Labels We Love – Elektra

Bread – The Best of Bread

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

For just the second time since 2007, here’s a White Hot Stamper copy of The Best Of Bread — a Better Records Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. (Believe me, there are plenty.)

I can’t be sure why these songs sound so much better here than they do on Bread’s standard albums, but we’ve never heard a Bread album that could compete with the best copies of this compilation. [This is no longer true, please read more about this subject in the listings for the individual Bread albums.]

Bread albums have some of the most Tubey Magical, rich and sweet ANALOG sound you can find, thanks to engineer ARMIN STEINER.

He was also one of the engineers on Spirit’s first album, assisted on Ram and has more than a hundred other engineering credits. (more…)

Carly Simon – 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.

Too many copies we played erred on the hi-fi-ish side, with not enough warmth. The copies that sound incredibly clean and clear just didn’t do much for us; they weren’t able to convey the intimacy and emotion of the music.

I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience playing CDs of some of your old favorites. You keep wondering why you liked the music in the first place. Don’t blame the music. Blame those crappy CDs. 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be
Alone
One More Time
The Best Thing
Just A Sinner

Side Two

Dan, My Fling
Another Door
Reunions
Rolling Down The Hills
The Love’s Still Growing

Review

Carly Simon was mostly well received by critics when released. Timothy Crouse, writing in Rolling Stone, stated “Carly’s voice perfectly matches her material” and her “…superbly controlled voice is complemented by deft arrangements.”

In more recent years, William Ruhlmann, writing for Allmusic, gave the album a three and a half star rating out of a possible five, and stated “That’s the Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be” and “Dan, My Fling”, were the stand-out tracks.

Simon stated in the Ask Carly section on her website that “Reunions” was her mother’s—Andrea Simon—favorite song of hers.

Wikipedia

Grover Washington – Winelight – A Demo Disc for Bass (on the Right Copy)

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Another in our series of Demo Discs for Bass.

What’s unusual about this album — shocking really — is how MEATY the bottom end is. I don’t know of a pop jazz recording with beefier, more articulate or weightier bass. The only record I can think of in this genre of jazz with comparable bass is Mangione’s Children of Sanchez. We played some copies of that album recently and were just knocked out with how well recorded the bass is, just the way we were knocked out by the best copies of Grover Washington’s Winelight from a recent shootout. Both of these albums really set the standard for recording this kind of music.  (more…)

Carly Simon – Boys In The Trees – How Clearly Can You See the Hi-hat

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The Hi-hat Listening Test — yet another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Carly’s soulful version of You Belong To Me is what made this album a Must Own back in the day (and still does). During our shootout, as we listened to the song over and over again on copy after copy, it became clear that the best pressings allowed us to easily hear the drummer’s hi-hat within the dense mix of this heavily produced pop song. On most copies it’s buried and all but inaudible.

If the pressing you own is full-bodied and tonally correct, and you can easily pick out the rhythmic contribution of the hi-hat within the mix, you have a copy with the kind of transparency that few we played managed to achieve.

Transparency (and all the other stuff we talk about) can and does make a big difference in your enjoyment of the music. If the average record sounded even close to right nobody would need us to find good sounding copies for them, copies would be in every record bin in town and we would have to find some other records to sell. Copies of this album may be in every bin in town — that’s where we found this one — but the sound sure isn’t.

(And without the very best cleaning technologies, the ones invented only recently as a matter of fact, there is no chance of achieving the kind of transparency our best copies have. We consider it one of the most important Revolutions in Audio of the last twenty years. If you want your records to sound their best, we would love to help you do it.) (more…)

Queen – The Game – 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.

The best sounding side ones were rarely as good as the best sounding side twos.

Even the good side ones tended to have a trace of harmonic distortion and compression that is simply nowhere to be found on the good side twos. How and why this is we have no idea. Since every copy had the same sonic issues we discounted it in our grading. Only the better copies bring the hits on side one to life and give them the size and power we know they can have.  (more…)

Bread – Baby I’m-A Want You – Check Out Those Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars

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

Bread’s fourth album has wonderfully sweet and rich 1972 ANALOG sound. The acoustic guitars are to die for on the title track. Talk about Tubey Magic, this copy has got bucketfuls of it on the voices and guitars. Whatever happened to that sound I wonder?

Listen for the delicate space up high above the music on the title track. This copy has the extended top end that opens up the sound and lets the music breathe.

The average copy is dull, compressed, congested and squawky in the midrange, all good reasons that explain why we simply haven’t been able to do many of Bread’s albums outside of the Greatest Hits and the first album. Most copies are so bad sounding that it seems pointless to even try — pointless only until a copy like this comes along to make us (and other Bread fans) believers. 

Pure Pop For Now People

When you hear music sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. This is in fact the primary raison d’etre of this audiophile hobby, or at least it’s supposed to be. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to quote the famous wag Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate music that came out close to forty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself “What has gone wrong with popular recordings for the last three or four decades?”

I can’t think of one recording of the last twenty years that sounds as good as this Bread album. Are there any? (more…)

The Doors Waiting For The Sun – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Waiting For The Sun. 

My favorite of the first three Doors album, this one is imbued with more mystery and lyricism than any previous effort. The album shows them maturing as a band, smoking large amounts of pot and preparing for the wild ride of their next opus, the ambitious Soft Parade. Actually, as I listen to this album it reminds me more and more of that one. Now that it sounds as good as The Soft Parade I find I’ve gained a new respect for Waiting for the Sun.

In-Depth Track Commentary (more…)

Judy Collins Wildflowers – 1967 Elektra Tape Vs Vinyl – Where’s the Tubey Magic?

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We were surprised that so few copies had the Tubey Magical qualities that we’ve come to expect from Elektra in 1967. The label was home to two very well-recorded (by none other than Bruce Botnick) bands at the time, The Doors and Love. What happened here? John Haeny, the engineer, worked on Waiting for the Sun, which is an amazing sounding Doors album on the right pressing. Why so few great sounding Wildflowers? 

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Michael from Mountains 
Since You Asked 
Sisters of Mercy
Priests 
A Ballata of Francesco Landini 

Side Two

Both Sides Now
La Chanson des Vieux Amants (The Love Song of Old Lovers) 
Sky Fell 
Albatross
Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye

The Cars – Here’s the Big Rock Sound We Love

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More We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing!

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The first two Cars albums were both in The Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100 at one time, with good reason: they’re superb recordings. The Cars have been in “heavy rotation” on my system since their albums came out in the late ’70s. We started doing shootouts for both right around 2006 or 2007, and they continue to be a regular feature of our Rock Hot Stamper section, not to mention some of the most fun shootouts we do in any given week.  

Before then had you ever read a word in any audiophile or record collecting publication about how amazing the originals can sound? Of course not. Most of the audiophile types writing for the stereo rags wouldn’t know a good record from a hole in the ground.

If anything the typical audiophile probably has one or both of the disastrous Nautilus half-speed mastered versions, and, having played them, would not be inclined to think highly of the sound. We knew better than to waste our time with that muck. Recently Mobile Fidelity has taken upon itself to remaster a selection of the band’s titles with the same flawed half-speed mastering approach. We haven’t played any of them and don’t intend to. We know that sound and we don’t like it.

Our point, other than to bash a record we have never played, is simply this: if you have any of those MoFi versions we would love to send you a copy of the album so that you can hear for yourself what it’s really supposed to sound like.

If you have Big Dynamic Speakers and like to rock, you can’t go wrong with a Hot Stamper Cars album. Neil Young albums have the Big Rock sound, and if you’re more of a Classic Rock kind of listener, that’s a good way to go. We’re behind you all the way, just check out the commentary for Zuma linked above.

For a band with thin ties, leather jackets, jangly guitars, synths and monstrously huge floor toms that fly back and forth across the soundstage, Cars albums are going to be the ones for you.



Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below.

Some of the most important advice on our site can be found under the heading of The Four Pillars of Success.

Here you can find more entries in our ongoing Shootout Advice series.

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.

Bread and Elektra Analog – A Double-Edged Sword that Cuts Both Ways (Don’t They All?)

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Bread.

Manna has the clear signature of Elektra from the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s unmistakably ANALOG, but that double-edged sword cuts both ways. Richness and Tubey Magic (the kind you had in your old ’70s stereo equipment) often comes at the expense of transparency, clarity, speed and transient information (the things your ’70s equipment probably had more trouble with).

We heard a lot of copies that were opaque, smeary and dull up top, so the trick for us (and for those of you doing your own shootouts) is to find a copy with the resolving power and transparency that will cut through the thickness. (more…)