A List of Personal Favorites (Mostly Rock and Pop)

The Doors / The Soft Parade – What Happens When the Gold Label Doesn’t Have the Best Sound on Both Sides?

It gets marked the sonic grade it earned.

If a Big Red E label pressing sounded better to us on side two, if it somehow managed to sound better than any of our Gold Label originals, then it would earn the top grade on side two.

Here is how we described a killer copy we had not long ago:

With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy is practically as good as it gets. The sound on this Gold Label pressing is incredibly powerful — big, rich, full-bodied, present and lively. It’s HUGE, RICH, and FULL-BODIED, exactly the way it should be.

But note that side two was clearly not as good as side one. Even the best early pressings cannot be relied on to get both sides right. The pressing above is proof. We discuss the issue in the commentary below.

What are the sonic qualities by which a Pop or Rock record — any Pop or Rock record — 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, spaciousness, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, three-dimensionality, and on and on down the list.

When we can hear a good many of the qualities mentioned above on the side we’re playing, we provisionally award it a Hot Stamper grade. This grade is often revised over the course of the shootout, as we come to more fully appreciate just how good some of the other copies are.

Once we’ve been through all our side ones, we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner. Other copies have their grades raised or lowered depending on how they sounded relative to the shootout winner.

Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides of each pressing match up.

That’s why the most common grade for a White Hot Stamper pressing is Triple Plus (A+++) on one side and Double Plus (A++) on the other.

Finding the two best sounding sides from a shootout on the same LP does happen, but it sure doesn’t happen as often as we would like (!) There are just too many variables in the mastering and pressing processes to ensure that level of consistency.

But some pressings pull it off, triumphing over all comers and winning the shootout for both sides. These very special Triple Triple pressings have their own section, separate from our White Hot Stamper pressings. If you want the ultimate in audiophile sound for any particular title, this is where you will find it.

At the time of this writing there were about four times as many records with one White Hot side as there were records with White Hot Stamper sound on each side.

Record shootouts may not be rocket science, but they’re a science of a kind, one with strict protocols we’ve developed over the course of many years to ensure that the sonic grades we assign to our Hot Stampers are as accurate as we can make them.

The result of all our work speaks for itself. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing — or your money back.

Hot Stampers of The Soft Parade

Letters and Commentaries for The Soft Parade

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Paul McCartney – McCartney

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More Beatles

  • This copy of McCartney’s Apple debut boasts killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Both sides are big and rich, with plenty of low end, strong midrange presence and the kind of spatiality that will fill your entire listening room
  • Record Collector highlighted “Every Night”, “Junk,” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” as songs that “still sound absolutely effortless and demonstrate the man’s natural genius with a melody.”
  • A Top 100 pick and Paul McCartney’s One and Only Masterpiece – a Must Own when it sounds this good!

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. The music jumps right out of the speakers and fills up the room. (more…)

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name…

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More Hippie Folk Rock

  • The ultimate Hippie Folk Rock Demo Disc – both sides are shockingly transparent, with huge amounts of bass, silky highs, in-the-room vocals and TONS of Tubey Magic
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” If I Could Only Remember My Name is a shambolic masterpiece, meandering but transcendentally so, full of frayed threads. Not only is it among the finest splinter albums out of the CSNY diaspora, it is one of the defining moments of hungover spirituality from the era.”
  • If you’re an audiophile, this is a Demo Disc from 1971 that no record collection comprising Top Quality Recordings should be without
  • The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

Here it is, folks… a TRUE ROCK DEMO DISC! A White Hot Stamper copy such as this will show you why we’ve long considered it one of the All Time Top Ten Rock Albums for Sound and Music. You will not believe how Tubey Magical and three-dimensional this album can be when you have a pressing with this kind of sound. The harmonic complexity and extension on the acoustic guitars are absolutely stunning!

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording? (We do applaud his decision not to add the Classic pressing of this title to the list, the way he did with so many other Classic pressings that have no business on anything called a Super Disc list.)

You Don’t Have to Be High to Hear It

When you drop the needle on this record, all barriers between you and the musicians are removed. You’ll feel as though you’re sitting at the studio console while Crosby and his no-doubt-stoned-out-of-their-minds Bay Area pals (mostly Jefferson Airplaners and Grateful Deads, see list below) are laying down this emotionally powerful, heartfelt music.

The overall sound is warm, sweet, rich, and full-bodied… that’s some real ANALOG Tubey Magic, baby! And the best part is, you don’t have to be high to hear it. You just need a good stereo and the right pressing. (more…)

Marshall Crenshaw / Mary Jean & 9 Others – A Desert Island Disc

This is my favorite roots rock record of all time. I love the album and have played it many, many hundreds of times. It starts off with the driving This Is Easy and never lets up until the very last song, a beautiful ballad, “They Never Will Know.”

The All Music Guide had this to say about MC’s first 3 albums: “…an irresistible combination of masterful pop and vibrant, timeless rock & roll.” They weren’t that impressed with this album, but I cannot for the life of me understand why.

I think this is the album where Marshall got it all together: his best songs, his best production, his most tightly knit band, his best guitar solos — the best the guy had to offer is right here.

How does somebody play the same record 100’s of times? I have it on tape in my car, backed with one of my favorite Bonnie Raitt albums, Nine Lives. I can sing along with every song and know every guitar lick by heart. This music may sound simple on the surface, but it has the essence of great popular music. The songs are both heartfelt and catchy, with the kinds of hooks that remind me of the early Beatles.

If you like Buddy Holly, or any of the people that have been influenced by him to produce straight ahead rock and roll, you should like this.

If you have the kind of “delicate” stereo that can’t play loud, hasn’t much bass, or can’t move much air, this is not the record for you. This record is supposed to ROCK. If you don’t have a big system that can do that, you’re wasting your time trying to get this record to do what it wants to do.

It’s not a particularly good sounding record, which is why you have never seen a Hot Stamper pressing of it on our site. But the music is so good we think you can get past the sound and just enjoy the songs for what they are: great.

Hot Stamper Pressings of Roots Rock LPs

Reviews and Commentaries for Roots Rock LPs

Bonnie Raitt – Home Plate

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More Women Who Rock

  • Sound this good means you’re probably hearing the album better than they did when they played back the master tape in the control room — studio monitors being what they are
  • Since this is one of my three favorite Bonnie Raitt albums — the others being Sweet Forgiveness and Nine Lives — and quite possibly the best sounding album she ever made, it goes without saying that this is THE Must Own Bonnie Raitt Hot Stamper Pressing of All Time
  • “. . . a wonderful hybrid of American music, built on a thoroughly impressive set of songs, all delivered with Raitt’s warm, expertly shaded, and undeniably sexy singing.”

Another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. This is a classic case of a record that really starts to work when the levels are up. It’s so free from distortion and phony processing it wants to be played loud, and that’s the level this music works at. It’s the level it was no doubt mixed at, and that mix sounds pretty flat at moderate levels. If you want to hear the real rockin’ Bonnie Raitt you gots to turn it up!

Like a lot of the best recordings from the mid-’70s, the production and recording quality are clean and clear, and we mean that in a good way. There is very little processing to the sound of anything here; drums sound like drums, guitars like guitars, and Bonnie sings without the aid of autotuning — because she can sing on-key, and beautifully. Her vocals kill on every song. (Her dad had a pretty good set of pipes too.) (more…)

10cc – How Dare You!

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Reviews and Commentaries for 10cc

 

  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this outstanding early UK pressing of 10cc’s fourth album, How Dare You! – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This wonderful LP will show you that 10cc’s commitment to Audiophile Recording Quality was – at the time – beyond reproach 
  • Forget the dubby domestic stuff and the no-doubt-awful Heavy Vinyl, this early British pressing is huge, spacious and rich, with prodigious amounts of bass, like no other copy you’ve heard
  • 4 stars: “…a well-crafted album that shows off 10cc’s eccentric humor and pop smarts in equal measure… it remains a solid album of witty pop songs that will satisfy anyone with a yen for 10cc.”
  • If like us you’re a fan of Arty Rock from the ’70s, this is a killer album from 1976 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

With this superb British pressing, some of you who might consider yourselves more devoted fans of the band will finally be able to hear what a good recording this is. The typical domestic copy is a disaster as are some of the British originals and reissues; we should know, we cleaned them, played them and heard them for ourselves.

If you know anything about this band, you know their recordings are often amazing Demo Discs. We’ve done shootouts for all their most important titles and the sound on the best copies is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

If you’re looking for something off the beaten path, this is definitely one to check out. I don’t know of any other album like it.

Best sound on side one: “Lazy Ways.”

Best track on the album: “Rock ‘N Roll Lullaby.” (more…)

Yes – Close To The Edge

  • A STUNNING pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – these early pressings are the only ones that can make sense of this challenging music
  • On such a dynamic recording, with so many quiet passages, finding surfaces as quiet as these is a dubious proposition for even the most committed audiophile
  • An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts
  • 5 stars: “Close to the Edge comprised just three tracks, the epic ‘And You and I’ and ‘Siberian Khatru,’ plus a side-long title track that represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years.”
  • If you’re a fan of adventurous Prog Rock, then this would clearly be a Must Own title for you from 1972.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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10cc’s Brilliant Second Album – Sheet Music

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Yet Another Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

  • Rich, full and balanced with plenty of deep bass and Arty Rock energy, this is a Truly Amazing Demo Disc
  • Bassist Graham Gouldman calls it “the definitive 10cc album” and he’s probably right about that (although we love The Original Soundtrack that came out a year later)
  • “Three hit singles spun off the record, and most of the other tracks could have followed suit; it says much for Sheet Music’s staying power that, no matter how many times the album is reissued, it has never lost its power to delight, excite, and set alight a lousy day.”

Sheet Music is in our opinion the most consistently well written and produced 10cc album, with every track performed with heart and recorded with exquisite attention to detail. Each song flows into the next and there is simply not a dull moment to be found. Sheet Music is arguably the best record they ever made, although I’m such a fan, I think they’re all great. (The first five albums anyway.) (more…)

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child is Father to the Man

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Reviews and Commentaries for Child Is Father to the Man

  • Absolutely amazing sound throughout, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • This copy will show you just how big, full-bodied, lively and POWERFUL this music can be on the right pressing
  • Not many records on this site are harder to find with top quality sound and reasonably quiet surfaces
  • 5 stars: “Child Is Father to the Man is keyboard player/singer/arranger Al Kooper’s finest work, an album on which he moves the folk-blues-rock amalgamation of the Blues Project into even wider pastures… One of the great albums of the eclectic post-Sgt. Pepper era of the late ’60s.”

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Michael Jackson / Thriller – A Top 100, 5 Star Rock, Pop and Soul Masterpiece

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Reviews and Commentaries for Thriller

  • With outstanding grades throughout, this pressing of Michael Jackson’s Masterpiece of Funky Rock Pop will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is huge – big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare, as well as cleaner, smoother, sweeter upper mids and a more extended top
  • Billie Jean and Beat It sound out of this world, but that’s not fair, since every track does
  • A Top 100 and 5 Stars on AMG: “This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul — expanding the approach to have something for every audience.”

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’80s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of Thriller is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and far too many of our favorites to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

Sound that came Jumping-out-of-the-speakers coupled with driving rhythmic energy were the hallmarks of the best copies. These qualities really brought this complex music to life, gave it room to breathe, and made it possible for us to enjoy the hell out of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music. (more…)