Shootout Winners – 2010

Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper

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

Imagine the sound of a Hot Stamper Stardust, but instead of Pop Standards you hear Willie, his voice still in its prime, singing Christmas songs, backed by similarly tasteful and understated arrangements. That’s what you get on this copy of Pretty Paper in a nutshell.

Released just a year after Stardust in 1979, many of the same musicians are featured, as well as the same producer, the amazing Booker T.. And the most shocking thing of all is just how good the sound is.

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Next to Stardust I’d have to say this is the best sound Willie has ever had. It’s so rich, smooth and natural — in other words, analog sounding — that it puts to shame what has come to be expected from pop recordings over the course of the last thirty years.

Yes, records used to actually sound like this, as hard as that may be to believe after playing so many dismal sounding modern recordings, modern reissues and audiophile “product”. A good pressing of this album is one of the best reasons I can think of to own a high quality turntable these days. I find it hard to imagine that the CD would sound remotely as good.

Note that this record sounds even better when played loud, no doubt the result of having no trace of phony top end boost and very little processing throughout, unlike — you guessed it — much of the vinyl product being produced today. (And of course all digital releases, which should go without saying to anyone reading this commentary I suspect.) Many if not most pressings of the legendary Stardust album have some phony top added to the sound. The good ones — meaning the Hot Stamper copies — are the ones that sound more like this: natural up top and and throughout the midrange.

Side One

A+ Hot Stamper sound, It has some of the all-too-common veiling we heard in our shootout compared to the best copies we played. Willie’s voice is not quite as breathy here on track one but it seems to get better as the record plays. Not quite as rich and full as the best but still quite nice.

Side Two

The sound is natural and smooth but somewhat opaque. We grade side two A+.

Vinyl Condition

Mostly Mint Minus, very nice! Click on the Sonic Grade tab for more specific information.

June Christy – Gone For The Day

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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June Christy – Gone For The Day

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

Side two of this White Hot Stamper June Christy record on the original Capitol Turquoise label is AMAZING, both musically and sonically. It has all the TUBEY MAGIC we know these old records are famous for, but this copy gives you something you may never have heard on a vintage pressing before: real frequency EXTENSION, both high and low. Who knew an old record could have extended highs like these and such deep bass?

I can honestly say I have never heard any June Christy record sound as good as this copy does.

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(We had a fantastic Something Cool a while back but that was all pre-upgrades. The sound is far better now than it was then, making comparisons all but meaningless.)

Side Two

OFF THE CHARTS A Triple Plus Sound from start to finish. Rich and sweet and present like no copy we have ever heard. No copy out of the four originals we played earned more than a grade of A++, so this side two is a big step up over everything and the best sound we have ever heard for ANY June Christy record.

Side One

Not as tubey magical as the best we heard but earning lots of points for being present and clear. It has some of the top end you will hear on side two, which is also rare in our experience. With more richness and fullness, the kind side two has in spades, this would have been a real contender for side one. No side one earned a higher grade than A++ so this copy was actually not that far off the best we played. It’s this side two that had us gobsmacked and forced us to set a higher standard for the other copies. (more…)

Bud Shank And the Sax Section – A Forgotten Jazz Classic

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Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Bud Shank And the Sax Section

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

A True Demo Disc of the highest order! The sound of multiple saxes playing these lively arrangements is audiophile magic to these ears. We played a ton of copies and none of them had two sides like this! You aren’t going to believe how open, lively and tubey magical the sound is throughout.

Both sides here are SUPER HOT. It must have something very close to 100% of the sound the engineer recorded, because it is just out of this world. The engineer in question? None other than Bruce Botnick, the man behind Sergio Mendes’ first album, The Doors, Love and countless others, a true wizard in the studio if ever there was one.

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Botnick Is The Man

He sure knew what he was doing on this session. Botnick succeeded brilliantly in capturing the unique sound of each of the saxes. The album is really more of a West Coast pop jazz record than it is a “real” jazz record. The arrangements are very tight, the songs are quite short — none exceed three and a half minutes — so there is not a lot of classic jazz saxophone improvisational blowing going on. (If you’re looking for the kind of thing Rudy Van Gelder did back in the day, it’s not here.)

The Bass Sax — What a Sound!

The reason this album is so appealing to us audiophiles is that the sound of each of the saxophones is clearly recognizable as they weave in and around these arrangements. On the back cover you can see a fellow holding a bass saxophone, an instrument you don’t hear too often — perhaps it’s fallen from favor. (It solos at the beginning of Sidewinder on side one. Once you hear it you will be dying to play that song for your audiophile buddies, I guarantee it. What a sound!) (more…)

John Klemmer – Touch

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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John Klemmer – Touch

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

This Super Hot Stamper copy of Touch is one of the best sounding records Mobile Fidelity ever made, and the ONLY record of theirs I know of that can’t be beat by a standard real-time mastered pressing.

We’re talking DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND here. The spaciousness of the studio and the three-dimensional placement of the myriad percussion instruments and bells within its walls make this something of an audiophile spectacular of a different kind — dreamy and intensely emotional.

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Mobile Fidelity, maker of some of the worst sounding records in the history of audio, is the KING on this title.
Klemmer says pure emotion is what inspired the album’s creation. Whatever he tapped into to find the source of that inspiration he really hit pay dirt with Touch. It’s the heaviest smooth jazz ever recorde. Musically and sonically, this is the pinnacle of Klemmer’s smooth jazz body of work. I know of none better. (If you want to hear him play more straight-ahead jazz try Straight from the Heart on Nautilus.)

High Frequency Testing

MOFI was famous for demonstrating on an actual scope that the standard domestic ABC pressing had nothing above about 8 or 10 thousand cycles up top, which is why they all sound insufferably dull and dead. Some MoFi copies have no real top end either, which is the reason to we do these shootouts — to find the copies that are actually mastered and pressed right, not just the ones that should have been. (more…)

Top 100 – Why Not This Amazing Phil Manzanera Record?

Like its brother 801 Live, this album is an amazing SONIC BLOCKBUSTER, with sound that positively leaps out of the speakers. Why shouldn’t it? It was engineered by the superbly talented Rhett Davies at Island, the genius behind Taking Tiger Mountain, the aforementioned 801 Live, Avalon, Dire Straits’ first album and many, many more.
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Never a Dull Moment – Unless You’re Playing the DCC Heavy Vinyl…

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In which case you are in for an unending string of dull moments (see below). 

Never A Dull Moment

We were thrilled when we dropped the needle on side one and heard sound that was AMAZINGLY airy, open, and spacious.

It’s got all the elements necessary to let this music REALLY ROCK — stunning presence; super punchy drums; deep, tight bass; and tons of life and energy. Rod’s voice sounds just right with lots of breath, texture, and ambience. The sound is clean, clear, smooth, and sweet — that’s our sound.

Side two here is nearly as good and dramatically better sounding than most. Listen to the percussion on Angel — you can really hear all the transients and the sound of the drum skins.

On the same track, the meaty guitar in the left channel sounds mind-blowingly good. The bass is deep and well-defined, and the sound of the drums is awesome in every way. Who has a better drum sound than Rod Stewart on his two best albums? (more…)

Top 100 – Why Not This Record?

Like its brother 801 Live, this album is an amazing SONIC BLOCKBUSTER, with sound that positively leaps out of the speakers. Why shouldn’t it? It was engineered by the superbly talented Rhett Davies at Island, the genius behind Taking Tiger Mountain, the aforementioned 801 Live, Avalon, Dire Straits’ first album and many, many more.
(more…)