Masterpieces and Personal Favorites

Gene Ammons – Blue Gene

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

  • This wonderful Prestige jazz classic boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the best sounding Ammons records we know of – it’s huge, rich and Tubey Magical, with a solid bottom end and bluesy jazz energy like no other
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – this pressing has it all
  • “Some ballad performances in his oeuvre are a testament to an exceptional sense of intonation and melodic symmetry, powerful lyrical expressiveness, and mastery both of the blues and the bebop vernacular that can now be described as, in its own way, ‘classical.'”

For us audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good a 1958 All Tube Analog recording by Rudy Van Gelder on Prestige can sound, this killer copy will do the trick.

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Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues / Volume III – An Audiophile Record with Honest-to-Goodness Real Music

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More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

  • This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for Volume III, clearly the best sounding title in the series
  • A superb pressing with energy and presence that just jumps right out of your speakers – this is but one of the qualities that separates the truly Hot Stampers from the pack
  • Many copies of this album tend to sound a bit thin and somewhat bright – on this copy, the sound is rich, full, and tonally correct from top to bottom
  • If you’re a Lincoln Mayorga fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best, both musically and sonically
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

What do Hot Stampers give you for this album? It’s very simple. Most copies of this album are slightly thin and slightly bright. They give the impression of being very clear and clean, but some of the louder brass passages start to get strained and blarey. This copy is rich and full. The sound is balanced from top to bottom. You can play it all the way through without fatigue.

Trumpets, trombones, tubas, tambourines, big bass drums — everything has the true tonality and the vibrancy of the real thing. The reason this record was such a big hit in its day is because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around at the time.

That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up, and there are not many audiophile recordings you can say that about.

Just listen to the astoundingly powerful brass choir on Oh Lord, I’m On My Way. It just doesn’t get any better than that. If ever there was a Demo Disc, this is one. (more…)

Simply Red / A New Flame – A Personal Favorite

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More Personal Favorites

  • This excellent UK import copy of A New Flame boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are amazingly clear and transparent, with present and breathy vocals throughout
  • The key qualities for a record from this era are richness, smoothness, naturalness and Tubey Magic — with those, and clarity and presence, you have pretty much everything you need for a top quality pressing
  • Simply Red’s third (and in our opinion their BEST) album – this is where it all came together for the band, with “It’s Only Love” and “A New Flame” being the two best tracks the group ever recorded
  • Their cover of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” on side two sounds FANTASTIC

This outstanding UK import pressing has some of the best sound we have ever heard for the album, Simply Red’s third and in my opinion their BEST.

This is where it all came together for the band, especially in the writing department. These songs about love (few popular songs are about anything else when you stop to think about it) harken back to the days when there was such a thing as “Blue-Eyed Soul Music,” a cross between real soul music and the standard radio-friendly pop song. Hall and Oates, Smokey Robinson (not exactly blue-eyed but definitely the right sound); the music of these artists combines pop craftsmanship with real soul.

I love this album. Every track is good; the slow ones are the best but unlike their previous records the uptempo tracks are taken at a more modest and listenable pace. The two tracks that open side one are two of the best the band ever recorded.

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Listening in Depth to Crosby Stills & Nash – Now with Bonus CD Advice

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Reviews and Commentaries for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Debut

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash

Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered and pressed poorly, that few copies actually make it to the site as Hot Stampers.

We wish that were not the case — we love the album — but the copies we know to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound are just not sitting around in the record bins these days.

Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the Joe Gastwirt-mastered CD. It couldn’t be any more awful. (His Deja Vu is just as bad.)

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

What’s magical about Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young? Their voices of course. It’s not a trick question. They revolutionized rock music with their genius for harmony. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no value whatsoever. A CSN record with bad midrange reproduction — like most of them — is a worthless record.

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Earth, Wind and Fire – Gratitude

  • A superb copy of this 2-LP set with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides
  • My personal favorite EWF song of all time, “Can’t Hide Love,” sounds INCREDIBLE on this Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side four, where you will also find “Sing a Song,” “Gratitude,” and “Celebrate”
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, 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: “Gratitude brilliantly captures the excitement EWF generated on-stage at its creative peak… Neither hardcore EWF devotees nor more casual listeners should deprive themselves of the joys of the live versions of “Shining Star” and “Yearnin’ Learnin’.”

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Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around

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More Country and Country Rock

  • Relaxed, rich and tubey, yet clear, this is the kind of sound you always wanted from The Buffalo Springfield but had no way to hear, until now
  • Some of the best songs the band ever wrote are right here: I Am A Child, Kind Woman and too many more to list
  • If Buffalo Springfield Again deserves a Five Star rating then Last Time Around does too – it’s equally brilliant, and a real Desert Island Disc for yours truly

These two sides are relaxed, rich and tubey, giving you exactly what you would expect from a Top Quality pressing — without the noise, veiling and distortion that you’re used to hearing on the copies you picked up locally, or the one you mistreated back in the day (didn’t we all?).

When you get hold of the right copy and know how to clean it right, you find that some of these pressings are a damn sight better than the most audiophiles think they are.

The kind of MIDRANGE MAGIC on this pressing let us hear into the music in a way we (and you too I’m guessing) never imagined was possible.

Most copies have no bass, no real top, and are compressed so badly they sound more like cardboard than vinyl. But not this copy. It breaks the mold, revealing to the world (well, our world anyway — the world at Better Records) that those badly recorded Buffalo Springfield records from the ’60s weren’t so badly recorded after all.

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Steppenwolf – Self-Titled

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More Debut Albums of Interest

  • An outstanding copy of Steppenwolf’s debut with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – we guarantee you have never heard these songs sound remotely as good as they do here (or your money back)
  • Rich, clear and dynamic, this copy has the bass these rockers need – this is undeniably the right sound for this bluesy, hard-chargin’ music
  • Includes killer hits “Born To Be Wild” and “The Pusher,” both featured in the 1969 movie Easy Rider
  • 4 stars: “…a surprisingly strong debut album from a tight hard rock outfit… The playing is about as loud and powerful as anything being put out by a major record label in 1968…”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this vintage pressing of their 1968 classic belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • And it appears to be the case that we will never tire of linking to this guy who liked one of the worst sounding audiophile records we have ever played, made by probably the worst audiophile label of all time, Analogue Productions

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Roxy Music – Avalon

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More Roxy Music

  • This excellent UK pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Copies that are exceptionally transparent, with three-dimensional depth and a wide soundstage, present this music the way it was meant to be heard
  • Credit Rhett Davies with creating the sonic space to allow the singers, instruments and subtle studio effects to be balanced and integrated from front to back, side to side and top to bottom
  • 5 stars: “Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics.”

Records like Avalon get people (often known as audiophiles) to spend wads and wads of money in pursuit of expensive analog equipment good enough to bring this wonderful music to life in their very own listening rooms.

The album rewards a stereo with many of the qualities that audiophiles prize most highly when selecting equipment — spaciousness, transparency, clarity, detail, depth, soundstaging, speed, high frequency extension and the like.

The mix is as dense as any we know. Only the best copies have the ability to show you everything that’s on the tape. Credit must go to the amazingly talented Rhett Davies for creating the space to put so many instruments and sounds in.

We would add to that list presence and energy, along with warmth, fullness, and lack of smear on the transients. Whomp and rock and roll power do not seem to play much part in separating the best from the rest, although it’s nice when the bottom end is big and solid.

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The Beatles – The White Album

More of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for The White Album

  • An outstanding British pressing of The White Album, with solid sound on all four sides
  • This copy of the Beatles’ Masterpiece (my personal favorite of all their albums) is going to thrill and delight the lucky person who snags it
  • If you’ve heard the half-speed and Heavy Vinyl versions of The White Album, then you know how riddled they are with erroneous and unacceptable mastering choices
  • They are simply not enjoyable on high-quality equipment (or shouldn’t be if your stereo is doing its job right), unlike this wonderful pressing, which is guaranteed to be an unalloyed joy to play
  • “If there is still any doubt that Lennon and McCartney are the greatest song writers since Schubert, then next Friday – with the publication of the new Beatles double LP – should surely see the last vestiges of cultural snobbery and bourgeois prejudice swept away in a deluge of joyful music making…” Right On!

Our Hot Stampers have always been a BIG hit with the folks who’ve been lucky enough to snare them. If you’re ready for a High-Quality copy of The White Album that’s sure to massacre all the pressings you’ve heard until now, you should jump right on this bad boy. (more…)

Christopher Cross / Self-Titled

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  • The best pressings fuller, bigger, more lively and more Tubey Magical, in the best tradition of glossy late-’70s pop productions
  • This one swept the Grammy awards, with great songs including Sailing, Ride Like The Wind and Never Be The Same – Michael McDonald’s gorgeous harmonies are the icing on the cake
  • “While the hits like the dreamy “Sailing” and the surging “Ride Like the Wind” deserved all the attention, they’re hardly the only highlights here — to borrow a sports metaphor, this has a deep bench, and there’s not a weak moment here

If you like Michael McDonald, Toto, The Doobies, Hall and Oates, The Bee Gees and countless other bands we have lovingly found a home for on our site, you will no doubt find much to like here. A guilty pleasure you say? When a record sounds this good there is nothing to feel guilty about.

Besides Michael McDonald’s amazing background vocals, listen for the contribution Michael Omartian (the producer) makes on the keyboards. The keyboards more than the guitars are really the driving force behind these songs. If you hear some Aja in his playing, that’s because he played on Aja too. He was also instrumental in many of the Direct to Discs Sheffield made, I’ve Got the Music in Me probably being the best known of the batch. (more…)