Top Artists – The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

Side one is an absolute knockout — we’ve never heard one like it and we don’t expect to find a better one. Our standard top grade of A+++ only begins to tell the story here. No other copy we played had bass this deep and meaty, or drums so full and punchy.You aren’t going to believe how hard it rocks, with all the WHOMP and ENERGY we hoped for when we began shooting out this title. The sax solo in Miss You sounds incredible — it actually has some balls, something you just don’t get with the typical pressing. The hi-hats sound incredibly natural and clear, and the vocals are Right On The Money (ROTM).

HARD ROCKIN’ STONES MAGIC! We’ve always loved the music on this album, but we sure didn’t know it could sound like this. Side one has MASTER TAPE QUALITY A+++ SOUND and side two is just a step behind at A++. When you drop the needle on Miss You you are going to FREAK OUT. 

This is probably the Stones’ last truly great album, IMHO. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers, and with hits like Miss You, Shattered, and Beast Of Burden on here, it’s easy to see why.

One of the keys to getting this album to sound right is fullness. Many copies lack weight to the bottom end, which robs this funky music of its very foundation. Other copies suffer from lean, thin sounding vocals — do you think that’s the sound Mick Jagger was going for?

Side two is close behind at A++. It’s got the life and presence that bring this music to life. Beast Of Burden sounds amazing — warm, rich, and sweet with tons of ambience. The guitars and drums sound great and the overall sound is BIG and BOLD.

The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

HARD ROCKIN’ STONES MAGIC AND QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES! We’ve never heard another copy of this album that sounded as amazing as this one. Both sides took top honors in our shootout — A+++ for side one, and A++ – A+++ for side two.

Not only is it hard to find great copies of this album, it’s hard to play them when you do find them. You’re going to need a hi-res, super low distortion front end to play this properly, but if you’ve got the goods this is one hot record! Play this with a budget cart / table / arm and you’ll hear very little of the magic that we heard. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

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

AN AMAZING, SHOOTOUT-WINNING A+++ SIDE TWO backed with an excellent A++ side one. It is not easy to find good copies of this album — 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 the typical pressing! This is an amazing batch of songs, and a copy like this gives it the kind of sound it deserves.

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. Beggars may have some of The Rolling Stones best music on it, but those looking for the best sounding Stones album should look in the direction of Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. They’re clearly better recordings, which is why they are both on our Top 100 list.

But this album is no slouch. It can be a bit midrangy in places: to name just a couple, Sympathy For The Devil seems to have that quality on every copy I’ve heard, and Street Fighting Man never sounds all that amazing. 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.

Two other qualities that the best copies have are 1): more Transparency, so the ambience and subtle musical qualities are more audible, and 2): less Smearing of the sound, which is especially noticeable as a lack of bass definition and a blurring or softening of the transients elsewhere. 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 won’t hear on most of the vinyl that’s been pressed over the 49+ years since this album was released.

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 less upper midrange. Those are the copies that sound tonally correct to us, and you should have no trouble appreciating the difference. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Aftermath – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

What do you get on these better Decca pressings? Lots of rich, sweet, Tubey Magic. Lovely spaciousness. Fairly correct tonality. There are going to be distorted parts to some of the songs, but that distortion is on the tapes – to some degree it’s unavoidable.

This is a pretty quiet Decca in the Box stereo copy with VERY GOOD SOUND (for an early Stones record). If they all sounded like this we wouldn’t be making excuses for their recordings all the time. We give both sides a grade of A Plus, which means you certainly can do better if you can find lots of pressings to clean and play for your Hot Stamper shootout.

What’s that? You say clean copies don’t grow on trees out where you live? Hey, we have the same problem! We find one or two copies of the early albums a year, and sometimes even the good looking ones are too noisy to sell.

We just have to accept that the Stones are not The Beatles when it comes to the quality of their early recordings. That said, this album sounds pretty good!

This is my favorite of the early Stones records. You can’t argue with Lady Jane and Under My Thumb, two of the best tracks this band ever put on tape. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Undercover

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More Undercover

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

Engineered by Chris Kimsey, if you know his work from Some Girls, Tattoo You, Frampton Comes Alive and the like, then you should have a good idea of what this album sounds like on the better copies such as this one.   (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Stripped – Bad on CD, Killer on Vinyl

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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.

  • A superb copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout too
  • Imported pressings such as this one are hard to come by, not to mention highly collectible, which explains why they run about a hundred bucks and up online
  • “The project was an extension of acoustic sets the group introduced on the Voodoo Lounge tour. The concept offered an invigorating opportunity to dust off some rough gems from the past that no longer felt at home on sloping stadium stages.”
  • “… they all went out and cut not merely another unplugged recap, but a live album that reprises their classic material and groove in an honorably autumnal spirit — an album that might tell you something a decade from now. Muddy Waters would be proud.” – Robert Christgau, A-

By 1995 records like this were only released on import vinyl and typically went out of print soon after they began their descent down the pop charts. I used to review them and sell the better sounding ones back in the day. Supplies were extremely limited and unpredictable – these small pressing run ’90s albums went out of print without warning and almost never came back. Once they were gone they were rarely ever reissued, although Simply Vinyl took a crack at filling that gap, with mixed results as I’m sure you know.

All of those factors conspire to make the cost of acquiring the mintiest pressings from overseas fairly high, and of course this is the main reason you have never seen the album on our site before. Be that as it may, we have this copy available and it is not only wonderful sounding but the music is every bit as good as I remember it.

You may remember that a controversy raged in the audiophile press at the time about how awful the CD sounded compared to the vinyl.  Turns out they had mastered the CD using some bad equipment, or a bad transfer of the tape, or some other such foolishness, and the result was that only us dinosaurs who had kept our turntables into the ’90s could actually stand to listen to the album. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Rolled Gold – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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We took the best first LP and mated it to the best second LP from the set to create the overall Shootout Winner with EIGHT, count ’em, eight total pluses over the four sides! And side one was WHITE HOT. We certainly didn’t expect to hear sound like that on a 1975 compilation of classic Stones hits such as this; most Stones compilations are awful sounding in our experience. Played Hot Rocks lately? 

But these tracks have the potential to be taken from something very close to the real master tapes, a subject we discuss in one of our dirty little secret commentaries.

And they put the early mono recordings on these discs in mono, which is another good sign that somebody at the label wanted this material to sound authentic and correct.

Let’s break it down side by side. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers – Worst Version Ever!

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Sticky Fingers

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

This RTI 180g copy (with the zipper cover) is one of a series of five titles Bob Ludwig cut in the ’90s. According to the man, after cutting the record he chanced upon a consumer copy and was shocked to hear how bad it sounded.   

It sounded, according to him, nothing like the record he had cut. Somehow they had botched the pressings and ruined the sound. How this could happen I can’t imagine.

Bob says that’s what they did and we’ll take him at his word, out of respect for one of the all-time great mastering engineers, RL himself. He promptly sold off all his analog mastering equipment and got out of the game.

Can you blame him? According to him they put his name all over a record the sound of which they had ruined. Guess I would stop making records too if that were the case.

By the way, the sound was dismal on every title from that series we played except for Heart’s, which was okay, certainly better than the average pressing out there, but no Hot Stamper by any stretch of the imagination. (For actual Hot Stampers please come to us.)

The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Tattoo You

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

THE BEST SIDE TWO WE’VE HEARD, which means we’ve never heard Waiting On A Friend sound this good on any other copy! We just finished a huge shootout for this 1981 Stones album, one that the All Music Guide tags as “essential latter-day Stones”. In the tradition of other late ’70s / early ’80s Stones albums (Some Girls, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock And Roll), the sound is a bit raw at times, but a copy like this one gives you enough energy, body and richness to make for some very enjoyable serious listening.

Side one is big and rich, with more “meat on the bones” as we like to say. The guitars are chunky and powerful, which exactly the sound you want for a song like Start Me Up, which leads things off here. This side one had more extension up top than most copies and more size to the soundfield as well. It doesn’t have all of the presence of the very best copies, but it’s certainly a nice step up from most.

Side two is even better, doing everything side one did and then some, impressing us enough to earn our top A+++ grade. The sound is super clean and clear with amazing immediacy, putting Mick Jagger’s vocals right up front where they belong. It’s also very open, spacious and transparent — qualities that we certainly wouldn’t ascribe to most copies we’ve played. The piano has real weight, the guitars sound just right and the overall sound is usually rich and full.

As with any Stones album, don’t expect any sonic miracles. Hot Stampers aren’t going to turn this into Tea For The Tillerman. If you want to hear an amazing sounding Demo Quality record, this ain’t it, but if you love this music and are frustrated with the sound of the typical pressing I bet you’ll enjoy the heck outta this one. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue

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Black and Blue

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  • Incredible sound throughout with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • Hand Of Fate on side one sounds particularly good – it has the meaty Glyn Johns sound we love
  • A full-bodied, solid copy like this lets you appreciate Billy Preston’s contributions on the keys – he’s all over the album, a very good thing indeed
  • “Melody ought to be a tentative experiment with Billy Preston’s jazzy keyboard sound. Instead, it’s a triumph, Jagger’s voice swooping and snaking around Preston’s piano and harmonies.”

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, that’s if we’re talking about the better copies of course, 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). (more…)