A List of Live Albums of Interest

The Beatles – John’s Really Digging a Pony. Are You?

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

The best copies of Let It Be are Demo Discs for Energy, and here are some others that we’ve discovered are good for testing that quality on vinyl.

What blew our minds about the Shootout Winning side one we played recently was how outrageously big, open and transparent it was on the song Dig a Pony. As the song started up the studio space seemed to expand in every direction, creating more height, width and depth than we’d ever experienced with this song before. 

But there is no studio space; the song was recorded on Apple’s rooftop. The “space” has to be some combination of “air” from the live event and artificial reverb added live or later during mixing. Whatever it is, the copies with more resolution and transparency show you a lot more of “it” than run-of-the-mill pressings do (including the new Heavy Vinyl, which is so airless and compressed we gave it a grade of F and banished it to our Shame Hall).  (more…)

Little Feat / Hoy-Hoy Sampler – A Demo Disc Disc Like No Other

More Rock and Pop Demo Discs

More Little Feat Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • An amazing Triple Plus side two and a Double Plus side one
  • This is the Big Rock Sound we love, huge and punchy with tons of space and a big bottom end
  • Knockout Demo Disc Rock and Roll sound and then some

It may contain only a handful of tracks from the Hoy Hoy album, but folks, stunning sound doesn’t begin to do justice to this EP. I would state categorically that there is not a single rock record on the TAS List that can hold a candle to it in terms of live-rock-in-your-living room blasting power. This is one of the most AMAZING DEMO DISCS of All Time. If it were an album I would put it on a Top Ten Best Sounding Rock and Pop List (if we had such a thing).

It’s really not fair to judge the Harry’s List by records like this, which have never been the man’s forte. We, on the other hand, know these kinds of records about as well as anyone, and to prove it we would love to send you this copy.

And do you know how we discovered it? We had a couple of these promos lying around, and after shooting out the Hot Stamper Hoy-Hoys, we figured what the hell, throw one of them on just for fun. To our shock and dismay, it blew the doors off our BEST Hot Stamper pressings song for song. As good as those album sides sound, the EP took the same material to an ENTIRELY NEW LEVEL of sonic splendor.

This EP may only hold four songs, but each is a Demo Disc Track of the highest order: Gringo (edited version) and Over The Edge for side one; Teenage Nervous Breakdown and Rock and Roll Doctor for side two. (more…)

Deep Purple – One of the All Time Great Sounding Live Rock Albums

deeppmadei_1606_1152215422More of the Music of Deep Purple

More Live Recordings of Interest

Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought Martin Birch along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles.

Machine Head is clearly one of the best sounding hard rock records ever made, and Made In Japan, its successor, sounds more like a top quality studio production than any live album I’ve ever heard. It’s shocking how clean and undistorted the sound is. Equally shocking is the fact that it’s every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Live Album should be.

This is a combination the likes of which we hear far too rarely.

We’ve raved about a number of live albums over the years. Some of the better sounding ones that come readily to mind (in alphabetical order) are listed below. Fans of any of these bands can be proud to have a Hot Stamper pressing of any of these albums in their collection.

The albums I would want in my personal collection are noted with an asterisk [*].

  • The Band / Rock of Ages*
  • Harry Belafonte / At Carnegie Hall*
  • David Bowie / David Live*
  • Johnny Cash / At San Quentin
  • Cheap Trick / At Budokan
  • Eric Clapton / Just One Night*
  • Deep Purple / Made in Japan
  • Donny Hathaway / Live*
  • Jimi Hendrix / The Jimi Hendrix Concerts
  • Humble Pie / Performance – Rockin’ The Fillmore
  • Albert King / Live Wire – Blues Power
  • Little Feat / Waiting For Columbus*
  • Lou Rawls / Live!*
  • The Rolling Stones / Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out* 
  • The Who / Live at Leeds*

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan, I’d put it right up there with the best of the best.

In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan might just take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Rock Album of All Time. Yes, the sound is that good.

Want to find your own top quality copy?

Consider taking our Moderately Helpful Advice about the pressings that have tended to win shootouts over the years.

In our experience, this record sounds best this way:

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

On the Right Early Pressing 

On the Right British Import Pressing 

Watch out for this UK pressing, it sounds as dubby as the domestic pressings do.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Key Tracks for Critical Listening 

Vince Guaraldi & Bola Sete – Live At El Matador

More Vince Guaraldi

 More Live Recordings of Interest

  • This early Fantasy pressing of Live at El Matador earned excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from start to finish
  • Both of these sides are rich, clean, clear, lively and spacious with little of the grittiness that plagues the average copy
  • This is the third and final collaborative effort between Vince Guaraldi and Bola Sete, and if you’re a fan of either, you should find much to enjoy here
  • “… a virtuoso guitar performance; even as a living room listening experience, Sete demonstrates the mastery that so impressed club patrons.” – Five Cents Please

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Sinatra At The Sands on Dahlquist DQ-10s – My Neophyte Audiophile Mind Is Blown

More of the Music of Frank Sinatra

Making Audio Progress

Back in the early ’70s this was actually the album that first introduced me to honest-to-goodness “audiophile” sound.  

I was at my local stereo store listening to speakers one day, and the salesman made a comment that the speakers we were listening to (the old Infinity Monitors with the Walsh tweeter) sounded “boxy.” I confessed to him that I didn’t actually know what that meant or what it would sound like if it weren’t boxy. 

So he hooked up a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and put Sinatra at the Sands on. I was amazed at how the sound just floated in the room, free from the speakers, presenting an image that was as wide and deep as the showroom we were in. That speaker may have many flaws, but boxiness is definitely not one of them.

This description is pretty close to what I thought I heard all those years ago

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. Very few records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

This vintage stereo LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is dramatically more real sounding. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Or so I thought at the time.

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The Beatles – Let It Be

More of The Beatles

More Let It Be

  • An outstanding UK pressing with solid sound from first note to last 
  • There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ – here is the most realistic, natural Beatles sound you can get outside of the first album
  • Copies like this one make good on the promise that Let It Be captures the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The album is on the whole underrated… it’s an album well worth having, as when the Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever.”

At its best, Let It Be has the power of live music, but it takes a special pressing such as this one to show you that sound. It’s a bit trickier trying to find good sound for this album than it is for some of the other albums in the Beatles’ catalog.

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Grateful Dead – Self-Titled “Skull and Roses”

More of the Grateful Dead

More Live Recordings of Interest

  • An early WB Green Label pressing of the 2 LP “Skull & Roses” live album with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard or you get your money back – it’s as simple as that
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these classic rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 4 stars: “Coming off of the quantum-leap success of the studio country-rock efforts Workingman’s Dead (1969) and American Beauty, Grateful Dead offers up a pair of new Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter compositions – ‘Bertha’ and ‘Wharf Rat’ – both of which garnered a permanent place within the band’s live catalog. However, ‘The Other One’ – joined in progress just as Billy Kreutzmann fires up a blazing percussion solo – sprawls as the album’s centerpiece.
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this classic from 1971 belongs in your collection.

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Little Feat – A MoFi Pseudo-Hot Stamper

Little Feat Albums with Hot Stampers

Little Feat Albums We’ve Reviewed

Sonic Grade: C

Ten or fifteen years ago we did a listing for this Mobile Fidelity pressing as a Pseudo-Hot Stamper. Here is what we wrote at the time:

This is actually a pretty good sounding record, all things considered. We put this one through our cleaning process and gave it a listen. Although our Hot Stamper copies do sound better, they’re also quite a bit more expensive. This copy had the best sound we heard out of the three or four we played, which makes it a Hot Stamper I suppose, but we are instead just calling it a Very Good Sounding Copy.

Waiting for Columbus is one of the greatest live rock and roll albums ever made, containing performances by one of the greatest rock and roll bands to ever play. If you only buy one Little Feat album in your lifetime, make it this one.

We spent years trying to get shootouts together for this album, but kept running into the fact that in a head to head shootout the right MoFi pressing — sloppy bass and all — was hard to beat.

This is no longer the case, courtesy of that same old laundry list you have no doubt seen on the site countless times: better equipment, tweaks, record cleaning, room treatments, etcetera, etcetera. Now the shortcomings of the MoFi are clear for all to see, and the strengths of the best non-half-speed mastered pressings are too, which simply means that playing the MoFi now would be an excruciating experience. All I can hear is what it does wrong. I was so much happier with it when I didn’t know better.

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Junior Wells – It’s My Life

More Electric Blues

More Soul, Blues, and Rhythm and Blues

  • A superb copy of Junior Wells’ recording from Chicago in ’66 (this is the read deal, folks!) with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of that “you-are-there-immediacy” of a live performance that set the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else might be out there
  • “Cut from the same cloth as Wells’ classic Hoodoo Man Blues LP from the same period, It’s My Life, Baby! captured the Junior Wells-Buddy Guy team in great form, both in the studio and live at Pepper’s Lounge on 43rd Street. This album tends a bit more towards slow blues, including a rare example of Wells’ chromatic harmonica playing on ‘Slow, Slow,’ but there are fine uptempo pieces…”

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Billy Joel / Songs in the Attic

More of the Music of Billy Joel

  • Incredible Demo Disc live rock concert sound with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • This one has it ALL — the sound has so many wonderful ANALOG qualities when you get a good copy — the hardness of the typical pressing just disappears, leaving surprisingly transparent and sweet sound on virtually every track
  • The WHOMP FACTOR here is off the scale. There are few studio recordings that have these kinds of dynamics. We forget how compressed most of them are. It takes a record like this to show you how much LIFE there is in LIVE MUSIC
  • “Songs in the Attic is an excellent album, ranking among his very best work… even if Joel wasn’t a celebrity in the early ’70s, his best songs of the era rivaled his biggest hits.” – 4 Stars

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