Labels We Love – Warners

Analog Vs. Digital Revisited

More Donald Fagen
fagen

The Nightfly & Digital Sound

Do All the Pressings Have to Sound Like CDs?

The average copy of this digitally recorded, mixed and mastered LP sounds just the way you would expect it to: like a CD. It’s anemic, two-dimensional, opaque, thin, bright, harsh, with little extreme top and the kind of bass that’s all “note” with no real weight, solidity or harmonic structure. Sounds like a CD, right? (That’s the way most of my CDs sound, which is why I no longer listen to them except in the car)

But what if I told you that the best copies of The Nightfly can actually sound like a real honest-to-goodness ANALOG recording, with practically none of the nasty shortcomings listed above? You may not believe it, but it’s true.
(more…)

Listening in Depth to Rickie Lee Jones

More Rickie Lee Jones

Listening in Depth

xxxxx

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with plenty of advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of RLJ.

On the best of the Hot Stamper copies it becomes abundantly clear just how well the string bass was recorded — assuming you like the close-miked, maximum-presence quality they were after. You hear all the fingering, the wood of the body resonating; all the stuff you could never hear live unless you were ten feet from the guy. Natural it’s not, but natural is not what most hit records are all about anyway.

Credit — or blame — belongs squarely with LEE HERSCHBERG

There’s no question that he knew exactly what he was doing, he’s the pro’s pro, so let’s give him credit for making the sound of the record really POP. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Paul Simon – Still Crazy After All These Years

More Paul Simon

More Still Crazy After All These Years

Listening in Depth

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Still Crazy After All These Years.

As well-produced, well-engineered Pop Albums from the ’70s, the very best copies can proudly hold their heads high. Wait a minute. Our last commentary noted what a mess most of the pressings of this album sound like, with so much spit and grain. Have we changed our minds? Well, yes and no, and as usual we make no excuses for having changed our minds. We call it progress. (more…)

Listening in Depth to James Taylor – Sweet Baby James

More James Taylor

More Sweet Baby James

Listening in Depth

xxxxx

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.

This White Hot Stamper is GUARANTEED to BLOW YOUR MIND, as James himself so famously sings on Steamroller here, and you can be sure that he never heard it sound any better on playback than it does here. This is truly Master Tape Sound — transparent, present and Tubey Magical, the kind of sound that only the best pressings from the era can lay claim to. If you’ve got the stereo to play it, this record may become your new favorite Demo Disc. Yes, it’s that good. (more…)

Gary Wright – The Dream Weaver – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

xxx

  • A Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated to an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two (for the classic title track)
  • Big, rich and full-bodied with lovely texture to the synths and relatively little grit – crucially important to the best copies
  • Only the second Triple Plus copy to hit the site since 2015 – pressings with this kind of sound are tougher to come by than you might imagine
  • 4 Stars: “Backed with only drums and a wide assortment of keyboards, Gary Wright crafted instantly recognizable tunes such as the title cut and “Love Is Alive,” which caught on and remain staples of classic rock stations around the U.S. … Dream Weaver hasn’t lost any of its magic over time.”

See more of our Gary Wright albums in stock

Huge, lively and full-bodied with tons of presence, this is exactly the right sound for this music.

Most pressings of this album tend to err in one of two ways: either they get hard and gritty in the upper mids, or they’re smeary and dull. Our best copies get the balance right — plenty of texture on the keyboards and drums, with vocals that still have presence and breathiness — and not too much grit.

Keyboards and More Keyboards

An all-keyboard pop record like this was a rarity at the time. The only other instruments besides drums (and one track with guitar) are keyboards. Every song is layered with multi-tracked clavinets, organs, and Moogs — it was a remarkable feat in 1975 to create an album with nothing but keys. Listen to the title track, the most dynamic song on the record, and you will hear just how well all of those stacked keyboards and synths work together. (Steve Winwood’s Back in the High Life borrowed a page or two from Gary’s solo debut here.) (more…)

The Grateful Dead – American Beauty – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

xxx

  • Only the second Triple Triple (A+++) copy to hit the site in the last five years – you won’t believe how good this record sounds!
  • Man, are quiet copies of this album getting hard to find, and pricey too
  • This is one of Stephen Barncard’s greatest recording achievements – the richness and clarity are really something here
  • 5 Stars All Music Guide, a Top 100 album – “American Beauty remains the Dead’s studio masterpiece.”

See all of our Grateful Dead albums in stock

We managed to find enough clean early pressings to get this always fun shootout going once again, and this copy took top honors on both sides. This is an amazingly well-recorded album — and a member of our Top 100, of course — but it takes a special copy to let the recording’s qualities shine, and this copy is as special as they get – Triple Triple!

Drop the needle on any track — I guarantee you’ve never heard this band sound so good, or your money back.

If you’re looking for a mindblowingly good copy of the Grateful Dead’s masterpiece, you’re going to have to act quickly, because our supply is extremely limited. I understand if you want to write the Dead off based on their later output, but you just can’t deny the power of this album.

Both sides of this copy earned top honors — A+++ all the way.

All the Elements Come Together for Once

All of the elements necessary to take this music to an entirely new level are here, my friends: smooth, sweet vocals; rich, meaty bass; an open and airy top end; top-notch presence and so forth. The sound is so spacious and transparent that you can easily pick out each of the instruments and follow them over the course of the songs.

The acoustic guitars sound magical on this one, and I can’t believe how wonderful these guys’ voices sound. The Tubey Magic and immediacy on this copy are going to STUN you.

You could choose any track you wanted to and find lovely sound here, but I’d recommend Ripple and Attics Of My Life for starters. Most copies suffer from a glaring lack of highs, but just listen to the ride cymbals on this one to find out that the top end is still alive and well here. (more…)

The Real Stars of Windy – Bones Howe and The Wrecking Crew

association

See all of our Association albums in stock

The sound of the sixties will fill your room like never before — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with layers upon layers of depth. You would be very hard pressed to find a pop rock recording from 1967 that sounds as good as a Hot Stamper Insight Out. (Sgt. Pepper comes to mind, but what else?) Can you imagine the Mamas and the Papas or The Jefferson Airplane with this kind of rich, sweet, open, textured, natural, tonally correct sound quality?

The midrange is pure Tubey Magic! If you have the kind of system that brings out that quality in a recording, you will go wild over this one. In fact it’s so good, it made me appreciate some of the other songs on the album which I had previously dismissed as filler. When you hear them sound this good, you can actually enjoy them.

Hal, Joe and Bones

The real stars of Windy (and the album itself) are Hal Blaine and Joe Osborne, the famous session drummer/ bass player team, who create the driving force behind these songs. Osborne’s web site puts Windy front and center as the first track demonstrating what a top rhythm section can do for a pop song. This whole album can be enjoyed simply for the great drum and bass work, not to mention the sound that both of those instruments are given by the pop recording master Bones Howe.

He produced and engineered the show here; Bones is a man who knew his way around a studio as well as practically anybody in the ’60s. He’s the one responsible for all the tubey magic of the recording. That’s his sound. Those of you who appreciate that sound will find much to like here.

Bouncing Tracks

Never My Love is clearly the best sounding track on the album. Those of you with better front ends will be astonished at the quality of the sound. Windy also sounds excellent, but I hear some sub-generation harmonic distortion, probably caused by bouncing down some of the tracks to make room for others.

This is the era of the four track machine, and when four of the tracks are used up they are bounced down to one track, making available three new tracks. Some of the albums from this era — the Mamas and the Papas come to mind — have multiple bounces, three and four deep, which accounts for the distortion that you hear all through their recordings. The two-track finished master might have upwards of five tape generations or more on some instruments or vocal parts.

We Do The Work So You Don’t Have To

Let’s face it: if you find this record in a record store it’s going to be $10 or less, which is what we paid for most of the copies here. But they’re usually noisy and dull sounding. You really have to work at it to find a copy that sounds like this one. Or, better yet, pay us to do that work for you by just buying this one.

The Master of Tubey Magical Pop Recording, Mr. BONES HOWE.

Listening in Depth to James Taylor’s Forgotten Classic – Mud Slide Slim

More Mud Slide Slim

Listening in Depth

 

xxxxx

Mud Slide Slim has some of Taylor’s strongest material: You’ve Got a Friend; You Can Close Your Eyes; Hey Mister, That’s Me up on the Jukebox, and one of his best and most underrated, Love Has Brought Me Around. If you’ve got a top copy of the album, this song, the leadoff on side one, can really rock. It’s yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Love Has Brought Me Around

One of my all-time favorite James Taylor tracks. When you get a good copy, this music comes ALIVE! This is not your typical sad sack, touchy feely James Taylor song. This song ROCKS!

You’ve Got a Friend

Listen to Carole King’s piano. On the best copies the transparency allows her playing to be heard so clearly. Her style is unmistakable. (more…)

Leaner and Cleaner Won’t Cut It on The Last Record Album

More about The Last Record Album.

littllast

Musically The Last Record Album is one of our favorite Little Feat releases, and the recording has many excellent qualities. Prime among them is amazing bass; the bass goes REALLY deep in places (Long Distance Love) and it’s punchy and rich throughout the albumThe problem has always been an overly smooth top end, combined with congestion, smear, and a serious lack of presence. The good news is that if you clean enough copies with the advanced cleaning techniques we’ve developed, and you make enough improvements to your stereo, room, etc., with the right copy you can actually get this album to sound clear AND rich. (more…)

The James Taylor Album You Don’t Know – One Man Dog

ONE MAN DOG

xxx

Play Chili Dog here, one of our favorite tracks, and note not only the clarity and spaciousness, but the PUNCH and LIFE of the music. This song is supposed to be fun. The average compressed dull copy only hints at that fact.

Then skip on down to the hit at the end of the side, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, another favorite track for testing. There’s a lot of bass in the mix on this track, but the best copies keep it under control. When it gets loose and starts blurring the midrange, the vocals and guitars seem “blocked”. The best copies let you hear all that meaty bass, as well as into the midrange. (more…)