Personal Favorites (Mostly Rock and Pop)

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

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  • 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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  • 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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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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Roxy Music – Avalon

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  • 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…)

Elvis Costello – Trust

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More Top 100 Titles

  • Trust is back on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides of this original UK import pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has Demo Disc sound guaranteed to knock you right out of your listening chair
  • The clarity and transparency allow you to appreciate subtleties in the high end even when the bass and drums are really POUNDING
  • 5 stars: “…their most ambitious and eclectic album to date… Costello & the Attractions demonstrate their musical skill and savvy by essentially sticking to the direct sound of their four-piece band. In the process, they recorded, arguably, their most impressive album, one that demonstrates all sides of Costello’s songwriting and performing personality without succumbing to pretentiousness.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Trust is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

This copy has The Big Sound that lets this music REALLY ROCK. There’s a TON of low-end on this record; regrettably, most copies suffer from either a lack of bass or a lack of bass definition. I can’t tell you how much you’re missing when the bass isn’t right on this album. It’s without a doubt THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT of the sound on this album.

When the bass is right, everything falls into place, and the music comes powerfully to life. When the bass is lacking or ill-defined, the music seems labored; the moment-to-moment rhythmic changes in the songs blur together, and the band just doesn’t swing the way it’s supposed to.

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James Taylor – Gorilla

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  • Two insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides for one of James Taylor’s best softer rock albums
  • Soulful JT at his best, an underappreciated album by our man and one that belongs in your collection
  • Mexico, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) and I Was A Fool To Care are standouts – there are no weak tracks here
  • Rolling Stone notes, “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

This is soft rock at its best, made up primarily of love songs, and helped immensely by the harmonically-gifted backing vocals of Graham Nash and David Crosby.

Rolling Stone notes that “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

To be honest, the recording of Gorilla itself cannot compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. It can be a very good sounding record, but not a great one, certainly not in the same league as those two. (more…)

Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis?

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More Arty Rock Albums

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this early domestic (!) A&M copy
  • Most pressings are painfully thin and harsh, but this one had much more of the richness and smoothness we were looking for, closer to the Brit Shootout Winner and miles away from the painfully bad original domestic pressings we know to avoid
  • Credit the man behind the board, Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, A Salty Dog, Magical Mystery Tour, America and more), who knows a thing or two about Tubey Magic
  • A Desert Island Disc for TP, from all the way back in 1975 when I first gave it a spin on my Ariston RD 11 turntable
  • “Even simple tracks like ‘Lady’ and ‘Just a Normal Day blend in nicely with the album’s warm personality and charmingly subtle mood. Although the tracks aren’t overly contagious or hook laden, there’s still a work-in-process type of appeal spread through the cuts, which do grow on you over time.”

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The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

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  • An outstanding vintage London pressing of this surprisingly well-recorded Stones album from 1968, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout and fairly quiet vinyl, all things considered
  • The long lost Tubey Magic of these early pressings has them sounding better than we ever thought possible with the audio equipment of the day
  • This is exactly the way you want Beggars Banquet to sound and it sure doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own titles we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

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