Shootout Winners – 2012

The Hi-Lo’s – And All That Jazz

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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The Hi-Lo’s – And All That Jazz

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

This Columbia Six-Eye LP has TWO STUNNING SIDES, easily the best we heard in our entire shootout! This is a superb recording, and a copy like this is a true Demo Disc. The vocals are perfection, and every instrument sounds correct and REAL here, with the transparency and clarity to put you right there with the players.

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Side One

A+++, absolutely amazing! Stunningly clear and high-rez with no shortage of energy or tubey magic, this is As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) — which is very good indeed.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, an incredible sounding side in its own right. Side one might have a slight advantage in terms of transparency, but otherwise the sound here is very similar.

Background Story

An audiophile friend of mine played me this record on his big system in a huge dedicated sound room and the effect was glorious. The Hi-Lo’s are a white-bread vocal group from the ’50s that made a lot of forgettable easy listening albums. But one time they hooked up with Marty Paich and his Dek-Tette, which included players like Herb Gellar, Bill Perkins, Bud Shank, Jack Sheldon — top West Cost jazz players all — and recorded this album of standards.

What really makes this album exceptional is the recording itself. The voices are uncannily real. When the jazz musicians take their solos the sound of their instruments is right on the money. You will have a very hard time finding better sound anywhere, especially considering how beautifully spread out the players are on such a wide and deep soundstage.

Marty Paich Is an Arranging Genius

The high point here is Then I’ll Be Tired Of You. The sound is so perfectly suited to the song — everything is exactly where you want it to be, and Marty Paitch’s arrangement is constantly surprising.

The first track on side one is very reminiscent of Art Pepper Plus Eleven, another Marty Paich arranging job that ranks with the best large jazz ensemble works ever recorded.

Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay

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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Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay

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

This original CTI pressing has two wonderful sides, including an AMAZING A+++ SIDE TWO! This side two has amazingly good Demo Disc sound. RVG knocked this one out of the park, that’s for damn sure.

Hubbard was a master of funky jazz, and the song Red Clay is possibly the funkiest jazz track he ever got down on tape. At 12 minutes in length it is a transcendentally powerful experience — and the bigger your speakers and the louder you turn them up the more moving that experience is going to be!

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Side One

Side one gets going with the perennial favorite, Red Clay. The intro starts off with a stylized free-form jam, sounding like a bop-jazz band of old, then takes form and solidifies into a groove of monstrous proportions. Ron Carter’s bass playing is stellar and that fingers-on-frets sound is heard on this copy. Super clear and present, this side has zero smear and amazingly explosive transients! A touch more top and this would be right there with side two.

Like many of our funky favorites, this one was eventually sampled for a popular hip-hop song. That may not mean much to you, but it definitely means that nice copies of this album get swiped up quickly by young DJs and producers. (more…)

Oscar Peterson – If You Could See Me Now

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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Oscar Peterson – If You Could See Me Now

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

This is a SUPERB set from Oscar Peterson’s sometimes underwhelming Pablo period. This one is from 1983 and includes the estimable Joe Pass on guitar. Side one has the kind of sound one associates with late-’70s jazz, jazz that often seems to be recorded in dead studios. Side two sounds much better somehow — more clear, present and lively. The liner notes tell us it’s the same studio, even the same day, but there is simply no mistaking the better sound quality. Such are the vagaries of the vinyl record. if you’re in the market for a top quality Oscar Peterson piano trio recording (with bonus guitar), this side two should be just the ticket.

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The Best Sounding Jethro Tull Album

Thick As a Brick

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Thick As A Brick is surely the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever recorded. Allow us to make the case.

  • The better copies are shockingly dynamic. At about the three minute mark the band joins in the fun and really starts rocking.
  • Set your volume for as loud as your system can play that section. The rest of the music, including the very quietest parts, will then play correctly for all of side one. For side two the same volume setting should be fine.
  • The recording can have exceptionally solid, deep punchy bass (just check out Barrie “Barriemore” Barlow’s drumming, especially his kick and floor toms. The guy is on fire).
  • The midrange is usually transparent and the top end sweet and extended on the better pressings.
  • The recording was made in 1972, so there’s still plenty of Tubey Magic to be heard on the acoustic guitars and flutes.
  • The best copies can be as huge, wide and tall as any rock record you’ve ever heard, with sound that comes jumping out of your speakers right into your listening room.
  • Unlike practically any album recorded during the ’80s or later, the overall tonal balance, as well as the timbre of virtually every instrument in the soundfield is exceedingly correct.

That kind of accuracy practically disappeared from records about thirty years ago, which explains why so many of the LPs we offer as Hot Stampers were produced in the ’70s. That’s when many of the highest fidelity recordings were made. In truth this very record is a superlative example of the sound the best producers, engineers, and studios were able to capture on analog tape during that time.
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We Didn’t Know How Good We Had It

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Albums from 1978 in stock

All albums from 1978

Stealin’ Home has long been a Folkie-Pop favorite of mine, mostly on the strength of the consistently smart songwriting, polished production and audiophile sound quality. But really, to be truthful, what I found attractive right from the start was Iain Matthews’s especially clear, sweet tenor — that’s the hook that drew me to the album. Only later would I be pleasantly surprised to find that the recorded sound was wonderful; that the production was equal to the best major label Rock and Pop around (a comparison to The Doobie Brothers would not be a stretch); and, with repeated listening, it was clear that the level of songwriting was high indeed (an a capella rendition of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught, which opens side two, can’t help but raise your averages).

We Didn’t Know How Good We Had It

Produced in 1978, the best copies are rich, smooth and sweet in the best tradition of ANALOG recording. It would only be a few years until this sound was out of style, replaced by the edgy, hard, digital qualities preferred by synthpop bands like Tears for Fears and Simple Minds. This would turn out to be a bad time for audiophiles (like me) who liked the pop music of the day but not the pop sound of the day. Heavy-handed processing as well as the overuse of synthesizers and drum effects, with the whole of the production slathered in digital reverb, have resulted in most of the albums from the early to mid-’80s being all but impossible to enjoy on a modern high-end system. Believe me, we’ve tried. The albums Squeeze was making in the mid- to late-’80s are personal favorites, but the sound is so impenetrable, so overbearing, that nothing can be done with the vinyl.

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