Top Artists – Albert Lee

Jackson Browne’s Debut – What to Listen For

The real trick with this album is in striking the right balance between richness and presence. A White Hot Stamper from years back made me change my mind about this recording. I used to think it was dull, but I was wrong. I used to think that even the best copies of this recording sounded rolled off on the top end. I no longer believe that to be true. On the best pressings the top end is correct for this music.

It took the right pressing to show me the error of my ways.

Side one of that copy was rich and full and sweet as can be. Playing side two I noticed more transparency and clarity, especially in the guitars and voices. It seemed to have correct highs, highs that were a little soft on the first side.

But the more I listened, the less I liked it. It started to sound more like a record and less like music. Going back and forth between sides one and two, it was obvious that side one had less clarity because it had the kind of richness and fullness that made all the musicians and their instruments sound real in a way that wasn’t happening on side two. Side two had clarity, it had transparency, but it kept reminding me that it was a recording. Side one allowed me to forget that I was playing a record.

When the music started, my attention was completely focused on the songwriting and the performing. Aspects of the recording were lost in my enjoyment of the music. I kept thinking what a great album this is, not what a great recording it is. That tells me that both the recording engineer and the mastering engineer did their jobs right. They created a sound that best served this music.

I think if an audiophile label had produced a version of this album that sounded like side two, most audiophiles would love it. They would hear detail that they’d never heard before. (It’s my belief that the original Asylum master tape has been lost, so the details of which we speak can be heard on these good originals and nowhere else.)

But, fooled into listening for details in the music rather than the music as a whole, they would never know how RIGHT the album can really sound.

The best of our Hot Stampers are the ones that have the right sound for this music.

Eric Clapton / Just One Night – An Exceptionally Good Album of Classic Blues Rock

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A Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

  • An outstanding copy of Just One Night with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all four sides
  • This one is bigger, bolder and richer, as well as more clean, clear and open than many other copies we played
  • Sure to be the best live Clapton sound you’ll hear on vinyl – and the music is wonderful as well
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The most notable difference between Just One Night and Clapton’s other live albums is his backing band. Led by guitarist Albert Lee, the group is a collective of accomplished professionals who have managed to keep some grit in their playing. They help push Clapton along, forcing him to spit out crackling solos throughout the album.”

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Jackson Browne – His Debut Is Still His Best Album

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  • A STUNNING copy of Jackson Browne’s debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • “… Jackson Browne’s first album is among the most auspicious debuts in pop music history”
  • 5 stars: “… the album has long since come to seem a timeless collection of reflective ballads touching on still-difficult subjects — suicide (explicitly), depression and drug use (probably), spiritual uncertainty and desperate hope — all in calm, reasoned tones, and all with an amazingly eloquent sense of language.”

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Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris – Trio

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  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides, proof positive that Trio is a surprisingly well-recorded album – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Big, rich, smooth, and sweet, how did George Massenburg pull off this kind of analog sound in 1987?
  • We don’t know, but we do know good sound when we hear it, and we heard exceptionally good sound on this copy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…that rare example of an all-star collaborative effort that truly shows everyone involved to their best advantage, and it ranks with the best of all three headliners’ work.”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 4 soft ticks during the intro to Track 5, Farther Along.

With three brilliant and accomplished singers harmonizing in the studio you can imagine that faultless midrange tonality is key to the best copies, and you would be right.

Some copies had the girls’ sounding a bit dark and veiled. Some had them a bit thin and bright. The Goldilocks Principle comes into play here as it does in so many of our shootouts: the best copies find the right balance of richness and clarity. (more…)