Five Star Albums

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • It’s got weight, punch, energy and fullness – qualities key to the best sounding pressings
  • Tons of great songs – Miss You, Beast of Burden and Shattered, all sounding shockingly good – thanks to the engineering skills of Chris Kimsey
  • 5 stars: “Opening with the disco-blues thump of “Miss You,” Some Girls is a tough, focused, and exciting record, full of more hooks and energy than any Stones record since Exile on Main St. Even Their rockers sound harder and nastier than they have in years.”

This is the Stones’ last truly great album. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers. With hits like Miss You, Shattered, and Beast Of Burden, it’s easy to see why.

Most copies are too thin and grainy for serious audiophile listening, but this one is a different story. It’s not easy to find great sound for The Stones, so take this one home for a spin if you want to hear this band bring these songs to life in your very own listening room.

Not many copies have this kind of clarity and transparency, or this kind of big, well-defined bottom end. The sound of the hi-hat is natural and clear on this pressing, as are the vocals, which means that the tonality in the midrange is correct, and what could be more important than a good midrange? It’s where the music is. (more…)

Ray Charles / All Time Great Country and Western Hits – Better Sound than the Originals? Can It Really Be True?

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  • With three nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • What was especially shocking about this shootout is that in some ways the best sounding copies of the reissue not just the equal of, but actually best their original album counterparts
  • 22 classic songs on two LPs, including huge hits like I Can’t Stop Loving You, You Don’t Know Me, Oh Lonesome Me, Bye Bye Love, and much more – no wonder AMG gave both discs 5 stars
  • This is some big, bold, absolutely glorious Tubey Magical analog – the tape to disc transfer is Hard To Fault (HTF), making a mockery of the audiophile remasters to come

The music is wonderful. Just listen to that swingin’ horn section behind Ray on Hey, Good Lookin’. They are hot! And Bye Bye Love just plain ROCKS.

Both these LPs have the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Green River

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  • Insanely good CCR sound, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • An essential, Must Own for every Classic Rock collection, this LP includes some of the band’s biggest hits: Green River and Bad Moon Rising, Lodi, Wrote a Song for Everyone and plenty more
  • 5 stars “If anything, CCR’s third album Green River represents the full flower of their classic sound initially essayed on its predecessor, Bayou Country. One of the differences between the two albums is that Green River is tighter, with none of the five-minute-plus jams that filled out both their debut and Bayou Country, but the true key to its success is a peak in John Fogerty’s creativity.”

This copy is bigger, livelier, richer, more spacious, more relaxed and just plain more musically involving than every other pressing we played in our recent shootout. (more…)

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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  • To say that this one has been a long time coming would be an understatement! FINALLY, an incredible sounding copy of All Things Must Pass
  • Superb Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the fifth side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the remaining five sides — wonderfully big, full and Tubey Magical yet still clean and clear with tons of space and a lovely bottom end
  • “Without a doubt, Harrison’s first solo recording, originally issued as a triple album, is his best.” – All Music

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Randy Newman – Sail Away

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than anything you have ever heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • Our favorite Newman album for both music and sound (12 Songs being the main competition)
  • 5 stars: “Whether he’s writing for three pieces or 30, Newman makes superb use of the sounds available to him, and his vocals are the model of making the most of a limited instrument. Overall, Sail Away is one of Newman’s finest works, musically adventurous and displaying a lyrical subtlety that would begin to fade in his subsequent works.”

Some of Newman’s best songs can be found on Sail Away, including Political Science, You Can Leave Your Hat On, Last Night I Had a Dream and of course the wonderful title track. AMG goes nuts about Sail Away, giving it the full 5 stars and calling it “musically adventurous” and “one of Newman’s finest works.”

If you only have room for one Randy Newman record in your collection, this would be our pick. (more…)

Brian Eno – Music for Films

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  • Music for Films makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Rich, smooth, tonally correct, spacious, this collection of recordings made between 1975 and 1978 was compiled and transferred with consummate skill, ensuring that the highest fidelity was maintained
  • We bought quite a few of these experimental albums, but condition problems forced us to give up on the project – this is one of the few copies we found in audiophile playing condition
  • “It is a conceptual work intended as a soundtrack for imaginary films, although many of the pieces had already appeared in actual films.”
  • 5 stars: “…it is essential Eno, and a landmark collection drawn from among his work.”

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The Kinks – Face To Face

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  • A very strong copy of this ’60s classic, one of the few to every make it to the site – they’re hard to find!
  • Both sides earned Double Plus (A++) grades, putting this pressing far ahead of the pack
  • It’s taken us ages to find this album with anything approaching smooth, full-bodied, musical sound
  • 5 big stars on Allmusic: “The Kink Kontroversy was a considerable leap forward in terms of quality, but it pales next to Face to Face, one of the finest collections of pop songs released during the ’60s.

Side two has four or five bubbles that make 4 or 5 light thumps under the music.

We’ve played plenty of copies of Face To Face over the years and most of them have left us cold. Let’s face it — The Kinks weren’t the most well-recorded band, so only the very best pressings of their albums can deliver sound that is both correct and audiophile-friendly. Not every album needs to be a hi-fi spectacular and that’s not what Kinks albums are about, but as audiophiles we can’t help but hope for copies that will bring the music to life without too many sonic limitations.

Most pressings are too thin, too grainy, and too gritty on the vocals. We’re willing to make some sonic sacrifices for music this good, but we can’t abide sound that leaves us wondering if the record on our table was previously played by someone with a bad needle. Of course, after hearing that same sound on so many copies, we recognized that the grit and grain were cut right on to the records.

Face To Face will never be a demo disc, but at least with our Hot Stampers is can finally sound mostly right. If you’re a Kinks fan, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s been worth the wait. (more…)

Steely Dan – Countdown to Ecstasy

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  • This early Black Label Shootout Winning pressing boasts stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The only real rock album this band ever made actually ROCKS on this pressing, and that’s what makes listening to vinyl of the highest quality FUN
  • Only 8 tracks (so the band can stretch out). and every one is guaranteed to sound better than you have ever heard it
  • 5 stars: “Smart, conflicted bands from Weezer to the Eels owe Steely Dan big time… because on Countdown to Ecstasy, the band was human, not just brainy. Like Exile on Main Street, this is a record where Steely Dan let slip their extraordinary mask of sarcasm, and could not disguise the joy in these excellent songs, or the fact that they were having a blast playing them.”

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Frank Sinatra – Nice ‘N’ Easy

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  • An outstanding pressing of Nice ‘N’ Easy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for Capitol from this era too
  • The reproduction of Sinatra’s voice is exactly what you would expect from a Hot Stamper – he sounds rich, smooth, tonally correct and above all REAL
  • Take this one home and play it against whatever audiophile pressings you own – it’s guaranteed to SMOKE any and all versions you may have in your collection, or your money back
  • 5 stars: “… a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.”

Definitely one of the most fun Sinatra albums, especially when it sounds like this!

It’s tough to find great sound for this album — most copies are pretty mediocre and the MoFi is nothing special. 

The immediacy of the vocals on this copy is nothing short of stunning. You get real weight down low, serious energy, a fully extended top end, and tons of that old-time analog tubey magic.

Tubey Magic Is Key

The best copies have the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with Frank and the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What The Best Sides of Nice ‘N’ Easy Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1960
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top (to keep the strings from becoming shrill) did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all.

And we know a fair bit about the man’s recordings at this point. As of today, we’ve done commentaries for more than 21 different Sinatra shootouts, and that’s not counting at least another ten titles that either bombed or were sold off years ago.

What We’re Listening For on Nice ‘N’ Easy

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Nice ‘N’ Easy
That Old Feeling
How Deep Is The Ocean
I’ve Got A Crush On You
You Go To My Head
Fools Rush In

Side Two

Nevertheless
She’s Funny That Way
Try A Little Tenderness
Embraceable You
Mam’selle
Dream

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Breaking slightly from his pattern of a swing album following the release of ballads set, Frank Sinatra followed No One Cares with Nice ‘N’ Easy, a breezy collection of mid-tempo numbers arranged by Nelson Riddle. Not only is it the lightest set that he recorded for Capitol, it is the one with the loosest theme… Nice ‘N’ Easy doesn’t have a touch of brooding sorrow — it rolls along steadily, charming everyone in its path.

The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta

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  • This import pressing is a monster, with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them, and playing about as quietly as these imports ever do
  • Forget the domestic pressings, forget the Nautilus half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike — if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper import pressing is the only way to go
  • This album is an absolute classic — it leads off with Don’t Stand So Close To Me and never lets up
  • 5 Stars: “Zenyatta contains perhaps the quintessential new wave anthem, the haunting ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’… Zenyatta Mondatta remains one of the finest rock albums of all time.”

Finally, a killer copy of Zenyatta Mondatta worthy of the White Hot Stamper designation!

It is brutally difficult to find great copies of this album, which explains why only a handful have gone up since 2006. And given our expanded resources and refined shootout process, not to mention the expertise we’ve gained in the thousands of hours of listening we’ve done since that time, I have to believe that this is one of the best sounding copies we’ve ever found. Police fans, this is the ONE.

This copy was doing pretty much everything we wanted. The vocals are present, the bass is well-defined, the guitars have harmonic texture, and the drums are punchy and lively. I don’t think you could find a better sounding version of this album no matter how hard you tried.

As for the music, the album is an absolute classic — it leads off with Don’t Stand So Close To Me and never lets up. (more…)