Top Artists – The Rolling Stones

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…)

The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue – The Stones Album You Don’t Know

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Emotional Rescue

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and one of the better late-period Stones albums, in this case from 1980. 

Side two of this copy ranks up there with the very best we’ve ever heard, earning an A+++ grade and DESTROYING our preconceived notions about the kind of sonics we might get from the ultimate copies. This one DOES IT, plain and simple. It’s got serious punch down low, superb clarity, all the extension up top, and a HUGE open soundfield that lets you hear every last detail. She’s So Cold sounds amazing, we’ve never heard it sound better.

We had a great time shooting this one out — we had forgotten how good the music was and were pleasantly surprised by how good the better copies can sound. It’s tough to get great Stones sound, I’m sure most of you know that, but there’s lots of it here and a bunch of good songs. She’s So Cold, Summer Romance, Dance, the title track… not a bad line-up, and probably the last great album these guys put out. (more…)

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

If you click on the heading you can read some of the silly comments people are making about this awful pressing, one of the worst sounding versions of Sticky Fingers ever committed to vinyl. When you stop to consider how awful most pressings are compared to the only version that actually has ever sounded good to us, the original domestic LP,  that’s really saying something.

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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 – The Rolling Stones

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The Rolling Stones – The Rolling Stones

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  • You’ll find outstanding Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on this vintage pressing of The Stones’ 1964 release
  • Both sides of this Red Label British Decca Mono are doing it right – they’re big, rich and spacious with a huge bottom end
  • This is the real, honest sound of the early, early Stones – it is what it is, and trying to fix it will almost surely ruin what’s good about it
  • “Set against the dependency on covers and the inexperienced vocalist, however, is a truly cooking and imaginative band. Charlie Watts and Bill Wyman provide a brawny frame for the intermeshing guitars of Richards and Brian Jones as the ensemble lovingly deliver some of their favourite shots of rhythm ‘n’ blues.” – BBC

The best word I could use to sum up both the sound and the music on this record is HONEST. If you want to hear how early Rolling Stones records sound when they sound right, this is the ticket. This is the real sound of the early, early Stones.

Probably what any modern engineer would want to do to the album would only end up making it worse. It is what it is and that’s good enough for us. Since the tapes are now more than 60 years old, no modern reissue will sound remotely as good as this one.

The Stones wanted their stuff to sound like the old Blues albums they grew up on and revered, and with that sound in mind you can’t argue that they didn’t succeed here. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – No. 2

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No. 2

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  • This vintage Decca pressing has outstanding sound – both sides did very well in our recent shootout, earning Double Plus (A++) grades and playing fairly quietly
  • This Mono pressing (made from the mono tapes) will show you the real, honest sound of the early, early Stones 
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “…[No. 2 includes] one of the group’s best blues covers, their version of Muddy Waters’ “I Can’t Be Satisfied,” which wasn’t released in America until 1973 and features some killer slide playing by Brian Jones.”

This vintage UK Decca mono pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)