Labels We Love – Decca/London

The Moody Blues – To Our Children’s Children’s Children

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  • Lush but clear Tubey Magical Double Plus (A++) British Decca LP sound on both sides, on quiet vinyl to boot
  • You get richness, fullness and warmth on both of these sides, which is exactly what you want for the Moodies’ music
  • “It is the fourth of what are popularly considered the group’s “core seven” (or Classic Seven) albums from 1967 to 1972, and as such represents the peak of their career to some.”
  • “There are no extended suites on this album, but Justin Hayward’s “Watching and Waiting” and “Gypsy” have proved to be among the most popular songs in the group’s history.”

This British Decca pressing has two excellent sides. Most aren’t nearly this airy, open or spacious. The bottom end is strong with nice weight and much improved bass definition. The vocals are big and solid. (more…)

The Moody Blues – In Search Of The Lost Chord

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  • This early UK pressing offers excellent Double Plus (A++) sound, OR BETTER, from beginning to end
  • This copy is tubey and rich and, most importantly, doesn’t sound murky or muddy
  • The first Moody Blues album to feature their trademark mellotron arrangements
  • “…the album on which the Moody Blues discovered drugs and mysticism as a basis for songwriting and came up with a compelling psychedelic creation, filled with songs about Timothy Leary and the astral plane and other psychedelic-era concerns.”

Achieving just the right balance of Tubey Magical rich-but-not-too-rich “Moody Blues Sound” and transparency is no mean feat. You had better be using the real master tape for starters. Then you need a pressing with actual extension at the top, a quality rarely found on most imports. Finally, good bass definition is essential; it keeps the bottom end from blurring the midrange. No domestic copy in our experience has ever had these three qualities, and only the best of the imports manages to combine all three on the same LP.

On the best of the best, the clarity and resolution come without a sacrifice in the Tubey Magical richness, warmth and lushness for which the Moody Blues recordings are justifiably famous. In our experience the best LPs are correct from top to bottom, present and alive in the midrange, yet still retain the richness and sweetness we expect from British (and Dutch) Moody Blues records. They manage, against all odds, to remove the sonic barriers put up by most pressings of the Moodies’ unique music. Who knew, after so many years and so many bad records, that such a thing was even possible? (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet – Critical Listening Exercise

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF).

Want a good test for Transparency and Resolution? Try this one. There is a sound on this album’s side one that’s unlike any I can recall hearing before. Listen to No Expectations and see if you don’t hear something quite strange going on in the general area of the left rear of the studio. It took me a while to figure out what it was, and on the bad British pressings and all of the domestic copies you can hardly hear it all. 

You should be able to hear it provided:

  • You have a good copy of the record.
  • You cleaned it properly.
  • You played it on high quality equipment in a good room, and
  • You listened to it critically.

You really need all four. It’s what this commentary is all about. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet on London

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  • A killer vintage copy of this exceptionally well-recorded Stones album from ’69, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Clear, rich and lively throughout – the Tubey Magic of the best pressings is what has them sounding the way they should
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own records which we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

Good pressings are certainly not easy to come by — this kind of rich, full-bodied, musical sound is the exception, not the rule. And there’s actual space and extension up top as well, something you certainly don’t hear on most pressings. This is a fantastic album, and excellent sides like these give it the kind of sound it deserves.

Raw Rock & Roll Sound

Of course, Hot Stamper Sound still only gets you what’s on the tape. In this case, it’s some rude, crude, dirty rock & roll. That’s clearly what the Stones were going for here. In terms of audiophile appeal, Tea For The Tillerman this ain’t. Nor does it want to be!

What sets the best copies apart from the pack is a fuller, richer tonal balance, which is achieved mostly by having plenty of bass and lower midrange energy. The copies that are bass shy — most of them, that is to say — tend to bring out more of that midrangy shortcoming. (more…)

The Mehta Planets – Sealed with the Pioneer Booklet

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Factory Sealed CS 6734 with the super rare Pioneer spacecraft booklet inside the shrink!

There’s a very good chance this is the last such copy on the planet. I have never seen one before, and I remember when this record came out, so probably few were made with this special booklet included. I’m guessing it has about a dozen pages or so, and probably talks about the Pioneer mission to Jupiter.

“Launched on 2 March 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the Asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Famed as the most remote object ever made by man through most of its mission, Pioneer 10 is now over 8 billion miles away.” 

The Rolling Stones – Between The Buttons on Decca

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  • An excellent copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – one of the better copies from our recent shootout
  • This is classic ’60s Stones sound, courtesy of Dave Hassinger, working in L.A. (RCA) and London (Olympic + Pye) 
  • If you’re looking for the ideal combination of Tubey Magical richness and transparency, this copy is one of the few that will show it to you
  • 5 Stars: “… one of their strongest, most eclectic LPs, with many fine songs that remain unknown to all but Stones devotees.”

This LP has the British track listing, so don’t pick this one up if you’re looking for great sounding versions of Let’s Spend The Night Together or Ruby Tuesday. A bummer, but the domestic copies sound AWFUL, so what can you do? (more…)

Our Favorite Tchaikovsky 1812 – Alwyn on Decca

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1812 / Marche Slave / Alwyn

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

A BEYOND White Hot Quadruple Plus side one – hear Tchaicovsky’s 1812 in Demo Disc sound. This is the most exciting and beautifully played 1812 we know of, with the best sound ever to boot on this copy. This is an exceptional Decca remastering of a superb Golden Age recording on very good vinyl.

The WHOMP FACTOR on this side one has to be heard to be believed. If you’ve got the woofers for it this record is going to rock your world!

Strings Are Key

The lower strings are rich and surrounded by lovely hall space. This is not a sound one hears on record often enough and it is glorious when a pressing as good as this one can make that sound clear to you. (more…)

Mozart / Quintet – Piano + Winds & Trio

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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 chamber music recordings.

This is a handy record for VTA setup as well. Listen for fullness and solidity, especially in the piano, although a rich, full sounding clarinet is a joy here as well. 

Some of the copies lacked the weight and solidity to balance out the qualities of transparency and clarity. The resulting sound is less natural, with the kind of forced detail that CDs do so well, and live music never does. There is a balance to be found.

The right VTA will be critical in this regard. When you have all the space; the clearest, most extended harmonics; AND good weight and richness in the lower registers of the piano, you are where you need to be (keeping in mind that it can always get better if you have the patience and drive to tweak further).  (more…)

Mozart Symphonies No. 40 & 41 with Giulini


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

Full brass; full, rich, tonally correct strings; smooth higher up, never screechy — what’s not to like? It was the best side one we heard all day.

  • Superb sound on both sides for two of Mozart’s greatest symphonies
  • Exceptionally quiet Mint Minus Decca vinyl doesn’t hurt either 
  • Giulini is masterful here, bringing both of these great works to life
  • The 1965 Wilkinson sound is rich and tubey yet clear (on this copy!)

Side Two (Symphony No. 41)

This side has wonderful space and clarity. The width of the stage is greater, depth is increased as well, and the sense of ease on this side is palpable.

Remarkably transparent and energetic, the performance and the sound are hard to fault.

On a side note, the recording of the 41st consistently sounded a bit better to us than that of the 40th.

Speakers Corner

They released this very title on Heavy Vinyl in 1998; it was one of the few Speakers Corner classical recordings we used to carry and recommend.

We knew it sounded good, but up until recently, when we started collecting and playing the better Deccas and Londons, we sure didn’t know it could sound like this! (more…)

Who’s Next – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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WHO’S NEXT is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.  

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries.

Maximum Volume

Now if you like to play records at 70 db, little of the following discussion will make much sense. There are some dumb ideas floating out there in Audiophile land, but playing music at quiet levels surely has to be one of the dumbest. You Want to Turn The Volume DOWN? Are You Out of Your Mind?

Anybody who plays a record like Who’s Next at moderate levels should be taken out and hosed down. How do you think Townsend went deaf, by playing his music too softly? He played his music LOUD because that’s the way he wanted you to hear it. Moon beats the hell out of his drums because he likes the sound of drums beaten HARD. If you don’t have the stereo to play this record right, don’t make excuses and DON’T make up bizarre theories about volume levels in the home. You’re not fooling anybody with those kinds of rationalizations. If your speaker distorts that’s your problem, pal. Don’t lay that trip on me.

Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Who’s Next and Aqualung for thirty years. We know how good these records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them. If you’re not going to turn up the volume, don’t waste your money on a good Track pressing. Buy the Classic; at 70 db it will probably sound good enough for you. Spend the money you save on wine and cigars.