Labels We Love – Warners

Peter, Paul & Mary – Album – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

AN AMAZING A+++ SIDE TWO, and an excellent A++ SIDE ONE! Finding great copies of this album is no easy task. Many of the copies we played were just too noisy, and most of the quiet ones just weren’t impressive sonically. This one is a HUGE improvement — easily the best copy to emerge from our latest shootout! 

In many ways this is a better album than Album 1700; it’s certainly less commercial. Pack Up Your Sorrows is great here, as is And When I Die, and there are many many more. Top session players on this one too. (more…)

Van Morrison – Moondance – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

For the first time ever… a WHITE HOT STAMPER pressing of Moondance on QUIET VINYL! This Warner Bros. Green Label copy has a side two that just can not be beat — A+++ all the way.

It took us a long time to build up enough copies to get this shootout rockin’, a fact that anyone who has ever sought out a copy of this album will certainly understand. Clean originals just aren’t hanging around in the bins, and when you do find one it usually costs a pretty penny. Add on the fact that most copies just don’t sound all that hot and you can forgive us for thinking that we might never list a Hot Stamper copy again. (more…)

Ambrosia – One Eighty – A Little Soft Rock Never Hurt Anybody, Right?

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Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings. 

Of course that won’t be the case if you don’t like popular music. I’m glad to say I’m not the kind of snob who looks down his nose at a good soft rock hit. (I’m a snob in other ways of course; who isn’t?) I don’t mind admitting I enjoy the hell out a good Hall & Oates jam, and I positively love Bread. Ambrosia can and does hold their own with the best of these soft-rockers. And they usually sound better doing it.

One Eighty (recorded on 1/80, get it?) kicks off with a real rocker: Ready, which is a great name for an opening track and really gets the album off to a high-energy start. Side two opens with my favorite track on the album, Livin’ On My Own. I actually used to demonstrate my system with it: the bass is huge, way up in the mix and really punchy. Additionally there are powerful multi-tracked vocal harmonies in the chorus that are wall-to-wall, surprisingly dynamic, yet sweet (all things considered; this is a modern recording after all). (more…)

Van Morrison – Wavelength

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

Richer, warmer and bigger than most of the other copies we played, with the kind of smoothness that’s essential to the album’s enjoyment. His biggest selling album to date? Seems hard to believe but that’s what is says on Wikipedia – it went gold in 3 months. 

What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and on and on down through the list.

When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side we provisionally award it a grade of “contender.” Once we’ve been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides matched up. (more…)

Seals & Crofts – Year of Sunday – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

The best album by this duo – their strongest songwriting and arrangements. Nearly White Hot on side one, with vocals that are full-bodied, rich and solid.

A forgotten Classic from 1971, the album holds up very well forty plus years on.

Their commercial breakthrough would come with their next album, Year of Sunday, helped out by scores of session cats, but I much prefer the less commercial — although it’s far from uncommercial — sound of Year of Sunday. I am apparently not alone in my love for this album. Of the thirteen reviews on Amazon, every one gives it Five Stars(!).

The consistency of the songwriting is very strong here as well, with surprisingly powerful emotional currents. There’s not a dog in the bunch, and many of the better tracks are gems of popcraft. Some of the my favorites are When I Meet Them, Cause You Love, and Antoinette on side one, and Paper Airplanes, Irish Linen and Springfield Mill on side two.

Side One

Smooth and very rich, with big bass, this is without a doubt precisely the right sound for the album. Very few copies managed to pull off the rich tonal balance that this side has going for it.

Side Two

It’s big and clear, a bit thinner but still very good. (more…)

Traveling Wilburys – Vol. 3

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  • Insanely good sound throughout with both sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades; the first copy to ever hit the site!  
  • Both of these sides had some of the best sound in our recent shootout — big, full-bodied and present with a massive bottom end and huge amounts of energy
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “…this record is loaded with charm. Dylan’s ”If You Belonged to Me” is stronger than anything on his last record, and ”You Took My Breath Away” is a first-rate ballad.”

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Alice Cooper – School’s Out – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

This White Hot / Super Hot 2-pack is going to rock your world! School’s Out on this A+++ side has never sounded better.

Yet another impossible-to-find record in clean condition with good sound has made it to the site, and those of you who are fans should scoop it up because it takes us about five years to find enough copies to do this shootout. Check back with us in 2019 if this one is sold by the time you get to the end of this sentence.

We had poor luck with the second and third label copies on this AC title. It seems — unlike so many records we play — that the originals are the only way to go on School’s Out.

Side One – Record One

A+++. It rocks! Never aggressive or edgy, it’s big, it’s jumpin’, and it’s full of 1972 Tubey Magic. What’s not to like?

Side Two – Record Two

A++, big, clear and energetic – close to side one but not quite.

Notice how “real” the drum kit sounds on track two. The drums as a whole are punchy and solid throughout. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Atlantic Crossing – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

This copy just murdered the competition. The last consistently good Rod Stewart album? It gets my vote.

The copies we liked best were the biggest and richest, and the least thin and dry. Many of the brighter copies also had sibilance problems which the richer and tubier ones do not.

Side One

Triple Plus. The space is huge, the sound is rich, it rocks like only “The Memphis Horns and three-quarters of Booker T. and the MG’s” can — this side is practically without fault. We’ve never heard it sound like this, and we’ve been playing this record (at least I have) since it came out in 1975.

Side Two

Triple Plus again, with acoustic guitars that are clear and extend beautifully, exhibiting the most harmonic information we heard all day from side two of Atlantic Crossing, hence our top grade. So big and rich. Finally the album sounds the way it should!

Domestic Vs. British Vinyl

On some of the Rod Stewart albums that we happen to know well the British pressings are clearly superior; the first two Rod Stewart albums come immediately to mind. After that, strange as it may seem, all the best pressings are domestic. This album is certainly no exception. I remember bringing back a few Brit copies from England many years ago and being surprised that they were so thick, dull and dubby sounding. Of course they were; the album was recorded right here in the good old US of A. The master tapes are here. The Brit pressings sound dubby because they are made from copies.

If there is any doubt, the following is a list of the studios in which Atlantic Crossing was recorded.

  • A&R, NY
  • Criteria, Miami, FL
  • Wally Heider, Los Angeles, CA
  • Hi Recording and
  • Muscle Shoals Sound, AL

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Rickie Lee Jones – Rickie Lee Jones

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  • A superb pressing, earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides, right up there with the best we heard in our shootout all day
  • Exceptionally present, real and resolving, this pressing is guaranteed to murder any remastering undertaken by anyone, past, present and future
  • The superbly talented musicians and engineers deserve much of the credit for making this album a Grammy Winning Must Own Audiophile Favorite
  • 4 stars: “One of the most impressive debuts for a singer/songwriter ever, this infectious mixture of styles not only features a strong collection of original songs but also a singer with a savvy, distinctive voice that can be streetwise, childlike, and sophisticated, sometimes all in the same song.”

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John Fogerty – Centerfield

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  • KILLER sound throughout with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than others you’ve heard can offer, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an unsuspecting record buying public
  • “… a clutch of terrific songs: that giddy ode to his beloved game, the equally sunny rocker “Rock and Roll Girls,” the snappy Sun tribute “Big Train from Memphis,” the gently swaying “I Saw It on TV,” the rip-roaring “I Can’t Help Myself” and, of course, “The Old Man Down the Road,” a callback to CCR’s spooky swamp rock… a cheerful, glorious comeback.” – All Music

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