Labels We Love – Island

Richard & Linda Thompson – I Want To See The Bright…


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

The first White Hot Stamper of this 1974 classic to make it to the site, and it’s wonderful on both sides. Rich, full-bodied, with big bass and gobs of studio ambience, this is the way this music was meant to be heard. Kurt Loder writing in Rolling Stone noted that there’s “not a single track that’s less than luminous.” 

This is one of my favorite Thompson albums from the old days. In my opinion, and in the opinion of practically every serious critic around the world, this is some of their very best work. (more…)

Traffic – Best of Traffic – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Best of Traffic


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

This Island British Pink Label pressing has SOME OF THE BEST TRAFFIC SOUND YOU’LL EVER HEAR! We’ve been flipping out over Hot Stamper copies of this greatest hits comp for ages for a very simple, yet likely shocking, reason — the sound on the best copies can be BETTER than the best original pressings! How can that be you ask, dumbfounded by the sheer ridiculousness of such a statement? Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. Follow me over the jump to find out. 

It’s a dirty little secret in the record biz that sometimes the master for the anticipated Hit Single (or singles) is pulled from the album’s final two track master and used to make the 45, the thinking being that the 45 is what people are going to buy, or, having heard it sound so good on the radio, cause them to buy the album. One way or another, it’s the single that will do the selling of Traffic’s music. (more…)

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King


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

Over the last five years or so we have been prepping for this shootout by buying and trying lots of different pressings. Right from the start we could hear that no domestic pressing was, or was likely to ever be, remotely competitive with the best Brits.

Most later reissues — domestic or import — were as flat and lifeless as a cassette, although we admit that some were clearly better than others.

The MoFi pressing is one of their best. Unfortunately we have little tolerance for the dynamic compression, overall lifelessness and wonky bass heard on practically every record they ever remastered. One of the reasons your MoFi might not sound wrong to you is that it isn’t really “wrong.” It’s doing most things right, and it probably will beat whatever you can find to throw at it.

But it’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing of In The Court Of The Crimson King, even one as good as MoFi’s.

Side by side the comparison will surely be striking. How much energy, size and power and passion is missing from the record you own? There’s only one way to find out, and it’s by playing a better copy of the album. This one will do nicely. (more…)

King Crimson – Lizard – Our Shootout Winner from 2018


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

Incredible sound throughout with both sides of this copy winning our recent shootout and in the process earning our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++). Every bit the sonic equal of the first album, if you colorful Big Production Jazzy Prog Rock (with mellotron!) is your thing you can’t go wrong here. (more…)

King Crimson – Lizard – Our Shootout Winner from 2008


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

This is a SUNRAY Island Records label British Import LP with No Bar Code — an Early Pressing. We can’t imagine Lizard sounding much better than this. Both sides have sweet and open sound. It’s rich, warm, and transparent! 

The dynamics on this pressing are unlike anything we have ever heard for this title. This copy has all of that and then some. There is big-time presence accentuated by sweet highs and rich lows. When we say this record is open and spacious, we mean it! You can peer directly into the soundstage due to it’s amazing transparency and detailed texture. Rounding out the bottom end is excellent bass tone with the WHOMP we love.

This is, in our humble opinion, a better record than the first King Crimson album, which is notoriously bass shy. Finding a quiet copy of either one of those titles would be an amazing feat. We are never going to have enough clean copies of this record to do a proper shootout, but in this case I am confident calling it as close to Right On The Money as it can get.

Spooky Tooth – Witness – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This very nice looking Island Sunray British Import LP has GREAT SOUND on side one — we rate it A++ or thereabouts. (There may be a copy out there that’s worthy of our Triple Plus grade and there may not; this is the first clean early British copy we’ve played and it sounded so good to us we didn’t think there was much room for improvement, on side one anyway. Hence the grade.)

Although it’s not Glyn Johns that engineered this album, it was recorded at Island and Olympic studios, both of which are top quality locations famous for producing some of the best sounding rock records in the history of the world. (more…)

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Pictures at an Exhibition – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This Minty looking original Island British Import LP has some of the best sound we have ever heard for this album. This copy KILLED a bunch of other Brit imports we played it against. It wasn’t even close. This pressing was so much more TRANSPARENT — you could hear into the crowd in a way that no other copy managed to let you do. When the band started playing the sound was much more clear and present than the other Brit copies we played.  (more…)

Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For as you critically evaluate your copy of John Barleycorn Must Die.

The toughest test on side two is the first track, Stranger to Himself. Getting the voices right is practically impossible. If the voices are full, smooth, yet breathy and clear, you have that rare copy that actually gets the midrange right. Not many do.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One


The last portion of this track has some really interesting percussion and organ effects. Traffic were trying to break out of the standard pop song format by letting this song wander into psychedelic territory for a few minutes at the end. It’s now become my favorite part of the song.
The reason you want to pay close attention to this part is because it helps you to judge the transparency, immediacy, and top end extension for the whole side. It should be amazingly clear and open-sounding. On too many pressings, the percussion instruments are blurred and lost in the mix. On a Hot Stamper copy they’ll be right in front of you, allowing you to appreciate the interplay among the musicians as they contributed their various parts. (more…)

Bob Dylan & The Band – Before The Flood

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Before The Flood


  • An outstanding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on sides one and four and Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Dylan and The Band team up for exuberant versions of many classics from each of their repertoires – a copy like this lets you appreciate just how wonderful the performances are  
  • “Dylan reworks, rearranges, reinterprets these songs in ways that are still disarming, years after its initial release… “
  • “Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat.”

One of the great Live Classic Rock albums of all time in Hot Stamper form! We played a ton of these and found that most copies bored us to death. Some lacked energy, even more never opened up, and most of them were too thin-sounding. We had to play a HUGE stack of copies to come up with a few good ones, and on a double album like this, that’s a TON of work. (more…)

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy – Where’s the Bass?

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This Pink Label Original Island pressing has amazingly sweet, open, extended and transparent mids and highs. It has two major shortcomings: a lack of bass, and a fair amount of surface noise. If you can add a few dB around 50 cycles and can put up with some surface noise and scratches, you are guaranteed to hear some wonderful sound in the best tubey Island tradition. 

Side two sounds better than side one; it has more bass and therefore is more tonally correct.