Top Artists – Blood, Sweat and Tears

After You’ve Played 100 Copies of the Album, What’s Left to Learn?

bloodchildMore of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Child Is Father to the Man

A common misconception of many of those visiting the site for the first time is that we think we know it all.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We definitely do not know it all. We learn something new about records with practically every shootout.

Case in point: the record you do NOT see pictured above. (The record we recently learned something new about — this, after having played scores and scores of copies over the years — will remain a secret for the time being. At least until we find another one.)

In 2013 we played a red label Columbia reissue of a famous ’60s rock record (again, not shown) that had the best side two we have ever heard. Up to that point no copy other than the 360 original had ever won a shootout, and we’ve done plenty. Lo and behold here was a reissue that put them all to shame.

I’m still in shock from the experience to tell you the truth, but what a blast it was to hear it!

The recording, which I first played more than 40 years ago at the tender age of 16, was now bigger, less murky and more energetic than ever before. Had you asked me, I would have confidently told you not to waste your time with the second pressing, to stick to the 360’s on that title, and I would have been wrong wrong wrong.

How Wrong?

But wait a minute. The 360 original will probably beat 49 out of 50 red label reissue copies on side two, and the best 360 original could not be beaten on side one by any other pressing. When you stop to think about it, we weren’t very wrong at all.

Let’s just say our understanding was incomplete. This is why we prefer to offer actual physical records rather than just advice, although it’s clear for all to see that we happily do both, and, moreover, we certainly feel qualified — as qualified as anyone can be — to offer opinions since our opinions are virtually always backed up by experimental data.

Sometimes we guess about the sound quality of some titles, usually when we just can’t be bothered to order a copy up and take the time to audition it. So many labels today produce such consistently second- and third-rate pressings, can you blame us for not wanting to hear where the latest one went wrong? 

Ultimately what makes our case is the quality of the records we sell. And I’m glad to report that we don’t get many complaints, even at these prices. (Some of our customers seem to think they got their money’s worth, and who are we to argue?)

Avoiding Mistakes

Keep in mind that the only way you can never be wrong about your records is simply not to play them. If you have better equipment than you did, say, five years ago, try playing some of your MoFi’s, 180 gram LPs, Japanese pressings, 45 RPM remasters and the like. You might be in for quite a shock.

It’s all good — until the needle hits the groove. Then you might find yourself in need of actual Better Records, not the ones you thought were better.

How Do We Do It?

There are more than 2000 Hot Stamper reviews on this blog. Do you know how we learned so much about so many records?

Simple. We ran thousands and thousands of record experiments under carefully controlled conditions, and we continue to run scores of them week in and week out to this very day.

If you want to learn about records, we recommend you do the same. You won’t be able to do more than one or two a week, but one or two a week is better than none, which is how many the average audiophile manages to do.

When it comes to finding the best sounding records ever made, our advice is simple.

Play them the right way and pay attention to what they are trying to teach you. You will learn more this way than any other.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

How Can I Recognize What I Should Be Listening For on a Given Album?

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

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

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Blood, Sweat and Tears – What to Do If a Record Changes Its Sound

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

This commentary was written around 2010 if memory serves.

Our last big shootout was back in early 2008. Since we never tire of discussing the Revolutionary Changes in Audio that have occurred over the last quite eventful year (really more like five quite eventful years) , we here provide you with yet another link to that commentary.

Suffice to say, this record, like most good records, got a whole lot better. (Some records do not, but that’s another story for another day. If your audiophile pressings start to sound funny, you are probably on solid ground. They sure sound funny to us.) 

What We Learned This Time Around

All the best qualities of the best copies stayed the same; this is to be expected.

If records you have known well, over a very long period of time, suddenly start to sound different*, you can be pretty sure that you’ve made an audiophile error in your system somewhere.

You need to find it and figure out how to fix it as quickly as possible, although as a rule this process can turn out to be very time consuming and difficult.

The first place I would look is to any changes you might have made in your wiring, whether speaker, interconnect or power cord. Robert Brook has done some work in this area that may be of interest to you.

It has been my experience that audiophile wire is where most of the unnatural sound in audiophile systems comes from.

*Other records that took on a whole new sound can be found here. No audiophile should want anything to do with them.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Making Audio Progress

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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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Listening in Depth to Blood, Sweat and Tears

More Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

In my opinion this is the BEST SOUNDING rock record ever made. Played on a BIG SPEAKER SYSTEM, a top Hot Stamper pressing is nothing less than a thrill, the ultimate Demo Disc.

Credit must go to the amazing engineering skills of ROY HALEE. He may not be very consistent (Graceland, Still Crazy After All These Years) but on this album he knocked it out of the park. With the right copy playing on the right stereo, the album has the potential to sound like LIVE MUSIC.

You don’t find that on a record too often, practically never in fact. I put this record at the top of The Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie (1st & 2nd Movements)

The song is always going to be plagued with a certain amount of surface noise. A solo guitar opening on a pop record pressed on Columbia vinyl from the ’60s? A brand new copy would have surface noise, so it’s important to not get too worked up over surfaces that are always going to be problematical.

Smiling Phases
Sometimes in Winter

This shootout taught me a lot about this track. There is a huge amount of bass which is difficult to reproduce; the best copies have note-like, controlled (although prodigious) bass which is a very tough system test.

Having said that, what separates the killer copies from the merely excellent ones is the quality of the flute sound. When you can hear the air going through the flute, and follow the playing throughout the song, you have a superbly transparent copy with all the presence and resolution of the best. If the flute sounds right, Katz’s voice will too. The sound will be Demonstration Quality of the highest order. Want to shoot out two different copies of this album on side one? Easy. Just play this track and see which one gets the flute right.

By the way, we LOVE the version of this song that Sergio Mendes does on Stillness. Eric Katz is a decent singer; the two girls in Brazil ’66 are SUPERB singers. The fact that they are female, that there are two of them and that they can harmonize as beautifully as any two singers you’ve ever heard allows their version of the song to have qualities far beyond the boys in Blood Sweat and Tears. But the BS&T guys make up for it by being REAL JAZZ MUSICIANS. Most of this album is real jazz played by top notch players. No other successful pop album to my knowledge can make that claim. In that sense it’s sui generis. But it’s unique in other ways as well, not just that one.

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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

More Blood, Sweat and Tears

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 – “It felt like time slowed down for a minute or two.”

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

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 – Direct Disc Labs Half-Speed Reviewed

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

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

More of the Music of Blood, Sweat and Tears

Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

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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