Labels We Love – Arista

Bob Weir – Heaven Help The Fool

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • A surprisingly well recorded album, this pressing is simply bigger, bolder and richer than most of the other copies we played
  • ” … showcases the special flavor that Weir added to Jerry [Garcia]’s genius, where 2 identities blend effortlessly. “
  • “Jazzy in places, soft and smooth in others. Out of the ordinary for the Grateful Dead’s co-founder, but easier for the uninitiated to absorb without losing the trademark oddity that Weir has always displayed. Top-notch stuff.”

What separated the best copies from the also-rans was more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better copies make Bob’s voice more palpable — he’s simply more of a solid, three dimensional, real presence between the speakers. You can hear the nuances of his delivery much, MUCH more clearly on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.

Keith Olsen produced and co-engineered here, which should go a long way toward explaining why the sound is so good. He is of course the man helped make Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 album such a sonic blockbuster. (more…)

Whitney Houston – Self-Titled

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  • A stunning early Arista pressing, this copy earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This album has the kind of smooth, rich, tonally correct analog sound we thought they had forgotten how to record by 1985 – but here it is, thank goodness
  • Consistently strong material: You Give Good Love, Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know, All at Once, and Greatest Love of All (the last of seven (!) singles released from the album)
  • “…introduced the world to ‘The Voice,’ an octave-spanning, gravity-defying melismatic marvel.”

Having done this for so long — 2020 marks our 33rd year in the record business — we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound — even as late as 1985! — 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.).

The music is not so much about the details in the recording; rather it lives or dies by its ability to recreate a solid, palpable, Whitney Houston singing live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Whitney Houston – Whitney

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  • This KILLER Arista pressing has surprisingly natural sound for an ’80s release – it earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Full-bodied, big, rich and solid, this album has the kind of analog sound we did not expect to find, but were pleasantly surprised, thank goodness
  • Lot of hits here: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”
  • “Whitney Houston became an international star with this album. It sold more than ten million copies around the world, yielded a string of number one hit singles across the board…”

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The Kinks – Misfits

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  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides, this was one of the better copies we heard in our recent Misfits shootout
  • Quite a bit richer and tubier than most of what we auditioned, qualities that helped the acoustic-guitar-based tracks work their magic 
  • The big hit here was Rock and Roll Fantasy and it sounds every bit as good as you hope it would
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Kinks became arena rockers with Sleepwalker, and its follow-up, Misfits, follows in the same vein, but it’s a considerable improvement on its predecessor…Misfits is a moving record that manages to convey deep emotions while rocking hard. The Kinks hadn’t made a record this good since Muswell Hillbillies.”

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The Alan Parsons Project – I Robot

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  • An outstanding early UK pressing of I Robot with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • The overall sound is clean, clear and transparent – many copies tend to be overly smooth, but this one has the kind of clarity that allows the natural textures of the instruments to come through
  • 4 1/2 stars: “. . . that sense of melody when married to the artistic restlessness and geeky sensibility makes for a unique, compelling album and the one record that truly captures mind and spirit of the Alan Parsons Project.”

If you’re a fan of this album who has been playing a typical copy, or — even worse — one of the MoFi versions, you are sure to be impressed with the kind of sound this superb copy delivers. You get a strong, solid bottom end setting the foundation, which is exactly what you need to make a funky tune like I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You come to life. (more…)

Jennifer Warnes – Shot Through The Heart

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  • Shot Through The Heart makes its Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • 4 stars: ” Jennifer Warnes took charge of the recording of [this] her second Arista album, co-producing it and writing three songs, including the title track… On her own, her taste was impeccable… She proved an adept producer, achieving a smooth pop/rock sound… With session stars like Andrew Gold aboard, Warnes succeeded in making what sounded like the great lost Linda Ronstadt album.”

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Patti Smith Group – Easter

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  • An excellent sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • 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 Smith’s breakthrough from 1978, this is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Easter, produced by Bruce Springsteen associate Jimmy Iovine, was Smith’s most commercial-sounding effort yet and, due to the inclusion of Springsteen’s “Because the Night” (with Smith’s revised lyrics), a Top Ten hit, it became her biggest seller, staying in the charts more than five months and getting into the Top 20 LPs. But Smith hadn’t so much sold out as she had learned to use her poetic gifts within an album rock context.”

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Al Stewart – Time Passages

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning early British pressing – the first “Triple Triple” (A+++) to hit the site in many years
  • Standout tracks include Song on the Radio and Time Passages (an edited version of which made it all the way to #7 on the Pop charts)
  • “… this is exceptionally well-crafted, from Stewart’s songs, where even three-minute songs seem like epics, to Alan Parsons’ cinematic arrangements and productions… one of Al Stewart’s very best albums.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

Our Hot Stampers of Year Of The Cat are always a big hit, and this, the 1978 follow-up, shares many of the same qualities. Alan Parsons is a pretty good producer and engineer it turns out. This copy is richer and sweeter than most, with a big, bold, three-dimensional sound that perfectly suits the kind of Big Productions that are his stock in trade. The bigger the better we say! (more…)

This Is the Most Amazing Record the Dregs Ever Made

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If you want to hear what happens when five virtuoso instrumentalists manage to combine their talent for Jazz, Rock, Classical and Country (thanks god there aren’t any vocals) into a potent mix that defies classification and breaks all the rules, this is the one. It reminds me of Ellington’s famous line that there are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music. This is the kind of music you may have trouble describing, but one thing’s for sure — it’s good. In fact it’s really good.

This is the most AMAZING album the Dregs ever recorded, and now this wild amalgamation of rock, jazz, country, prog and classical music has the kind of sound I always dreamed it could have. It’s rich and smooth like good ANALOG should be. It’s also got plenty of energy and rock and roll drive, which is precisely where the famous half-speed falls apart.

Few audiophiles know this music, and that’s a shame. This record is just a delight from beginning to end.

I’m apparently not the only one who noticed how good the album is. In 1980 Dregs of the Earth received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Go to Heaven

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sides or close to them, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Go to Heaven – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Bill Kreutzmann noted, “If you go back and (re)listen to it, you’ll find that time has been very kind to Go to Heaven. It plays better now than it did back then. That’s still no excuse for the cover, though – all six of us, dressed all in white disco suits against a white background.”
  • Classic Rock Review wrote, “While this may be a far cry from the group’s lauded stage improvisation, it made for an enjoyable studio album which holds up decades later…. It still sounds good today and shows that this band had some vast talent away from the stage.”

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