Top Artists – Crosby, Still, Nash and (sometimes) Young

Crosby Stills & Nash – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Critical Listening Exercise

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This commentary from an older Hot Stamper listing for CSN’s debut makes note of some specific qualities in the recording that are a good test for midrange transparency and naturalness.

What’s magical about Crosby, Stills, Nash (& Young)? 

Their voices of course. It’s not a trick question. They revolutionized rock music with their genius for harmony. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no value whatsoever. A CSN record with bad midrange — like most of them — is a worthless record.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

Listen to the section of the song that starts with Stills’ line Can I tell it like it is, with Nash and Crosby behind him — it’s clearly a generation of tape down from what came before and what comes after. The voices and the acoustic guitars just seem to lose their immediacy for no apparent reason. Wha’ happen?

It’s the mix, folks, and no mastering engineer can fix it. This album is full of parts and pieces of various songs that are occasionally problematical in that way. Recognize them for what they are, a little bump in the road of the recording, no more, no less. On the hot copies the best sounding material will sound amazing, and the lesser sounding material (i.e., the more poorly recorded or mixed bits and pieces) will sound as good as they can sound.

That’s the nature of the beast. It is what it is. The more intensely you listen to a record like this — a true Rock Classic from the ’60s — and we listen very intensely around here when doing these shootouts — the more you will notice these kinds of recording artifacts. It’s what gives them “character”.

It’s also what allows you to play a record like this on a regular basis and still find something new in it after all these years. We’ve made some recent improvements to the stereo and room here at Better Records and I can tell you I heard things in this recording I never knew were there. What could be more fun than that? The music never gets old, and neither does the sound!

Crosby, Stills and Nash – CSN – You Do the Best You Can with What You’ve Got to Work With

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album. 

CSN chose the Albert brothers to engineer this album. Their most famous album is Layla. Ever heard a great sounding Layla? Me neither. Can you hear the sound of Layla in your head? That’s more or less what this album sounds like. There are better and worse Layla’s — we’ve done the shootout many times — just as there are better and worse CSNs.

The problem with the sound cannot be “fixed” in the mastering, and here’s how we know: on either side some songs have the breath of life and some don’t. That’s a recording problem.

It sounds like too many generations of tape were used on songs like Shadow Captain and Dark Star among others

But Just a Song Before I Go on side two can sound wonderful: rich, sweet, present and surrounded by lovely studio ambience.

So we listen for the qualities of a specific song that help us pinpoint what the best do well and the rest do poorly and grade them accordingly, on the curve. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu – Our Four Plus Side Two from 2016

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

We award this copy’s side two our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea could even exist. We estimate that less than one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

This FOUR PLUS (A++++) side two boasts insane energy, size and power. Deja Vu is one of our all time favorite albums at Better Records and one that almost never sounds THIS good.

If you play this copy good and loud, and have the kind of full range system that plays loud and clean like live music, we guarantee you will be nothing less than gobsmacked at the size and power of the sound.

Just listen to the guitars during the solos — you can really hear the sound of the pick hitting the strings. The rhythm guitars sound meaty and chunky like the best sounding copies of Zuma and After The Gold Rush. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Tea for the Tillerman and CSN

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,  

I want to say a big THANK YOU for the Hot Stamper’s you sent to me. Two of them are now top ten titles in my collection: Cat Stevens Tillerman: I’m so amazed and lucky – I can’t describe it. The sound is so natural and beat my expectations in many ways – it sounds out of this world. This copy has sweet, breathy vocals, well-defined bass (!!), stunning clarity, warmth and richness, immediacy, astonishing transparency (it burns direct in your DNA – I’ll never forget!) and loads of ambience and more. It murders my pink Island original UK copies. It was a privileg to be able to hear this copy – a HIGHLIGHT event. It’s a DemoDisc of the highest order. And it’s worth the price.

The other big winner is CSN’s first album. This is one of the few LP’s with a sound that you won’t soon forget. I live since a week with this good feeling and I can’t hear or rate any other LP at this time (‘til Tillerman arrived).

Erik S.  (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 4 Way Street

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four!

Three Shootout Winning White Hot Stamper sides out of four! These three sides handily blow other copies out of the water, with the size, space, presence and energy that only the finest pressings are capable of. If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this is the only copy that will let you do it. No other copy we’ve ever played rocked the way this one rocked! For three quarters of the “concert”, YOU ARE THERE. (more…)

Letter of the Week – My Aim Is True, Led Zeppelin II, The Original Soundtrack, Deja Vu and Chicago Transit Authority

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Story for you — last Saturday evening, a designer of a new world-famous tonearm, the owner of an elite high-end audio salon in California and I met for dinner with a well-known reviewer for one of the big audiophile rags, then went back to one of their houses to listen to records I had been asked to bring. About 90% of the two dozen records I had selected were White Hot Stamper versions of classic rock staples.

For the next three hours, I spun disc after disc, to their delight. Particular faves included Elvis Costello’s “My Aim Is True,” LedZeppelin II, 10CC’s “The Original Soundtrack,” CSNY’s “Deja Vu,” and Chicago’s first LP.

Bill (more…)

Letter of the Week – Deja Vu and After The Gold Rush

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Just received Deja Vu – so good. I have never ever heard the vocals sound so natural and so full of power and energy. The only similar record I have is After The Gold Rush and I got that from you guys too. I know in one sense you’re only doing your job but who the hell else does what you do? Thanks again guys for a brilliant record, a fantastic piece of history and art that I can hear whenever I want to.

Peter

 

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far in 2012

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So Far

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

We’ve put together two Shootout Winning White Hot Stamper sides to give you the ultimate So Far. It took two separate records to do it, however, as most copies of the album do not rise above the level of mediocre, and mediocre is not what we sell here at Better Records.

The killer sides here sound like they are made from the MASTER TAPE. They trounced any and all comers during the shootout. No other copies earned Three Pluses, only these two. The sound is BIG and BOLD as it gets — the music practically LEAPS out of the speakers. That’s what we call Hot Stamper sound. 

This is a very difficult record to find with proper mastering (and good vinyl, ouch!). It seems that all of Crosby, Stills and Nash’s albums are that way. The average domestic pressing rarely even hints at how well recorded this band really was. In my experience not even one out of ten LPs sounds right; I put the figure at one out of twenty. Most of them are shrill, dull, grainy, flat, opaque, harsh and in varying degrees suffer from every other mastering and pressing malady known to man. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far in 2007

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So Far

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

This Hot Stamper copy has SUPERB SOUND ON SIDE TWO — the best we’ve ever heard. It sounds like it was made from the MASTER TAPE, and believe me, not many of them do. This LP killed any and all of the competition during this shootout; no other copy earned Three Pluses on Side Two. The sound is BIG and BOLD as it gets — it practically LEAPS out of the speakers. That’s what we call Hot Stamper sound. No other copy did that, on side two anyway. Side one has the highly-coveted unreleased material, so this copy, with “only” an excellent side one, is being priced somewhat more competitively and represents real value for money. 

When you get these good copies, they sound SO correct, they really show up the phony EQ and just plain bad mastering of the so-called Audiophile versions. The MoFi pressing and the Classic 200g LP are both quite obviously wrong in important but different ways. This is the kind of record that makes it painfully clear exactly what’s wrong with them. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Deja Vu – A Tale of Two MoFi Pressings

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Sonic Grade: F (or not!)

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

Just for fun about 10 years ago I pulled out a MoFi pressing of Deja Vu I had laying around. I hadn’t played their version in a long time. I could have gone a lot longer without playing it, because what I heard was pretty disappointing. Playing their record confirmed all my prejudices. The highs sizzled and spit. The heart of the midrange was recessed and sour.

Know what it reminded me of? A bad Japanese pressing. (Since most of them are pretty bad I could have just said a typical Japanese pressing, but that’s another story for another day.)

And if that’s not bad enough, the bass definition disappeared. Bass notes and bass parts that were clearly audible and easily followed on our Hot Stamper copies were murky, ill-defined mud on the MoFi.

If you own the MoFi you owe it to yourself to hear a better sounding version. You really don’t know what you’re missing. (more…)