Labels We Love – Vanguard

Doc Watson – Home Again

More Doc Watson


Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Here is the in-the-room performance intimacy that will surely bring Doc’s music to life in a way you’ve never heard before
  • If you own the veiled, opaque, recessed, ambience-challenged Cisco remaster, you are in for a treat – our Hot Stamper is none of those things!
  • “[H]is most affecting folk-style record, with unexpectedly warm vocals matched to the quiet virtuosity of his playing. [The album] features Watson performing lively, achingly beautiful renditions of popular folk standards. All are played with very imposing dexterity by Watson, joined by his son Merle and Russ Savakus on upright bass.

This vintage Vanguard stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, tubey sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). (more…)

Country Joe and The Fish / I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin-To-Die – This Reissue Wins Our Shootouts

More Country Joe & The Fish


(not as shown)

  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it – As Good As It Gets in our experience – on both sides of this copy of the band’s sophomore release
  • The best pressings with this label (you’ll find out when the record arrives!) are the biggest, most open, most clear, and the least compressed, which makes them especially energetic and fun
  • Finding clean copies of Country Joe’s albums is no walk in the park, but here’s one, and it sounds great too
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Country Joe & the Fish’s second album, “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die”, is quite similar to their first in its organ-heavy psychedelia with Eastern-influenced melodic lines…”

Some copies we played had more Tubey Magical sound, but that quality comes at a price. Those pressings tend to be crude, with gritty vocals and a noticeable lack of transparency and space.

In other words, they sound pretty much like an old record.

This pressing, on the other hand, gives you much more of what sounds to me like the Master Tape, with less of the bad mastering equipment and bad vinyl coming between you and the music.

We have added some moderately helpful Title Specific advice at the bottom of the listing for those of you want to find your own Hot Stamper pressing


Vivaldi – The Four Seasons / I Solisti Di Zagreb / Tomasow

More of the Music of Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings


  • This superb Vanguard recording of one of our favorite performances of the work boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • This pressing has all the qualities that make analog so involving and pleasurable — the warmth, the richness, the naturalness, and above all the realism
  • The sound here has the power to transport you completely, with solid imaging and a real sense of space, qualities that allow us to forget we are in our listening rooms and not in the concert hall

Folks, we have some good news for those of you who have been waiting for one of the best-sounding, most beautifully performed Four Seasons ever recorded. Let’s just say that this small ensemble recording is as close to perfect as any we have ever heard. The harpsichord is especially good on the Vanguard recording, better than the RCA I would venture. Its placement in the soundfield is subtly natural, precisely the way one would expect to hear it in performance.

All four movements are performed with great spirit, and other than a sour note right at the start — listen for it! — the playing is of the highest quality. I prefer the performance — slightly — to the famous RCA. (more…)

Thomson / The River & The Plow That Broke The Plains

TAS List Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings


Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides! This later label Vanguard pressing has CLARITY and TRANSPARENCY that I would be very surprised to hear on the original Stereolab LP. There is practically no smear to the sound of this side one, which means the texture of the strings and the bite of the brass are here for all to savor. Old school tube mastering, the kind that would have been used to make the originals, rarely manages to avoid this kind of sound.

Of course Tubey Magic and smear go hand in hand, so this more modern mastering can’t give you all the Tubey Magic of the originals either. These are trade-offs to be sure. But this pressing sounds RIGHT in a way that not many original classical recordings from 1960 ever do.

This record sounds, for lack of a better word, ACCURATE. The instruments in this orchestra sound correct to my ear. I like Tubey Magic as much as the next guy, but when everything else is so good, as it is here, I can live without it. I don’t need it on every record. It’s a nice coloration, but it IS a coloration let’s not forget.

Side One

A++ Super Hot sound! Not all the richness one would hope for, but it does sound rich in its own way. So clear and so 3-D, this is what modern mastering (from the ’70s, not the crappy mastering of the last twenty plus years) can do amazingly well. It’s so TRANSPARENT you can hear all the way to the back of the hall, with layers of depth clearly delineated.

Side Two

A++, as good but different (of course). Big bass, bigger than the bass on side one. Very dynamic too. The horns are a bit shrill at the start but they calm down soon enough. Overall very similar tonality and spaciousness. A great record! (more…)

Larry Coryell – Spaces


  • Larry Coryell returns with this outstanding copy of Spaces, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one
  • Just as rich, lively and clear, with plenty of space for this exceptional ensemble to occupy as you would expect from a vintage Vanguard recording (1970)
  • Features jazz greats John McLaughlin on guitar, Chick Corea on electric piano, Miroslav Vitouš on bass, and Billy Cobham on drums
  • 4 stars: “This album features the pioneer fusion guitarist Larry Coryell with quite an all-star group… contains some lyricism often lacking in fusion of the mid-’70s… a stimulating album worth searching for.”


Bob Gibson and Bob Camp – At The Gate Of Horn


  • This wonderful 1961 folk gem makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Tubey Magical, rich, smooth, sweet – everything that we listen for in a great record is on display for everyone to hear (everyone with audiophile equipment that is)
  • If you want to know just how good Elektra’s All Tube recording system was in 1961, this amazing sounding disc will show you like no other
  • 4 stars: “Recorded in 1961 at Chicago’s legendary folk club, the Gate of Horn, Gibson and Camp’s live set was really one of the opening volleys in the coming folk revival, and while neither of these guys got much of the credit, they should have.”


Joan Baez – One Day At A Time


  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout- exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, big and lively, with Joan reproduced as solid and as real as only the best vintage vinyl pressings can present her
  • Continuing her foray into country folk, Baez collaborated with a host of greats on this album, including Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Pete Seeger, Steve Young, Willie Nelson and more
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One Day at a Time… was also startlingly new and daring at the time. Today it seems like no big deal, but in 1970 very few singers coming out of the folk scene as Baez did were reaching out to Willie Nelson (“One Day at a Time”) and even the Rolling Stones (“No Expectations”) for repertory, much less putting them on the same album with music by old leftist composers like Earl Robinson (“Joe Hill”), and then interspersing those songs with traditional country numbers.”


Canteloube / Songs Of The Auvergne Vol. 1 & 2 (and a Swipe at Classic Records)


This 1972 Vanguard pressing (VSD-713/714) has SUPERB SOUND for the Volume One material — it’s super-transparent, with an extended top end that is not often heard on the typical vintage Vanguard pressing. The overall sound is HTF – Hard To Fault — and if it hadn’t been for one other pressing we heard that blew our minds even more, we would surely have thought this first disc was as good as it was going to get. (As you can imagine, many copies over the years have been rejected as they came in and never made the cut, for both noise and sound issues.)

Miss Devrath is front and center, live in your livingroom, as natural a human voice as you will ever hear on record. It’s clear what the best copies are really capable of — completely natural Demo Disc Sound.

Sides Three and Four

Good, but quite a step down from sides one and two. Although musical and enjoyable, sides three and four were somewhat veiled and smeary compared to the sound we heard on sides one and two. We gave them both a grade of A Plus. Even these two lesser sides would probably beat the Classic reissue, and sides one and two would kill it.

TAS and Classic Records

I believe Volume One used to be on the TAS Super Disc List, and for a time the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue may have been as well. I remember playing the Classic years ago and thinking the sound was not bad, not as awful as most of their stuff, but still far from what it should be.

How anybody can take Classic Records seriously is beyond me, yet HP has many of their records on his Super Disc list and he is certainly not alone in praising their remastered vinyl. In our opinion, you should be able to hear what’s wrong with their records from another room, a test we would happily submit to. That dark, hard, smeary, transient- and texture-free sound one hears on all their records is pretty obvious to those of us who listen to The Real Thing all the time.

How these audiophile reviewers can be fooled by such second-rate fare is frankly beyond our understanding.  (more…)

Sandy Bull – Inventions


  • Sandy Bull’s superb sophomore effort finally arrives on the site with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one, mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two
  • We dropped the needle on a clean vintage copy of this rare Vanguard release and heard rich, smooth, sweet, wonderfully natural sound
  • A few years later we had enough copies to do a shootout, and we now proudly present the result of our efforts, a top quality copy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “On his second and best album, Bull added more instruments and a bit of electricity. The centerpiece of the record is “Blend II.” Like “Blend” from his first album, it is a melange (somewhat more electric in tone) of folk, jazz, and the Middle East, this time 24 minutes’ worth.”


Joan Baez – Joan Baez in Concert


  • Joan’s live release from 1962 makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • We just did a big shootout for this album, compiled from different shows Baez performed in 1962, and we’re pleased to report that the sound was SUPERB on both sides of this early stereo Vanguard pressing
  • So transparent, open, and spacious – nuances and subtleties that may have gone unnoticed are now revealed as never before
  • 4 stars: “In Concert, Pt. 1 captures the undisputed queen of folk music at the onset of her fabled career… The exhaustive selection of material represents her diverse influences… Baez’s performances still retain freshness and vitality after four [make that five] decades.”