Labels We Love – Reprise/Bizarre

Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

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  • This superb original stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of Arlo Guthrie’s classic debut – unusually quiet vinyl too
  • These rare, original Tri-Color Reprise pressings are practically impossible to find with surfaces this quiet, but we found this one, don’t ask me how
  • The 18 minute plus title song sounds wonderful here – natural, Tubey Magical, and tonally correct, as befits any top quality vintage pressing, especially one with Lee Herschberg handling the engineering duties
  • 4 stars: “… provide[s] an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.”

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Jethro Tull – Thick As A Brick

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Reviews and Commentaries for Thick as a Brick

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  • This superb copy of Thick As A Brick offers outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last 
  • One of the few copies we’ve found lately with this kind of sound and audiophile quality playing surfaces
  • A Top 100 title and the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever recorded – allow us to make the case
  • A stunning Demo Disc to Rule Them All — sure to be the best you’ve ever heard Tull sound if you have the system for it
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A masterpiece in the annals of progressive rock – a dazzling tour de force, at once playful, profound, and challenging, without overwhelming the listener.”

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Jethro Tull – Aqualung

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

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  • Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • The vinyl is quite good on side one, but side two is its usual crackly self in the quieter passages — at least no marks play
  • The sound is KILLER from start to finish – big, punchy, present, tubey and bursting with Rock and Roll energy
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that still floors us on the better copies, with sound that will jump right out of your speakers (which is exactly the sound the modern Heavy Vinyl pressings cannot give you)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the most astonishing progressions in rock history… the degree to which Tull upped the ante here is remarkable… Varied but cohesive, Aqualung is widely regarded as Tull’s finest hour.”

Folks, for hard-rockin’, Tubey Magical, ’70s Arty Proggy Rock in ANALOG, it just does not get much better than Aqualung. You need the right pressing to bring it to life though, and this one is certainly up to the task. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Self-Titled

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More Debut Albums of Interest

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage Reprise pressing of Cooder’s debut album from 1970 – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear the brilliant Lee Herschberg’s All Analog Recording skills brought to bear on so many different instruments serving an assortment of sonic textures, this is the copy that will let you do it
  • 4 stars: “Cooder’s debut creates an intriguing fusion of blues, folk, rock & roll, and pop, filtered through his own intricate, syncopated guitar; Van Dyke Parks and Lenny Waronker’s idiosyncratic production… Cooder puts this unique blend across with a combination of terrific songs, virtuosic playing, and quirky, yet imaginative, arrangements.”

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album. (more…)

When I (We?) First Started Doing Shootouts, They Would Sometimes Go on for Days

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Reviews and Commentaries for After the Gold Rush

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Our first Hot Stamper listing from back in 2005 talked about what a struggle it was doing them at first. Back then, with not much in the way of staff, I often had to put the records on the table one at a time and do all the listening and note-taking myself. For our first Hot Stamper listing I wrote:

A record like this might go through 4 or 5 stages of cleaning and listening and cleaning again. I spent many hours listening to the various copies I played over the course of two days, first one track, then another, this copy, then that one. There’s no other way to do it. There’s no shortcut. There’s no substitute for hard work.

If you can call it that. It ain’t too hard playing a great album over and over again. Some people — myself included — might even call it fun. And now I love this album more than I ever did. I feel like I have come to know it. I’m positively thrilled to finally know how good it really is!

Isn’t that why we audiophiles go through all this shite, as the Brits say? When I hear a piece of familiar music sound better than I ever thought I would hear it, better than I ever imagined it, it’s everything to me. It’s the biggest thrill I know of in audio. It’s what I live for. If you like that feeling, this is the record for you!

One of Those Records

Is this one of those records in your collection that you wished had better sound, because the music is so wonderful? Well it does have better sound — just not on the copy you own.

The reason a record like this needs to sell for this kind of serious bread is because there just aren’t that many clean copies that have survived; there aren’t that many copies with these stampers; and there aren’t that many copies that were pressed just right, the way this one was. I’ve been picking up originals of this record for 20 years. I pick up every clean copy that I see. People loved this album and beat it to death. Who can blame them? It’s a masterpiece. I’d say it’s actually a better album than Harvest, and Harvest is about as good as it gets.

I don’t know how long it’s going to be before I find another copy that sounds like this one, but I’m guessing it’s going to be a long time. How many bad domestic rock records did I have to play in order to find a record that sounds like this? A hundred? More?! Who knows? It was a lot, that’s for damn sure.


MORE MUST OWN TITLES

Well Recorded Rock & Pop Albums – The Core Collection

Our Current Rock & Pop Top 100 List

Joni Mitchell – An Overview

Joni Mitchell

1968 Song to a Seagull
1969 Clouds
1970 Ladies of the Canyon
1971 BlueTop 100, TAS List
1972 For the Roses – Some of her best sound
1974 Court and SparkTop 100, TAS List, her best sounding recording

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Fleetwood Mac / Bare Trees – Listening in Depth

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Reviews and Commentaries for Fleetwood Mac

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Bare Trees. Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Child of Mine

A real rocker from Danny Kirwan. If the electric piano is rich on your copy and you have some top end and space you are probably off to a very good start.

The Ghost
Homeward Bound
Sunny Side of Heaven

A wonderfully poignant, even melancholy instrumental track by Bob Welch. Not sure if that’s him on guitar but the playing is beautiful. The high point of side one.

Side Two

This is where most of the best music on Bare Trees can be found. We like every song on this side.

Bare Trees

If this song doesn’t get your blood pumping, you need to turn up the volume another click or two. There is tremendous energy and joy in this song, and it needs to be played loud to get those feelings across.

Sentimental Lady
Danny’s Chant
Spare Me a Little of Your Love

This is a tough track to get right. The Brit is smoother and sweeter, which works on this song. Bad copies can sound hard on Christine’s vocals as well as the chorus.

Dust

One of my all time favorite Fleetwood Mac songs. On a good copy this track sounds so sweet. The texture to the voices is right on the money — neither grainy nor dull.

Thoughts on a Grey Day (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Sinatra’s Sinatra

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More Nelson Riddle

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  • Sinatra’s wonderful 1963 release finally returns with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • Forget the reissues – the stereo original we are offering here is the only way to go if rich, tubey, dynamic, musical sound is what you are after
  • Frank rerecorded some of his biggest hits in stereo for this album – the record is just one Sinatra Classic after another
  • “Some of his biggest hits and most famous songs are included in his picks, including “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and “Young at Heart.””
  • Amazon 5 Stars: “Riddle’s arrangements are, as always, top-notch, and Sinatra is in fine, engaging form.”

Great bass and weight coupled with lots of space and correct tonality in the midrange add up to only one thing: Triple Plus or close to it sound on both sides!

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the strings from becoming shrill) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all.

We know a fair bit about the man’s recordings at this point. As of today we’ve done commentaries for more than 21 different Sinatra shootouts, and that’s not even counting the ten or twenty other titles that either bombed or were sold off years ago. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Ladies Of The Canyon

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More Singer-Songwriter Albums

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • Ladies of The Canyon is a very strong album for Joni, with some of her most well known, seemingly timeless songs: Morning Morgantown, For Free, Big Yellow Taxi, Woodstock, The Circle Game and more
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Yet another essential listen in Mitchell’s recorded canon.”

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Frank Sinatra – Strangers In The Night

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More Nelson Riddle

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  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this Sinatra title surprised us with its DEMO DISC sound
  • Clearly one of the better sounding Reprise-era Sinatra pressings we have ever played
  • Credit must given to the extraordinarily inventive arrangements of Nelson Riddle and the All Tube engineering of Lee Herschberg
  • “Sinatra’s singing is relaxed, confident, and surprisingly jazzy, as he plays with the melody of “The Most Beautiful Girl in the World” and delivers a knockout punch with the assured, breathtaking “Summer Wind.”

We cannot recommend this pressing highly enough. If you want to know what the best sounding Sinatra records sound like, this is your chance. Folks, in my opinion it simply does not get any better than a killer White Hot Stamper of Strangers In The Night.

These originals are the only way to go for ’60s Sinatra, but finding them in good shape on quiet vinyl is no picnic and only a few of them actually sound the way we want them to. It’s a real treat to be in the presence of the Chairman Of The Board, in his prime, working his magic — but only an exceptional copy like this one has the power to put him right in the room with you.

What to Listen For

The Tubey Magic has to be heard to be believed. I cannot recall hearing a richer, smoother, tubier Frank Sinatra album in all my born days.

Weighty brass is key to the sound of more than just the horn section. Any leanness or thinness in the brass is instantly heard as Sinatra without weight and richness to his voice. This is the instantly recognizable sound of most reissues, the main reason we stopped buying them years ago. Having played so many amazing original stereo pressings for our shootouts over the years we don’t think that will change anytime soon. There simply is no substitute for a clean stereo pressing on the original label.

Full, Rich, Breathy, Present vocals are obviously critically important as well. This copy delivers some of the best we heard.

On this copy the orchestra and band are putting out plenty of low end, reaching down well into whomp land. It’s a thrill to hear to hear that sound on these swinging arrangements coming out of my speakers.

And of course the copies that are rich and tubey but also big, clear and open did the best in our shootout. (more…)