Labels We Love – Capitol

Frank Sinatra – Nice ‘N’ Easy

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  • An early stereo pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for Capitol from this era too
  • The reproduction of Sinatra’s voice is exactly what you would expect from a Hot Stamper – he sounds rich, smooth, tonally correct and above all REAL
  • Take this one home and play it against whatever audiophile pressings you own – it’s guaranteed to SMOKE any and all versions you have in your collection, or your money back
  • 5 stars: “… a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.”

The immediacy of the vocals on this copy is nothing short of stunning. You get real weight down low, serious energy, a fully extended top end, and tons of that old-time analog tubey magic.

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Laurindo Almeida – It’s A Bossa Nova World

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  • An original Capitol stereo pressing of this superb Bossa Nova classic with Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Here is the Tubey Magical richness, size and space that only the best vintage pressings are capable of conveying to the critical listener
  • The brilliance of this All Tube Chain recording from Capitol makes all the hard work you’ve put into your system pay off
  • You will certainly hear this music far better than anyone who had the kind of vintage equipment it would have been reproduced with back in the ’60s
  • A Jazz Classic from 1963 that should appeal to any fan of Bossa Nova music
  • The complete list of titles from 1963 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Paul McCartney & Wings – Venus and Mars

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More of The Beatles

  • Venus and Mars returns to the site on this superb British pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • We shot out a number of other vintage UK LPs and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most other copies we played
  • These sides have real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and lovely analog warmth
  • “Venus and Mars is an interesting mix of musical styles, punctuated by Paul McCartney’s unerring sense of melody and hooky songs.” – Oldies.com

This original UK Capitol pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Frank Sinatra / Only The Lonely

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  • This vintage Capitol stereo pressing boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) grades throughout
  • An amazingly good sounding recording, easily one of his five best, and it would be hard to think of one that sounds better
  • We would love to find you some original stereo pressings from 1958 in audiophile playing condition, but we find about two or three over the course of five or ten years, so these early ’60s reissues are going to be the only game in town for the foreseeable future
  • Frank’s vocals sound present, breathy, and full, and not many copies can deliver that sound
  • According to John Rockwell’s book, Sinatra: An American Classic, when asked at a party in the mid-1970s if he had a favorite album among his recordings, without hesitation, Sinatra chose Only the Lonely
  • 5 stars: “Sinatra never forces emotion out of the lyric, he lets everything flow naturally, with grace. It’s a heartbreaking record, the ideal late-night album.”

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Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – The Distance

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  • The Distance finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Rich, dynamic and natural sounding with low end weight, midrange smoothness and powerful, punchy bass
  • Features an A-list of rock and rollers, including Glenn Frey, Bonnie Raitt, and Don Felder, just to name a few
  • 4 stars: “The Distance was hailed as a return to form upon the time of its release and, in many ways, might be a little stronger, a little more consistent than its predecessor, Against the Wind”

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Grand Funk – We’re An American Band

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  • A stunning pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the best copies to hit the site in years, with sides that are full-bodied, lively and present, with a solid bottom end
  • More important, here is all the rock and roll energy that would simply be missing in action on any reissue made these days
  • It’s tough to find good Grand Funk sound on audiophile quality playing surfaces, but these sides did the trick
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sonically, the record was sharp and detailed and the band’s playing was far tighter and more accomplished… The album’s title song, an autobiographical account of life on the road written and sung by Brewer, was released in advance of the album and became a gold-selling number one hit, Grand Funk’s first really successful single.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1973 is clearly one of their best, and unquestionably one of their best sounding

If you don’t already know, take our word for it: not many copies of this record will have much in the way of good sound. Grand Funk was not a band marketed to audiophiles. Their recordings tend to be crude and compressed, more radio-friendly than home-stereo-friendly. This copy is a BIG step up from every other that we played. You’ll have a very hard time finding another one with two sides as good as this!

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Paganini / Concerto No. 1 / Rabin – Reviewed in 2011

This is a rare and very nice looking Capitol LP. The violin sounds rich and sweet, although the sound of the orchestra is a bit “old school” with too much congestion and distortion during the louder sections to qualify as a Hot Stamper, assuming we were to put this record in a shootout.

Which makes it a “good, not great” vintage classical record, best played on an Old School Stereo system.

The much more revealing systems of today, like the one we employed to audition this very copy, simply make it too easy to spot its many faults.

Vintage Vinyl

We are not fans of vintage vinyl because we like the sound of old records. Lots of old records don’t sound good to us at all, and we review them by the score on this very blog.

We like old records because they have the potential to sound better than every other kind of record, including the ones that have been made and marketed to audiophiles over the course of the last thirty years or so.

We wrote about that subject in a commentary we call The Big If. An excerpt:

The best of the best vintage recordings are truly amazing if you can play them right. That’s a big if. In fact, it may just be the biggest if in all of audio.

We go on to discuss the wonderfully accurate timbre of the better vintage pressings, in contrast to the consistently inaccurate tonality of the Modern Heavy Vinyl pressing. It’s a long story but we think it is well worth your time if you are an audiophile looking for better sounding vinyl.


AMG Biography

Michael Rabin managed to be one of the most talented and tragic violin virtuosi of his generation. Hailed as a child prodigy, his talent matured gracefully into an adult level, but he failed to follow in his emotional growth, resulting in a cutting short of his career. He never reached the age of 36, yet remains one of the most fondly remembered of virtuoso violinists for listeners and fellow musicians such as Pinchas Zukerman, with whom he shared a teacher.


This is an Older Classical/Orchestral Review

Most of the older reviews you see are for records that did not go through the shootout process, the revolutionary approach to finding better sounding pressings we started developing in the early 2000s and have since turned into a veritable science.

We found the records you see in these older listings by cleaning and playing a pressing or two of the album, which we then described and priced based on how good the sound and surfaces were. (For out Hot Stamper listings, the Sonic Grades and Vinyl Playgrades are listed separately.)

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Crowded House – Woodface

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Reviews and Commentaries for Crowded House

  • An outstanding European import pressing of Crowded House’s 1991 Pop Masterpiece boasting Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • The care and effort that went into every aspect of the recording and production of Woodface more than justifies the effort we put into finding this excellent copy – one of the better sounding copies we have played
  • It is our opinion that this is some of the most original, melodic, hook-laden, sophisticated popular music recorded in the last thirty years, the kind that should find favor with any audiophile who likes the popular music, starting with The Beatles and ending who knows when
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The songs are easily their finest to date, combining flawless melodies and the outstanding harmonies of the brothers’ perfectly matched voices.”

This excellent copy of Woodface fulfills the promise of this extraordinarily well-recorded album beyond all expectations. The effect so totally immerses you in the musical experience that you forget you’re listening to a record at all. In your mind, you have the sense that you’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians, producers, and engineers intended it to sound. The sound is everything you want it to be as you experience every element of the music without limitation. (more…)

Rachmaninoff and Liszt / Favorite Classics for Piano / Pennario on Capitol

More of the music of Franz Liszt (1811-1880)

More Classical ‘Sleeper” Records We’ve Discovered

We found White Hot Stamper sound on side two of this solo piano recording.

It’s big, rich and above all REAL sounding, with natural studio space. The legendary soloist Leonard Pennario is presented here at the height of his powers.

Superb choice of material, from Clair De Lune to Liebestraum to the Hungarian Rhapsody No . 2.

On the rare Stereo pressing of course — we want to hear all that studio space reproduced, just as your two ears would have heard it (more or less).

Side One

Graded Super Hot for the huge, solid-sounding piano, played with such verve and skill. The musical power on this side is stupendous. 

Side Two

Even better! No smear, with incredible clarity, and no sacrifice in weight or richness.

All of which adds up to a top quality piano recording in every way.

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Paul McCartney & Wings – Wings Over America

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More of The Beatles

  • This vintage copy of Wings Over America boasts INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • SIX sides of live Wings music, phew! As I’m sure you can imagine, this shootout was quite the undertaking
  • All sides here were just BIGGER and RICHER than any others we played – they’re clean, clear and full-bodied with a solid bottom end, tons of energy and lots of space around all of the musicians
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “… the Beatles mystique was still very much attached to record and artist alike… and it seemed like McCartney represented the part of the group’s legacy that came closest to living up to fans’ expectations. Thus the album ended up selling in numbers, rivaling the likes of Frampton Comes Alive and other mega-hits of the period, and rode the charts for months.”
  • If you’re a McCartney fan, this title from 1976 is surely of interest, assuming you already have the first album, Unplugged and Band on the Run, and maybe Ram – Must Own Titles or something close to them

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