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Roxy Music – Flesh + Blood

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

The British Original Polydor Super Deluxe pressings are the only way to go on this album. No domestic pressing or other import was better than passable; we know, we played them. The British LP is cut by one of my favorite mastering houses in England, which no doubt accounts — at least partly — for the excellent sound.

The estimable Robert Ludwig cut the domestic pressings. Unfortunately for us Americans, it sounds to us like they gave him a dub tape to master from. (The same thing happened on Avalon by the way.)

This is a transitional album. Some of it sounds like Avalon (Oh Yeah, Over You, etc) and some of it sounds more like their earlier material. It may not be as consistent as Avalon but it’s well worth owning for its best songs (listed below) and highly recommended for fans of the band.

Side One

A+ to A++, punchy bass and a full, rich, smooth sound overall. Can get a bit hot at the top of the voice but most of the time is under control.

Standout tracks: In the Midnight Hour / Oh Yeah / My Only Love

Side Two

A+++, the best we heard. Not bright, thank god. Instead it’s big and clear and positively jumping out of the speakers with immediacy and powerful energy. Tight bass too.

The music worked better with this sound than it did on any other copy we played. That makes it White Hot!

Standout tracks: Over You / Eight Miles High / Rain, Rain, Rain

Adventures in Music and Sound

AMG calls Roxy Music the “most adventurous rock band of the early ’70s” and I’m inclined to agree with them. Roxy are certainly one of the most influential and important bands in my growth as a music lover and audiophile, joining the ranks of Supertramp, Ambrosia, 10cc, Steely Dan, Yes, Bowie and others, musicians and bands who seemed to me dedicated to exploring and exploding the conventions of popular music.

My equipment was forced to evolve in order to be able to play the scores of challenging recordings issued by these groups in the ’70s. You could say that the albums of Roxy Music and others informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on. I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for the last four decades, precisely in order to play records like this, the kind of music I fell in love with all those years ago.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

In the Midnight Hour 
Oh Yeah 
Same Old Scene 
Flesh and Blood 
My Only Love

Side Two

Over You
Eight Miles High
Rain, Rain, Rain 
No Strange Delight 
Running Wild

Wikipedia on the Singles from Flesh + Blood

Allmusic.com in a review of the single: “Over You” represents one of the crowning achievements of Roxy Music’s last years, a hauntingly hypnotic love song which spirals along on a warm bed of rhythm and guitar, interspersed with a few slabs of classic Roxy dissonance, and interrupted by some classic Beatles-ish guitar from Phil Manzanera.”

The first single “Over You” is the only Roxy Music single included in Dave Marsh’s The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made. Marsh writes “Roxy Music from time to time produced slices of music that were compulsively listenable, adding a dangerous groove to a fantasy Top 40 (since none of them actually reached it, in the States at least) in which such ironic distance might have actually communicated something other than the performers’ feelings of inherent superiority to the genres in which they trafficked.

“Invariably, these pieces presented themselves as singles. Among the more memorable were “Do the Strand,” and “Love is the Drug,” a trenchant satire (I think) of love songs and romantic love per se. Best of all, though, was “Over You,” its title a multilayered pun (which was perhaps even scatological in some dimensions), its topic an essence of banality, but its groove irresistible.

“Ferry’s singing succumbs to the seductions of the beat and actually shows some life, so that even though the lyrics are actually quite as predictable as they want to be, their juxtaposition with heavily romantic piano chords, synth riffs, and Andy Mackay’s soprano sax solo lends them a lush romanticism, as if the love song overlay were genuinely felt by all concerned.”

Rob Sheffield writes “Ferry had always founded his most arcane art notions on an unshakeable passion for pop. Roxy’s quintessential song from this era is 1980’s “Over You.” Ferry glides through the trance-like groove with the mantra “Wish I was somewhere/Over You.” until he starts ascending into the ether, leaving his fickle lover behind, soaring higher through glaze and gloss. Then the song fades out and Ferry starts the act again. This approach can get wearing, especially if you don’t believe that tears-in-my-caviar heartbreak is a spiritual quest. But when Bryan’s on, as in Manifesto’s Dance Away or Flesh + Blood’s Oh Yeah, its impossible not to fall for him.”

Jonathan Rigby praised the second single from the album, writing “If Dance Away achieved Ferry’s long-held ambition and became accepted as a modern standard, it’s hard to see why the same accolade has yet to be bestowed on Oh Yeah, which is perhaps the most limpidly beautiful ballad in his portfolio.”

Allmusic.com in its review states “The sequence of exquisite singles that Roxy Music rattled off as the late ’70s became the early ’80s was highlighted by any number of songs which, dispassionately, could be ranked among Bryan Ferry’s purest pop visions yet. “Oh Yeah” surely edges them all, however, not only for its own understanding of the genre’s traditions (an everyday story of boy meets girl, in car with radio), but also via its reinvention over a decade later, when London Suede borrowed both a lyric and the mood for their own The Wild Ones.”

Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin II

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  • A stunning copy that is absolutely guaranteed to rock your world like no other – QUADRUPLE Plus (A++++) on side two and nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) on side one
  • With Mint Minus Minus grades or BETTER on both sides, the surfaces are exceptional for this title, but there are some marks that play, carefully noted in the body of the listing below
  • The sound is freakishly good – we created a Top Ten list just to put this album at the top of it
  • We long ago gave up on anything but these killer RL (and SS) pressings, because nothing else comes close
  • With copies selling for $1000+ on ebay, sometimes $3k+, we’re having to pay big bucks for Zep II these days, but if any album is worth it, it’s this one

CONDITION ISSUES:

  • On side one, there’s a mark on the first track that makes about ten light to medium pops. At the beginning of the third track there are five to seven light ticks. There are some intermittent ticks on Thank You, the last track on this side and the hardest one to find playing quietly.No inner groove damage, which is rare in and of itself.
  • On side two, there’s a mark at the end of track five that makes six light ticks. Note that the basic playing condition of this side is as quiet as any copy we have ever listed and quieter than 95% of those that actually did make it to the site.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl not withstanding. If you can tolerate the surfaces on this pressing you are in for some amazing music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time. When you hear this copy you will know why we gave side two that fourth plus!

Quick Notes for Side One

Meaty bass and guitars. Big energy. Just not as spacious and resolving as the best. 2.5+

Quick Notes for Side Two

So much bass! The most yet and it’s huge! Big size and space, really gets huge and jumps out. I love it! Awesome. 4+ (more…)

Letter of the Week – Kind of Blue on MoFi – “Closed, muffled and flat as a pancake.”

Our good customer Bennett bought very expensive, top quality pressings of two killer Miles Davis albums from us recently. His letter reads:

Hi Tom,

Last night I listened to my 2015 Mobile Fidelity 45 RPM pressing. I couldn’t get through the first cut. Closed, muffled and flat as a pancake. No life or energy whatsoever.

Agreed. My notes for their pressing read:

Thick, dark, flat. Lacks air, space, presence.

Not a bad sound but it’s not right. (A real understatement, that.)


Kind of Blue

Someday My Prince Will Come

Grateful Dead – American Beauty – An Honest-to-Goodness Hot Stamper MoFi

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed

This is a Mobile Fidelity LP with SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND. The transparency and presence in the midrange is outstanding. The bass actually sounds in control on this copy — there’s no typically bloated MOFI bass to be found here.

This is the best sounding Mobile Fidelity American Beauty we have ever heard. It’s not perfect by any means, but it’s hugely better than we expected. 

Frank Sinatra – Moonlight Sinatra

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

Out of this world Triple Triple (A+++) sound – this is sure to be one of the best Sinatra records you’ll ever hear. Both of these Shootout Winning stereo sides are unbelievably rich and Tubey Magical – this is some killer Frank Sinatra sound. We’ve been working on this shootout for years – this is the first – and best – copy we have to show for our efforts.

This Blue Green Label LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is dramatically more REAL SOUNDING. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Reprise pressings — like every label’s pressings — are all over the map. When you find a good one, you can be pretty sure it’s the exception, not the rule. (more…)

Van Morrison – Moondance – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

For the first time ever… a WHITE HOT STAMPER pressing of Moondance on QUIET VINYL! This Warner Bros. Green Label copy has a side two that just can not be beat — A+++ all the way.

It took us a long time to build up enough copies to get this shootout rockin’, a fact that anyone who has ever sought out a copy of this album will certainly understand. Clean originals just aren’t hanging around in the bins, and when you do find one it usually costs a pretty penny. Add on the fact that most copies just don’t sound all that hot and you can forgive us for thinking that we might never list a Hot Stamper copy again. (more…)

Sarah Vaughan – Live In Japan

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  • With two shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides and two superb Double Plus (A++) sides, this is a phenomenal copy of Live in Japan
  • This album captures Vaughan’s rich, playful style and transfixing vocal range like you’ve never heard before
  • Full, big, present, and open, this album will recreate the sound of the concert hall right in your very own listening room
  • 5 stars: “This two-fer (which finds Sassy accompanied by pianist Carl Schroeder, bassist John Gianelli, and drummer Jimmy Cobb) gives one a definitive look at the brilliant (and sometimes miraculous) singer.”

You may remember that Mobile Fidelity remastered this very album on CD, one of their very first releases, long before they came up with the idea of gold plating their discs and doubling the price. Some of those early discs were outstanding; I still own many of them to this day. That said, I don’t think I ever played this particular title. (more…)

Ambrosia – One Eighty – A Little Soft Rock Never Hurt Anybody, Right?

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

Of course that won’t be the case if you don’t like popular music. I’m glad to say I’m not the kind of snob who looks down his nose at a good soft rock hit. (I’m a snob in other ways of course; who isn’t?) I don’t mind admitting I enjoy the hell out a good Hall & Oates jam, and I positively love Bread. Ambrosia can and does hold their own with the best of these soft-rockers. And they usually sound better doing it.

One Eighty (recorded on 1/80, get it?) kicks off with a real rocker: Ready, which is a great name for an opening track and really gets the album off to a high-energy start. Side two opens with my favorite track on the album, Livin’ On My Own. I actually used to demonstrate my system with it: the bass is huge, way up in the mix and really punchy. Additionally there are powerful multi-tracked vocal harmonies in the chorus that are wall-to-wall, surprisingly dynamic, yet sweet (all things considered; this is a modern recording after all). (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – The Wild, The Innocent… – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

White Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this original copy, much better sound than we ever expected to hear. Side one here was the richest, clearest, biggest and most energetic of any side one we played. Side two is nearly as good, but such a big jump over all the rest that it easily earns its Three Pluses. Side one is doing it all. Nothing came close.

Side two is more often than not notably worse sounding than side one. There is a certain stamper that’s quite common and not as good sounding on that side. A shootout winning copy such as this will never have that stamper (as far as we can tell; who knows what we may hear in the future?).

It’s not easy to find good sound on this record — or any Springsteen album, for that matter — but the better copies prove that this is a perfectly fine recording for what it is. Full and solid, this copy has the kind of energy and power to really communicate the passion and excitement of the music.

What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, presence, frequency extension, transparency, whomp factor, Tubey Magic, texture (also known as freedom from smear), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and on and on down through the list.

Yes, we listen for all these things. This copy was doing more of them right than any other. (more…)

Phil Manzanera – Diamond Head – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This White Hot Stamper English Import has the BIGGEST, BOLDEST SOUND we have ever heard for this album! If this copy doesn’t wake up your stereo nothing ever will.

Like its brother, 801 Live, this album is an amazing SONIC BLOCKBUSTER, with sound that positively leaps out of the speakers.

Why shouldn’t it? It was engineered by the superbly talented Rhett Davies at Island, the genius behind Taking Tiger Mountain, the aforementioned 801 Live, Avalon, Dire Straits’ first album and many many more.

This isn’t known as an audiophile album but it should be — the sound is GLORIOUS — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and as rich and dynamic as it gets. It’s also a big speaker album. Play this one as loud as you can. (801 Live is exactly the same way and needs high volumes to come to life.) (more…)