Top Artists – The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

More The Rolling Stones

More Black and Blue

xxxxx

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

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, if we’re talking about the better copies, like this one. The best pressings are big, open, dynamic and full-bodied, with exceptionally lively percussion. As always, credit goes to the recording engineers, Glyn Johns et al., as well as Lee Hulko at Sterling, the original mastering engineer (who’s cut about as many good sounding records as anyone we can think of).  

Hand of Fate is our favorite on side one, sounding like an unreleased track from Exile on Main Street. I’m guessing Glyn Johns had a lot to do with that one sounding as meaty and raw as it does. Following Hot Stuff, it balances that one’s bright, clear sound nicely, making it easy to separate the real winners from the also-rans. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Sticky Fingers

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

Hey Tom, 

I bought the Sticky you suggested (seemed like a dare). Like I said, I have several pressings, including the horrible MFSL. This sounds better than all of them, by far. My sense is that it’s a tough album, deliberately a bit muddy and smeared and inconsistent from track to track, which made the quest even more appealing. This one is great; involving, NOT smeared, 3D — most of all it invites me in, instead of saying “OK, this may be a bit cloudy, but try to enjoy anyway.” I’m on my 5th listen. And Catch Bull at Four is also seriously good. Such an underrated album. I’ll be back, inasmuch as most of my other vinyl sounds flaccid > compared to these.

John

 

More Sticky Fingers

(more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet on London

More The Rolling Stones

More Beggars Banquet

xxxxx

  • A killer vintage copy of this exceptionally well-recorded Stones album from ’69, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Clear, rich and lively throughout – the Tubey Magic of the best pressings is what has them sounding the way they should
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own records which we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

Good pressings are certainly not easy to come by — this kind of rich, full-bodied, musical sound is the exception, not the rule. And there’s actual space and extension up top as well, something you certainly don’t hear on most pressings. This is a fantastic album, and excellent sides like these give it the kind of sound it deserves.

Raw Rock & Roll Sound

Of course, Hot Stamper Sound still only gets you what’s on the tape. In this case, it’s some rude, crude, dirty rock & roll. That’s clearly what the Stones were going for here. In terms of audiophile appeal, Tea For The Tillerman this ain’t. Nor does it want to be!

What sets the best copies apart from the pack is a fuller, richer tonal balance, which is achieved mostly by having plenty of bass and lower midrange energy. The copies that are bass shy — most of them, that is to say — tend to bring out more of that midrangy shortcoming. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Aftermath

More The Rolling Stones

More Aftermath

xxxxx

  • This stunning copy earned shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it on both sides
  • Lady Jane, Under My Thumb and Mother’s Little Helper are three of the best sounding tracks on side one – all are big, lively and solid here
  • Their first all-original album, 5 stars on Allmusic, and the earliest Must Own Stones album in our opinion
  • “The Rolling Stones finally delivered a set of all-original material with this LP, which also did much to define the group as the bad boys of rock & roll…”

This wonderful British pressing of Aftermath has two AMAZING sides, one of which is obviously more amazing than the other, but still, amazing considering just how bad the average copy of this album sounds. 

Until just recently it had been AGES since we’d found a copy of Aftermath with sound quality of this caliber to list on the site. It’s surprisingly clean, clear and smooth, with prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic, which is the kind of sound that lets you play the album at the appropriate volume — LOUD. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

More The Rolling Stones

Let It Bleed

xxxxx

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy ROCKS from start to finish; fairly quiet vinyl too! 
  • Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time
  • The acoustic guitar sound and the rich whomp of the snare proves that Glyn Johns is one of the Greatest Engineers who ever lived
  • Top 100, 5 stars on Allmusic – Jason McNeil of PopMatters wrote that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed are, “the two greatest albums the band’s (or anyone’s) ever made.” 

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – A MoFi Disaster to Beat Them All

More The Rolling Stones

More Sticky Fingers

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi pressing of this album is a joke. It’s so compressed, lifeless, and lacking in bottom end that it would hardly interfere with even the most polite conversation at a wine tasting. I consider it one of the worst sounding versions ot the album ever made. It’s an Audiophile Record in the worst sense of the word.

A well-known reviewer actually — I kid you not — was still defending the sound of the MoFi as late as 2010. In one of his reviews earlier in 2008 he used it to test a piece of equipment he was evaluating(!). What could be more preposterous? Like I say, I kid you not.

In 2010 he wrote this:

Mo-Fi’s half-speed mastered edition (MFSL 1-060) was controversial when issued in 1980, with its jacked up lower bass, icy top end, sucked out midrange and low overall level. I’ll tell you though, as my system has improved, the more I’ve come to appreciate it. It offers outstanding focus and clarity and its portrayal of inner detail and transient snap is unsurpassed. Admittedly the sound is not for everybody.

It’s not for me, that’s for damn sure.

 

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street – What to Listen For

More The Rolling Stones

More Exile On Main Street
xxxxx

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.

The best copies will tend to have the qualities detailed below, and the more abundant these qualities are on any given pressing, the higher its grade will be.

Yes, it is a science, an empirical one, which can only be carried out by the use of strict protocols and controls, but it sure ain’t rocket science. All you need is the system, the room, the records, the time and the will to do the painstaking critical listening required to carry out the task.

It can be done, but you could spend a lifetime meeting audiophiles of the vinyl persuasion and never run into a single one who has made the effort more than a handful of times.

To be honest, shootouts are a bitch. If you aren’t getting paid to do them the way we are, finding the motivation to devote the time and energy required to do them right — not to mention the piles of copies of each record you will need — is daunting to say the least.

So, back to the question: what to listen for? (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet – Critical Listening Exercise

More The Rolling Stones

More Beggars Banquet
xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF).

Want a good test for Transparency and Resolution? Try this one. There is a sound on this album’s side one that’s unlike any I can recall hearing before. Listen to No Expectations and see if you don’t hear something quite strange going on in the general area of the left rear of the studio. It took me a while to figure out what it was, and on the bad British pressings and all of the domestic copies you can hardly hear it all. 

You should be able to hear it provided:

  • You have a good copy of the record.
  • You cleaned it properly.
  • You played it on high quality equipment in a good room, and
  • You listened to it critically.

You really need all four. It’s what this commentary is all about. (more…)

The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup – Live and Learn, A Lesson from 2011

More The Rolling Stones

More Goats Head Soup
xxxxx

This is a classic case of Live and Learn.

We would agree with very little of what we had to say about Goat’s Head Soup as a recording when we wrote about it back in 2011 — and for the previous 35+ years since I first played a domestic original.

Having done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are great sounding pressings to be found, because we found some. The data are in, and now we know just how wrong we were. In our defense, let me just ask one question: Did anybody else know this record was well recorded? I can find no evidence to support anyone having ever taken such a contrarian position.

But we’re taking that position now. All it takes is one great sounding copy to show you the error of your ways, and we had more than one! (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Stripped

More The Rolling Stones

More Stripped

xxxxx

The best record The Rolling Stones made in the last 20 years! Superb sound. Highly recommended.  The CD sucks and the vinyl is rare and pricey but worth every penny.

All tracks recorded in performance at The Paradisco Club, Amsterdman, Holland; The Olympia Theatre, Paris, France; and rehearsals in Tokyo, Japan, Lisbon and Portugal.