Labels We Love – Arista

Al Stewart – Time Passages

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  • A Time Passages like you’ve never heard, with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound throughout this early Arista pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The better sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth, and smoothness that make listening to records so involving
  • The best import pressings win our shootouts, but good domestic pressings such as this one can sound very good indeed
  • 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)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…this is exceptionally well-crafted, from Stewart’s songs, where even three-minute songs seem like epics, to Alan Parsons’ cinematic arrangements and productions. [O]ne of Al Stewart’s very best albums.”

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!

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.) Both of these songs are more than six minutes long on the album.


Carly Simon / My Romance – Just Buy the CD

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Carly Simon

This album from 1990 contains lovely music, for the most part, but the CD-like sound is just not going to cut it. I had played the album ten or twenty years and liked it just fine, but the last time we dropped the needle on it we realized the sound was unacceptably processed, especially the vocal.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of heavily-processed recordings we like.

But for this album, covers of some of Sinatra’s most iconic songs, we felt the sound was completely wrong for the material.

Our advice: If you like the album, you might as well just buy the CD.


Whitney Houston – Self-Titled

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More Debut Albums of Interest

  • A stunning early Arista pressing, this copy earned killer 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…)

This Is the Most Amazing Record the Dregs Ever Made


This is the band’s masterpiece as well as a Personal Favorite of yours truly.

It’s also a clear case of One and Done, at least when it comes to vinyl. (The live album, Bring ‘Em Back Alive, is only available on CD, but comes highly recommended as well.)

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…)

The Outlaws – Outlaws

  • These superb sides each rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER give you Top Quality Country Rock sound from first note to last
  • Big, rich and meaty, this pressing shows you just how well recorded their Classic Debut album really is
  • There Goes Another Love Song and Green Grass & High Tides (at almost ten minutes!) sound surprisingly good here
  • “The Outlaws’ debut blew a fresh blast of rock & roll onto a scene increasingly dominated by synthesizers and dance music. It will leave the listener singing along and dreaming about the good ol’ days.” (You got that right)

The sound of the typical copy can best be summed up in one word: brittle. When the sound is thin or hard the fun factor of this country rock drops to zero. Green Grass & High Tides sounds great on the radio, why not on vinyl?

We sure can’t blame Artisan, the original cutting house: all the copies we played — good, bad and otherwise — were originals and mastered by them.

Could it be the Arista vinyl? It could. It could be a lot of things, but speculating about them doesn’t really get us or you anywhere, so I’m going to stop doing it and just say we played a big pile of records and heard a lot of copies with mediocre sound.

This Is Our Sound

It’s easy to spot the good ones. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deep on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. The guitars ring out. The energy of the performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate what’s good about All American Analog Recording from the mid-’70s, the kind of sound the Doobies had for Toulouse Street, Linda Ronstadt for Simple Dreams and Steely Dan for Pretzel Logic. If you prefer the recordings of Diana Krall, Patricia Barber and Jennifer Warnes, this may not be your sound, but it sure is ours.


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 – 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…”


The Kinks – Misfits

More of The Kinks

  • 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.”


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

  • 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.”