Five Star Albums

Crosby, Stills and Nash – Self-Titled

More of the Music of David Crosby

 More of the Music of Stephen Stills

More of the Music of Graham Nash

  • An INSANELY GOOD copy of CS&N’s debut album with superb sound from start to finish
  • The sound is big and rich, the vocals breathy and immediate, and you will not believe all the space and ambience
  • We love the album, but it is a cryin’ shame, as well as an indisputable fact, that few were mastered and pressed well, and that includes none of the originals in our experience
  • The reason you have not seen this title on the site for many, many years is simply that it is has become nearly impossible to find copies with the right stampers in audiophile playing condition
  • But the sound is GLORIOUS, hence the price
  • 5 stars: “…the harmonies are absolutely timeless, and the best material remains rock-solid. A definitive document of its era.”
  • This is a Must Own Hippie Folk Rock Masterpiece from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1969 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered and pressed poorly, that few copies actually make it to the site as Hot Stampers, let alone a killer White Hot Stamper like this one.

We wish that weren’t the case — we love the album — but the copies we know to have the potential for Hot Stamper sound are just not sitting around in the record bins these days, making this a very special copy indeed!

(Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the Joe Gastwirt-mastered CD. It couldn’t be any more awful. And his Deja Vu is just as bad.)

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Barney Kessel – Vol. 3: To Swing Or Not To Swing

More Barney Kessel

More Contemporary Label Jazz Recordings

  • Vol. 3, To Swing Or Not To Swing finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades throughout this early Contemporary MONO pressing – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Tubey Magic, richness, sweetness, dead-on timbres from top to bottom – this is a textbook example of Contemporary sound at its best
  • For some reason, the guitar sound from this era of All Tube Chain Recording seems to have died out with the times – it can only be found on the best of these vintage pressings, like this one
  • 5 stars: “The unusual repertoire on this set … would by itself make this bop/cool set noteworthy. Add to that a very interesting lineup of players (trumpeter Harry “Sweets” Edison, Georgie Auld or Bill Perkins on tenor, pianist Jimmy Rowles, the rhythm guitar of Al Hendrickson, bassist Red Mitchell, and Shelly Manne or Irv Cottler on drums) … and the overall result is a recording highly recommended to fans of straight-ahead jazz.”

Man, this music is a blast when it sounds this good. I don’t think there’s a whole lot you could do to make this music sound any better! It’s one of the best early mono Contemporary LPs we’ve ever played. It’s so Tubey Magical. Kessel’s guitar sound is out of this world.

The music here matches the sound for excellence. The whole band just swings. There’s a real old rag-timey feel to the songs. Look at this list of all-star players: Harry Edison, Jimmy Rowles, Red Mitchell and Shelly Manne — this is some serious jazz talent.

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Herrmann – Citizen Kane (The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann)

More of the music of Bernard Herrman (1911–1975)

More Orchestral Spectaculars

  • This original RCA Red Seal pressing boast KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Tons of energy, loads of detail and texture, superb transparency and excellent clarity – the very definition of DEMO DISC sound
  • 5 Stars: “… the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra… every track is worthwhile and memorably played.”
  • If you’re a Bernard Herrmann fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The Citizen Kane Suite on this album is to die for — BIG, BOLD, DYNAMIC sound like few records you own. It’s a real desert island disc for me. (The CD, by the way, is actually quite good. I have it in the car and play it often.)

The Concerto Macabre for Piano and Orchestra (from “Hangover Square”) is superbly well-recorded and a brilliant piece of music as well.

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Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night

More Neil Young

More 5 Star Albums

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  • An outstanding copy of Neil Young’s brilliant sixth studio album – you’ll find excellent Double (A++) grades on both sides of this original (and very cool) Black Label Reprise pressing
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • With no marks that play and minimal signs of use, this copy has surfaces that even picky audiophiles (are there any other kind?) can appreciate
  • 5 stars: “…Young’s musical expression of grief, combined with his rejection of the stardom he had achieved in the late ’60s and early ’70s … was immediately recognized as a unique masterpiece by critics, and it has continued to be ranked as one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever made.”

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Carole King / Tapestry – CBS Half-Speed Reviewed

More of the Music of Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

Sonic Grade: D

The CBS Half Speed is bright and thin — can you imagine a worse way to present this intimate music?  

The chances of there being Hot Stamper CBS Half-Speed Mastered pressings of Tapestry may be vanishingly small, but we can’t say the number is zero. There could be some, but considering how bad an idea Half-Speed Mastering is, would they have much chance of beating our Hot Stampers?

As a practical matter I would have to say the chances are zero.

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The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

More Rolling Stones

More Top 100 Titles

  • You’ll find superb grades on both sides of this early pressing – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • It’s got weight, punch, energy and fullness – qualities key to the best sounding pressings
  • A Top 100 Title, with a surplus 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.

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The Pat Metheny Group – Self-Titled

More Pat Metheny

  • An early pressing of the group’s debut studio album, with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has more CLARITY, ENERGY and DYNAMICS than any pressing of the album you have ever heard, guaranteed
  • And the bass is monstrous – finally the kick drum is really kicking, breaking through the mix
  • We don’t know how you feel about ECM recordings in general but we tend to think they are pretty lifeless and boring. Not so here!
  • 5 stars: “The music is quite distinctive, floating rather than swinging, electric but not rockish, and full of folkish melodies…[it] grows in interest with each listen.”

This WHITE HOT Stamper of arguably his best album lets the music come to LIFE in a way that no other pressing in our shootout managed to do. We don’t know how you feel about ECM recordings in general, but we tend to think they are pretty lifeless and boring.

Not so here!

This is the sound of the Master Tape — worlds better than what most record lovers have ever had the privilege of hearing. If you want to know how good this album can sound, it’s first come, first served. There’s only one, folks, and this is it.

This copy has more of the clarity, energy and dynamics than any pressing of the album you have ever heard, guaranteed. Where is the muck? The blurry bottom end? The smear? All gone.

And the bass is monstrous. Finally the kick drum is really kicking, breaking through the mix.

Lively and fun, who knew any Pat Metheny album could sound like this?

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Kraftwerk – Autobahn

  • Superb sound on this fun, TAS-approved album with Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The RIGHT early import pressings (a happy discovery from a few years back) have richness, transparency, space and presence not found anywhere else, I tell you!
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings – they’re disappointing in the extreme
  • These imports are tough to find with the right stampers, the right sound and audiophile quality playing surfaces, which explains why it’s been YEARS since we’ve had a copy listed on the site
  • 5 stars: “The 22-minute title track became an international hit single and remains the peak of the band’s achievements – it encapsulates the band and why they are important within one track – but the rest of the album provides soundscapes equally as intriguing.”

This vintage British Vertigo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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…)

Peter Gabriel Names a Third Record After Himself

More Peter Gabriel

More Art Rock Records

  • It’s been quite a few years since our last shootout – finding clean, quiet, early pressings of this album has been especially difficult for many years and it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier
  • A Must Own for Gabriel fans, this album is widely considered his breakthrough work as a solo artist
  • Listen closely and you’ll recognize Phil Collins’ now-signature (but at the time revolutionary) drum sound on several of the tracks, including “Intruder,” one of the best tracks on the album
  • 5 stars: “Generally regarded as Peter Gabriel’s finest record, his third eponymous album finds him coming into his own, crafting an album that’s artier, stronger, more song oriented than before.”
  • If you’re a fan, this is a Peter Gabriel classic from 1980 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1980 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

With this, his third release, Gabriel established himself as a true force in the rock world. (more…)

The Beatles – Rubber Soul

More of The Beatles

Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it, this vintage UK stereo pressing has plenty of analog magic in its grooves – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, about as quiet as they can be found
  • We guarantee you’ve never heard “Girl,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “In My Life,” “Wait,” “If I Needed Someone” and “Run for Your Life” sound better – and that’s just side two!
  • A Must Own Folk Rock Masterpiece and permanent member of our Top 100
  • 5 stars: “The lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of thoughtfulness, maturity, and complex ambiguities. Musically, too, it was a substantial leap forward, with intricate folk-rock arrangements that reflected the increasing influence of Dylan and the Byrds.”

Since this is one of the best sounding Beatles recordings, this could very well be some of the BEST SOUND you will ever hear on a Beatles album!

There’s wonderful ambience and echo to be heard. Just listen to the rimshots on Michelle — you can clearly hear the room around the drum. On the best pressings, Michelle is incredibly 3-D; it’s one of the best sounding tracks on the entire album, if not THE best.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings, and especially from modern remasterings.  (more…)