Labels We Love – RCA

David Bowie / Let’s Dance – Energy Is Key

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on

what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Let’s Dance.

Here are some albums on our site you can buy

with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

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Side One

Modern Love

This track has a tendency to be a bit brighter than those that follow. To find out if your Let’s Dance is killer, see how the title track sounds.

China Girl
Let’s Dance

The best sounding track on the album and one of the handful of best sounding Bowie tracks ever recorded. With a truly Hot Stamper copy, try as you might you will be very hard pressed to find better sound. Demo Disc Quality doesn’t begin to do it justice.

Without You

Side Two

Ricochet
Criminal World
Cat People (Putting Out Fire)

The best sound and music on side two. A top Bowie track.

Shake It (more…)

Harry Nilsson – A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night

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  • Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound from beginning to end, making this THE copy to own of this wonderful Harry Nilsson – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A lusciously Tubey Magical Top 100 album with orchestral arrangements by the superbly talented Gordon Jenkins
  • One of our favorite Nilsson releases (of which there are many) – it’s The Ultimate latter-day standards album
  • If you could only have one album of standards from the Great American Songbook, wouldn’t it have to be this one?
  • “This is a must have disc pure and simple as it is the best standards album any contemporary artist has ever recorded. All the ingredients were woven together for a remarkable vision.”

After our first big shootout for this album many years ago we were so blown away by what a great copy could do that we immediately added it to our Rock & Pop Top 100 list and have never once regretted doing so. It’s the only Nilsson album to make the cut. Even more unusual, considering it was recorded in 1973, it’s actually one of the better sounding orchestra-backed male vocal albums that we know of. (more…)

Walton & Bloch / Cello Concerto and Schelomo / Piatigorsky – Reviewed in 2011

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This Super Hot Stamper RCA original White Dog pressing has a SUPERB side two. Piatigorsky’s cello sounds rich and resonant with virtually no trace of smear. All the subtleties of the bowing can be clearly heard, just as they would be in concert (assuming you sprang for the good seats). The recording venue is spacious and open. Above all the sound is relaxed and NATURAL.  

If only side one sounded this good…

Side One

Yes, side one is a drag. To parody Harry Pearson: No Hot Stamper, this.

It has a nice extended top but the whole frequency balance is shifted up, making it thin and pinching the upper mids. Solid A sound at most.

Side Two

Super Hot Stamper A++ sound, just lovely! It could even be better than that, but without more copies to audition we prefer to be conservative in our grading. It’s AT LEAST A++.cello (more…)

Nina Simone – Nina Simone and Piano!

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  • Nina Simone’s superb 1969 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • This vintage stereo pressing boasts exceptionally natural piano sound, breathy vocals and the Tubey Magic that only vintage vinyl pressings are capable of reproducing
  • There are a lot of bad sounding Nina Simone albums out there in the bins, but fortunately this is not one of them – it’s rich, smooth and tubey, just the way we like our Female Vocal records to sound
  • “Her own best accompanist (especially during the crossover-happy ’60s), Nina Simone sings and plays on this 1969 LP. With strident vocals and a thoughtful piano backing… frequently rewarding.”

(more…)

Forget Stage, David Live Is Bowie’s Greatest Concert Album

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) grades on all four sides of this Bowie classic
  • One of our favorite live recordings – a great overview of Bowie’s career through 1974
  • 1984, Rebel Rebel, Sweet Thing and Rock & Roll With Me come alive in performance
  • A-List players of the day deliver sonic treats, including multiple horn players, multiple percussionists, all-male chorus background vocals, the searing fuzzed-out guitar leads of Earl Slick, piano and Mellotron by Mike Garson, and the amazing Herbie Flowers on bass

When you listen to an incredible pressing of this Bowie classic, you will have no trouble picturing yourself front row center. And the great thing about a record like this is that you can be in the front row of this very concert whenever you want!

The other top live album is, of course, Waiting For Columbus, and the two have much in common. Most importantly, the songs played live on both albums are consistently better than their studio versions. (This is especially true on the Little Feat album. Little Feat was not a studio band and their live arrangements — with the Tower of Power horns — just murder those created in the studio.) (more…)

Bizet & Gounod / Ballet Music / Gibson – Does Your Copy Have Clipped Bass?

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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This RCA Plum Label Victrola LP has many shortcomings, but its strengths more than compensate for them. The MIDRANGE is pure MAGIC. The sweet, textured strings, the back of the stage percussion, the placement of the orchestral sections in the soundstage, the performance itself — all combine to make you forget you are listening to an old, somewhat flawed record. What has been captured in the grooves of the vinyl allows the listener to do what few recordings can — suspend his disbelief.

It’s not an old record. It’s living, breathing music being performed in the present, at this very moment. It’s happening — one is under the sway of Bizet’s music just as if one were attending the live event. The mind has somehow lost track of the fact that its owner is sitting at home. The listener is transported by the sound, mentally, not physically, to a plane where the real world has no meaning, where music is the only reality.

I played this record and made critical notes for a while. At some point I lost interest in that activity. I simply began to marvel at what the Decca engineers had managed to do: draw me in completely.

Enough about me. 

Here are the comments for the other copy of 1108 we just put up.

This RCA Plum Label Victrola LP, the budget reissue of the incredibly rare LSC 2449, has some of the best and worst Golden Age sound I’ve ever heard. It has most of the magic of the Hot domestic VICS copy I rave about.

When a cutting amplifier runs out of juice, the bass simply “clips”. The beginning of the bass note is heard, and then it just stops. A fair number of RCA Shaded Dog originals have this problem. The cutting amplifiers of the day were often not up to the job.

It’s amazing to me that few collectors of these records even know what I’m talking about when I mention this shortcoming. They just assume it’s something in the recording perhaps. But it’s not. Often times it is simply stamper variations that separate the clipped records from the unclipped records.

And of course, the more compression that’s used, the less likely that the amplifiers will clip at all. But that’s obviously not the solution. And of course if you play records like this back on say, Quads,a notoriously compressed and bass shy speaker to begin with, you’ll never notice any of this.

But side two actually sounds quite good. Not as good as the best Shaded Dog copies possibly, but since those are $1000 and up, this has to be considered a good alternative at a fair price.

Lots of Living Stereo magic and a wonderful performance by Gibson make this record easy to recommend.

David Bowie – Pin-Ups

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

  • A stunning copy of this Classic Bowie album from 1973 with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides have phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic, thanks to the engineering of Ken Scott
  • The bottom end is huge, as would be expected from anything Ken recorded, and if you don’t believe me, check out Baby You’re a Rich Man off MMT
  • A really fun listen, with Bowie running through covers of his favorite Sixties hits in true Demo Disc sound
  • Turns out he’s a great interpreter, turning in passionate versions of songs by The Who, Pink Floyd, The Yardbirds and more

The music on this album is wonderful. Bowie puts a unique spin on tracks originally played by The Who, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd and other British rockers. It’s a fun, intriguing album that stands up well to repeated plays. Bryan Ferry did the same thing in 1973 with some of his favorite pop songs. Oddly enough both albums entered the charts on the very same day in November of that year.

The sound is lively and full-bodied with nice transparency throughout. Bowie’s voice sounds correct and the bottom end is huge, as would be expected from anything Ken Scott recorded, and if you don’t believe me check out Baby You’re a Rich Man off MMT.

The bass here is deep and not nearly as sloppy as on most copies. Listen to the vocals, which sound just right and have lots of texture to them. The harmonica on I Wish You Would is AMAZING. When has a harmonica ever sounded so rich and full? You’ll also want to check out the sax solo on Sorrow, which just plain ROCKS.

So what were some of the worst copies we heard? One was a British Original, believe it or not. They tend to be dull, thick, and lifeless — not a good match for this punky, energetic material. There are some very good sounding Brit originals but, having said that, to date they have never won a shootout.

On the other side, many of the other copies we heard were bright and grainy. It’s tough to find a copy that strikes the right balance, but this copy sure did. (more…)

David Bowie – Hunky Dory

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • This UK pressing of Bowie’s pre-Ziggy Folk Rock masterpiece earned outstanding Double (A++) grades for their preternaturally Tubey Magical sound – thanks Ken Scott, you da man!
  • The best tracks on the album are Demonstration Quality – Oh You Pretty Things is a KNOCKOUT here
  • Rich, spacious and sweet, with a HUGE soundstage – drop the needle on Changes and listen to how dynamic it is
  • 5 stars: “On the surface, such a wide range of styles and sounds would make an album incoherent, but Bowie’s improved songwriting and determined sense of style instead made Hunky Dory a touchstone for reinterpreting pop’s traditions into fresh, postmodern pop music.”

The amazing Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century (all Top 100), as well as All Things Must Pass, Truth, Birds of Fire, Son Of Schmilsson, America’s debut and many more is the man responsible for the sound here (he also produced the album, replacing Tony Visconti). It should go without saying that this is one seriously talented guy.

The kind of Tubey Magical richness and smoothness that he achieved at Trident in the early ’70s, not to mention sound that is remarkably spacious and practically free from distortion — qualities that are especially important to us Big Speaker guys who like to play their records good and loud –has rarely been equaled by anyone in the years that’ve followed (even by Ken).

As noted above, many of his best recordings can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums, limited to the titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts. (more…)

David Bowie – Diamond Dogs

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – this UK pressing will show you a Diamond Dogs you had no idea existed, yet here it is
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout (especially on the first side) – the sound is big, full, lively and spacious with hard-rockin’ energy to spare
  • It’s ridiculously tough to find even passable sound for this album – we guarantee you’ll be blown away by this pressing
  • Great songs including the title track, Rebel Rebel, 1984, Sweet Thing, Big Brother, Rock & Roll With Me and more

The sound on this UK pressing is Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and spacious — you’ll need a lot of luck and a good-sized pile of records to find a copy that sounds like this one.

1984 (a favorite of ours on David Live) sounds great here. In addition to singing, the man handles sax, Mellotron, and Moog duties on the album, and, most surprisingly, plays practically all of the electric guitar parts.

Bowie easily qualifies as one of the handful of artists to produce an immensely enjoyable and meaningful body of work throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s, music that holds up to this day. The music on his albums, so multi-faceted and multi-layered, will surely reward the listener who takes the time to dive deep into the complex sounds he recorded.

Repeated plays are the order of the day. The more critically you listen, the more you will discover within the exceedingly dense mixes favored by the man, his producers (Tony Visconti among them) and engineers (our favorite being Ken Scott). And the better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of his recordings. (more…)

David Bowie – Heroes

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • An outstanding copy of Heroes with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • This import is ALIVE with musical energy and Tubey Magical Analog sound the likes of which you may never have experienced
  • Until we discovered these amazing British reissues, we had no idea the album could sound as good as it does here
  • 5 stars: “Repeating the formula of Low’s half-vocal/half-instrumental structure, Heroes develops and strengthens the sonic innovations David Bowie and Brian Eno explored on their first collaboration. The vocal songs are fuller, boasting harder rhythms and deeper layers of sound.”

It has taken us years to get this shootout going. The reason for the long delay is simple. The domestic pressings we had on hand to play were not exactly thrilling us and even the best of them are no better than acceptable, and not likely to win a shootout.

Even worse, our intuition that the British originals would sound the best also turned out to be incorrect. (In the audiophile record collecting world intuitions have a bad track record, but more than a few audiophiles — many of whom seem to be addicted to sharing their “record knowledge” on audiophile forums — seem to be unaware of this unassailably true fact.) The original UK Orange Label pressings did not sound especially good to us, so we kept looking.

Over the course of the last few years, during which time we investigated every different pressing we could get our hands on, finally some good sounding copies of the album came our way. And they were not originals. The lucky owner of this copy will be one of the few to know what label the record is on, and in what country it was pressed.

OK, I suppose we can afford to be a bit more charitable than that. Here goes: the one thing we’re pretty clear on from our efforts to date is that our best Hot Stamper offerings are sure to be pressed in the UK.

If you have a copy of this groundbreaking album and were never impressed with the sound of it, we have a potential solution to your predicament — depending on our inventory — a Hot Stamper pressing. It will show you the kind of sound you never knew could exist on Heroes. (more…)