Labels We Love – Vanguard

Larry Coryell – Spaces

xxxxx

  • 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.”

(more…)

Bob Gibson and Bob Camp – At The Gate Of Horn

xxxxx

  • 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.”

(more…)

Joan Baez – One Day At A Time

xxxxx

  • 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.”

(more…)

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

xxxxx

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

xxxxx

  • 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.”

(more…)

Joan Baez – Joan Baez in Concert

xxxxx

  • 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.”

(more…)

Junior Wells – It’s My Life

xxxxx

  • A superb copy of Junior Wells’ recording from Chicago in ’66 (this is the read deal, folks!) with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of that “you-are-there-immediacy” of a live performance that set the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else might be out there
  • “Cut from the same cloth as Wells’ classic Hoodoo Man Blues LP from the same period, It’s My Life, Baby! captured the Junior Wells-Buddy Guy team in great form, both in the studio and live at Pepper’s Lounge on 43rd Street. This album tends a bit more towards slow blues, including a rare example of Wells’ chromatic harmonica playing on ‘Slow, Slow,’ but there are fine uptempo pieces…”

(more…)

Mississippi John Hurt – Today!

xxxxx

  • Hurt’s superb sophomore release makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Smooth, relaxed and full-bodied – practically no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally natural, analog sound
  • Hard to imagine any reissue, vintage or otherwise, can beat the sound of this LP – we sure couldn’t find one
  • 4 stars: “Today is Mississippi John Hurt’s first and finest studio release since his “rediscovery” on his Avalon farm by folklorist Tom Hoskins in 1963… his voice retains its characteristic Buddha-esque warmth and it is still difficult to believe that there is just one man playing on the seemingly effortless guitar work… A truly essential album of the folk revival, unrivaled in its beauty and warmth.”

(more…)

The Weavers – The Weavers At Carnegie Hall

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This is a wonderful Weavers album, recorded in Carnegie Hall on Christmas Eve, 1955 — when and if you can find one that’s properly mastered and not too scratched up. This is not easy, as most copies of the album — now fifty plus years old — have not survived in very good condition. This copy is the exception to that rule, with reasonably quiet surfaces (Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as they come) and EXCELLENT SOUND.  

What do we listen for on this album? Pretty much the same things we listen for on most albums (with the exception of Whomp Factor I suppose; acoustic guitars, banjos and voices don’t produce much whomp in real life).

You clearly need transparency to make all the vocal and instrumental parts clear. There is not a trace of phony Hi-Fi sound anywhere to be found on the album, so bringing out as much information as possible from the record has to be an important goal. (On phony records a bit of smear or opacity can actually be a good thing.)

Those of you with very highly resolving speaker systems — electrostatics, screens and the like — will find this record much easier to reproduce than others. (Including us: Our big dynamic speakers do many things well but no speaker can do everything right. We have had to sacrifice some transparency for other qualities necessary to play the wide range of recordings we must evaluate.) (more…)

The Weavers – The Weavers’ Almanac

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

White Hot stamper sound on side two – a Demo Disc for acoustic folk music. Better than Super Hot on side one – sound that’s sweeter than wine. This copy is stereo, and for good reason: the mono pressings are full of vocal distortion. Reasonably quiet vinyl for an early Vanguard pressing.

This early pressing on the early Black and Silver Vanguard label has glorious sound! It’s right up there with the best we have ever heard The Weavers.

Side One

Superb air and space, with a very extended top. Sweet vocals. Big, rich, tubey and clear, this side will be hard to beat. Play track three to hear the kind of guitar harmonics and vocal intimacy that are simply no longer possible on modern vinyl.

Side Two

The huge reverb sounds just right – very rich and tubey and smooth.

Listen to how rich the bass is on the third track. It’s not perfect but it’s right for this era and right for this music. (more…)