Mono or Stereo? Mono!

Julie London – Make Love To Me

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

This outstanding original Liberty Turquoise mono pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades, or close to them, on both sides. Thanks to superb engineering and vintage All Tube mastering, this 1957 LP is wonderfully rich and sweet, with a breathy, intimate Julie London performing live in your listening room. It’s also pressed on unusually quiet vinyl – Mint Minus Minus, with no issues to speak of – they don’t come quieter. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan – Our Shootout Winner from 2013 in Mono

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES RATING AT OR NEAR A+++ for this the MONO pressing! It’s beyond difficult to find copies of this album with good sound, but we managed to get a hold of a hot one here. This is a true solo album — guitar, vocals and harmonica — and it’s a lot of fun to hear a young (20!) Dylan playing the way he might have played in the coffee shops and folk clubs of Greenwich Village. 

The sound is richer and fuller than the average pressing; it’s also unusually lively and present. Above all the sound is natural and musical, the qualities that matter the most on a record like this.

And that’s not all! It’s also dynamic, lively, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The clarity is superb and even the harmonica sounds good. There’s tons of ambience — you can really hear the sound of the room around Dylan’s vocals. (more…)

The Kinks – Kinda Kinks in Stereo

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Kinda Kinks

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  • Very good Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this original STEREO copy of The Kinks’ sophomore release
  • There’s a healthy dose of the Tubey Magical Richness these recordings need in order to work on this copy
  • The monos win the shootouts but the better original stereo pressings can sound quite good on their own terms
  • “…this album showcased a much more sophisticated sound… it also put them right in the front of the British Invasion pack for seriousness and complexity, out in front of where the Beatles or almost any of the competition were in early 1965…”

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Joan Baez – Joan Baez

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More Joan Baez – Joan Baez

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

This former member of the TAS list is the kind of recording that has everything going for it: Golden Age equipment in a live acoustic with a simple arrangement for voice and guitar (or two).

The purity and complete freedom from distortion allow the listener to imagine himself, to borrow a phrase, in the Living Presence of the performer. With a record this good it takes no effort whatsoever to suspend disbelief and imagine Joan and her guitar directly in front of you, a command performance if you will. (more…)

Donovan – The Real Donovan in Mono – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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More The Real Donovan in Mono

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

Now here’s a mono record we can get behind! If more mono records sounded big and open the way this one does we would totally be on board with the current movement towards One Channel. (As that has not been our experience we remain skeptical.)

This is by far the best sounding, quietest pressing we have ever played. It boasts Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, backed with even better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) on side two, and it’s pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl (for Hickory anyway).  

Mono is in fact the secret to getting these early Hickory records to sound their best. The recordings are mono; the stereo pressings are simply electronically reprocessed. Now, that’s not always the kiss of death, but as a rule it doesn’t help the sound much and has the potential to cause tonality and imaging issues.

The Real Donovan is a compilation of singles, along with some tracks which have been sourced from the first two albums, and an EP, as well as a couple of b-sides. (Hickory seems to have taken a page from Capitol here, as that’s exactly what The Beatles Second Album is. As I recall that album sold quite well in the states.) (more…)

Miles Davis – The Beginning (aka: The Musings of Miles)

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  • Here is a killer early pressing of Miles’ 1955 Prestige album with superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and vinyl that is going to be very hard to find any quieter 
  • Unusually rich, full-bodied, lively and present, sound that brings out the best in Miles’ music
  • Recorded in All Tube Mono, this is the real sound of these four jazz giants playing live-in-the-home-studio of none other than a Mr Rudy Van Gelder
  • “Miles Davis was in the process of forming his first classic quintet when he recorded this date… The trumpeter is featured with pianist Red Garland, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Philly Joe Jones, playing four standards plus a blues (“Green Haze”) and “I Didn’t,” his answer to Monk’s “Well, You Needn’t.””

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The Everly Brothers – The Everly Brothers Best – Reviewed in 2015

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More The Everly Brothers Best

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

This is only the second Everly Brothers Hot Stamper to make it to the site, and I’m sure the reasons for that are not hard to fathom. I must look at fifty EB records for every one I buy, and even with a good scrubbing most of those are not going to pass muster. 

Side One

Present and breathy vocals are the key to this side’s high rating. Note how dynamic the boys’ voices are on the second track; maybe a little bright but it sounds like that’s the right sound for the music. The third track has much the same sound.

Side Two

Tonally fine in its way, which is to say rich on the first track, thinner on the second, and correct for the third; in other words, overall it’s right. (more…)

Miles Davis – Birth of the Cool

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Birth Of The Cool in White Hot Stamper form! We’ve been trying to find copies of this classic music from 1949-1950 that really delivered in an audiophile sense, but as you might imagine it was one tough task. We checked out Mono and Stereo copies, Originals and Reissues… basically anything we could get our hands on. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t cheap, but we managed to find a pressing here that delivers excellent sound throughout. (more…)

Jackie McLean – A Long Drink of the Blues

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A Long Drink of the Blues

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  • Superb sound throughout with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Shockingly good All Tube Mono sound from 1957 courtesy of Rudy Van Gelder, and the high-rez, tonally correct and wide-bandwidth mastering brings out even the most subtle nuances of the sound of this superb sextet
  • McLean’s sax is joined on the first side by Curtis Fuller on trombone and Webster Young on Trumpet
  • 4 stars: “Although not quite as intense as McLean’s later Blue Note dates, the ballad renditions show just how mature and original a soloist he was even at this early stage.” 

This vintage OJC/Prestige 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…)

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan

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Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan

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  • An outstanding MONO copy of Bob Dylan’s self-titled debut (recorded in mono) with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish 
  • Both sides here have the immediacy, the warmth and the studio space the reissues fail to reproduce
  • “… a sterling effort, outclassing most, if not all, of what came before it…”

This is a true solo album — Dylan himself plays the guitar and harmonica — and it’s a lot of fun to hear a young (20!) Bob playing the way he might have played in the coffee shops and folk clubs of Greenwich Village.

This is clearly a recording that sounds best in mono. The stereo copies put the vocal, guitar and harmonica — you know, the sounds that the one skinny kid in the middle of the room is making all by himself — in separate locations widely spaced in the soundfield. This sound may have been cool when playing on the old consoles of the day, but on a modern system it’s just plain ludicrous. (more…)