Record Labels We Love

Donald Byrd – Fancy Free

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  • Fancy Free makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom
  • The overall sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the jazz energy and performance space of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
  • “1969’s Fancy Free marked the beginning of Donald Byrd’s move away from hard bop, staking out fusion-flavored territory… the rare Donald Byrd album that holds appeal for rare-groove fanatics and traditionalists alike.”

If you’re ready to take a mindblowing jazz fusion trip with sonics to match, you should definitely check this one out. (more…)

Marty Robbins – More Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

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More Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this original Columbia Six-Eye stereo LP; Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • Transparency and Tubey Magic are critical to the sound of the arrangements and you will find both are abundant here  
  • Very quiet for an early Columbia Six-Eye pressing – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “Robbins’ originals are authored in an authentically vintage style, interspersed with public domain titles that are the real article…” – All Music

Two superb sides, with the kind of ’60s Tubey Magical Analog Sound that’s been lost to the world of recorded music for decades — decades I tell you! Nobody can manage to get a recording to sound like this anymore and it seems clear to us that no one can remaster a recording like this nowadays, if our direct experience with more than hundred such albums counts as evidence.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Marty Robbins himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room, along with the other other musicians playing on the sessions of course. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Softly, As I Leave You

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  • With two insanely good sides, each with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this early stereo pressing was one of the best copies we played in our shootout
  • Big, rich and natural, the newer material for this album was recorded in 1964, with Sinatra’s voice in very fine form
  • This is one of the few Sinatra records where the second label pressings can still sound quite good – that is rare in our experience
  • “The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.”

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The Tale of Tsar Saltan and Our Rare Four Plus Grade

See all of our Rimsky-Korsakov albums in stock

More entries in our Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection available on our site

 

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  • This AMAZING side one with the complete Tsar Saltan was so good we gave it our rare 4+ grade
  • We freaked out when we heard this side – it took the sound beyond anything we had ever experienced for the work
  • It’s so rich and real, with huge WHOMP factor down low, as well as clear, uncolored brass and robust lower strings – wow!
  • We figure about one out of a hundred sides earn our Four Plus grade – you can’t get much more rare than that

James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these sessions from April of 1959 in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound beyond all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

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Elvis Presley – Something For Everybody

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  • This outstanding copy boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from beginning to end 
  • If you want to know just how rich, spacious, natural and Tubey Magical even a reissue Elvis record can sound, here’s your chance to find out
  • Recorded partly in Nashville by the brilliant Bill Porter, and with the Jordanaires singing backup, what’s not to like?
  • “…his voice is better than ever, and this is reflected in the arrangements, most of which are closer in spirit to the finely crafted pop symphonies of Roy Orbison than they are to any of Presley’s earlier work.” 

This pressing has the glorious sound of 1961 in its grooves.

Most of the man’s records don’t sound good on most pressings, and more often than not the best sounding pressings are just too noisy to interest most audiophiles. Not so here though, as this was one of the quietest we played in our recent shootout. (more…)

Della Reese – Della by Starlight

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More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • An outstanding copy of Della by Starlight with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing puts a living, breathing, big-as-life Della Reese performing at the peak of her vocal powers right in your listening room
  • The key to the best copies is Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, and this vintage analog copy has plenty of both

This vintage Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real Della Reese singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played over the years can serve as a guide.

What the Best Sides of Della by Starlight Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1960
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently, the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural air and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to most vintage pressings and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

What We’re Listening For on Della by Starlight

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Touch Of Your Lips
He Was Too Good To Me
That Old Feeling
I Had The Craziest Dream
I Wish I Knew
Lamplight

Side Two

How Did He Look?
More Than You Know
These Foolish Things
Deep In A Dream
Embraceable You
Two Sleepy People

Rick Nelson – Garden Party

More Rick Nelson

More Country and Country Rock

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  • Garden Party finally returns to the site after four long years, here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This is an incredibly rich, Tubey Magical recording, and when you get a good copy with enough clarity and top end extension to bring it to life it can sound very good indeed
  • If you like the sound of albums engineered by Stephen Barncard (think Deja Vu, American Beauty and Tarkio for starters) then you are going to find much to like about the sound of this album
  • “Rick Nelson’s Garden Party rocks a lot harder than the title track would lead one to believe, and is also as much of a showcase for the Stone Canyon Band as it is for Nelson.”

It’s tough to find copies without marks, or ones that play this quietly.

The music is quite enjoyable — even the younger guys around here were getting a lot out of it. Drop the needle on the title track (a top ten single) or “Are You Really Real?” to hear these guys at their best. Rick’s Stone Canyon Band at times featured future members of Poco and The Eagles, so that should tell you something.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. The harmonic coherency, the richness, the body as well as phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum. (more…)

J.S. Bach – Organ Music Volume 2 / Weinrich

More of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

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  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish, this copy is practically as good as it gets
  • The size and power of a huge organ captured on tape in Living Stereo All Tube Analog
  • The organ is so effortlessly clear and relaxed you will soon forget you are actually sitting in your listening room, not a church
  • For those of you who know your organ recordings on Living Stereo, it’s Volume 2 that clearly has the better sound

Some audiophiles buy organ records to show off their subwoofers. Exceptional pressings of exceptional recordings such as this one will allow you to do that, but the best of them have musical qualities far beyond simple demonstrations of bass fundamentals. Carl Weinrich understands this music perfectly and makes it come alive in a way I’ve rarely heard by other performers.

For those of you who think technology marches on — which of course it does in some ways — this 1963 recording shows that the RCA engineers were capable of capturing the authentic sound of the instrument with the vintage tube equipment available to them. In my opinion they could do it better back in those days.

Musically speaking there aren’t many organists in Carl Weinrich’s class. The only other Bach organ records of this caliber that we know of are the two volumes that Karl Richter recorded for Decca in the mid-’50s. You can’t go wrong with any of them. At least one belongs in any serious audiophile’s collection. (more…)

Neil Young – Time Fades Away

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  • A stunning vintage pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Front Row Center sound on both sides
  • A huge step up from every other copy we played in our shootout – full-bodied, smooth and musical, the classic sound of Neil Young at his performing peak
  • Never released on CD, this is one of the toughest Neil Young albums to find in the bins, especially with sound like this
  • 4 stars: “Time Fades Away ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career — like the tequila Young was drinking on that tour, it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.”

Unlike most “live” albums this one was made direct to tape, with no fixes or overdubs, and on the best pressings that warts-and-all approach really pays off. There’s good weight, real openness, and the tonality on these better copies is both rich and sweet. This kind of sound can put you right in the front row.

Finding a copy like this is no walk in the park. The stamper numbers are all over the map, providing little if any guidance. Also, since the album didn’t sell all that well and was never released on CD, there just aren’t that many clean copies floating around. Complicating matters even further, the eight songs here were recorded at seven different shows, so the sound, of course, varies a bit from track to track. It took a long time and a lot of work to make sense of it all, but you Neil Young fanatics are going to get a thrill out of the sound on a Hot Stamper copy — guaranteed. (more…)

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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More All Things Must Pass

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  • To say that this one has been a long time coming would be an understatement! FINALLY, an incredible sounding copy of All Things Must Pass
  • Superb Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the fifth side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the remaining five sides — wonderfully big, full and Tubey Magical yet still clean and clear with tons of space and a lovely bottom end
  • “Without a doubt, Harrison’s first solo recording, originally issued as a triple album, is his best.” – All Music

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)