Labels We Love – Parlophone/Apple

The Beatles – The White Album

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Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides, this British pressing is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other White Album you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy of the Beatles’ Masterpiece (my personal favorite of all their albums) is going to thrill and delight the lucky person who snags it
  • If you’ve heard the half-speed and Heavy Vinyl versions of The White Album, then you know how riddled they are with unacceptable flaws
  • They are simply not enjoyable on high-quality equipment, unlike this copy, which is guaranteed to be an unalloyed joy to play
  • “If there is still any doubt that Lennon and McCartney are the greatest song writers since Schubert, then next Friday – with the publication of the new Beatles double LP – should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making…” Right On!

Our Hot Stampers have always been a BIG hit with the folks who’ve been lucky enough to snare them. If you’re ready for a High-Quality copy of The White Album that’s sure to massacre all the pressings you’ve heard until now, you should jump right on this bad boy. (more…)

The Beatles – Help

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  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish, we guarantee you’ve never heard Help sound this good – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Everything that’s great about Help is here – jangly 12-string guitars, Tubey Magical electric pianos, harmonically rich tambourines and claves, and, the sine qua non of any Beatles album, breathy, present vocals
  • If you’re like us and think the new Beatles Heavy Vinyl reissues are boosted in the bass and way too smooth in the midrange, whether mono or stereo, take comfort in the fact that this pressing is neither of those things, because it sounds right
  • Side one alone boasts 7 classics: “Help!,” “The Night Before,” “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” “I Need You,” “Another Girl,” “You’re Gonna Lose That Girl” and “Ticket to Ride” – whew!

Want to hear The Beatles at their Tubey Magical best? Just play “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” on this copy.

One of the reasons this song stands out in a crowd of great tracks is that there are only acoustic instruments being played. There’s not an electric guitar to be found anywhere in the mix, one of the few tracks on side one for which that is true.

We flip out over the Tubey Magical acoustic guitars and harmony vocals found on early Beatles albums, and this song can be an exceptionally good example of both when you’re lucky enough to have the right pressing playing.

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Badfinger / Straight Up – What to Listen For

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Badfinger

More of Our Favorite Minimally-Processed-Sounding Albums

The best sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can’t begin to reproduce. The sound on the right pressings just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies are supposed to (but rarely) do. 

This is Power Pop, plain and simple. The basics are what count: punchy drums, grungy guitars, present vocals, clear but full bass lines — just the meat and potatoes of rock, no fancy sauces.

For this music to work, all the elements need to be in balance, with correct timbre for the relatively few instruments that make up the arrangements.

Opacity, smear or grit instantly destroy the whole point of having a straightforward production, which is to be able to have all the parts laid out cleanly and clearly.

The idea is to get the production out of the way and just let the music speak for itself.

The truly Hot Stampers remind you of the kind of basic rock and roll record that really knows how to rock. Back in Black comes instantly to mind. Black Dog off Zep IV. This is the sound you want your Straight Up to have. The title of the album is the key to the sound. No fancy packaging, just the band, Straight Up.

From 2007 to 2010 and Beyond

In 2007 we wrote: “Having played more than half a dozen copies of this record during the shootout I can tell you that the most common problem with Straight Up is grainy, gritty sound. Most copies of this record are painfully aggressive and transistory.”

With improvements to cleaning and playback,  I would say that’s not actually true in 2010.

There is some grit to the sound to be sure, but like most records from the era, veiling and smearing are what really hold most copies back.

Good copies of this record, ones that are mastered properly and pressed on “good” vinyl, sound a lot like a stripped down version of Abbey Road, which is what they’re supposed to sound like. That’s clearly the sound Badfinger and their producers George Harrison and Todd Rundgren (with some help from the Beatles’ engineer Geoff Emerick* ) were aiming at.

You will also hear some influences from All Things Must Pass and McCartney’s first. The music owes a lot to both The Beatles as well as Harrison and McCartney as individuals. What’s not to like? Catchy pop songs with grungy guitars — it’s ear candy when the sound is good, and the sound is very good here.

British Porky Prime Cut?

We had an original British pressing in our shootout, unbeknownst to me as it was playing of course. And guess where it finished: dead last. The most thick, congested, crude, distorted, compressed sound of ALL the copies we played. We love the work of Porky, Pecko et al. in general, but once again this is a case where a British Band recorded in England sounds best on domestic vinyl. (McCartney on Apple is the same way.)

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George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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  • With superb sound on all six sides, this early British box set of All Things Must Pass will be very hard to beat
  • If you’ve struggled with domestic pressings and later imports or Heavy Vinyl reissues, your troubles are over – here is the sound you were looking for
  • 5 stars: “Without a doubt, Harrison’s first solo recording is his best. Drawing on his backlog of unused compositions from the late Beatles era, Harrison crafted material that managed the rare feat of conveying spiritual mysticism without sacrificing his gifts for melody and grand, sweeping arrangements.”
  • This is clearly George Harrison’s best sounding album. Roughly 100 other listings for the Best Sounding Album by an Artist or Group can be found here.
  • This is a Must Own Title from 1970, a great year for Rock and Pop Music
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here
  • A great deal of tube compression was used in the mixing and mastering of the album, which makes this a difficult one to reproduce on anything but the highest quality equipment

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Paul McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More Recordings by Robin Black

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when it’s done well.

The recording also has an unprocessed quality which we have always found attractive, with some songs sounding more like demos than finished takes, about as far from Abbey Road as it is possible to get.

In our experience, the real McCartney Magic is only found on the best domestic Apple pressings. We’ve never heard an import that did much for us, and the later CBS issues are hardly worth the vinyl they’re pressed on.

This album, like Unplugged and Band on the Run (and not a whole lot else) is SUPERB from start to finish. At the end of side two you want MORE. I wish I could say that about the rest of his discography.

McCartney Checks Off Some Big Boxes for Us

It’s a Must Own record.

It’s a Rock and Pop Masterpiece.

And it’s a Personal Favorite of mine, one which I have been obsessed with since I first discovered how well recorded the album was sometime in the early ’90s.

The blog you are on now as well as our website are both devoted to very special records such as these.

In my opinion, this is also a record that should be more popular with audiophiles. If you have not heard this classic, check it out.

It is the very definition of a Big Speaker album. The better pressings have the kind of ENERGY in their grooves that are sure to leave most audiophile systems begging for mercy.

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of size and power, don’t expect to hear them the way McCartney, engineer Robin Black and anybody else involved in the production wanted you to.

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Paul McCartney and Wings – Ram

  • This vintage pressing of McCartney’s 1971 Classic boasts outstanding sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides
  • A copy like this is a real audiophile treat – here is the rich, warm, clear, natural and lively sound you want for Ram   
  • Many of the man’s most memorable songs are here: Too Many People, Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, Monkberry Moon Delight, Heart Of The Country and more
  • 5 stars: “These songs may not be self-styled major statements, but they are endearing and enduring, as is Ram itself, which seems like a more unique, exquisite pleasure with each passing year.”

I remember this album being dismissed as lightweight back in the day and I may have even felt the same to be honest. Heck, compared to Abbey Road and The White Album, the very same thing could be said about most of McCartney’s albums.

McCartney isn’t out to blow you away with high-production value rock here, apart from Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey. He’s making some lovely pop music with his wife and sharing it with the world. And what’s so wrong with that? (more…)

“There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule.”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Revolver Available Now

More Reviews and Commentaries for Revolver

We review the newly remixed Revolver.

As I was reading the newspaper today, I chanced upon Mark Twain’s famous quote and immediately recognized a way to put it to good use. I had been searching my brain for a good way to start a commentary detailing the multitudinous problems with the remixed, half-speed mastered Revolver LP. Kicked in the head was exactly what I needed.

In 2020 I had reviewed the Abbey Road remix and was astonished that anyone would release a record of such utter sonic worthlessness. A few choice lines:

The half-speed mastered remixed Abbey Road has to be one of the worst sounding Beatles records we have ever had the displeasure to play.

Hard to imagine you could make Abbey Road sound any worse. It’s absolutely disgraceful.

I will be writing more about its specific shortcomings down the road, but for now let this serve as a warning that you are throwing your money away if you buy this newly remixed LP.

Of course I never did write more about it. The thought of listening critically to the album in order to detail its manifold shortcomings was more than I could bear and onto the back burner the idea went, where it remains to this day.

In 2020 I warned the audiophile community not to go down this foolish half-speed mastered road, and now that they have been kicked in the head a second time, perhaps when they wake up they will come to their senses, although I doubt very much that they will.

Giles Martin is the guilty party here, and I hope it is clear by now that he simply has no clue as to how a Beatles record should sound. If he did have such a clue, this new Revolver would never have seen the light of day.

Getting Down to Brass Tacks

Here are the notes our crack listening panel (our very own Wrecking Crew) made as they listened to the new Revolver.

Note that they listened to side two first, playing a Super Hot stamper ’70s UK pressing head to head with the new release, so we have listed our notes for side two above those for side one.

They listened to the first two tracks on side two in this order:

Good Day Sunshine, And Your Bird Can Sing.

On side one they played the first three tracks and listened to them in this order:

I’m Only Sleeping, Taxman, Eleanor Rigby.


Some of the highlights from side two:

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Should We Follow George Martin’s Expert Advice?

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

One of our good customers had this to say about the new Revolver pressing and The Beatles in mono:

Hey Tom,

I think the Revolver new thing doesn’t sound terrible. It’s just what you’re comparing it with. Most people are going off original pressings maybe and the acclaimed mono and stereo box stuff that came out in the last 10 years. IF you don’t try one of those Harry Moss records or a 1970s pressing, you probably think the new Revolver is fine or even good. That’s my theory. Who knows.

And as far as mono vs. stereo… you know the answer to this but I’m not sure. Were those earliest records meant to be mono or recorded as if they would be put out as mono and later records – maybe Rubber Soul on – meant to be stereo? I don’t know the answer to that. But maybe that’s why people are so loyal to mono. They feel like “this is how it was meant to be heard by the artist.”

George Martin was very clear about that, the first two albums for sure and really, the first four are, for him, better heard in mono than stereo.

I disagree. I think George heard the playback on studio monitors stuck on a wall five feet from his head. Who cares what that sounds like?  Nobody who isn’t mixing a record would ever listen to music that way, certainly not in this day and age.

More importantly, who are you going to believe, your lying ears or George Martin?

This is so fundamental to understanding everything to do with audio and records.

Richard Feynman summed it up beautifully: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

Watch the Let It Be documentary put out by Peter Jackson, the last part where they play the album back for everyone.

With four monitor speakers lined up left to right and shoved up against a wall.

This is how they listened to the album in order to approve Glyn Johns’ mix and the takes he chose to use?

How can anyone take any of it seriously?

TP


Beatles, Beatles, Beatles

The Beatles in Mono – Why No Hot Stampers?

Please Please Me – Which Is More 3-Dimensional, Mono or Twin Track?

Customers Really Seem to Love Our Beatles Hot Stampers

Listening in Depth to Abbey Road

More of the Music of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Abbey Road

Those of you who follow the site (or do your own shootouts) know that it’s much tougher to find great copies of Abbey Road than it is for MMT or Please Please Me. Most of the copies we’ve played just aren’t good enough to put on the site. For whatever reasons — probably because this recording is so complicated and required so many tracks — Abbey Road is arguably the toughest nut to crack in the Beatles’ catalog. 

Most of the copies we’ve played over the years suffer from too much grit and grain, particularly on the vocals. Not the best ones though. We just couldn’t believe how smooth and sweet the vocals were on our shootout winner last time around, especially on side two, without sacrificing any breath or texture.

The Power of Abbey Road

This is the final statement from The Beatles. To take away the power of this music by playing it through inadequate equipment makes a mockery of the monumental effort that went into it. Remember, the original title for the album was Everest. That should tell you something about the size and scope of the music and sound that the Beatles had in mind. 

In-Depth Track Commentary (more…)

The Beatles – Revolver

More of The Beatles

Hot Stamper Pressings of Revolver Available Now

  • Here is the space, energy, presence clarity and massive bottom end you had no idea were even possible on Revolver
  • 14 amazing tracks including Taxman; Eleanor Rigby; Here, There and Everywhere; Yellow Submarine; Good Day Sunshine; Got To Get You Into My Life and Tomorrow Never Knows (!)
  • 5 stars: “Even after Sgt. Pepper, Revolver stands as the ultimate modern pop album and it’s still as emulated as it was upon its original release.”
  • If you’re a fan of the Fab Four, and even if you’re not, this groundbreaking album from 1966 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1966 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

Want to be blown away by Beatles sound you never imagined you would ever have the chance to experience for yourself? Drop the needle on Taxman on this very side one — that’s your ticket to ride, baby! We were knocked out by it and we guarantee you will be too. (more…)