Top Artists – The Rolling Stones

Letter of the Week – Axis: Bold As Love “What a mind-blowing experience!”

Axis: Bold As Love

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

Hey Tom,    

Well, you found another INCREDIBLE Hot Stamper with “Axis: Bold as Love.” What a mind-blowing experience! This was at least my fifth copy of this album and it shamed all other sad sacks I had bought. I really don’t know how you do it, but I’m infinitely grateful that you do. The notion of a “great sounding Hendrix album” almost sounds like an oxy moron, but again you struck sonic gold and unearthed one of those rare few that offer a deeply satisfying listening experience – to put it mildly!

My appreciation for Hendrix’s towering musical achievements has doubled, maybe even tripled, from hearing this Hot Stamper. That’s quite a feat for an artist I already considered to be one of the best ever! All this because of those magical Hot Stamper grooves. This goes to show what a difference amazing sound can have on the ability to appreciate an album or artist.

Oh, and I once owned a copy of the abysmal Classic pressing. Among its many other failings is the decision to re-release it in mono. Mono!? “Axis” is one of the creative examples of stereo mixing known to man! Reducing this album to mono is a travesty, but I guess that didn’t bother Classic Records.

Anyhow, keep ’em coming, Tom! You indeed sell the best sounding records in the world.

Dan L.

The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock N’ Roll

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It’s Only Rock N’ Roll

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

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll is no slouch if you get hold of a good one. It can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that’s the sound the Stones heard in the booth and were totally cool with. Andy Johns engineered and he’s made as many super-tubey, super-rich and super-smooth recordings as anybody this side of Bill Porter. 

The Stones didn’t want that sound this time around. The Stones wanted this sound.

This album 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 Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. They’re simply better recordings. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Exile On Main Street

Exile On Main Street

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

Hey Tom,   

Wow! this copy of Exile on MS is amazing! it sounded fantastic before my amps even were warm. The drums sound like they are in the same room as the room with the microphone; the horns sound like……. well like… horns. The copy I had before was brand new and sucked. This $350 copy is worth the dough and I am surprised. I am tempted to stop buying vinyl at all unless it has been pre-tested by your team (this will be tough). I had NO IDEA there was this much difference between copies.

Brian S. 

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue – Listen to Billy Preston’s Piano

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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.  

Billy Preston is all over this album on piano and organ and his contribution is crucial to the musical vibe on practically every song. Listen for Billy’s full, solid, clear piano sound. When the piano is thin, the mix is thin and that’s not the sound you want on a Stones album.

If the piano gets lost, your copy either has a smear problem or a transparency problem. Those are certainly easier to live with — all the ’70s systems I owned were smeary and opaque compared to my system today and I enjoyed the hell out of all of them — but far from ideal.

Excerpts from the Rolling Stone Review

By Dave Marsh – April 23, 1976 Although the Rolling Stones now sing about their children and families as often as their stupid girlfriends, we still try to retain our old image of them, under our thumbs and out of our heads. Musically, the Stones aren’t the same band anymore, either, although the continued use of the same rudiments — the drumming, the ceaseless riffing, the vocal posturing — might make it seem otherwise at a hasty glance. But the band that made Black and Blue isn’t the same one that made 12 x 5 or even Aftermath. But that doesn’t mean today’s Stones are not a great band playing great music. They’re a different sort of band, playing a different kind of music.

There is plenty of good stuff left, although all of it is marred by the need for fuller, firmer instrumentation. “Hand of Fate,” which isn’t as melodic as the Stones riff usually is, is brought to life by a blistering Wayne Perkins guitar solo and Jagger’s incredibly live vocal.

“Crazy Mama,” the wild little rocker that closes the set, is hot stuff. It sounds as out of control as the Faces, although Wood doesn’t play on it. (He’s “in the band,” but he only plays on two songs.) The lyrics are marvelous: “‘Cause if you really think you can push it/I’m gonna bust your knees with a bullet.” Those two are the only hard rockers on the album, and the only time Jagger pulls the standard macho-demonic act, too. The former is perplexing news, but the latter may be regarded by one and all as a good omen.

Jagger’s new role is as a professional singer, and he’s great at it. “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. If Black and Blue leaves us nothing else, it is the knowledge that Jagger has become a total pro in a way that, of rock’s great white vocalists, only Rod Stewart and Van Morrison can match. This, with the album’s two ballads, “Fool to Cry” and “Memory Motel,” is material he can sing with pride until he’s 50.

“Fool to Cry” harks all the way back to the confessional style of one of Mick’s original influences, Solomon Burke. He talks and cries through the number, riding against the waves of Nicky Hopkins’s string synthesizer. Stalked by the same lonely terror that haunts so many recent Stones numbers, Jagger is consoled and sometimes berated by his daughter, his woman, his best friends. He opens with a neat, oblique comment on his own parenthood, another sign of his maturity. But what is finally striking about the song is that Mick Jagger is now living up to his inspirations. He tried to match Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye for power in his younger days, and failed brilliantly. Older and wiser, he proves their equal as a singer of ballads.

For “Memory Motel,” a sort of return to “Moonlight Mile,” the stops are all pulled out. Once more, Watts propels the tune with his drumming. The story begins when Mick meets a girl before last summer’s tour. (The real memory motel is near the house in Montauk, Long Island, where the band rehearsed.) But it soon becomes entangled with his recollections of the tour.

The singing is nothing less than spectacular. Jagger is powerful in his yearning, almost a supplicant. But the real revelation (as always) is Keith Richard, who sneaks in some really touching lines:

Mighty fine, she’s one of a kind
She got a mind of her own
She’s one of a kind
And she use it well

This is a perfect description of Keith Richard on last summer’s tour, racing forward to sing “Happy” and running the show with more poise than he’s ever been given credit for.

But “Memory Motel” is more than just a vignette or two. In the end, it becomes the perfect agony-of-the-road song, for it dwells not just on the difficulties of touring, but also on the ultimate joys: As Watts moves in like a locomotive, pushing the song upward, Jagger explains in one brief flash what it’s worth to him, what keeps him coming back for more: “What’s all this laughter on the 22nd floor?/It’s just some friends of mine/And they’re bustin’ down the door!” There’s no way to capture the exhilaration he expresses as his pals roust him from his reverie, lifting him away from his cares. For that one moment, at least, Jagger feels his music as deeply as he ever has.

I remember often these days how long it has been since rock was essentially a fad. Yet we still treat it cavalierly, dismissing careers on the basis of a single disliked album. We are often cruelest, too, to those who have given us most, seeing only the short term, and forgetting that we deal with careers now, not just one-shot hits. Black and Blue may not be the invincible Rolling Stones of our dreams, but that is also a virtue in its way.

Black and Blue leaves me remembering the first important lesson I learned from the Stones: “Empty heart is like an empty life.” This may not be the same band which told us that, but those sullen teenagers would recognize this one, and be proud.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Hot Stuff 
Hand of Fate 
Cherry Oh Baby 
Memory Motel

Side Two

Hey Negrita 
Melody 
Fool to Cry 
Crazy Mama

AMG Review

The Rolling Stones recorded Black and Blue while auditioning Mick Taylor’s replacement, so it’s unfair to criticize it, really, for being longer on grooves and jams than songs, especially since that’s what’s good about it. Yes, the two songs that are undeniable highlights are “Memory Motel” and “Fool to Cry,” the album’s two ballads and, therefore, the two that had to be written and arranged, not knocked out in the studio; they’re also the ones that don’t quite make as much sense, though they still work in the context of the record. No, this is all about groove and sound, as the Stones work Ron Wood into their fabric. And the remarkable thing is, apart from “Hand of Fate” and “Crazy Mama,” there’s little straight-ahead rock & roll here. They play with reggae extensively, funk and disco less so, making both sound like integral parts of the Stones’ lifeblood.

 

Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! – “I haven’t felt better listening to an album in decades.”

Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!

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

Hey Tom,   

Just a quick note to thank you for the extraordinary copy of “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out.” I won’t enumerate all the remarkable qualities of the pressing since you know them well. I’ll just say that I haven’t felt better listening to an album in decades. What a remarkable experience.

By the way, since I bought this as a birthday present for my brother please let me know if another copy of equal or better quality becomes available. You know how this copy made my Londons and Japanese pressing sound.

Randal C.

 

Letter of the Week – Deja Vu “Tom was not kidding when he said master tape sound… This White Hot Stamper is transcendental nirvana.”

Deja Vu

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

Hey Tom,   

I received my Deja Vu 2 Pack yesterday. Even though I have not yet listened to all of the mother load that I got on Marathon week – I had to take a listen to this tonight. Whew – Mother of God!

I have never heard even a semi-decent copy of this album before on either LP or CD – although the music is outstanding and chock full of memories for anyone my age. This White Hot Stamper is transcendental nirvana. Tom was not kidding when he said master tape sound. The vocals and instrumentals were so alive it was unbelievable. Some of the songs were so good that I just tilted my head back and opened my mouth real wide and just zoned out. Crosby’s vocal on Almost Cut My Hair is masterful. I took your advice and played it twice at even louder volumes. Yikes – better than acapulco gold. Neil Young’s Country Girl was so huge – a vast wall of sound with every single voice and instrument standing out. This album is even better than I ever thought it was. I was just not prepared to hear how it really sounds after all that crap I had been listening to for 30 years.

I have come to a conclusion – no matter whether I had the best $50,000 amps in the world or a $29,000 phono supply or the $150,000 Wilson Alexandria speakers or all that other incredible stuff that audiophiles lust for – not one of those items can make a shit record sound anything but like a shit record. There is no overcoming the original source material that you play on your stereo system.

Buying a Hot Stamper for what can seem like a lot of money – especially if you want a whole lot of them – is really a bargain for those who have invested in a super audio system (with analog capability of course). It is true that the better your system is the more you will get out of Hot Stampers – but at some point in the process it is more effective to spend available resources on the LPs rather than on more better mega equipment. I just don’t believe an additional $20,000 spent on a better amplifier can deliver as much as $20,000 spent on Super or White Hot Stampers played with my current amplifier. Additionally, I do believe that even a modest analogue system will sound fabulous when you have master tape sound coming out of it.

Bless Tom and all the folks at Better Records. My system enjoyment quotient has increased dramatically this year since I have been buying the good stuff to play on it. Keep up the good work. 

John R.

Letter of the Week – How Dare You!

How Dare You!

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

Hey Tom,   

Now, thanks for 10cc. I know I know… for some weird reason I never listened to them and… wow. Just wow! I hesitated between 3 albums on your site and ended up getting Dare because my wife really liked that album — we were listening on crappy Amazon MP3 to pick a LP from you guys. 

But Original Soundtrack… came a close second. And actually Deceptive Bend is great too, just that I wanted my first 10cc to be with the original crew.

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

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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

 

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The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet on London

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  • 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…)