*Our Record Overview – The Good

Al Green – Greatest Hits – Reviewed in 2006

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Greatest Hits

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

This Hi LP sounds JUST RIGHT to me. There aren’t enough copies floating around for me to shootout. I no longer have the DCC LP; I sold my test pressing long ago. I remember it sounded a bit thick, but that was on a very different stereo than the one I own today. It has been my experience that when I hear a really dead-on early pressing of a record like this, the 180g version will tend to come up short. If you own the DCC pressing, I guarantee this copy is better or your money back.   (more…)

Sonny Stitt & Paul Gonsalves – Salt and Pepper

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  • You’ll find Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish on this excellent pressing
  • This copy is hard to fault – big, open, clear, with space and three-dimensionality that modern pressings can only dream of
  • Van Gelder was masterful at the kind of spacious, dynamic, energetic sound found on this vintage pressing
  • “[Stitt’s] beautiful playing behind Gonsalves’ warm melody statement raises the session to the classic level.”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “An exciting match-up of tenors Sonny Stitt and Paul Gonsalves… Highly recommended to bebop and straight-ahead jazz fans.”

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Stevie Ray Vaughan – Live Alive

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Live Alive

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

We just finished a big shootout for this bluesy live album, and this was one of just a handful of copies that impressed us from start to finish. Most copies we played were thick, murky, overly smooth and/or veiled, but this one almost never suffers in any of those areas. The sound is clean, clear, transparent and lively throughout.

This is one of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s better albums. We’ve heard reissues on both heavy and regular vinyl, but I guarantee this will KILL them all or your money back. (more…)

Chet Atkins – Class Guitar

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

This RCA original pressing from Nashville, circa 1967, has DEMO DISC quality sound from start to finish, first note to last. Class Guitar is more or less a solo session from 1967, concentrating mostly on classical guitar pieces, with a few pop and jazz hits of the day thrown in for the sake of variety. Chet’s good buddy and main man Jerry Reed joins him on rhythm guitar on some tracks.

Both sides have plenty to offer the discriminating audiophile, with the spaciousness, clarity, tonality and freedom from artificiality that are the hallmark of the best Living Stereo recordings.

Truth be told, technically this is not a real Living Stereo record. It’s an RCA Stereo record. It has the Bill Porter Tubey Magic of the Chet Atkins albums we all know and love, the bulk of which we’re familiar with through our critical listening shootouts. (We’d love to do more but where are the clean stereo copies?)

In fact, not only is this record not a Living Stereo, it’s — gasp — a Dynagroove pressing. And it’s not even Bill Porter at the board, it’s his successor, Jim Malloy.

No matter. Bill may have left in 1964. but he left behind an amazing studio that he practically single-handedly turned into one of the best sounding recording venues in the world. This record may say Dynagroove, but it sure doesn’t sound Dynagroove. And Bill Porter may have left, but his signature sound is all over this record. As we noted in a previous listing: (more…)

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

The Beatles

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band

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

This British Import Parlophone pressing has, without a doubt, ONE OF THE BEST SIDE TWOS WE’VE EVER HEARD. I guarantee you’ve never heard A Day In The Life sound as good as it does here — we sure haven’t! The superb presence, clarity, and transparency allow elements to come through that are lost on all but the very hottest copies. Take a listen to how clear the piano comes through in the mix and compare it to any other copy you can find to see what I’m talking about.

Talk about energetic, jumpin’ out of the speakers, zero distortion sound! This A+++ side two is a MONSTER. The bottom end has all the weight, the mids are as tubey magical as they come, and the top end is fully extended and silky sweet. I’d feel good putting this side up against anything you could throw at it. Heck, I’d be surprised if the master tape itself sounded significantly better! (more…)

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics.

Bella Donna may not reach those exalted heights, but it’s still quite good, especially for 1981. As the decade wore on things went south very quickly, sonically and musically, so we must be thankful that this record came out early in the decade and not much later. (more…)

John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme – Better Sound than the Originals?

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

The original Impulse pressings on the brown and orange label are the best, right?

Not in our experience. We think that plays into one of the biggest canards in all of record collecting, that the first pressings are always the best sounding.

For this album, having sampled a large group of pressings from every era, we found the originals to be inferior to the best reissues we played. Naturally the ones we offer here as Hot Stampers will be the best of those reissue pressings. We are not the least bit worried that this vintage Impulse LP won’t beat the pants off of any original as well as any reissue you may have heard. And of course it is guaranteed to be dramatically better sounding than any Heavy Vinyl pressing produced by anyone, anywhere, at any time. (more…)

Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners – Greatest “Copy” Ever

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

WHOA! We’ve paired up two FOUR PLUS sides to create this stunning 2-pack with mindblowing Demo Quality sound for the whole album. These A++++ sides will show you just how amazing it can sound: super full-bodied, rich, warm and natural. 

Please note that we award this very special grade so rarely that we don’t even have a graphic to represent it in our sonic grade box. The scale usually only goes to three pluses, but these two sides went up to four!

This is an incredible recording, and on a copy like this the sound is truly stunning. When you hear Chicago here you will not believe how CINEMATIC the sound is! It’s everything we love about ANALOG, and then some.

Most of the credit must go to the team of recording engineers, led here by the esteemed Bill Halverson, the man behind all of the Crosby Stills Nash and Young albums. Nash was clearly influenced by his work with his gifted bandmates, proving with this album that he can hold his own with the best of the best. Some songs (We Can Change The World, Be Yourself) are grandly scaled productions with the kind of studio polish that would make Supertramp envious. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better than this. (more…)

Randy Newman – Little Criminals – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO STUNNING A+++ SIDES, making this by far the best copy to ever hit our site! We recently finished our second-ever shootout for Little Criminals and it was a blast. We’ve only found out recently just how good the best sounding pressings of Randy Newman’s records can sound, and we were quite pleased with how rich, full and dynamic the Hot Stampers of this album are.

This album features the big hit “Short People” as well as a number of other great songs, including “Baltimore” which, as far as we’re concerned, is one of the best songs Newman ever wrote.

Both sides here absolutely knocked us out — nothing else in our shootout came close! The soundstage is super open and three-dimensional, the vocals and piano are full and present, and there’s absolutely no trace of thinness or edge.

This was Newman’s first commercially successful album and they stamped out a ton of them. The average copy is thin, dry, and stuck in the speakers — what a shame. Play enough of them, though, and eventually you might find a copy like this one, with wonderfully analog rich and full-bodied sound and the kind of presence that carries the music out of the speakers. (more…)

Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

This is widely considered one of the best albums of the ’90s, a brilliant and unique piece of work. I positively love this album. The emotion is every bit as naked and compelling as that found on Joni’s Blue, and I do not say that lightly. I know the power of Blue, and this album has that kind of power. This is some heavy heavy stuff. Hearing it sound right is a thrill I won’t soon forget.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Feel So Different
I Am Stretched on Your Grave

This track has some of the wildest instrumentation I’ve ever heard. The rhythm is provided by a looped sample of the beat from James Brown’s “Funky Drummer”, with Sinead’s reverb-laden vocals carrying the droning melody. At the apex of the track, some crazy-ass violins come in, making for a haunting celtic/hip-hop hybrid. I think there’s even some Persian in there. This one just knocks me out every time I hear it.

The average bad sounding pressing of side one just plain ruins this track. The sound will lack extension on the top and reek of blubbery bass. The hot copies have solid low end, lots of air around the vocals, and texture on the violins. The good copies let the song work its magic; the bad ones don’t. (more…)