Labels We Love – EMI/Harvest

Pink Floyd – Animals

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  • An outstanding vintage UK copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too (for the most part)
  • Forget the dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl – only these Brits have the Tubey Magical Midrange that lets Pink Floyd come alive 
  • “Of all of the classic-era Pink Floyd albums, Animals is the strangest and darkest, a record that’s hard to initially embrace yet winds up yielding as many rewards as its equally nihilistic successor, The Wall. Animals is all extended pieces, yet it never drifts — it slowly, ominously works its way toward its destination. For an album that so clearly is Waters’, David Gilmour’s guitar dominates thoroughly …it surges with bold blues-rock guitar lines and hypnotic space rock textures.”

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Pink Floyd – Meddle – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Side two is where the 20+ minute prog epic Echoes is found, and the sound of it on this copy is MINDBLOWINGLY GOOD. If you’re the kind of guy who will get a thrill from hearing Pink Floyd bangin’ out one of their heaviest psych jams with top quality sonics, this copy will completely knock you out. And side one is no slouch either — it sounds amazing as well! Drop the needle on ’One of These Days’ and listen to how HUGE the soundfield is, it’s big, wide and deep so you can really hear into the music.

Side two has all of the magic that’s lacking from the typical copy. It’s open and spacious with lots of ambience, breathy vocals and silky smooth cymbals. The bottom end is MASSIVE on this one with much less bloat than you get on most copies. The presence and energy are off the charts! The sound on this A+++ side one has the kind of impact and power that let you really FEEL the music. Guaranteed to blow your mind? You better believe it!

Side one is nearly as good. It’s full-bodied with lots of energy and impressive dynamics. The soundfield is open and transparent with good size and real depth. We rate this side A++, far better than most copies out there.

The Brits Are King And Nothing Else Comes Close

We’ve been buying up every clean Import copy we can find, but most copies just don’t have the kind of magic that we know is on the tape. Beyond that, many of them are too noisy to sell — even the minty looking ones. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Piper at the Gates of Dawn

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

Rich, Tubey Magical and full-bodied with a big, solid bottom. The energy is phenomenal, with tremendous separation between the instruments and real depth to the soundfield. This is the sound of the Master Tape, make no mistake about it. 

Side two is nearly as amazing, earning a Super Hot grade for so many of the sonic qualities we enjoyed on the first side. It’s smooth in a good way, allowing you to really crank the levels and trip out with the crazy psych-rock these guys were making back then.

Astronomy Domine and Interstellar Overdrive are especially impressive.

Without a doubt this is by far the best sounding early Floyd record we’ve ever played. You have to wait for 1971’s Meddle before you find sound this good again for Pink Floyd. Once the ’70s arrive the band went on to release four of the best sounding albums of the decade: Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall. All four are in our Top 100. Dark Side I would put in any Top Ten worthy of the name.

The Beatles may have owned the ’60s but the ’70s clearly belong to Floyd. (more…)

Queen – Queen

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  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two and a side one that’s close to it, this original pressing has the analog magic in its grooves
  • Both sides here are big, full-bodied, clear and spacious with a nice bottom end and plenty of rock energy
  • “Almost every one of Queen’s signatures are already present, from Freddie Mercury’s operatic harmonies to Brian May’s rich, orchestral guitar overdubs and the suite-like structures of “Great King Rat”… It showcases the band in all their ornate splendor yet it’s strangely lean and hard, revealing just how good the band was in their early days as a hard rock band.”
  • Plays with surfaces as quiet as any we can find on both sides – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

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Queen – News Of The World – Stomping and Clapping with the Fans

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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 NOTW.

Side one starts out with Queen’s back-to-back anthemic classics, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. Does it get any better for a Queen fan? Hell no! 

The stomps and claps that introduce the former should make you feel like you are in a stadium full of people with a single goal – to rock you. Those stomps and claps need weight and clarity, an unusual combination. One without the other is not going to cut it.

The record needs to be able to reproduce the room everybody is in, while still conveying the tremendous impact and power. Most domestic pressings are severely lacking in these areas. This kind of anemia can be frustrating — you want to rock but the sound won’t let you.

Another quality our best copies excelled in was the sound of Brian May’s guitar during his solo toward the end of the song. Here his tone is very boxy with no real highs or lows, but when that sound is exaggerated by bad mastering, it sounds like there are mattresses sitting in front of his amplifiers. The best copies had extension on the high end, restoring the clarity and complimenting his distinctive technique. (more…)

Holst / The Planets / Boult – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

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

This 1967 recording of the work has one very special quality that’s not often heard on classical vinyl — THE FEEL OF LIVE MUSIC. This is also something you will not often hear us say about EMI recordings from the late ’60s and ’70s. (Unlike HP and most audiophiles in the ’70s, we find EMI’s recordings leave a lot to be desired, lacking in warmth, with a thin, sour, overly clear presentation. Great for muddy equipment but bad news on higher resolution modern rigs.) 

Super Hot Stampers on both sides means this Planets can take on any pressing you have of the piece and show you what you’ve been missing out on all these years.

(There are a LOT of bad Planets out there. With its monstrously large orchestra and chorus, it’s not an easy work to capture on tape.) (more…)

Deep Purple – In Rock

More Deep Purple

More In Rock

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

The best pressings give you exactly what you want from this brand of straight ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals; solid, note-like bass; big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound. (AC/DC is another band with that kind of live studio sound. With big speakers and the power to drive them YOU ARE THERE.)  

I’m guessing that very few people have ever heard this record sound this good. The average domestic pressing is really a piece of trash, and lots of Brits were not much better. (more…)

Queen – Jazz – Rockin’ Out with Fat Bottomed Girls

More Queen

More Jazz

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

There is a tendency in the recording to be a little “hot” tonally on the vocals and snare. The better copies like this one keep it under control, with the lesser copies getting much too lean and gritty to play loudly. What good is a raver like Fat Bottomed Girls if you can’t turn it up and really rock out with it? 

Roy Thomas Baker is back on the scene here for Jazz, his first production with the band since 1975’s A Night at the Opera, and the last time he would work with Freddie and the boys.

On side one check out the low harmony vocal on the first track. The big kick drum is also a treat. RTB loves his bass, that’s for sure.

Both sides should have an open, extended top end and a solid, rich bottom. Our best copies were big and clear with plenty of rock bottom end and Whomp Factor.

We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that dramatically changes levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many its songs, especially the anthemic Fat Bottomed Girls. Mustapha, the first track on side one, has a huge finish as well. It can take a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically every rock album you own is.

The sad fact of the matter is that most mixes for rock and pop recordings are just too safe. The engineers and producers believe that the mixes have to be safe for the average (read: crap) stereo to play the record.

We like when music gets loud. It gets loud in live performance — why shouldn’t most of that wonderful energy make it to the record? (more…)

Deep Purple – Mark I & II – Reviewed in 2009

More Deep Purple

More Mark I & II

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

This is a Minty looking EMI Import Double LP. It’s a compilation with a single LP dedicated to each era of the band’s early history. As with any compilation some tracks sound better than others here but don’t let the German sourced tapes scare you. These sound like really high quality tapes, close to, if not the actual, master tapes.

The second LP features the most recognizable and probably best lineup (Mark II) the band ever had, with songs such as Black Knight, Speed King, Smoke on the Water and Highway star, to name but a few. 

Holst – The Planets – Testing with Mars and Saturn

More Gustav Holst

More The Planets

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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 The Planets.

Mars on the first side and Saturn on the second present serious challenges for any vinyl pressings you may own. Generally speaking, the White Hot copies tend to have a bit more top end extension, and/or more lower end weight. Let’s get to the specifics of the two movements we feel are the best test for The Planets as a whole.

The War Test — Side One

War, the first movement, has the string players “bouncing” their bows upside down to create the effect you hear. It’s not fingers plucking the strings; it’s the wood of the bows bouncing on the strings. The quality of that technique is so obvious and correct sounding on the good copies and so blurry and indistinct on the bad ones that you could almost judge the whole first side by that sound alone. When it’s right it’s really right. 

And of course the players are spread out wider and the soundfield is so much more transparent when these types of sonic qualities are brought out. This bouncing bow test makes it easy to separate the better copies from the also-rans when it comes to smear, resolution, transparency and the like. (more…)