was a treat to hear this crazy, progressive jazz finally sound right. (more…)

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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An Innocent Man

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

On many pressings, the vocals can get hard and harsh on the uptempo tracks (“Uptown Girl” is a notable offender, and never sounds quite as good as the rest of the album), but this copy manages to fix that problem (mostly) without sacrificing transparency or top end. 

Both of these sides easily defeated all comers in our shootout. They have the huge soundstage and startlingly clarity and immediacy that characterizes this album, but they also add an ingredient missing from most we heard — a full, rich, musical midrange! On many pressings, the vocals can get hard and harsh on the uptempo tracks (“Uptown Girl” is a notable offender, and never sounds QUITE as good as the rest of the album), but this copy manages to fix that problem with no sacrifice in transparency or top end. They just don’t get any better than this one, folks. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan – Our Shootout Winner from 2013 in Mono

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES RATING AT OR NEAR A+++ for this the MONO pressing! It’s beyond difficult to find copies of this album with good sound, but we managed to get a hold of a hot one here. This is a true solo album — guitar, vocals and harmonica — and it’s a lot of fun to hear a young (20!) Dylan playing the way he might have played in the coffee shops and folk clubs of Greenwich Village. 

The sound is richer and fuller than the average pressing; it’s also unusually lively and present. Above all the sound is natural and musical, the qualities that matter the most on a record like this.

And that’s not all! It’s also dynamic, lively, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The clarity is superb and even the harmonica sounds good. There’s tons of ambience — you can really hear the sound of the room around Dylan’s vocals. (more…)