Labels We Love – Columbia/Epic

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…)

Billy Joel – Turnstiles – Listening in Depth

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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 Prelude/Angry Young Man were key test tracks. The biggest, richest copies with the most space consistently brought out the best in the songs and individual performances of the players.

Summer, Highland Falls is a great test — listen for breathy vocals, a full piano, a clear snare drum once it comes in and, most importantly, an energetic performance. You will need all four to score well in one of our shootouts.  (more…)

Loggins & Messina – Sittin’ In – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Sittin’ In. 

Practically any copy you find will have a bit of a boost in the bottom end. The kick drum really kicks on this album, more than it should in fact.

And almost all copies have too much top end right around 10k. The ones with the worst case of boosted highs and boosted bass sound like they were mastered by Stan Ricker and pressed in Japan, much like those put out by a famous label back in the ’70s.

Oddly enough, many audiophiles to this day do not seem to know that this particular label has been responsible for a slough of the phoniest sounding audiophile records ever pressed.

There is also a sibilance problem with the recording. Some copies keep it under control, while other, more crudely mastered and pressed ones, suffer greatly from spitty vocals, especially noticeable on Danny’s Song. The better copies will tend to have the “cleanest”, least-objectionable sibilance.

The best copies manage to keep the EQ anomalies within bounds, while giving us full-bodied pianos; rich, lively vocals, full of presence and brimming with enthusiasm; harmonically-rich guitars; and a three-dimensional soundstage, revealing the space around them all.



Further Reading

We have a large number of entries in our new Listening in Depth series.

We discuss the issue of Sibilance in these listings.

We have a section for Audio Advice of all kinds.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in Hot Stamper Shootouts — The Four Pillars of Success.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

This debut album was credited to Kenny Loggins with Jim Messina because the project had begun as a solo record by Loggins being produced by Messina. By the time it was finished, however, Messina had written or co-written six of the 11 songs, contributed “first guitar,” and shared lead vocals on many tracks. Messina’s “Nobody but You” and “Vahevala,” co-written by Loggins’ second cousin, Dave Loggins, were the singles chart entries, but today everybody remembers the album for Loggins’ “House at Pooh Corner,” which had earned Loggins his record contract, and “Danny’s Song,” which Anne Murray took into the Top Ten the following year.

The only thing wrong with this record is that it was too perfect — with their infectious blend of country, folk, rock and Caribbean music, L&M started out at the top of their game, and although they were able to match some of the material and performances on later records, the team never got any better than this.

Dave Brubeck – Countdown – Time In Outer Space

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

Clean and Clear, Yet Rich and Sweet. This copy managed to find the perfect balance of these attributes.

You want that rare copy that keeps what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of Jazz while managing to avoid the pitfalls so common to them: smear, lack of top end extension, opacity and blubber. To be sure, the fault is not with the recording (I guess; again, not having heard the master tape) but with the typically mediocre pressing. 

Bad vinyl, bad mastering, who knows why so many copies sound so thick, dull and veiled?

Full-bodied sound, open and spacious, bursting with life and energy — these are the hallmarks of our Truly Hot Stampers. If your stereo is cookin’ these days this record will be an unparalleled Sonic Treat. We guarantee that no heavy vinyl pressing, of this or any other album, has the kind of analog magic found here. (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Bernstein – 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 makes this an especially good Peter and the Wolf? The timbre of the solo instruments — bassoon, oboe, flute — each of which serves to represent a character in the story. Shockingly lifelike, the tonality is unerringly Right On The Money (ROTM) throughout. That makes this pressing both a superb Demo Disc as well as a top quality Audio Test Disc.    (more…)

Dave Brubeck – Countdown – Time In Outer Space

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  • A KILLER 6-Eye original stereo pressing of this wonderful recording, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Both sides are incredibly Tubey Magical as befits a Brubeck recording from 1962 produced by Teo Macero
  • Superb 1962 All Tube sound courtesy of the extraordinary engineering skills of Fred Plaut
  • 4 Stars: “One of Dave Brubeck’s more adventurous albums… Highly recommended along with Brubeck’s other Time recordings.”

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These vintage Brubeck recordings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

Getting The Balance Right

Clean and clear yet rich and sweet, this copy managed to find the perfect balance of these attributes so essential to the sound of vintage jazz recordings. You want to find that rare copy that keeps what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of Jazz while managing to avoid the pitfalls so common to them: smear, lack of top end extension, opacity and blubber. (more…)

The Byrds in Mono – How Do They Sound?

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None of the mono pressings of The Byrds’ albums that we’ve played in shootouts over the course of the last ten years or so has ever impressed us much, none that I can recall anyway.

Congested and compressed, with no real top, who in his right mind could possibly tolerate that kind of sound on modern equipment?

Although, to be fair, we’ve stopped buying them, so there may actually be a good copy or two out there in used record land that we haven’t heard. In our defense, who really has the time to play records with so little potential for good sound?

How about the Sundazed mono pressings?

The best Columbia stereo copies are rich, sweet and Tubey Magical — three areas in which the Sundazed reissues are seriously lacking.

Does anyone still care? We simply cannot be bothered with these bad Heavy Vinyl pressings. If you’re looking for mediocre sound just play the CD. I’m sure it’s just as terrible.

See all of our Byrds albums in stock

 

 

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this copy of Joel’s ninth studio album
  • Dynamic and open, with driving rhythmic energy – this early pressing brings this great batch of songs to life
  • Jam packed with hits: An Innocent Man, The Longest Time, Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl, Leave a Tender Moment Alone, and more – seven singles in all
  • “Joel has rarely sounded so carefree either in performance or writing, possibly due to “Christie Lee” Brinkley, a supermodel who became his new love prior to An Innocent Man.” — Allmusic

Both of these sides have the huge soundstage and startling 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 (mostly) without sacrificing transparency or top end.

This was a monster in its day, generating a Number One hit and seven total single releases out of the ten songs that comprise it. Seven out of ten, not a bad track record. We couldn’t find a weak song on the album either, which is surely one of the reasons it sold seven million copies in the states alone.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Billy Joel record. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this simple but sophisticated recording.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Easy Money 
An Innocent Man 
The Longest Time 
This Night 
Tell Her About It

Side Two

Uptown Girl 
Careless Talk 
Christie Lee 
Leave a Tender Moment Alone 
Keeping the Faith

AMG Review

… he’s effortlessly spinning out infectious, memorable melodies in a variety of styles, from the Four Seasons send-up “Uptown Girl” and the soulful “Tell Her About It” to a pair of doo wop tributes, “The Longest Time” and “Careless Talk.” Joel has rarely sounded so carefree either in performance or writing, possibly due to “Christie Lee” Brinkley, a supermodel who became his new love prior to An Innocent Man.

He can’t stop writing about her throughout the album — only three songs, including the haunted title track, aren’t about her in some form or fashion. That giddiness is infectious, helping make An Innocent Man an innocent delight that unwittingly closes Joel’s classic period.

An Innocent Man

In an interview about the making of the album, Joel talks about the fact that at the time that he was recording An Innocent Man, he was newly divorced from his first wife, Elizabeth Weber, and was single for the first time since achieving rock star status.

So he had the opportunity to date supermodels like Elle Macpherson and Christie Brinkley, and because of these experiences, he said, “I kind of felt like a teenager all over again.”And so he started writing songs in the same style as pop songs that he remembered from his teenage years, citing pop music from the late 1950s and early 1960s, including “early R&B songs and The Four Seasons, and the Motown music, soul music.”

Joel explained, “When you’re gonna write [songs for a new album], you write what you’re feeling. And I didn’t fight it. The material was coming so easily and so quickly, and I was having so much fun doing it. I was kind of reliving my youth. . .I think within 6 weeks I had written most of the material on the album.”

The album featured three Billboard Top 10 hit singles: “Tell Her About It”, which reached #1, “Uptown Girl”, which peaked at #3 and “An Innocent Man”, which peaked at #10.

Four other singles were released from the album: “The Longest Time” (number 14), “Leave a Tender Moment Alone” (number 27), “Keeping the Faith” (number 18) and “This Night” (US B-Side of “Leave a Tender Moment Alone”).

An Innocent Man remained on the U.S. Pop album chart for 111 weeks, becoming Joel’s longest charting studio album behind The Stranger.

Wikipedia

In the Market for New Speakers?

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See How Well They Handle the Energy of Far More Drums

The drum solo Joe Morello lets loose on Far More Drums is one of the best on record. I was playing that very song recently and it occurred to me that it is practically impossible for a screen or panel speaker of any nature to reproduce the sound of those drums properly, regardless of how many subs you have.

Most of the music is not in the deeper bass anyway. It’s the whack of instruments whose energy is in the lower midrange and midrange that a screen speaker will struggle with, while a good large-driver dynamic speaker seems to handle the energy in that range with ease.

This is precisely the right album to take with you next time you head to your local stereo store to audition speakers. It will help clarify the issues. Screen speakers do many things well, but drums are not one of them in my experience.

If drums are important to you, do yourself a favor and buy a dynamic speaker, the bigger the better.


Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

We have a section for Audio Advice of all kinds.

And finally we’ll throw in this old warhorse discussing How to Become an Expert Listener, subtitled Hard Work and Challenges Can Really Pay Off.

Because in audio, much like the rest of life, hard work and challenges really do pay off.

See all Dave Brubeck albums in stock

 

Sly and The Family Stone – Stand

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  • With stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second, this copy will be tough to beat!
  • Tired of the crude, congested, hard, harsh and otherwise unpleasant sound of most pressings? We have the answer
  • Stand, I Want To Take You Higher, Sing A Simple Song, Everyday People, You Can Make It If You Try — what a killer lineup of songs!
  • 5 stars: “Stand! is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone’s early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group’s musical vision and accomplishment.”

Good News

Finally, a White Hot copy of Sly’s classic Stand album from 1969, one of the few times that this album has EVER sounded the way it is supposed to! Man, most copies of this album just plain suck — sonically of course.

Both sides here have lively punchy drums; a big soundfield, front to back and side to side; tonally correct vocals (which obviously are key and sound edgy and thin on most copies), and real resolution to the sound overall, not opaque and blurry as would be expected from most greatest hits compilations. Also just as importantly you lose the sibilance most copies suffer from and the smear on the horns goes away, thank goodness.

Finding clean copies was quite difficult; it took us a long time to get enough to play, and, as we said, most pressings are dreadful. Those of you who like to read our commentaries and play along at home are going to have a rough time with this title. We sure did, until we got it figured out. Now it’s easy as pie.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Stand! 
Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey 
I Want To Take You Higher 
Somebody’s Watching You 
Sing A Simple Song

Side Two

Everyday People 
Sex Machine 
You Can Make It If You Try

AMG 5 Star Review

Stand! is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone’s early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group’s musical vision and accomplishment. Life hinted at this record’s boundless enthusiasm and blurred stylistic boundaries, yet everything simply gels here, resulting in no separation between the astounding funk, effervescent irresistible melodies, psychedelicized guitars, and deep rhythms. Add to this a sharpened sense of pop songcraft, elastic band interplay, and a flowering of Sly’s social consciousness, and the result is utterly stunning.