Top Artists – Blood, Sweat and Tears

Letter of the Week – “… going through all my Hot Stampers and taking it all in …”

This week’s letter comes from our good friend Franklin who was having some serious sound problems that were driving him crazy after moving his speakers from the long wall (not a good idea) to the short one (much better as a rule).

He already had one pair of Hallographs, which had helped his room problems quite a bit. We rely on three pair, and the second and third pair were a big improvement over the first, so we recommended another to Franklin, which, by the sound of this letter, seems to have worked miracles!

Hello Mr. Port,

Just to let you know what you already know about this LP. When I first received this ($500) LP and listened to it, I thought I had really messed up.

I didn’t hear all the nuances you described. I just put it away and forgot about it. What a BUMMER!!!!! But I decided to try it again after placing the new pair of Hallos. I moved them all over the place. I even have the floor marked all over with painter’s masking tape to remind me where the best spots are for the Hallos. Floor really looks funny.

Sometimes when you make a change, it seems to be better for some LPs but not others. But when a change impacts all the LPs positively, you know you are in the game. I am going through all my Hot Stampers and taking it all in. I will tweak some more but for now I’ll just enjoy.

Regards,
Franklin

Franklin,

Thanks so much for your letter. When your system is cookin’ and you’re hearing all your records sound better than ever, that’s when audio is FUN. You had to do a lot of work to get there and the good sound you are able to enjoy now is your reward.

It’s amazing to me how little audiophiles are interested in actually making their stereos sound better. You reap what you sew in this hobby. Mediocre sound is easy; good sound is very very hard — that’s why I so rarely hear anything outside of my own system that strikes me as any good. Most audiophiles haven’t worked very hard on their stereos and they have the sound to prove it.

We write a lot about the ENERGY and POWER found on the best pressings of some recordings; the BS&T record we sent you is a perfect example. It’s the kind of recording with so much going on that it is guaranteed to bring practically any stereo system to its knees. When a record such as this gets loud, all the problems of your stereo become impossible to ignore. (One reason The Turn Up Your Volume Test is such a great test; the louder the problem, the harder it is to ignore.)

Turn Down the Volume, or Solve the Problem?

Rather than simply turn down the volume, why not solve the problem? That’s what the Hallographs help you to do. All that energy that’s bouncing around your room is causing huge amounts of distortion.

If you’re like most audiophiles it’s one of the main reasons you can’t play your system loud. The sound will become strident, edgy and sour; the soundstage will lose its shape and collapse into a chaotic mess; the bass definition will go out the window, turn bloated and get up into the midrange where it had no business being .

These are mostly room problems. No matter how good your equipment is, these problems attend to most listening rooms. Concert halls aren’t twenty feet wide, but there sure are a lot of listening rooms that size, and smaller, which means room reflections are sending the sound waves crashing into each other all over the place. (more…)

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child is Father to the Man

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Reviews and Commentaries for Child Is Father to the Man

  • Absolutely amazing sound throughout, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • This copy will show you just how big, full-bodied, lively and POWERFUL this music can be on the right pressing
  • Not many records on this site are harder to find with top quality sound and reasonably quiet surfaces
  • 5 stars: “Child Is Father to the Man is keyboard player/singer/arranger Al Kooper’s finest work, an album on which he moves the folk-blues-rock amalgamation of the Blues Project into even wider pastures… One of the great albums of the eclectic post-Sgt. Pepper era of the late ’60s.”

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Letter of the Week – Blood, Sweat and Tears “It felt like time slowed down for a minute or two.”

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently. (Bold added by me.)

  Hey Tom, 

I have a Hot Stamper experience I would like to share. In February 2020, pre-covid restrictions, the Audio group I belong to had a meeting at an Audio vendor. I have been to a few, at other showrooms, but all visits were not what you would write home to mom about. I make sure I have two or three Hot Stampers with me to play on what is always very expensive equipment. Most of the time, surprisingly, they sound so-so. Or just BLAH. On equipment that cost so much more than what I have invested my system. Sometimes ten times as much. Even in brick and mortar stores the equipment is not always set up and tweaked very well. On two occasions the first thing I did when returning home was put my Hot Stamper on my system to make sure everything was right.

However the visit in Feb. 2020 was at the VPI listening house, and certainly was not one of those. A mile or two from their factory they have a sprawling ranch house with several listening rooms. All of the turntables are VPI, with a wide variety of electronics. Other equipment manufacturers were on hand to show off their stuff. All the rooms on the first floor sounded wonderful.

Then I wandered downstairs to the basement where a very impressive large horn speakers system was being listened to. The big McIntosh amp, 300 watts. And VPI’s top of the line turn table. $40k. Unknown cartridge. The music was house albums and sounded wonderful. Found a seat and listened for a while.

Then had the salesman put on one of the Hot Stampers I brought with me. BST. Without sounding spooky or spiritual, when the salesman lowered the tonearm on the LP, I swear it felt like time slowed down for a minute or two. I heard several gasps, comments like “oh my”, and I could not believe the sound that came out of those horns, provided by the BST Hot Stamper. (more…)

Blood Sweat and Tears / Self-Titled – Direct Disc Labs Half-Speed Reviewed

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

Sonic Grade: C [not sure it would rate that highly today, my guess it would not]

Back in the ’80s I thought this DD Labs version smoked domestic copies, because the only domestic copy I had ever bought was a bad sounding one. This was many years before I came to understand that no two domestic copies were the same and that there were dozens of pressing variations.

I believe it was not until about 1990 that I heard my first Hot Stamper of BS&T. Oddly enough, those stamper numbers managed to best all comers for about the next 15 years. Now we know that although they can be awesome, there is actually another stamper that is potentially even better. It’s so good in fact that it has been awarded our Four Plus grade. 

The reason this pressing doesn’t get a lower grade is that, regardless of how compressed and veiled the sound is, the average Columbia pressing is surely no better.

When it comes to finding your own great sounding pressing, sure, you can do it, but it’s a lot of hard work. I’m guessing most of you already have a job and don’t need another one. I do this for a living as well as for a hobby, so I’m willing to put in the time and effort to slog through all the trash in order to find the treasure.

Also, we have a big advantage over our customers. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I have a big head start on all of you. I know many stampers that are good and many that are bad. I found out the hard way. On BS&T I know exactly which copies to buy and which copies to avoid. I have literally played more than 100 copies of this record.

This is true for scores if not hundreds of other albums. Why did I bother to listen to so many different pressings? The overriding reason is because I wanted to find a better sounding version for myself.

It’s not worth the effort if it’s not music you love.

This is also the reason you will never find Hot Stamper pressings of some artists’ records on the site. I don’t like their music and I will just never make the effort to listen to enough pressings of their albums in order to find a hot one.

[Most of this was written way back in 2005.]


FURTHER READING

Half-Speed Mastered Disasters

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Blood Sweat and Tears – The 30 Second Spinning Wheel Test

This test is found in the track commentary for side two of our Hot Stamper listings for the album. If you think you have a hot copy, see if yours does what our best copies do.

We also think that a record like this — a dynamic, full-spectrum recording, not overly concerned with detail — makes a much better Test Disc than the kind most audiophiles seem to prefer. Patricia Barber it is not.

If you’re in the market for new speakers, take this record — or one like it — with you to the audition. Any speaker that can play this record properly deserves your consideration, or at the very least your respect.

In my experience not many speakers have what it takes to do this album justice.

The Blood, Sweat and Tears Spinning Wheel Test 

The first thirty seconds are key. Here is what you should be listening for.

Piano, Cowbell, Snare

Side two starts off with a bang; note that the piano has real weight to it right from the git go. When the cowbell comes in it should not sound muffled in any way (it’s a bell, don’t you know), quickly followed by the solid-as-a-rock-snare (the best on record.)

The Brass

On the killer copies that first blast of brass will be completely free of grain or grunge, yet the brass instruments themselves (trumpets and trombone) have all their leading edge transients, their “bite,” fully intact. They’re not in any way muffled or smeared, yet the sound is never aggressive. If anything, the brass is so free from distortion and so tonally correct it should actually sound smooth.

The Vocals

Some of the vocals on side one can have a bit of honk or edge, but not here. They are natural, rich and sweet as any you will hear on the album.

Bottom End Energy

And don’t forget that there is a tremendous amount of bottom end throughout the song. It’s the very foundation of the music, and it needs to be reproduced properly, no ifs, ands or buts, as in “but I only have a small speaker”. To play this song you need big woofers and lots of them. Small speakers simply make a mockery of this music.

If you’ve ever heard big band up close, you know that there is not a speaker in the world that can do justice to that sound. It’s too big and it’s too powerful. But some speakers do more justice than others, and in my experience those speakers tend to have large cabinets with plenty of dynamic drivers. If you have a system built around such speakers there is a very good chance that this will be the best sounding record you have ever heard, assuming you have one of our Hot Stamper pressings or a good one of your own. If not, we would love to get you one. You won’t believe the sound.

Now You Try

Play your own copy. Everything you need to know about the sound of your LP can be heard in the first thirty seconds of side two. On the Hot Stampers it’s all there. On most copies, however, the reverse is true: Problems raise their ugly heads right off the bat. Thinness, grain, smearing, bloat, edginess — all the failings that records are heir to will be thrown in your face if your copy is not up to snuff, and not many of them are.

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

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

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

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

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

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.) (more…)

Blood, Sweat & Tears / 3 – One Good Side, One Not So Good

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What to Listen For – Side to Side Differences

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This White Hot Stamper side one shows you just how good Roy Halee’s engineering used to be, comparable to his brilliant work on BS&T’s previous album, the one we extol to this day as (probably) the best sounding rock record ever made. (Dark Side of the Moon is its only competition in my mind. Both are staggering in every way.)

This side one has the BIG JAZZ-ROCK sound — stretching from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, with energy and power that only a handful of albums can begin to compete with.

The brass is rich, solid, and present, with correct timbre for every instrument from the bass trombone all the way up the scale to piccolo trumpet. This is exactly the sound we were looking for and couldn’t find — until we played this copy. No other side one could touch it.

Side One

A+++, and, in addition to what we’ve already noted, BIG down low, bigger than any other copy by far. The vocals are clear and present. The huge 30+ member chorus on the first track works on this copy; it doesn’t most of the time. It obviously presents a real challenge to any engineer, but Halee is up to it, judging solely by the sound on this very copy. Mastering and pressing issues end up making that chorus sound small, thin and opaque most of the time.

Lucretia MacEvil, a minor hit, has more compression than the rest of the side, to make it more radio-friendly of course, but here it holds up much better than on most copies.

Side Two

A+, and a big step down from side one. The mids and highs are pretty good, which helps the percussion, but the whole enterprise lacks bass and size compared to the best we heard. (more…)

Blood, Sweat & Tears – 3

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  • A STUNNING sounding copy and the first to hit the site in over 7 years! Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Both sides here have the BIG JAZZ-ROCK sound — stretching from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, with energy and power that only a handful of albums can begin to compete with
  • This copy shows you just how good Roy Halee’s engineering used to be, comparable to his brilliant work on BS&T’s previous album, the one we extol to this day as (probably) the best sounding rock record ever made
  • David Clayton-Thomas remained an enthusiastic blues shouter, and the band still managed to put together lively arrangements, especially on the Top 40 hits “Hi-De-Ho” and “Lucretia Mac Evil”… BS&T 3 was another chart-topping gold hit.” – All Music

An amazing sounding copy! The brass is rich, solid, and present, with correct timbre for every instrument from the bass trombone all the way up the scale to piccolo trumpet. This is exactly the sound we were looking for and couldn’t find — until we played this copy. No other side one could touch it. It’s BIG down low, bigger than any other copy by far. The vocals are clear and present. The huge 30+ member chorus on the first track works on this copy; it doesn’t most of the time. It obviously presents a real challenge to any engineer, but Halee is up to it, judging solely by the sound on this very copy. Mastering and pressing issues end up making that chorus sound small, thin and opaque most of the time.

Lucretia MacEvil, a minor hit, has more compression than the rest of the side, to make it more radio-friendly of course, but here it holds up much better than on most copies. (more…)

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Self-Titled

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

  • Both sides of this outstanding original 360 pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound and play reasonably quietly, all things considered
  • The only versions of the album we sell are the 360 originals, but most of the dozens plus stamper numbers we know cannot hold a candle to this pressing
  • The sound is HUGE, rich, dynamic and POWERFUL – BS&T is a permanent member of our Top 100 and a Demo Disc par excellence
  • This is surely Roy Halee’s engineering masterpiece, and here’s the kind of pressing that, given the right equipment, room, and setup, can really make our case
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Their finest moment and a testimony to the best of the jazz/rock movement … The album is bold, brassy and adventurous.”

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