Reviews from Earlier Days

Joe Sample / Rainbow Seeker – Live and Learn

A classic case of Live and Learn

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[This commentary is about fifteen years old.]

Hot Stampers discovered! It took years, decades even, but it FINALLY happened. This copy has a side one with all the sound I always knew must be on the tape but somehow never seemed to make it to the vinyl. This copy has that sound!

Let me backtrack a bit. I’ve been recommending the MOFI for as long as I can remember, because it has always been the only copy that didn’t sound like a bad cassette. The domestic pressings and imports I had run into over the years had no top end whatsoever, no bass below 50 or 60 cycles, and enough veils over the midrange to cover an entire harem. The sound was Pure Compressed Cardboard.

The best MOFI copies had an actual top end; a real bottom too. (Not a tight or deep one but that’s MOFI for you.) I’ve always loved the music, so even though the sound was somewhat washed out and lifeless, you could listen to the MOFI and enjoy it for what it was: not perfect, but a whole lot better than the alternatives. (The CD was hopeless by the way, no surprise there.)

Ah, but all that changed this week. I had just picked up a sealed original copy at a local store and was considering putting it up on the site, sealed of course. Then a thought went through my mind. I’ve always loved this record. What if this copy is The One? So I did the unthinkable. I cracked it open, and soon enough the needle was in the groove on my favorite track, Fly With Wings of Love. To my surprise it had the BEST SOUND I had EVER heard for that song. When all was said and done, when all the copies in the backroom had been disc doctored, along with my three MOFI copies, and each carefully evaluated, sure enough this is the side two that turned out to be the King. I give it an A with Two Pluses. The typical domestic copy gets an F.

Wait, there’s more. So with all our copies cleaned and ready to play, it was now time to play all the side ones. Even more shocking and surprising, one copy had a side one that was OUT OF THIS WORLD. Master tape sound, As Good As It Gets, perfection.

That’s this copy. Side two is pretty good, maybe a B+ or so. Better than average, but no Hot Stamper.

Since this is one of my favorite pop-jazz albums, if not my actual all time favorite, I can’t recommend this album highly enough. It may not be deep — for real piano trio jazz check out Sample’s The Three — but it’s not trying to be. It is what it is — sophisticated, melodic, well-crafted piano-based easy-going jazz. With the awesome Eric Gale on guitar too!


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

The best place to start is here:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

(more…)

Milhaud / La Creation du Monde / Munch

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M-/ M- – to M-. 1s/ 2s. Side 2 has DEMO QUALITY sound. These rare Soria pressings have a tendency to be noisy so this is as quiet a copy as you are likely to find.

Unusually smooth sound. Just the opposite of the Mercury recordings. Perfect for this kind of music.


FURTHER READING

Advice – What to Listen For on Classical Records

Classical – “Sleeper” Top Quality Recordings

Classical – Best Performances with Top Quality Sound

Classical – Demo Disc Quality Recordings

Well Recorded Classical Albums – The Core Collection

Well Recorded Classical Albums from The Core Collection Available Now

Little Milton / Blues’N Soul – Reviewed in 2012

More Soul, R&B and Blues

Well Recorded Soul. RnB, Blues, Etc. Albums – The Core Collection

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Not sure if I would still agree with what I wrote many years ago about this album, sonically anyway:

A pristine looking Stax LP with excellent sound and some really heartfelt Blues music.

This is a Stax reissue from 1982. My experience with the stuff that Fantasy remastered has been very good over the years. This is another winner.

“Milton’s early-’70s output indeed began to walk the fine line between the blues and soul and includes the song Behind Closed Doors.” — AMG

Manfred Mann – The Best Of… – Reviewed in 2008

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This EMI British Import Mono LP (an early reissue from the ’70s I’m guessing) has SHOCKINGLY GOOD sound, by far the best I have ever heard for this music and worlds better than expected. We cleaned this one up and gave it a listen; we couldn’t believe how good it sounded! These songs are actually very well recorded — and most were made way back in the early days of the British Invasion: ’64 to ’66! This is not your midrangey Mamas and Papas and Kinks; these recordings are rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of what was to follow in British Rock with The Beatles, Jethro Tull, Zep, Floyd and the like.

Obviously Manfred Mann is not exactly in that league, but these are still some great songs, from Do-Wah-Diddy Diddy to Sha-La-La and Got My Mojo Working. A good time is guaranteed for all. We had a blast.

By the way, if you want to know where Bruce Springsteen found (or stole if you like) much of his sound, play this album and I think you will hear it too. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – The Sound of Sonny – Reviewed in 2007

Riverside White and Blue original 2 Mic Label Mono LP. Side one sounds like a typical old Riverside jazz record, but side two sounds EXCELLENT! I don’t know when I’ve heard an early Sonny Rollins record sound better. His horn is really full-bodied and dynamic and has amazing IMMEDIACY on some tracks. It makes side one sound sick in comparison.

The surfaces for old jazz records are always the problem. This one plays M– to EX++ and has some groove damage in the inner grooves — nothing too serious, but it’s definitely there. We played all the marks and only a few of them repeat, and not for long. I’ve never seen a clean quiet copy of a record like this in my life. I’m sure they exist, but I don’t come across them, at any price.  (more…)

Paganini – Kreisler / Concerto In One Movement / Campoli – Reviewed in 2019 and 2008

The Music of Paganini Available Now

More Album Reviews of the Music of Paganini

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  • This exceptionally rare early London pressing features Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER and includes a wonderful performance of the Saint-Saens Violin Concerto No. 3
  • This is a spectacular recording – it’s big, clear, rich, dynamic, transparent and energetic, and is guaranteed to put to shame any Heavy Vinyl pressing of orchestral music you own
  • Campoli brings his warmth, feeling, and technical precision to these classical masterpieces
  • The Decca engineers captured the correct amount of detail in the bowing and fingering – it’s not overdone as it is in so many records that many audiophiles prefer, with the mics much too close to the strings

This is a WONDERFUL sounding violin concerto recording. It has TUBEY MAGIC as well as MUSIC to die for. What”s most interesting about the sound is how well the violin is integrated into the orchestra. On most RCAs, just to pick one golden age label to use as an example, the violin is typically hugely oversized and placed far in front of the orchestra. Not so here. The violin is of a whole with the orchestra, which makes for a much more natural and relaxed presentation. (more…)

Rodrigo / Concierto Andaluz & Concierto de Aranjuez (SR 90488) – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More of the music of Joaquín Rodrigo (1901-1999)

More TAS Super Disc Recordings

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A good side one backed with a lovely side two! We shot out a stack of these recently and side two of this copy was one of the few sides that really impressed us. The sound is transparent and full of energy. Side one is pretty good but a bit crude in the louder passages.

This is a wonderful record. The performance here by the first family of guitar is legendary. More importantly, the music is delightful and belongs in any serious classical collection.

RFR-1 stampers. TAS List. What the best originals like this one give you is immediacy. The attack of the guitar is more real. Comparing this with the Golden Import shows you that some of the transients are smoothed over on that pressing.

If you’ve got the front end that can deal with the Mercury upper midrange and transient attack, the strings will sound textured and clear, not harsh or shrill. (A badly mastered version of this record would make your ears bleed.) More importantly, this copy captures the sounds of the guitars perfectly. I doubt if anybody could do it as well as Mercury. (more…)

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

More Lincoln Mayorga

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

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  • A KILLER copy with Demo Disc Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • 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

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 because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around. That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up!

Just listen to that amazing 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…)

Khachaturian / Violin Concerto with Szeryng and Dorati on Mercury

More Violin Recordings

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RFR-1. The music sounds alive, with more fire than the famous Kogan/Monteux recording. Performed by the London Symphony, under the direction of Antal Dorati.

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

More Led Zeppelin

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FREAKISHLY GOOD LIVE ZEP SOUND! This Swan Song LP is just full of the Zep Magic — super lively and full-bodied with a whole lotta WHOMP. Bonzo’s drum sound is LARGER THAN LIFE on this copy. Three of the four sides here rate ABOVE A++. 

We’ve never heard a copy of this album sound anywhere near amazing before. Most of the copies we’ve played sound like bad, second-generation bootleg cassettes. We still pick them up every time we see them — hey, it’s Zep, man — but we weren’t sure we’d ever hear a decent copy. We dropped the needle on this one and were SHOCKED at how hard it rocked. Inspired, we pulled out all of our clean copies, — as we imagined, none of them came anywhere close to this monster!

How big is the difference between our top dog here and the rest of the pack? Our second place winner had four and a half pluses between the four sides — this one has NINE PLUSES. Furthermore, no other side on ANY other copy we play rated higher than A++, while this one rates above A++ on three sides. Talk about a landslide! (more…)