Labels We Love – Atlantic/Atco

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same

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  • Superb sound for this soundtrack album with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
  • Clean, clear and open with a strong bass foundation and plenty of live rock and roll energy
  • An incredibly tough album to find with the right sound and surfaces
  • Packed with Zep classics, including The Song Remains The Same, Dazed and Confused, Stairway to Heaven, and more

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 30 light to moderate intermittent pops during the first half of Track 4, Rain Song. On side four, a mark makes 6 light ticks, followed by 7 moderate pops near the middle of Track 2, Whole Lotta Love.

It’s rare that we come across a copy that sounds this good. Most of the copies we’ve played sound like bad, second-generation bootleg cassettes. We still pick them up every time we see them — hey, it’s Zep, man — but we weren’t sure we’d ever hear a decent copy. We dropped the needle on this one and were pretty darn impressed with how hard it rocked.

It’s got the big sound that you look for on a Zep LP — great bass, huge drums, and immediacy to the vocals. The sound is silky up top, punchy down low, and very transparent.

Turn this one way up and you might just find yourself right in the middle of a killer live Zep concert.

The only song here that didn’t totally blow our minds was the version of Dazed and Confused, which sounded a bit compressed during the big jam. Other than that, all the big hits (Rock And Roll, The Rain Song, No Quarter, Stairway, etc.) sound Right On The Money. (more…)

Average White Band – Cut The Cake

More Average White Band 

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We’ve always been big fans of their AWB album, but it was only recently that we discovered how good Cut The Cake can sound on the right pressing. Most of the copies we’ve heard over the years have sounded flat and dry, but we got a hold of a hot one here! All Music Guide calls it “one of their finest, most engaging albums” and when it sounds this good, we sure aren’t going to argue!

Check out the title track and School Boy Crush for some funky fun with great sound! (more…)

Bryan Ferry – The Bride Stripped Bare

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  • A strong copy, with a Double Plus (A++) side two and a side one that’s nearly as good
  • These two sides show us just what a monster rocker this album can be when it’s mastered and pressed right
  • I’m a big fan of the record – it’s as original and as moving as practically anything the man ever did
  • Bryan Ferry owned the ’70s as much as David Bowie did; they’re both artistic giants in my book

It’s been years since I last played this album, and I’m happy, ecstatic even, to report that it sounds way better than I remember it. In the old days, I recall it sounding dry, flat and transistory. Now it’s BIG and BOLD, revealing a band that’s on fire in the studio.

These two sides show us just what a monster rocker this album can be when it’s mastered and pressed right. The reviews were mixed when the album was released in 1978 but time has been kind to it — after hearing the killer copies I would rank it up at the top with the best of Ferry’s and Roxy’s bodies of work.

We were a bit surprised to find that the domestic copies we played were clearly better sounding than the UK imports. It may be counterintuitive but these are the kinds of things you find out when doing shootouts. We have little use for intuitions (UK recording, UK pressing) and rules of thumb (original equals better). Hard data — the kind you get from actually playing the records — trumps them all. (more…)

This Is the Kind of Thing You Notice When You Play Scores of Copies of the Same Album

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If you have a copy or two laying around, there is a very good chance that side two will be noticeably thinner and brighter than side one. That has been our experience anyway, and we’ve been playing batches of this album for well over a decade. To find a copy with a rich side two is rare indeed.

Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars and mandolins that feature so prominently in the mixes.

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further.

Until I picked up one of these nice originals I had no idea how amazing the record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track pop recording it’s about as good as it gets. It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth most of the time — in short, it’s got all the stuff audiophiles like you and me LOVE. (more…)

AC/DC – Back In Black – None Rocks Harder

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If you love HUGE drums, meaty guitars, and monster riffs as much as we do, you’re going to freak out over the MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES. Moments after dropping the needle we heard a prominent low octave to the intro bells that we hadn’t noticed on other copies. We kept our fingers crossed and waited for the band to kick in, hoping for some serious bottom end power. And man oh man, it was there all right! I am pleased to report that the whomp factor on this copy was nothing short of MASSIVE.

I ask you, what album from 1980 sounds better than Back in Black?

Hell’s Bells has HUGE sound and shocking presence. The transparency and clarity are shocking — we heard texture on the guitars and room around the drums that simply weren’t to be found elsewhere, plus tons of echo and ambience. The vocals simply could not be any better — they’re breathy and full-bodied with loads of texture. The bottom end is Right On The Money — big, beefy, and rock-solid. You probably never thought you’d ever use an AC/DC LP as a Demo Disc, but this side one will have you reconsidering that notion — it’s ALIVE!

Imagine our delight when it turned out that side two was just as good! Everything you could ask for from this music is here, and it won’t take you very long to realize that for yourself when you play You Shook Me All Night Long. The energy, presence, immediacy and tonality are all SUPERB. I don’t think you could find a better sounding side two no matter what you did!

This link will take you to more titles in the None Rocks Harder series.

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Flack / Hathaway – Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway

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  • An outstanding copy, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades throughout, making this the best copy to hit the site in many years!
  • There’s Tubey Magic, sweetness and spaciousness all over this recording – when it all comes together on Where Is The Love, you won’t believe how good it sounds
  • One of our favorite duet albums, Flack and the woefully underrated Soul Man Donny Hathaway are in top form here
  • Allmusic raves: “A duet classic, and perhaps the most popular album Roberta Flack made. ‘Where Is the Love’ dominated urban contemporary radio for almost the entire year, while ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ was just as influential…”

These soulful duets sound wonderful. The best sides are big, bold, open and transparent with a huge three-dimensional soundfield, strong presence, good rhythmic energy, and wonderfully dynamic leads and choruses. (more…)

The Yes Album – What a Recording!

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  • Plenty of Prog Rock Power is on display here – Eddie Offord’s engineering is Hard To Fault throughout 
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record – quiet too, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “It was the addition of Steve Howe’s guitar pyrotechnics that finally allowed Yes to find their true identity. The Yes Album is a giant leap forward.” 

At its best, this album is a Big Speaker Prog-Rock opus with tremendous power and dynamic range, but it takes a special pressing like this one to really bring it to life. 

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it.

With the amazing EDDIE OFFORD at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers!

Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue

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  • This amazing copy of the Stones’ 1980 release boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout  
  • Dance (Pt. 1) and She’s So Cold sound out of this world on this copy, and the title track, Emotional Rescue, is every bit as good
  • An underrated Stones album — too good to call a guilty pleasure — and very well-recorded by Chris Kimsey
  • Maybe it’s good because “Mick Jagger sounds like he’s having a great time…”

This amazing pressing delivers the kind of killer sound you surely did not expect from this underrated Stones album.

We had a great time shooting this one out — we had forgotten how good the music was and were pleasantly surprised by how good the best copies can sound. It’s tough to get great Stones sound, I’m sure most of you know that, but there’s lots of it here and a bunch of good songs. She’s So Cold, Summer Romance, Dance, the title track… not a bad line-up, and probably the last great album these guys put out.

As you might expect, we heard lots of dry, grainy, thinned-out sound on the copies that didn’t make the cut. When you get a Hot copy with a punchy bottom end and some richness, it’s an entirely different story. It lest a song like the leadoff track Dance come to life, giving you bigger, livelier, fuller sound than you ever expected to hear on this record. (more…)

Roberta Flack – Quiet Fire

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  • Quiet Fire finally arrives on the site with superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with the naturally smooth analog sound that only vintage pressings seem to offer
  • “… thanks to top players like guitarist Hugh McCracken, organist Richard Tee, bassist Chuck Rainey, and drummer Bernard Purdie, the varied mix all comes off sounding seamless.”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Quiet Fire proves to be an apt title, as Flack’s MOR-informed jazz and gospel vocals simmer just below the surface on the eight [titles] here. Forgoing the full-throttled delivery of, say, Aretha Franklin, Flack translates the pathos of gospel expression into measured intensity and sighing, elongated phrases… One of Flack’s best.”

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Roberta Flack – First Take

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  • Roberta Flack’s stunning debut album finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish 
  • The sound here is richer, fuller, more musical and more natural – Flack’s breathy voice is reproduced with a solidity and immediacy that’s not easy to find on vinyl
  • 5 stars: “Roberta Flack’s debut album, titled First Take in true underachiever fashion, introduced a singer who’d assimilated the powerful interpretive talents of Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan, the earthy power of Aretha Franklin, and the crystal purity and emotional resonance of folksingers like Judy Collins… one of the most fascinating soul debuts of the era.”

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