Labels We Love – ABC/MCA

Steely Dan – Gaucho

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  • With insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, this copy is guaranteed to handily beat any pressing of Gaucho you have ever played, especially the awful Ron McMaster Heavy Vinyl LP
  • This superb pressing has three-dimensional ambience, tubey richness, you-are-there immediacy, tight bass, clear guitar transients, silky highs, and truckloads of analog magic on every track
  • 4 stars in the AMG, 4 1/2 in Rolling Stone, and one of this exceptionally well recorded band’s Three Best Sounding Albums – a true Must Own
  • “Despite its coolness, the music is quite beautiful. With its crystalline keyboard textures and diaphanous group vocals, ”Gaucho” contains the sweetest music Steely Dan has ever made.” New York Times

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Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

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  • This early Black Label Shootout Winning pressing boasts stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The only real rock album this band ever made actually ROCKS on this pressing, and that’s what makes listening to vinyl of the highest quality FUN
  • Only 8 tracks (so the band can stretch out). and every one is guaranteed to sound better than you have ever heard it
  • 5 stars: “Smart, conflicted bands from Weezer to the Eels owe Steely Dan big time… because on Countdown to Ecstasy, the band was human, not just brainy. Like Exile on Main Street, this is a record where Steely Dan let slip their extraordinary mask of sarcasm, and could not disguise the joy in these excellent songs, or the fact that they were having a blast playing them.”

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Jimmy Buffett – Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the way to go
  • 4 stars: “…one reason Changes… is his best record yet is simply the sound… The main reason it’s Buffett’s best is the songs, most of which he wrote. Buffett has always been a good songwriter when he had the time to apply himself, and he’s been developing a persona that reaches its culmination here.”

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Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane – Rough Mix

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  • Pete Townshend’s 1977 collaboration with Ronnie Lane finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • The sound is big and rich, yet still wonderfully clean, clear and open with fantastic energy – you will not believe all the space and ambiance here
  • 4 stars: “Rough Mix… combines the loose, rollicking folk-rock of Lane’s former band, Slim Chance, with touches of country, folk, and New Orleans rock & roll, along with Townshend’s own trademark style… Rough Mix stands as a minor masterpiece and an overlooked gem in both artists’ vast bodies of work.”

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Ray Charles – Love Country Style

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a side one right up there with it, this copy is practically as good as it gets
  • This early pressing has killer Hot Stamper sound on both sides – here’s the midrange magic that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • Another of Ray’s albums in the style of Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music – maybe not the equal of those classics, but not far from them either
  • All the Amazon User Reviews give the album a Five Star rating – hard to do better than that!

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Steely Dan – Aja

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  • An outstanding copy of Steely Dan’s magnificent Jazzy Pop breakthrough album
  • This one arrives with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or 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…)

Bobby Blue Bland – His California Album

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish, this is an incredible pressing and one of the few top copies to ever hit the site
  • It appears that virtually no one in the audiophile community knows how amazing this album sounds on the right pressing – it’s one of the best recordings of Electric Blues we have played in a very long time
  • Pull up some of the man’s music on the internet – what a rich, resonant voice he has!
  • With horns and strings, this heavyweight studio production uses top session players who bring Bland’s blues to life
  • “[A]mong the great storytellers of blues and soul music… [who] created tempestuous arias of love, betrayal and resignation, set against roiling, dramatic orchestrations, and left the listener drained but awed.”

If you’re a fan of BB King, you’re very likely to be a fan of Bobby Blue Bland after playing this album.

Check out Bland’s take on It’s Not The Spotlight, a song I first heard on Rod Stewart’s Atlantic Crossing album. I might have to give it to Bobby on this one. (more…)

Steely Dan – Gaucho – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of our Better Records Hall of Fame. 

Your Steely Dan Hot Stamper Collection is far from complete without a killer copy of Gaucho, and I don’t think you’re going to be able to find a much better copy than this one no matter what you do! Both sides are wonderful, with side two boasting BIG, BOLD A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND that’s sure to blow the minds of all you Steely Dan maniacs. From top to bottom I don’t think you could cut or press this album any better.

What do these high grades give you for this album? Mindblowing, DEMO QUALITY, Steely Dan Magic, baby! Tons of ambience, amazing richness, ‘you are there’ immediacy, note-like bass, clear guitar transients, silky highs, and truckloads of analog magic. The overall sound is airy, open, spacious, and lively. The bottom end is punchy and meaty, and even on this, their most famously laid-back album, with bass and energy like this it means these songs really ROCK!

Clarity

Every instrument taking part in this complex, richly imagined sonic tapestry sits perfectly in its own place, and, more importantly for us audiophiles, its own SPACE.

The average pressing we auditioned was opaque and compressed, throwing a veil over the vocals. Not this knock-out: the transparency and dynamics are in a league of their own, highlighting Donald Fagen’s moody, emotive singing while his ensemble of Hand-Picked Studio Cats wails away behind him with abandon (but not too much abandon; can’t lose our Steely Dan cool don’t you know). Add a handful of Oh-So-Sultry Female Vocalists to sex it up and you have one trancendent musical experience.

A Special Feeling

No other copy gave us the feeling we got from this LP — that ethereal illusion of being in the room while the band is playing. This is what we refer to as Master Tape Sound. Once you’ve experienced it you’re never the same. Read some of our testimonials. People really go crazy over this kind of sound. Records like this are few and far between, but when you find one, the effect it can have on you may make you go a little overboard too.

You might even feel the need to write us a letter. It’s the kind of experience that compels you to find some way to share it with the world. The problem there is that those reading your letter don’t have a copy with the kind of sound you have, and they therefore can’t experience the music the way you can. If they haven’t heard it for themselves, it’s all just talk, the kind of crap you can read on any internet forum about any piece-of-junk record ever made.

That’s why we love to hear from people who’ve actually played the very same record we did. We know why they’ve flipped out. We flipped out too!

When you drop the needle on a record this good, you feel like you just threaded up the master tape and hit play. You quickly become so totally IMMERSED in the musical experience that you soon forget you’re listening to a record. You’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians intended it to sound. You can’t ask for more than that. Records like that get the Triple Plus.

Three Demo Discs

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 comtemplate 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 serious DEMO DISC on anyone’s system full range system.

B.B. King – Lucille Talks Back

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  • B.B. King’s superb 1975 release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Unusually rich, full-bodied, lively and present sound which brings out the best in this music
  • “I’m always impressed by how crafted the music sounds on this album while still managing to feel spontaneous and natural. This is exactly what this sort of jazz/blues music should sound like. The percussion, the horns, the guitar solos, the vocals. Everything just sounds so right in a low-key but effective way. All the parts fit together perfectly. …Energy, passion and emotion flow through this album; B. B. King and company make it all sound effortless.”

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Jimmy Buffett – Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

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  • Side one earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++), side two was a very strong Double Plus (A++) – you’ll be shocked at how good this pressing sounds!
  • It’s rich and smooth with an impressive bottom end, qualities that bring out the best in this music
  • 4 stars: “…one reason Changes… is his best record yet is simply the sound… The main reason it’s Buffett’s best is the songs, most of which he wrote. Buffett has always been a good songwriter when he had the time to apply himself, and he’s been developing a persona that reaches its culmination here.”

Shockingly good sound for this Jimmy Buffett classic, featuring Margaritaville!

Look, we’re as surprised as anyone that this album has the potential to sound like this. We picked up a few copies for the heck of it (I believe that’s exactly in the Jimmy Buffett spirit) and were shocked at what we heard on the best of them. Most of them were a complete waste of time, but we learned enough to start the hunt and finally get this shootout rockin’.

It took some time, but we’re pretty happy to present a knockout copy of this album sure to please not only his Parrothead fan base but anyone who enjoys this breezy country rock and wonderful audiophile sound. (more…)