Records We Don’t Like for Their Music

Bob Dylan – Empire Burlesque

xxxxx

  • With two amazingly good sides, each rating a sonic grade of Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it, this original pressing has the magic of analog in its grooves
  • 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
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Say what you want about Empire Burlesque — at the very least, it’s the most consistent record Bob Dylan has made since Blood on the Tracks, even if it isn’t quite as interesting as Desire. However, it is a better set of songs, all deriving from the same place and filled with subtle gems… this is as good as Dylan gets in his latter days.”

(more…)

Miles Davis – Decoy

xxxxx

  • STUNNING sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them
  • Fans of Bitches Brew will find much to like here, and at least in most ways, this is actually a better sounding album
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Mr. Davis has made tasteful creative use of synthesizers, drum machines and other modern gizmos, voicing them with saxophone, guitar and other traditional instruments without letting them dominate the music.” – NY Times

(more…)

Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives of Henry VIII

xxxxx

  • This outstanding 2-pack pair of pressings of Rick Wakeman’s first studio album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from beginning to end
  • The sound here is big, full, and rich with tons of energy, beautifully showcasing the diverse contributions of Wakeman’s synthesizers
  • This prog-rock collection is spacious and musical, thanks in part to the engineering of Ken Scott
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Not only did this album help pave the way for progressive rock, but it also introduced the unbridled energy and overall effectiveness of the synthesizer as a bona fide instrument.”

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album.

Audiophiles are often surprised when they hear that an LP can sound amazing on one side and mediocre on the other, but since each side is pressed from different metalwork which has been aligned independently, and perhaps even cut by different mastering engineers from tapes of wildly differently quality, in our experience it happens all the time. In fact it’s much more common for a record to earn different sonic grades for its two sides than it is to rate the same grade. That’s just the way it goes in analog, where there’s no way to know how a any given side of a record sounds until you play it, and, more importantly, in the world of sound everything is relative.

Since each of the copies in the 2-pack will have one good side and one noticeably weaker or at best more run-of-the-mill side, you’ll be able to compare them on your own to hear just what it is that the Hot Stamper sides give you. This has the added benefit of helping you to improve your critical listening skills. We’ll clearly mark which copy is Hot for each side, so if you don’t want to bother with the other sides you certainly won’t have to.

One of the two pressings has the original label and one has the reissue label. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter

xxxxx

  • With four sides that are either White Hot or close to it this copy murdered the competition
  • Rich, full-bodied, smooth, yet open and clear, this is about the best the album can sound 
  • Mastered by Bernie Grundman back when he was still cutting some of the best records around
  • Joni Mitchell meets Weather Report is the best way to describe much of the vibe here

We had trouble finding copies that played consistently quietly on all four sides. This copy has an issue with side four, but the second best sounding side four was noisier, so we feel that this is still the best way to go for the album. (more…)

Kansas – Point of Know Return

xxxxx

  • An outstanding pression of Point of No Return, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Big and solid guitars and keyboards, with great bass, full vocals, and tons of Tubey Magic – this the way to hear the band
  • Our Hot Stamper here manages to combine this kind of high-rez, extended top with natural, balanced tonality – this one really gets it right
  • 4 Stars: “This is the definitive Kansas recording … their interplay and superior musicianship make this both an essential classic rock and progressive rock recording.”

Drop the needle on Dust in the Wind — here the guitars and vocals are full-bodied and natural, qualities unfortunately in short supply on the typical pressing. (more…)

Humble Pie – Humble Pie

xxxxx

  • Incredible sound for this classic Humble Pie album from 1970 with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • A classic Glyn Johns British Blues Rock recording from 1970 – man, he was really on a roll back then
  • “Alternating hard-driving blues-rockers with country-folk numbers, Humble Pie neatly showcases the two sides of this band’s personality on their first release for a major American label and third album overall.”

This, their third album and first for A&M (which probably explains the master tape sound on domestic vinyl), is one of the few Humble Pie titles we’ve found that can offer honest-to-goodness Hot Stamper sound. Performance – Rockin’ The Fillmore is one of the best sounding live rock albums we have played, and Rock On can also be quite good, but after that it’s slim pickins for audiophiles.

The great sound is no mystery in this case; it comes courtesy of none other than Glyn Johns. He knows Heavy British Rock like nobody else on the planet, or did at the time anyway. If you want fat, meaty drums and grungy guitars — think Who’s Next, Sticky Fingers or A Nod Is As Good As A Wink — Glyn is your man.

Listen to how big and how far forward the drums are in the mix on the first track. That is a sound one rarely hears on a studio recording, and that’s a shame because the drum sound on this record is awesome. (more…)

Pink Floyd – The Final Cut – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

xxxxx

Here is THE BEST SOUNDING COPY of The Final Cut to EVER hit the site! We recently finished a gigantic shootout for this album and this killer pressing took top A+++ honors on BOTH sides! Everything we’ve looked for in a great copy of The Final Cut is here: incredible immediacy; punchy lows; extended highs; spaciousness and transparency; depth to the soundfield and so forth. In a word, the sound on this copy is POWERFUL — an excellent way to experience this music!

If you weren’t a fan of The Wall, I can’t imagine this one is going to be your cup of tea, but Pink Floyd fanatics will likely be very happy with the sound we found on this copy. Most of them we played weren’t anything like this!

Side one is super transparent with loads of detail and texture. The brass sounds excellent and there’s real depth to the soundfield. The vocals are full-bodied and present.

Side two has excellent presence and tons of tubey magic. The backing orchestra sounds wonderful. Many copies have a tendency to sound dry, sterile or even analytical, but this one has lovely analog warmth and real musicality.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Post War Dream
Your Possible Pasts
One of the Few
The Hero’s Return
The Gunners Dream
Paranoid Eyes

Side Two

Get Your Filthy Hands Off My Desert
The Fletcher Memorial Home
Southampton Dock
The Final Cut
Not Now John
Two Suns in the Sunset

AMG  Review

This is more like a novel than a record, requiring total concentration since shifts in dynamics, orchestration, and instrumentation are used as effect. This means that while this has the texture of classic Pink Floyd, somewhere between the brooding sections of The Wall and the monolithic menace of Animals, there are no songs or hooks to make these radio favorites. The even bent of the arrangements, where the music is used as texture, not music, means that The Final Cut purposely alienates all but the dedicated listener. Several of those listeners maintain that this is among Pink Floyd’s finest efforts, and it certainly is an achievement of some kind…

Elton John – Caribou

xxxxx

Not the most consistent of Elton’s albums in the ’70s, but the best tracks — Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me and The Bitch Is Back spring to mind — are killer, right up there with the best work the man was doing at the time.  

This Super Hot Stamper original British DJM pressing has some of the best sound we have ever heard on Caribou. There’s a good reason you’ve practically never seen this album for sale on our site. In fact there are quite a number of good reasons.

The first one is bad vinyl — most DJM pressings of Caribou are just too noisy to sell. They can look perfectly mint and play noisy as hell; it’s not abuse, it’s bad vinyl. (Empty Sky is the same way; out and out bad vinyl, full of noise, grit and grain.) (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Hejira

xxxxx

  • An incredible sounding copy and the first to hit the site in NINE years! Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Most copies we played were too compressed or veiled to let the music really flow, but this one has the kind of big, open, rich sound that Joni’s spacey “beatnik jazz” needs to really work its magic
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout with both sides playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Joni Mitchell’s Hejira is the last in an astonishingly long run of top-notch studio albums dating back to her debut… Performances are excellent, with special kudos reserved for Jaco Pastorius’ melodic bass playing… This excellent album is a rewarding listen.” 

We played a ton of copies and heard a lot to dislike. Many copies have a tendency to sound phony, a case of heavy-handed EQ in the mastering perhaps. When a copy sounds glossy, it loses its natural warmth and starts to sound like any old audiophile LP. We’re ideally looking for something akin to Blue here, and not the sound you find on Patricia Barber LPs. (Gratuitous maybe, but it feels like it’s been too long since we took a swipe at that junk. But I digress…)

Plenty of copies had natural sound but no real life or presence to speak of. It’s a sound you could live with until you heard a good one, but there’s no going back once you’ve heard what the album’s really capable of. A copy like this one gives you lots of richness and warmth without sacrificing the texture to the instruments or the breath to Joni’s voice. The percussion really comes through, the bass has more weight and the immediacy of the vocals put Joni front and center, just where she should be.

If you aren’t familiar with this album, it’s a few more steps down the path she started taking on Court and Spark. The musicians include Larry Carlton and Jaco Pastorious, so that should give you an idea about the jazz-fusion direction of the arrangements. It was a fun album to get to know and on a copy like this one, it really rewards multiple listens. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Obscured By Clouds – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.  

EXCELLENT SOUND and some seriously strange music! This obviously isn’t Floyd’s greatest album, but we still found a lot to like about this record and specifically this copy. It’s a British Import Harvest Green Label pressing that rates close to A+ on both sides — slightly better on side one, not quite there on side two. Those of you who enjoy Meddle will certainly get a lot out of this one.

We rated side one between A+ and A++. The second and the fifth tracks were our favorites on this side, while the fourth track honestly left us a bit cold. We played other copies that couldn’t come near this side in terms of clarity, transparency or bass definition.

Side two has a bit of a thick, Moody Blues-esque sound. It’s tonally correct from top to bottom with good energy. The lead guitar sounds particularly good, as does the organ.

Don’t expect a fully realized album a la Dark Side, because this ain’t that. It’s a nice collection of songs and instrumentals that should provide a nice thrill to Floyd fans who really dig the prog-psych aspect of the band. (more…)