A List of Live Albums of Interest

Dire Straits / Alchemy: Dire Straits Live

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  • An outstanding early UK pressing of Dire Straits’ live album from 1984 with Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on all FOUR SIDES
  • Stick with the imports on this title, even though the domestic pressings were originally mastered by Robert Ludwig – he didn’t have the real tapes, and that makes all the difference in the world
  • “The arena-size crowd cheers wildly, and claps and sings along when given half a chance, as though each song were an up-tempo rocker… That Dire Straits’ introspective music loses much of its detail in a live setting matters less than that it gains presence and a sense of anticipation.”

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Jimi Hendrix – War Heroes

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last on this Hendrix classic
  • The material here is unusually well-recorded by Hendrix’s longtime engineer, Eddie Kramer – with sound that is competitive with, maybe even better than, Hendrix’s “real” albums
  • Features top-tier Hendrix rarities such as “Izabella,” “Highway Chile,” “Bleeding Heart” and “Stepping Stone”
  • “One of the few consistent compilations of unreleased Hendrix.”

Drop the needle at the start of either side and prepare to be floored. You won’t believe the big-time presence, the mindblowing energy, or the massive WHOMP factor. Here’s a copy with the kind of big, three-dimensional sound we wish we heard on more Hendrix records. You’ll know what I’m talking about as soon as the needle hits the groove.

The vocals are full-bodied and present with lots of body and breath. The bottom end is tight and punchy with more weight than we heard on other copies. You could play a good-sized stack of copies and you’d probably still not find one as open, spacious, and transparent as either of these sides.

The guitar — obviously a key element of any Hendrix recording — absolutely FLIES out of the speakers here. The bottom end is strong and solid, and the overall sound is big, rich and open.

Bridge of Sighs

Note that the guitar sound on the first track of side two appears to have acted as the template for Robin Trower’s sound throughout his career. We love Robin Trower — wish we could find more copies of Bridge of Sighs that sound good — but his guitar sound was all over this album years before it was on any of his own.

It’s beyond difficult for us to find killer copies of Jimi’s first three or four albums, so I advise you Hendrix fans to give this one a chance. It’s the real deal.

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Eric Dolphy – Rarely have I heard a string bass sound better than it does here.

More of the Music of Eric Dolphy

Do the originals sound as good as these ’70s pressings?

Not a clue. Never ran into a clean one in my life.

Rarely have I heard a string bass sound better than it does here. The flute is equally gorgeous. Amazing that they could record a live jazz concert this well in 1961.

Although this is only our second Hot Stamper listing for the album, I’ve known about Dolphy’s legendary Copenhagen Concert for close to thirty years. When an audiophile hears a bass clarinet reproduced the way it is on this record he is very unlikely to forget it.

With the hundred-plus changes to the system and room I’ve made over that span of time the reproduction of the bass clarinet has only gotten more real.

It’s proof positive that everything in audio can get dramatically better with constant effort and attention to every aspect of sound. From the room to the electricity to the right cleaning techniques, everything can come together to make that instrument sound like it is in the room with you, a room that sounds like you imagine a jazz club might sound in 1961.

What a thrill. It’s what we audiophiles live for. It’s what keeps us going in this hobby.

If you know people who used to be into audio and aren’t anymore it’s because they just never got to the point where they were doing it right.

Willie Nelson & Family – Honeysuckle Rose

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  • This surprisingly well recorded live album has the kind of smooth, rich, tonally correct analog sound we thought they had forgotten how to achieve by 1980, but here it is!
  • 4 stars: “The soundtrack to Honeysuckle Rose is… a collection of songs by Willie Nelson and his Family band as well as a host of friends… Nelson’s readings of his own tunes like “On the Road Again,” and others are solid, inspired, and rollicking. His versions of tunes written by Kris Kristofferson (“Loving Her Was Easier Than Anything I’ll Ever Do Again”), Rodney Crowell (“Angel Eyes”), and Lee Clayton (“If You Could Touch Her at All”) blow away the studio versions.”

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Oscar Peterson / The Trio – Live From Chicago

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Oscar Peterson

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  • Tonally correct from top to bottom and as transparent as any vintage recording you’ve heard, the combination of clarity and Tubey Magic here is hard to beat
  • The Trio, including Ray Brown and Ed Thigpen, are in fine form on these live recordings from the London House in Chicago; if you want to hear one of the great jazz trios at the height of their powers, this is the ticket!
  • “…[Peterson] was generally in peak form during this era. He sticks to standards on this live [album] (a good example of the Trio’s playing), stretching out ‘Sometimes I’m Happy’ creatively for over 11 minutes and uplifting such songs as ‘In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,’ ‘Chicago’ and ‘The Night We Called It a Day.'”
  • If you’re a fan of Oscar’s, this Top Title from 1961 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1961 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Peterson really puts on a great show. He’s made an awful lot of records during his career and most of them aren’t especially noteworthy. This album is clearly an exception to that rule. (If You Could See Me Now is another one.)

This pressing was a HUGE step up from the other copies we played in our recent shootout. This killer copy has the immediacy that puts you front and center at The London House for a great jazz show. Ray Brown is his usual incredible self on bass.

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801 – 801 Live

More Brian Eno

More Live Recordings of Interest

  • 801 Live IS BACK and rocks harder than ever on this early Island import copy with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this one had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most of the other copies we played, not to mention that LIVE ROCK and ROLL ENERGY that old records have and new records don’t
  • Recorded at Queen Elisabeth Hall in September 1976 – one of only three gigs the group (a side project of Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera) did over a two-month period
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This album marks probably one of the last times that Eno rocked out in such an un-self-consciously fun fashion, but that’s not the only reason to buy it: 801 Live is a cohesive document of an unlikely crew who had fun and took chances. Listeners will never know what else they might have done if their schedules had been less crowded, but this album’s a good reminder.”

801 Live ranks near the top of the list of my All Time Favorite Albums — a Desert Island Disc if ever there was one.

I stumbled across it decades ago and have loved it ever since. (It started when a college buddy played me the wildly original “Tomorrow Never Knows” from the album and asked me to name the tune. Eno’s take is so different from The Beatles version that I confess it took me an embarrassingly long while to catch on.)

What’s especially interesting about this copy is that we went crazy for it even though it did not have the best bass of the copies we played, which, as you will see below, clearly contradicts what we had previously written. We thought that the copies with the best bass had the best everything else too, but that was not what we heard this time around.

THIS copy got the music to work its magic, and it did it with most, but not all, of the bass of the best. Not sure how to explain it. Rules were made to be broken maybe?

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The Doors – Absolutely Live

More of The Doors

More Live Albums of Interest

  • Absolutely Live debuts on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides of this original Elektra pressing
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Recorded at concerts in 1969 and 1970, this double-LP set features two original songs – the haunting “Universal Mind” and the blues-rocker “Build Me a Woman” – not found on any of studio albums, as well as extended versions of “Soul Kitchen,” “Break On Through,” and “When the Music’s Over”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, their live album from 1970 surely belongs in your collection

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Paul McCartney – Unplugged

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  • A true Demo Disc and superb sounding import pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • A strikingly intimate document of a live show, fronted by one of the greatest performers in history, Sir Paul McCartney
  • You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange
  • 4 stars: “… it remains one of the most enjoyable records in McCartney’s catalog. McCartney is carefree and charming, making songs like “Be-Bop-a-Lula” and “Blue Moon of Kentucky” sound fresh.”

Superb sound for this amazing recording! It’s a strikingly intimate document of a live show, one which just happens to be fronted by one of the greatest performers in the history of popular music, Sir Paul McCartney.

On the best copies, the sound is warmer, richer, and sweeter, or in a word, more ANALOG sounding. You get more extension up top, more weight down low, and more transparency in the midrange. It’s surprising how veiled and two-dimensional so many copies can be, considering that this is a live recording (by the legendary Geoff Emerick himself) with not a lot of “messing around” after the fact. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Our Man In Jazz

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More Living Stereo Recordings

  • An original Black Label Living Stereo copy, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from the first note
  • A superb 1963 Living Stereo recording with tons of Tubey Magic, one of Sonny’s best
  • We’ve played quite a number of Our Man in “X” RCA titles, and I don’t think we have ever heard a bad one
  • It’s the exceptionally rare copy that sounds as good as this one does – let’s find it a good home!
  • Recorded live in 1962 at the Village Gate in Greenwich Village, NY and featuring Bob Cranshaw, Don Cherry, and Billy Higgins

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Joe Cocker / Mad Dogs and Englishmen – The Wrong Early Pressings Have Horrendous Sound

Well, for one thing, if you get the wrong stampers on this record, you will discover, as we did, that it’s clearly been mastered from a badly made dub. The “cassette-like” sound quality will not be hard to recognize. If you have stumbled onto one of those pressings, give up on it and try your luck elsewhere, making sure to note the bad stampers.

Most copies have a tendency to sound smeary and congested.

Listen for good transients and not too much compression.

Most copies are opaque, as well as dull up top; try to find the ones with some degree of transparency and as much top end extension as you can (the percussion will be helped most of all by the extended top).

And of course you need to find a copy that rocks, as this is a definitely a Rock Concert, although what it most reminds me of is Ray Charles doing a choice set of modern classics, mixing it up by off-handedly mixing in a few of his own. See how they all fit together? That’s how the pros do it. (The main pro in this case is Leon Russell, the mastermind of the whole operation. He clearly knows what he is doing.)

All tracks were selected and mixed by none other than the legendary Glyn Johns.

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