Labels We Love – ABC/MCA

John Lee Hooker – If You Miss ‘Im … I Got ‘Im

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  • Hooker’s wonderful 1970 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two married with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing has a lovely musical quality that’s missing from some of the copies we played
  • A delightful collaboration between John Lee and his cousin, Earl Hooker – AMG says he “definitely benefits from keeping it in the family” here
  • “Heard here less than a year before his death, Earl still sounds frisky and versatile, often utilizing a funky wah-wah style without ever descending into the psychedelic excesses that plagued so many late-’60s electric blues albums.”

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The Crusaders / Chain Reaction – MoFi Reviewed

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This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with relatively good sound. We did a mini-shootout many years ago and this copy apparently killed the competition. 

However…

When you play the MoFi against an actual honest-to-goodness properly mastered and pressed vintage LP – we call them Hot Stampers – the audiophile version of the album reeks of phony top end EQ, compression and sloppy bass.

Of course, what half-speed mastered record doesn’t?


FURTHER READING

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

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Steely Dan – Aja

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aja

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  • Presenting a STUNNING copy of Steely Dan’s magnificent Jazzy Pop breakthrough album
  • This one arrives with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Punchy, full and smooth, with the kind of rhythmic energy that brings out the jazzy funk in the music
  • A Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100 album and a true Demo Disc on an exceptional pressing like this
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Aja, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen’s obsession with sonic detail and fascination with composition reached new heights. A coolly textured and immaculately produced collection of sophisticated jazz-rock, Aja has none of the overt cynicism or self-consciously challenging music that distinguished previous Steely Dan records … a shining example of jazz-rock at its finest. “

Folks, there’s not much I can tell you about this copy of Aja that’s going to make you want this record, other than to say this: If you’re in the market for a superb pressing of what’s gotta be the most beloved Steely Dan record they made, look no further. It’s right here. (more…)

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee – A Long Way From Home

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More Classic Blues Albums

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  • A Long Way From Home makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this original Bluesway pressing
  • The sound here is shockingly good – the space is huge, the vocals and instruments clear, and there is a surprising amount of solid, note-like bass, the kind we did not expect to find on a Bluesway album from this era
  • Recorded over two days, this album is basically a live-in-the-studio affair – having neither the time nor the budget to screw up the sound of the band means that this album has the audiophile goods like practically no other Blues album you may have heard
  • 4 stars: “Solid, relaxed, rockin’ grooves are the hallmarks here with both artists in fine form.”

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John Lee Hooker – Simply The Truth

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this ABC Bluesway pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades 
  • Our vintage ABC Bluesway pressing here has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce, so if you want to know what this album from 1969 is REALLY supposed to sound like, we guarantee you cannot do better than this very copy
  • “Overseen by noted jazz producer Bob Thiele, this session had Hooker backed by some of his fullest arrangements to date, with noted session drummer Pretty Purdie and keyboards in addition to supplementary guitar and bass… Another of his many characteristically solid efforts…”

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John Lee Hooker – Free Beer and Chicken

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it
  • Hooker’s albums are surprisingly good sounding – they have the open, immediate, dynamic qualities of a live-in-the-studio session – my understanding is that most of them are recorded precisely that way
  • These sides are doing it right – they’re big, rich and Tubey Magical, with wonderfully present vocals and huge amounts of energy
  • Free Beer And Chicken is one of the better sounding John Lee Hooker records we’ve ever played lately – an interesting lineup of guests too, including the one and only Mr. Joe Cocker!

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James Gang – Thirds

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  • An incredible copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Big, present and lively, with good weight to the bottom end, this is clearly the right sound for this music
  • A copy sure to make you a fan of Joe Walsh’s grungy guitar artistry – turn up Walk Away on this Shootout Winning side one and it will blow your mind
  • 4 Stars: “… Walsh was being hailed as a guitar hero to rank with the best rock had to offer… Thirds quickly earned a respectable chart position and eventually went gold…” 

The copies that did well in our shootout managed to keep the grit and grain in the sound under control without smothering the top end or smearing the upper midrange. Clear, breathy vocals that don’t strain when loud were tough to find, but some copies did a whole lot better than others, and those are typically the ones we preferred.

Plenty of tight bass and lively rock energy are every bit as important of course. Nobody wants a leaned-out or boring James Gang record.  (more…)

John Lee Hooker – Endless Boogie

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  • This original ABC pressing has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on ALL FOUR SIDES! 
  • These sides are out of this world — rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a big punchy bottom end and lots of energy
  • “… the timeliness of Endless Boogie is an unmitigated plus, and producers Bill Szymczyk and Ed Michel get a relaxed groove out of a cast of supporting musicians who can boogie Canned Heat right out of the studio.” – Robert Christgau

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The Crusaders – Chain Reaction

More of The Crusaders

More Jazz Fusion

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  • An outstanding copy of Chain Reaction with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The overall sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and funky, with the kind of rich, solid sound that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • If you own the Mobile Fidelity remaster, or some Heavy Vinyl LP, you are in for a real treat – this pressing will show you just how good the recording is
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the tastiest concoctions of the mid-’70s jazz-fusion era, Chain Reaction finds the Crusaders at the top of their form. The compositions are both accessible and memorable, and the playing is uniformly excellent.”

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Steely Dan / Gaucho – Listening In Depth to The Dan’s Last Good Album

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More Gaucho

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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 Gaucho. Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

Of all the great albums Steely Dan made, and that means their seven original albums and nothing that came after, there are only three in our opinion that actually support their reputation as studio wizards and recording geniuses.

Chronologically they are Pretzel Logic, Aja, and Gaucho. Every sound captured on these albums is so carefully crafted and considered that it practically brings one to tears to contemplate what the defective DBX noise reduction system did to the work of genius that is Katy Lied, their best album and the worst sounding. (Those cymbal crashes can really mess with your mind if you let them. To get a better picture of the DBX sound just bang two trash can lids together as close to your head as possible.)

The first two albums can sound very good, as can Royal Scam, but none of those can compete with The Big Three mentioned above for sonics. A Hot Stamper copy of any of them would be a seriously good sounding record indeed. (more…)