Top Artists – Neil Young

Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps – Just How Good Is a Second Tier Neil Young Album?

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Another in our ongoing series of Random Thoughts on issues concerning music and recordings. 

AMG raves about this album, giving it 5 big stars. (For those of you keeping score at home, that’s half a star MORE than they gave Harvest.) We like the album just fine, but I doubt we would want to go quite that far. Sure, these are great songs, but give us After The Gold Rush, Zuma or Harvest (all Top 100 titles, Hot Stampers of which are sometimes in stock) over this one any day.

Still, a second tier Neil Young album (by our standards) usually will beat a first tier album from just about anybody else making records in 1979. (more…)

Neil Young – Transparency – and that Wonderful Feeling of Being There

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises .

For our review of the new Heavy Vinyl After the Gold Rush we wrote:

Cleverly the engineers responsible for this remaster have managed to reproduce the sound of a dead studio on a record that wasn’t recorded in one. 

This pressing has no real space or ambience. Now the album sounds like it was recorded in a heavily baffled studio, but we know that’s not what happened, because the originals of After the Gold Rush, like most of Neil’s other albums from the era, are clear, open and spacious.

In other words, they are TRANSPARENT.

Modern records like the new After the Gold Rush are just so damn opaque. We can’t stand that sound. It drives us crazy. Important musical information — the kind we hear on even second-rate regular pressings — is simply nowhere to be found. That audiophiles as a group — including those that pass themselves off as champions of analog in the audio press — do not notice these failings does not speak well for either their equipment or their critical listening skills. (more…)

Letter of the Week – After The Gold Rush and Rubber Soul

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

Hey Tom,  

Two fantastic finds; well done once again. The After the Gold Rush you sent is incredibly revealing. The pressing removed the veil. This Lp typically sounds dull and I don’t mean the songs. I dropped the needle on side one and started singing by the end of the first verse. I had planned to have a critical listen first as I always do, so I have a reference in which to make comparisons. If an album is great I start to sing the second time thru. That should tell you what I think of this pressing. When I played my copy it lasted one verse and one chorus before it was removed from the platter. Exceptional pressing!!! 

Re: Rubber Soul. I have 3 copies of this LP, all Parlophone and all earlier pressings than the one I purchased from you. One doesn’t really count because it is from the very first pressings that had problems. However, the other 2 are very good pressings. One is very transparent but extremely bass shy. The other is very much the opposite. It has lots of womp but is grainy. The pressing from Better Records is beautifully transparent especially in the voice and is nowhere near as bass shy.

I believe that being closest to the source usually reveals more accuracy. That goes for most every discipline of study. This pressing, though not being the actual closest, was the winner. Go figure!

Thanks again for doing the research to find these gems.

Mark H.


After The Gold Rush

Rubber Soul

Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fam

This is the first White Hot Stamper pressing of Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled LP to ever hit the site, and folks, you are in for shock if you know this album at all. Although for the most part this is no Demo Disc, this super-rare pressing is SO MUCH BETTER than any other version we know of that it just blows our minds. I had my mind blown about ten years ago when I found my first one, and nothing has changed. It’s still the best pressing ever. (more…)

Letter of the Week – After the Gold Rush

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

Hey Tom, 

I just played your hot stamper pressing of Neil Young After the Gold Rush, and WOW! I don’t always agree with everyone else on which record pressings sound best, but this record knocked my socks off. 

No doubt about this one. I compared it to a recent German/Dutch reissue, which I remember sounding better than the crappy US pressing I previously had, and the difference was amazing. The soundstage was huge, I heard instruments playing right in front of me, dynamics were great, the bass drum on Only Love Can Break Your Heart was deep and extended, guitars were full, and so on.

I hadn’t played this record in a while mainly because it was, well, a lousy recording, which is a shame because it is one of my favorite records. I am sure I will be playing this version a lot more. Too bad for those who haven’t heard this pressing. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Again – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame

This original Plum and Tan Atco label Hot Stamper pressing has TWO AMAZING SIDES and fairly quiet vinyl. A Double Plus (A++) Sound and Mint Minus vinyl makes the copy the Black Swan of this shootout, that’s for sure.

You have never heard a better pressing of what many consider to be Buffalo Springfield’s Masterpiece, Buffalo Springfield Again. We guarantee this copy will blow your mind or your money back! Only one side of one copy had better sound, and that one was noticeably noisier, so we crowning this one King of the Buffalo Springfield Again Shootout for 2007.

This album, like all of Buffalo Springfield’s recordings, has always been a tough nut to crack. We’ve never even attempted a shootout for the first album or Last Time Around, although I do know Hot Stampers for both. Watch for them in the coming months. [Since done, multiple times.]

So many copies of Again sound so bad and play so noisy that most audiophile record lovers probably had written it off many years ago as a lost cause. (more…)

Letter of the Week – After The Gold Rush, So Far and Workingman’s Dead

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

Hey Tom, 

I have really been enjoying the Neil Young “After The Gold Rush” and CSN&Y “So Far.” They are like the “Workingman’s Dead” LP. Just a thrill to hear. The instruments on “After The Gold Rush” fill my room like they would in a live performance. Addictive. (more…)

Letter of the Week – After the Gold Rush and Beatles For Sale

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

Hey Tom, 

Just wanted to write and tell you how much I love that Neil Young After The Gold Rush White Hot Stamper I picked up last week. Really awesome. This ranks up with the best I’ve bought from you guys. The sound is incredible. Neil’s voice is right in the room. The guitar sounds real and that harmonica is super. I love when he performs just him and nobody else. I’m really stuck on Neil’s albums. The sound is just soooo good. I’m working on my system to get more out of these records. Oh yeah, I picked up one of your “Beatles for Sale” albums for $65. Really nice for the money. Those Beatle albums can really be awesome. Have to get a White Hot Stamper Beatles album someday. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Listening for Tubey Magic Down Low

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On even the best copies there’s a bit too much Tubey Magic in the bass I regret to say. Tubbiness and bloat were par for the course. This may explain why so many copies have rolled off bass; the engineer cut the bass because he heard how tubby it was and figured no bass is better than bad bass. 

Which is just not true. Cutting the bass leans out and “modernizes” the sound, making the voices sound thin and dry. This pretty much ruins everything on this album just the way it ruins everything in practically every modern recording I hear. Having your bass under control on the playback side isn’t easy — in fact it’s probably the hardest thing to achieve in audio — but it can be done, and with good bass control the slightly wooly bass is just part of the sound you learn to accept.

It doesn’t actually interfere much with your enjoyment of the music, mostly because all the other instruments and voices sounds so magical. (more…)

The Dynamic Energy of Neil Young and His Crazy Horse Pals – They’re LIVE in the Studio

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Another in our series of Random Thoughts and observations on recording-related issues.

Hot Stampers are all about finding those rare and very special pressings that manage to represent the master tape at its best.

Notice I did not say ACCURATELY represent the master tape, because the master tape may have faults that need to be corrected, and the only way to do that is in the mastering phase. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that fidelity to the master tape should never be, and rarely is, the goal of the mastering engineer.

Which, as a practical matter, means that flat transfers are usually a mistake.

Chesky is famous for boasting that their early remasterings of the Living Stereo catalog were flat transfers. They sure sound flat all right. If there is a more clueless bunch of audiophiles on the planet than the people running Chesky you would have a hard time proving it to me. But I digress.

Whether we like or dislike the presentation of any given recording is of course a matter of taste. When listening we constantly make judgments about the way we think the recording at any moment “ought” to sound, based on what we like or don’t like about the sound of recordings in general and how our stereos deal with them. (more…)