Records We Don’t Like for Their Music

Phil Collins – Hello, I Must Be Going!

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  • As Good As It Gets Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish for Collins’ second studio album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • This is the last of the albums Phil recorded in analog, and of course the sound is big and rich – you will not believe all the space and ambience on this copy
  • Includes Phil’s killer version of the Supreme’s classic, “You Can’t Hurry Love”
  • 4 stars: “… the album is still a winning follow-up that shows Collins to be in full control of songwriting and production. It may be a shade less impressive than Face Value, but that was a hard act to follow. 

Fortunately, the recording quality of this album is still analog and can be excellent, thanks to hugely talented engineer and producer Hugh Padgham (Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, etc.). (more…)

Dire Straits – Communique

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

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  • This stunning sounding copy of the band’s sophomore release earned shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the UK LPs are the only way to fly on Communique
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s debut release, you’ll find much to like on this underappreciated follow up
  • “…an album full of the delicate subtleties that make Mark Knopfler shimmer — that deep tobacco-soaked voice, the quick, fluid guitar, and the wit behind many of his lyrics… a rich, abundant source of beauty.”

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Jackson Browne – For Everyman

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More Singer-Songwriter Albums

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  • A KILLER copy of JB’s sophomore effort with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • David Lindley joins the band, and talented helpers include Bonnie Raitt, Glen Frey, David Crosby, Elton John and Joni Mitchell
  • “His work is a unique fusion of West Coast casualness and East Coast paranoia, easygoing slang and painstaking precision, child’s-eye romanticizing and adult’s-eye acceptance… Brilliantly conceived, incomparably immediate, For Everyman truly earns its title.” – Rolling Stone

The average copy of this record is MUD, but this pressing will show you that the master tape of For Everyman is a whole lot better than most music lovers and audiophiles might suspect. (The first album is the same way.)

Want a quick test for transparency? Listen to the piano on I Thought I Was a Child. On most copies you can’t really hear the attack of the hammers hitting the strings, but here you can. If the tonal balance is correct — and it is on this copy — then you know you are getting a pressing of very high quality.

Note that the first track on side one almost never sounds as good as those that follow. (more…)

Humble Pie – What Other Live Rock Record Sounds This Good?

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

And One We Also Just Added to Our Rock & Pop Top 100 List

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One of the best — if not THE best — rock concert albums we have ever heard. Can you imagine if Frampton Comes Alive sounded like this? If you want to hear some smokin’ Peter Frampton guitar work from the days when he was with the band, this album captures that sound better than any of their studio releases, and far better than FCA on even the best copies.

Grungy guitars that jump out of the speakers, prodigious amounts of punchy deep bass, dynamic vocals and drum work — the best pressings of Rockin’ The Fillmore have more firepower than any live recording we’ve ever heard.

Who knew? 

We didn’t, of course, until not that many years ago (2014 maybe?). But we are in the business of finding these things out. We get paid by our customers to find them the best sounding pressings in the world. It’s our job and we take it very seriously.

Did any audiophile reviewers ever play the album and report on its amazing sound? Not that we are aware of.  Do they have the kind of playback systems — the big rooms, the big speakers, the freedom from compression and artificiality — that are required to get the most from a recording such as this one?

Doubtful. Unlikely in the extreme even. They don’t know how good a record like this can sound because they aren’t able to play it the way it needs to be played.

And when was the last time you read a review of a record that hadn’t just been reissued on Heavy Vinyl? There was a time when audiophile reviewers wrote about exceptional good sounding vintage pressings they had come across. Harry Pearson comes immediately to mind, but there were many others following his lead. Now they it seems none of them can be bothered. More’s the pity.

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Why M&K Direct to Disc Recordings Rarely Sound Right to Us

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More Flamenco Fever “Live Direct to Disc”

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As an interesting side note, this album was recorded on location. The other M&K Direct to Disc record that I like was also recorded on location. Most of the M&K Direct to Discs were recorded in the showroom of the stereo store that Miller and Kreisel owned, which, like any showroom, was carpeted and draped. This is why almost all their records sound “dead”. This was their intention, of course. They wanted the sound to be “live” in your living room. I prefer to hear the kind of ambience that would be found in a real location, and so I have never been much of a fan of their label.

This record, however, gives you both that Direct Disc immediacy and freedom from distortion, as well as the live ambience of the location — the best of both worlds.

Miles Davis – Water Babies

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  • This superb compilation album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Tubier, more transparent, more dynamic, with that “jumpin’ out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (an old record) ever has
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, along with boatloads of Tubey Magic – here’s a 30th Street recording from 1967 and 1968 that demonstrates just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • “Time has revealed this band to be as daring and fascinating as any in the long Davis career, and Water Babies contains some of its best music. There is simply so much happening here; hear it.”

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The Ornette Coleman Double Quartet / Free Jazz – “A staggering achievement.”

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More Five Star Albums Available Now

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  • A superb copy of Free Jazz with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last on this vintage Atlantic stereo LP – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, 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
  • Tubier, more present, more alive, with more of that “jumpin’ right out of the speakers” quality that only The Real Thing (The Real Thing being an Old Record) ever has
  • 5 stars: “As jazz’s first extended, continuous free improvisation LP, Free Jazz practically defies superlatives in its historical importance. . . Jazz had long prided itself on reflecting American freedom and democracy and, with Free Jazz, Coleman simply took those ideals to the next level. A staggering achievement.”

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Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run

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  • A KILLER pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The title track here really sounds the way you want to hear it – BIG and BOLD
  • A 5 Star album in the AMG, and the Boss’ first masterpiece – who can argue with the power of this music?
  • “Layers of guitar, layers of echo on the vocals, lots of keyboards, thunderous drums — Born to Run had a big sound, and Springsteen wrote big songs to match it.” (Did he ever!)

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Dire Straits / Love Over Gold – What to Listen For

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MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This copy is a FLUKE — we guarantee you have never heard a copy sound even remotely this good. We sure haven’t, and we’ve probably played fifty or more. This copy found itself running way ahead of the pack and never looked back. Two A+++ sides back to back — what are the chances?

Telegraph Road does something on this LP that you won’t hear on one out of twenty pressings: It ROCKS. It’s got ENERGY and DRIVE.

Need evidence to back up such a claim? Not a problem; just listen to how hard Allan Clark bangs on the piano on side one — he’s pounding that piano with all his might. No other copy managed to get the piano to pop the way it does here, clear and solid. Wow, who knew? Maybe this is the reason HP put the record on the TAS Super Disc List. (I rather doubt he’s ever heard a copy this good, but who’s to say?) (more…)

Deep Purple – Made In Japan

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More Recordings Engineered by Martin Birch

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Want to find your own shootout winner? Scroll to the bottom to see our advice on doing just that.

  • This outstanding UK pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound or BETTER on all four sides 
  • Surprisingly clean, undistorted sound for a live album, yet every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Live Album should be
  • In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness, Made In Japan might just be The Best Sounding Live Album of All Time
  • Rolling Stone: “They’ve done countless shows since in countless permutations, but they’ve never sounded quite this perfect.”

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan I’d put the album 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 would be very likely to take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Album of All Time.

Yes, the sound is that good.

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. (more…)