Older Reviews – Blues, R’n’B, Soul, etc.

Roberta Flack – Chapter Two

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This is the best sounding Roberta Flack solo album to ever hit the site! (I say “solo” because the best copies of Flack / Hathaway are also incredible.)

We fell hard for this album when we started comparing these a while back but it has taken us until now to finally get a copy listed. Most in the bins are way too noisy for us to sell and few of them sound anything like this! If you’re a Roberta Flack fan or just enjoy amazing sounding soul music, you won’t want to miss out on this one!

It’s a matter of opinion, of course, but for my money the opener “Reverend Lee” is the best song on here. Roberta absolutely knocks that one outta the park and on a copy like this one it is magical. (more…)

Sly and The Family Stone – Greatest Hits – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

Finally, a Triple Plus side for Sly’s Greatest Hits album, the first time this album has EVER sounded the way it is supposed to! Man, most copies of this album just plain suck — sonically of course. Musically I have to second the sentiments of the writer for AMG who noted: “Music is rarely as vivacious, vigorous, and vibrant as this, and captured on one album, the spirit, sound, and songs of Sly & the Family Stone are all the more stunning.” So true.

No side one had the ultimate sound we were looking for. This side one earned an A+, best in the shootout, but far from perfect. It’s tonally correct and not nearly as smeary and sub-gen as most copies, but it sure doesn’t sound like side two. That side blew every copy we played out of the water. Nothing came within two pluses. I can’t remember when that happened last. It might never have. (more…)

Young-Holt Unlimited – Oh Girl

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This is a very nice looking Atlantic LP with AMAZING SOUND! The sound just JUMPS out of the speakers as soon as the needle hits the groove. If more records sounded like this I’d be out of a job — you wouldn’t need me to find good pressings for you. Records like this in my experience are the exception not the rule. Few of these have survived, so I have no other copies to compare to this one.

I can tell you this: the ‘4 Men With Beards’ 180g pressing is a pretty pale imitation of the sound on this album.

John Mayall – Empty Rooms

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

With only keyboards, guitars, saxes and flutes — the absence of a drummer is especially noteworthy — the group creates a mystical, low-key atmosphere in the studio within which JM tells his stories. In other words, it’s different. When it comes to John Mayall’s recorded works, that’s not a bad thing. 

We’ve auditioned a good dozen or more of his albums over the years, most of which we found interesting but not especially compelling (not at our prices anyway). He averaged about two albums a year through the ’60s and ’70s and on most of the ones we’ve played it seems that he struggled to come up with material good enough to fill them all.

That said, we took a liking to this one and proudly offer it here for the first time.

Side One

Excellent energy and vocal presence. Clear and full, with good lots of studio space.

The second and third tracks tended to sound better to us than the first by the way.

Side Two

Natural and balanced, with rich and tubey 1970 sound. The second track is especially Tubey Magical and smooth in the right way. (more…)

Tower of Power – Back To Oakland

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When you hear it on a Hot Stamper like this, there is little in the recording to criticize. The brass is textured with just the right amount of bite (but not to the point of sounding gritty). In addition, the soundstage is wide and three-dimensional, with the kind of transparency that allows you to hear into the music all the way to the back wall of the studio (assuming your system resolves that kind of information).

The most obvious effect is that all the horns are separated out from one another, not all smeared together, with plenty of space around the drums, guitars and vocals as well. The sound is freely flowing from the speakers, not stuck inside them.

We love this funky music and have long been delighted with how wonderful the best pressings can sound. This may be Tower of Power’s best; certainly it’s one of their most consistent and well-recorded. (more…)

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee – Sonny and Brownie – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

SUPERB A+++ DEMO DISC SOUND and DEAD QUIET VINYL on both sides of this A & M pressing! What a record! I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar that you couldn’t find ANY version of this music that sounded better than this. The sound is RIGHT ON THE MONEY from top to bottom, start to finish. The immediacy, clarity and transparency are OFF THE CHARTS — this record puts a killer blues jam right there in your living room!

The sound is as close to perfection as I imagine any copy of this record is ever going to get. (The music, by the way, is SUPERB. Great covers of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and Randy Newman’s “Sail Away” are among the highlights.) (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

EXCELLENT SOUND ON BOTH SIDES on this White Hot Stamper pressing of the great follow-up to Innervisions! We’ve been collecting clean copies for ages and were able to have a MASSIVE shootout for this album, so I can say with complete confidence that you will not find a better sounding copy of this album no matter what you do! Both sides are warm, rich and natural with excellent immediacy to the vocals. The drums are clear and crisp, the bass has real weight, and the overall sound is big and lively.

It’s very difficult to find copies of Stevie’s albums that sound great and play quietly. I know many of you are aware of this because we get so many requests for Hot Stamper pressings of his various albums. You might be able to get quiet vinyl on the Japanese Stevie pressings, but you won’t find The Real Sound — no way, no how.

The vinyl on this copy plays between Mint Minus Minus and Mint Minus — not too bad but far from silent. There’s constant light to moderate noise behind the music, particularly audible in the quietest passages. It’s a small price to pay to get sound this good for music this important, but it’s not a record for anyone who demands Minty vinyl. If you can’t live with a little surface noise, you probably won’t ever hear any of Stevie’s classic albums sound as amazing as this one does. (more…)

Bill Withers – Still Bill – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

Incredibly Hot Sound for this amazing soulful album! This killer Sussex pressing has a side one that just can not be beat. It positively massacred the other copies we put up against it with superb presence, top-notch clarity, full-bodied vocals and serios energy. We gave side one an A+++, our top grade, and side two is close behind at A++. I don’t think you could find a better sounding Bill Withers album no matter what you do. I wish there were more ’70s soul albums that sounded like this. (more…)

Sade – Promise – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

WHITE HOT SOUND for this jazzy R&B Pop classic! You can dismiss this as pop fluff if that’s your thing, but there’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it. All it takes is a top copy such as this to make her talents — and those of her bandmates — abundantly clear.

If you know this album at all you know that most pressings are just too damn dark. Sade herself is typically recessed in the mix and veiled; it takes an exceptional copy such as this one to make her voice both present and breathy.

With this Hot Stamper pressing you can finally recognize and appreciate what a lovely way she has with these smoldering songs of lost loves and bittersweet times past. (more…)

Dionne Warwick – Very Dionne – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

SUPERB Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides of this original Scepter pressing, with QUIET VINYL no less. Folks, don’t expect to see records like this coming to the site too often. We can’t find them anymore in this kind of clean condition, so if you like the lovely Ms Warwick, consider taking this one home and giving her (the record, not Dionne) a spin on your table.

Side one is LOVELY — the bass is tight and punchy, the strings have lots of texture, and the background vocals are clean and clear. The grit and grain that plague the average copy are practically nowhere to be found here. The midrange is full of that old analog Tubey Magic, the kind that has completely disappeared from the modern record, (even the modern reissue of a vintage record!). The sound is so open and transparent, you hear directly into the soundfield.

Notice how the limiter on Dionne’s microphone is working overtime. She is practically shouting into it but it never seems to get much louder! Still the energy and the passion come through clearly. That’s the sign of a well-recorded vocal track. (more…)