Top Artists – Al Kooper

Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills – Super Session

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Super Session sound this good
  • Engineered by Roy Halee, the man behind one of the best sounding rock records of all time (the self-titled Blood, Sweat and Tears album), the analog sound here is especially dynamic and spacious
  • For fans of BS&T’s first album (and everybody else), Super Session is a Must Own
  • “Season of the Witch” is crazy good sounding on this vintage Columbia 360 pressing
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This is one of those albums that seems to get better with age… This is a super session indeed.”
  • If you’re a fan of any or all of these guys, this vintage pressing of their 1968 classic belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Bob Dylan – “Never had any idea Blonde on Blonde could sound so 3D and live…”

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

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

Dear Tom,

Four 3+ sides that sound unlike any other version of this available, of arguably one of the most important rock records of the century from its top artist… It may be a niche taste compared to Zep etc., but you could probably have charged $2k for this.

Never had any idea Blonde on Blonde could sound so 3D and live… it’s really well recorded.

Reinvigorated my passion for this music which I’ve heard a million times over the decades.

Wow… at $1.3k you definitely underpriced this one!

Dear Conrad,

Awesome to hear. It is a really well recorded album, but how would anyone know that who hasn’t heard it sound like the copy we sent you?

We’d love to charge $2k. It is indeed worth every penny of what you paid. (Some folks think some of our records are worth $15,000, but that may be a bit of a stretch.)

It takes many years to find a copy that sounds like that one. When we get hold of such a copy, we really have no idea whether it’s a diamond in the rough — since all the early 360 pressings we prefer look pretty much the same — or just another run-of-the-mill Columbia pressing with good, not great, sound. Fortunately, once the needle had dropped that copy showed us that it had the right stuff in its grooves.

Thanks for your letter.

Best, TP

P.S.

We talked about this very issue in a commentary describing bell curve distributions (which, as I’m sure you can imagine, makes for some fun reading!)

An excerpt:

Hot Stampers make a lot more sense once one has a better understanding of statistical distributions.

This one piece of information can do more to improve the sound quality of your record collection than any other.

Why statistics you ask? Simple.

We can’t tell what a record is going to sound like until we play it.

For all practical purposes we are buying them randomly and “measuring” them to see where they fall on a curve.

We may be measuring them using a turntable and registering the data aurally, but it’s still very much measurement and it’s still very much data that we are recording (with a healthy amount of interpretation of the data involved, but that’s what we get paid to do, right?).

Many of these ideas were addressed in the shootout we did many years ago for BS&T’s second album. We played a large number of copies (the data), we found a few amazing ones (the outliers), and we tried to determine how many copies it really takes to find those records that sound so amazing they defy not only conventional wisdom, but our understanding of the record itself.

We don’t know what causes some copies to sound so good. We know them when we hear them and that’s pretty much all we can say we really know. Everything else is speculation and guesswork.

We have data. What we don’t have is a theory that explains that data.

And it simply won’t do to ignore the data because we can’t explain it. Hot Stamper Deniers are those members of the audiophile community who, when faced with something they don’t want to be true, simply manufacture reasons why it can’t or shouldn’t be true. That’s not science. It’s anti-science.

Practicing science means following the data wherever it leads. The truth can only be found in the record’s grooves and nowhere else.  If you don’t understand record collecting as a science, you can’t do it right and you certainly won’t achieve much success.


FURTHER READING

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More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments

Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde

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More Vintage Columbia Pressings

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides, this 360 stereo pressing was one of the better copies we played in our last shootout- remarkably quiet vinyl too, with no marks that play and surfaces that other early pressings are going to have a tough time competing with
  • You won’t believe how rich, full and lively this album can sound on a copy this good
  • Includes tons of quintessential Dylan classics: “Rainy Day Women,” “I Want You,” “Just Like A Woman,” and more – they all sound phenomenal
  • 5 stars: “Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play… It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.”

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The Tubes – Self-Titled

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More Glam Rock

  • The Tubes’ self-titled debut returns to the site with KILLER Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This copy is simply bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than practically all others we played
  • Their music is definitely not for everyone – I saw them live many years ago and they did put on one helluva show, but you have to be a fan of eccentric pop or none of it will make any sense
  • “Produced by Al Kooper, this debut by the notorious San Francisco group is best known for the blazing anthem ‘White Punks on Dope.’ Although the Tubes’ raison d’être was their shock-rock stage dynamic, Bill Spooner, Fee Waybill, and company could, on occasion, deliver some offbeat pop splendor.”

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Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd

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More Southern Rock

  • Lynyrd Skynyrd’s debut LP returns on this vintage MCA pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides are big, full-bodied and spacious, with a punchy bottom end and plenty of Southern Rock energy
  • It’s the rare copy that’s this lively, solid and rich – drop the needle on any track and you’ll see what we mean, and if that track is Free Bird, so much the better!
  • 5 stars: “The Allman Brothers came first, but Lynyrd Skynyrd epitomized Southern rock… Produced by Al Kooper, there are few records that sound this raw and uncompromising, especially records by debut bands… the band rocks like a motherf*cker. It’s the birth of a great band that birthed an entire genre with this album.”

This vintage original Sounds of the South/MCA yellow label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can 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…)

Letter of the Week – “It’s mind blowing!”

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Child Is Father to the Man

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

Hey Tom, 

I just received my shipment and played Blood Sweat and Tears – it’s mind blowing! Exquisite and pristine with no surface noise.

Absolutely worth it. 

Sujay


FURTHER READING

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Two Reviews of Child Is Father to the Man – Fremer Vs. Better Records

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

Audiophile Reviewers – Who Needs ‘Em!

In 2010 MF reviewed both the Sundazed and Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl pressings of the album.

I think his review is mistaken on a number of counts, and mostly unhelpful. The commentary below will discuss his errors in detail, in the hopes that you, dear reader, will not make the same mistakes yourself. 

He talks about his history with the album for a while, and then notes:

Anyway, the original “360 Sound” edition of this record sounds fantastic. It’s a high quality Columbia studio recording, with vivid harmonics, impressive transparency and dynamics, shimmering highs and tight extended bass. The soundstage is expansive and the images tightly presented. I’m not sure it can get much better than the original given how well-pressed Columbia records were in those days, especially if you have a clean original.

We, however, seem to hold precisely the opposite view. I quote from our review:

Why did it take us so long [to do a Hot Stamper shootout]? Let me ask you this: have you ever played this album? The average copy of this record is a sonic MESS. Even the best copies have problems.

We then go on to discuss in detail what most copies do wrong and what to listen for in order to find a copy that gets it right. (More on that later.)

Shortcomings? What Shortcomings?

Fremer continues:

There are two reissues of this. One is from Sundazed and there’s a far more expensive one from Speakers Corner…

The Speakers Corner reissue, which uses the wrong label art is pressed at Pallas and consequently it’s quieter and better finished overall. However, the Sundazed copy I got was very well finished and reasonably quiet, but not as quiet.

On the other hand the Speakers Corner version was somewhat more hyped up at the frequency extremes and cut somewhat hotter, but not objectionably so. The Sundazed sounds somewhat closer to the original overall, so for half the price, you do the math!

“Somewhat hyped up”? We liked it a whole lot less than Mr. Fremer apparently did. Early last year I gave it a big fat F for FAILURE, writing at the time:

This is the worst sounding Heavy Vinyl Reissue LP I have heard in longer than I can remember. To make a record sound this bad you have to work at it.

What the hell were they thinking? Any audiophile record dealer that would sell you this record should be run out of town on a rail. Of course that won’t happen, because every last one of them (present company excluded) will be carrying it, of that you can be sure.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, out comes a record like this to prove that it can. I look forward to Fremer’s rave review.

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Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper – The Live Adventures Of…

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  • All FOUR sides here were doing everything right — clean, clear, spacious and present with a big bottom end, just the right sound for this raw live blues-rock music
  • Great material to be found here, including covers of well-known tracks by Paul Simon, The Band, and Traffic
  • 4 stars: “One of the seminal live albums of the late ’60s… The idea of musical spontaneity both in live performance and in the recording studio had reached a certain apex in 1968… But it was the union of Bloomfield and Kooper that can truly claim an origination of the phenomenon, and this album takes it to another level entirely.”

Outstanding sound for this double LP of superb live blues-rock! We rarely have a copy of this title on the site, so if you’re a fan of Super Session, you should jump on this one right away.

Some of the tracks here (recorded on the second night) feature none other than Carlos Santana. (more…)

Blood, Sweat and Tears / Child Is Father to the Man – What to Listen For

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More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

At the end of a long day of listening at loud levels to multiple copies of this album you may want to run yourself a nice hot bath and light some candles. If you have an isolation tank so much the better.

You could of course turn down the volume, but what fun is that?

This music wasn’t meant to be heard at moderate levels. Playing it that way is an insult to the musicians who worked so hard to make it.

The Right Balance

Every once in a while you hear a pressing in which the right balance has been struck, and this one clearly belongs to that group. It’s not perfect; you have to put up with a few rough patches to get the sound that serves most of the music properly. No copy will do it all; with this album the goal is to do the best you can.
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Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills – Tonally Correct Vocals Are Key

More of the Music of Al Kooper

More of the Music of Stephen Stills

Bright, gritty, spitty, edgy, harsh, upper-midrangy vocals.

The Red Labels tend to have more problems of this kind, but plenty of original 360 pressings are gritty and bright too. Let’s face it, if the vocals are wrong, this album pretty much falls apart.

Most copies are far too bright and phony sounding to turn up loud; the distortion and grit are just too much at higher volumes. On the better copies, with more correct tonality and an overall freedom from distortion, you can turn the volume up and let Super Session rock.

Man’s Temptation, track 3 on side one, has got some seriously bright EQ happening (reminiscent of the first BS&T album), so if that song even sounds tolerable in the midrange, you are doing better than expected.

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