Reviews – Pressings with Excellent Sound Quality

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.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Reverend Lee
Do What You Gotta Do
Just Like a Woman
Let It Be Me

Side Two

Gone Away
Until It’s Time for You to Go
The Impossible Dream
Business Goes on as Usual

AMG 4 Star Review

A great album and the release that made Roberta Flack a major soul and R&B artist in the early ’70s. She had a soft, compelling, alluring voice, and was able to convincingly switch gears and also convey anger, regret, hurt, or despair. Those who thought Flack was a one-hit wonder, or didn’t think she could make the transition from doing mostly jazz to other styles, were convinced otherwise.

Johnny Mathis – Johnny’s Newest Hits

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  • This early Columbia 360 pressing of Johnny’s Newest Hits (hey, they were new in 1963!) boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The best copies demonstrate the big-as-life early Columbia Sound at its best – full-bodied and warm yet clear, lively and dynamic
  • Both sides here are clean and present with wonderfully full strings and rich vocals
  • “…a collection of his ‘latest hits, the ones that brought him back to the singles charts.'”

Finding clean Johnny Mathis records from 50+ years ago, on Columbia, in stereo, is no easy task, which is why you see so few come to the site. We would be hard pressed to find one good title to shootout in a given year — there are simply too few original pressings that have survived the turntables of the day.

One tip we can offer any Mathis fans who may be out there: stick to the Columbia era if you want audiophile sound. His Mercury recordings, at least the half-dozen or so we’ve played, were godawful sounding. (more…)

Donny Hathaway – The Best of Donny Hathaway

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  • Hathaway’s 1978 compilation album finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Richer, warmer, more natural, more relaxed, these vintage pressings are what analog is all about, that long-lost sound that never calls attention to itself and just lets the music flow
  • The legendary Roberta Flack joins Hathaway on two or our favorite duets of all time: “You’ve Got A Friend” and “Where Is The Love” – the results are nothing short of magical
  • 4 stars: “…taste the musical genius of the late Donny Hathaway… he delivers a strong, understated reading of Leon Russell’s song. He blends deliciously with Roberta Flack… their chemistry is breathtaking.”

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Cal Tjader – Soul Sauce

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  • Tjader’s 1965 Latin Cool Jazz release – dubbed “Mambo Without a Migraine” – arrives with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Rich, smooth and Tubey Magical, this pressing was simply bigger, livelier and more palpable than any of the other copies we played
  • Superb engineering by Rudy Van Gelder – Soul Sauce features jazz legends Kenny Burrell, Donald Byrd, and Jimmy Heath
  • 4 stars: “Soul Sauce is one of the highlights from Tjader’s catalog with its appealing mixture of mambo, samba, bolero, and boogaloo styles… he dodged the “Latin lounge” label with an album full of smart arrangements, subtly provocative vibe solos, and intricate percussion backing.”

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Bill Evans – Symbiosis – A Very Good MPS Pressing

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  • Evans’ wonderful 1974 album accompanied by symphony orchestra makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • We dropped the needle on a copy years ago and heard wonderful audiophile sound right from the get-go
  • Bigger, richer, more Tubey Magical, with more extension on both ends of the spectrum and more depth, width and height than any other other copy we played
  • “… a special and unique entry in Evans’ hugh catalog… Not your “typical” Bill Evans album–but that’s what makes SYMBIOSIS such a fine, gently challenging listen.”

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem. (more…)

Badfinger – No Dice

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  • KILLER sound for this original Apple pressing with both sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades; only the second copy to ever hit the site!
  • Both of these sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still super clean and clear; the bass is right on the money and the energy level is off the charts
  • “… boasting old-fashioned rockers, catchy pop tunes, and acoustic ballads… the heart of the album lies in Ham’s work.. He proves that songcraft is what separates great power-pop from good, and it’s what makes No Dice a superb pop record.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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Johnny Cash – The Sound of Johnny Cash

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish with both sides earning Nearly Triple Plus (A+++) grades, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Big, rich, tubey and open, this is some of the best sound Columbia achieved for its country records in the ’60s
  • The vocal presence and freedom from coloration will put a very real sounding Johnny Cash front and center in your listening room
  • “What is interesting about this album, though, is that it doesn’t just remind us of the sound of Johnny’s past, instead it points the way forward to the future, even serving as a template for his ultimate Man in Black persona.”

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Lynyrd Skynyrd – Street Survivors

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’ fifth studio album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and Southern Rock Energy of this surprisingly well recorded album from 1977, this is only the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… it’s a hell of an album. The band springs back to life with the addition of guitarist Steve Gaines, and Van Zant used the time off the road to write a strong set of songs… If the original band was fated to leave after this record, at least they left with a record that serves as a testament to Skynyrd’s unique greatness.”

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Tony Bennett – I Wanna Be Around…

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better sounding copies we played in our recent shootout  
  • This is an excellent vintage 360 stereo pressing, with the all important midrange magic that’s surely missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “As the studio album followup to Tony Bennett’s breakthrough record, I Left My Heart in San Francisco, I Wanna Be Around had a lot to live up to, but since San Francisco was a culmination of Bennett’s development, and not a fluke, I Wanna Be Around turned out to be almost on a par with its predecessor… A worthy successor.”

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Stevie Wonder – Talking Book

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this is the way Talking Book is supposed to sound 
  • Richer, warmer, more natural, more relaxed, this is what vintage analog is all about, that smooth sound that never calls attention to itself and just lets the music flow
  • So many great songs: You Are the Sunshine of My Life, Tuesday Heartbreak, You’ve Got It Bad Girl, Superstition, etc.
  • 5 Stars: “What had been hinted at on the intriguing project Music of My Mind was here focused into a laser beam of tight songwriting, warm electronic arrangements, and ebullient performances — altogether the most realistic vision of musical personality ever put to wax…”

Those of you who are familiar with this record will not be surprised to learn that these shootouts are TOUGH. Very few copies are any better than mediocre.

This copy is more dynamic, open and transparent than most pressings BY FAR. There’s ton of space around all of the instruments, the bass is big and punchy and the vocals are present, warm and tonally right on the money. (more…)