Five Star Albums

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fragile

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The Analogue Productions 180g reissue shown here is mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey, two guys I respect, but the results of their latest collaboration leave much to be desired. The overall sound is lean. This is especially noticeable on the too thin-sounding guitars and vocals. Believe me, it’s no fun to play a Yes album with thin guitars and vocals.

Also, there’s a noticeable lack of ambience throughout the record. What comes to mind when I hear a record that sounds like this is the dreaded R word: Reissue. I find it hard to believe they had the actual two-track original master tape to work with. The sound is just too anemic to have come from the real tape. If they did have the real tape, then they really botched the job.
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The Who – Live At Leeds

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  • A hard-rockin’ copy – this British Track pressing boasts powerful Double Plus (A++) DEMO DISC sound on both sides
  • The recording is huge and lively with startling dynamics and in-the-room-presence like nothing you’ve heard
  • Drums so solid, punchy and present they put to shame 99% of the rock records on the planet
  • Cited as the best live rock recording of all time by The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the BBC Q magazine, and Rolling Stone. In 2003, it was ranked number 170 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of seam wear, edge wear or crushed corners. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.

Get ready to rock out, as this is one of the BEST SOUNDING live albums ever recorded. Young Man Blues on a copy such as this has drums that are so solid, punchy and present they positively put to shame the drum sound on 99 out of 100 rock records! Keith Moon lives on!

The bass is AMAZING on this record. Present vocals and clear guitars in both channels are key to the best copies such as this one. Most pressings do not get the guitars to jump out of the speakers the way the best can. Few copies get the highest highs and the lowest lows but this one had it going on from top to bottom.

The seven minute long Magic Bus that finishes out the side is The Who at their best. Rock fans will have a hard time finding a better sounding Who pressing than this one, on either side. (more…)

Weather Report – Heavy Weather

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  • With outstanding Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish you will not believe how BIG and BOLD this copy is
  • Birdland on this pressing has some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl
  • Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius are both here and at the absolute peak of their creative powers – this is a work of GENIUS
  • Allmusic 5 Stars: ”Birdland’ is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band.”

The hottest of the hot stamper pressings demonstrate that this is a truly amazing recording, with some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl. The grit, grain and grunge of most pressings is nowhere to be found on these killer sides, and that alone puts them in a very special league indeed.

What To Listen For (WTLF)

We’ve discovered that the key to the hottest sounding pressings is a fairly simple one: the copies with high frequency extension and the tremendous rhythmic energy that results from it are consistently the best sounding.

You may have read elsewhere on the site that what separates many of the best Columbia LPs from their competition is an open, extended top end. For some reason, Columbia, seemingly more than any other label, had a bad habit of making slightly dull records. Slightly dull does not work for this album.

My notes on Palladium in the Track Listing sum it up: when the highs on the record are right, it almost always comes together. Unfortunately, most copies don’t have those highs. There’s more to it of course: some copies lack bass, some sound a bit grainy and gritty — the normal problems associated with vinyl records are all here.

But when you have good highs, you are way more than halfway hom; you are about 80 to 85% of the way toward a Hot Stamper. Just fill in the last few details (bass, dynamics, etc.) and the sound will more than likely blow your mind. (more…)

The Trick with Katy Lied Is…

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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The Trick with Katy Lied Is to find the right balance between richness, sweetness and clarity.

Take three or four Katy Lied pressings, clean them up and play just one or two of the tracks we discuss below. You won’t find any two copies that get those tracks to sound the same. We do our shootouts with up to a dozen copies at a time and no two sound the same to us.

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This is a very tough record to reproduce — everything has to be working at its best to even begin to get this complex music to sound the way it should. But if you’ve done your homework and your system is really cooking, you are in for the time of your Steely Dan life.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Black Friday

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Donald Byrd – A New Perspective

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  • An STUNNING stereo pressing of one of our all-time favorite Blue Note albums with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The gospel vocals are amazingly well recorded (thanks RVG!) – with the transparency of this copy, you can easily pick out and follow each voice
  • To hear the real RVG magic, play Beast of Burden on side one – that’s some real audiophile DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 stars: “One of the most successful uses of a gospel choir in a jazz context. This is a memorable effort that is innovative in its own way, a milestone in Donald Byrd’s career.”

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Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding

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  • A wonderful sounding original Columbia 360 Stereo pressing of this pivotal Dylan LP, with insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Here is the bass, richness & vocal presence that make John Wesley Harding one of the better sounding Dylan records from the late ’60s
  • The title track, Dear Landlord, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, All Along the Watchtower and I Pity The Poor Immigrant are but a small sampling of the more memorable songs here
  • 5 stars: “The music is simple, direct, and melodic, providing a touchstone for the country-rock revolution that swept through rock in the late ’60s.”

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The Band – The Band

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  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sonic grades or BETTER on both sides, this is an outstanding copy of an absolutely essential album
  • Big bass, rich meaty guitars and smooth silky vocals make this a Band album like you have never heard before
  • Not only is the sound superb, but both sides here play Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as we can find them
  • 5 stars: “As had been true of the first album, it was the Band’s sound that stood out the most… The arrangements were simultaneously loose and assured, giving the songs a timeless appeal…”

The lucky person who takes this record home is in for quite a shock. This very pressing is proof positive that this album is much better recorded than the audiophile community gives it credit for being. How could anyone judge the sound of the record without a great copy such as this one to play?

This vintage pressing has no trace of phony sound from top to bottom. It’s raw and real in a way that makes most pop records sound processed and wrong. These two sides have plenty of the qualities we look for in an album by The Band. Energy, presence, transparency, Tubey Magic… you name it, you will find it here. Its biggest strength — and the biggest strength of the album as a whole — is its wonderful, natural midrange.

And the bass is HUGE. On the best copies it always is.

Drop the needle on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down or King Harvest Has Surely Come and get ready for some serious Analog Magic. This is a Band album like you have never heard before. (more…)

Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom

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  • Imperial Bedroom finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Geoff Emerick engineered, creating a unique sound – forget the painfully bad domestics, these imports are the only way to go
  • This dense, darkly serious album contains some of the best songs EC ever wrote – the last of his True Classics
  • 5 stars: “Costello’s music is complex and intricate, yet it flows so smoothly, it’s easy to miss the bitter, brutal lyrics…the detail and the ornate arrangements immediately peg Imperial Bedroom as Costello’s most ambitious album.”

Six of Elvis’s first seven albums received a Five Star rating from Allmusic, the exception being Almost Blue, and we generally would agree with that assessment (although Get Happy should probably get Four Stars also, not Five).

Which is to say that Elvis Costello is a brilliant artist whose albums work as albums, a fact that is in danger of being lost in a world of single song downloads and greatest hits packages. We record-playing audiophiles are inclined to start at the beginning of a side and let it flow through to the end, and that is clearly the best way to appreciate and enjoy the work of this very gifted man. (more…)

Charles Earland – Black Talk!

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  • Charles Earland makes his Hot Stamper debut here with this STUNNING pressing of Black Talk!, boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • You’d be hard-pressed to find a copy that’s this well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space that the superbly well-recorded group occupies
  • 5 stars: “… one of the few successful examples of jazz musicians from the late ’60s taking a few rock and pop songs and turning them into creative jazz… Fans of organ combos are advised to pick up this interesting set.”

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Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second, this copy has the real Nashville Skyline magic – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee that Bob’s duet with Johnny Cash on this Shootout Winning Triple Plus side one (Girl from the North Country) will blow your mind, or your money back  
  • “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” are true country-rock standards
  • 5 stars: “It’s a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon — the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs.”

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