Top Artists – Carly Simon

Carly Simon – Anticipation – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO INCREDIBLE SIDES ON QUIET VINYL! We just finished our first big shootout for Anticipation in three years, and here’s the copy that finished at the top of the heap. Both sides have the kind of warm, sweet sound that perfectly conveys the emotional qualtity of Carly’s performance. Drop the needle on the song “I’ve Got To Have You” for some of the best Carly Simon sound you will ever hear — we were blown away!

Note that the first song, the title track, has a bit of a “radio EQ” feel and doesn’t sound as good as the rest. It’s a shame but there’s still a whole lot to like here.

The acoustic guitars sound particularly good on this copy, with just the right balance of pluck and body. The vocals are breathy and full-bodied with extraordinary immediacy. The tonality from top to bottom is Right On The Money. I don’t think you could find a much better sounding copy of this album no matter how hard you tried. We went through a lot of copies to find this one, I can tell you that!

If Those Guitars Sound Familiar… 

When you hear the incredibly lush, highly detailed acoustic guitars on this record, you won’t be surprised to find out that the album was produced by Mr. Paul Samwell-Smith, who handles the same duties on Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat. You’ll hear his signature sound all over this album, particularly on the track I’ve Got To Have You. That’s not to say that we’d put this recording on the same level with those audiophile knockouts, but the richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies is exactly what you’d expect from the team of Samwell-Smith and Carly Simon. (We wish the drums had a little more punch, but that’s just our inner rock-and-roller speaking!)

AGAIG! (more…)

Carly Simon – Another Passenger – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

A TOP PRESSING of what we consider to be the best — and best-sounding — Carly Simon album! I’ve been telling people for years how amazing this album can sound, but we almost never hear it sound quite like this! Side one rates A++, side two rates A+++ and both sides play quietly. Most copies are gritty and edgy, but this one is smoother, sweeter and much more musical.  (more…)

Carly Simon – Boys In The Trees – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This White Hot Stamper side one backed with an almost-as-amazing side two has the sound we were looking for on BOTH sides of the album: rich and sweet, with the kind of TRANSPARENCY that lets you hear every breath Carly takes. This is not phony detail — her voice is natural and full-bodied, and the entire production is tonally correct from top to bottom. This pressing is just doing its job — showing you what’s really on the master tape — and not too many of the copies we played were able to do that.

Most of the copies we played were dull, smeary and opaque, like so many records from this era. Since a lot of the records we play for shootouts are from the ’70s, we’re pretty familiar with that sound by now. Simply put, we’re in the business of looking for the copy that doesn’t sound like that. We’re looking for the copy that manages to get all the information from the cutter head into the grooves and keep it there. We call such copies Hot Stampers, and when a random copy comes along that just happens to be amazingly good, as in this case, we call it a White Hot Stamper. (more…)

Carly Simon – Carly Simon

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Carly Simon – Carly Simon

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  • Both sides of this original Elektra LP earned excellent Double Plus (A++) grades for their sound and play exceptionally quietly
  • Legendary producer and engineer Eddie Kramer lends his talent to this album and knows how to get the best sound
  • That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard It Should Be is the killer track here and it sounds fantastic on this copy
  • Can you believe that the producer and engineer of Carly’s 1971 debut here is none other than Eddie Kramer!?  

It’s not an audiophile knockout like Dark Side of the Moon, nor is it trying to be. The richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies are exactly what you’d be looking for on this heavily-produced pop album, and this copy gives you that sound like no other copy you’ve ever heard. (more…)

Carly Simon – Another Passenger – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album. 

There’s one quality in particular that added immensely to our enjoyment of the music — gobs and gobs of Tubey Magic. The copies that were opaque, dry, flat and “modern” sounding — which pretty much describes practically every Heavy Vinyl record we’ve played in the last five years — bored us to tears, not surprisingly in the very same way that most Heavy Vinyl does.

This is 1976, they were still making good records then. You would hardly know it by playing the average pressing of the album, but when you hear one like this, there is no mistaking the richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality.

These are qualities for which good tube equipment is rightly revered. (We no longer use tube equipment ourselves, preferring to be guided by the approach of reproducing the Tubey Magic of the records we play, assuming there is some, unadorned.)

Most pressings get Carly’s voice all wrong — gritty, edgy, hard and strained, but not this one. Carly’s singing on this copy is smoother, sweeter, more immediate and clearly more emotionally compelling than we heard on any other copies in our shootout. We call this Master Tape Sound; you hear it on those rare pressings so far beyond the norm that the music seems to come to life right in front of you, right there in your very own listening room. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Another Passenger and Honky Chateau

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

Hey Tom,  

I want to say a big THANK YOU for the Hot Stampers you sent to me. Wish You Were Here is maybe the best sounding record I’ve ever heard (as you know I have a lot of Hot Stampers). I’m so amazed and lucky – I can’t describe it. The copy sounds out of this world with soooo well-defined bass, stunning clarity, warmth and richness, immediacy, astonishing transparency… It murders my old copy. Another Passenger and Honky Chateau are also Demo Discs of the highest order. 

Erik S.

Another Passenger

Honky Chateau

Carly Simon – Hotcakes – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Hotcakes.

Many copies of this album suffer from (at least) one of two problems: unnatural hi-fi sound or considerable grit and grain. Both are in large part due to the processing-intensive production of Richard Perry. On the best copies it’s easy to understand his choices as the sound is quite lovely. Unfortunately that rich, sweet sound he obviously got on to the master tape didn’t quite make it to the average vinyl pressing of the album.

The effects used on Carly’s vocals turn her voice into a gritty, grainy mess on most copies — certainly not the kind of sound that audiophiles want to hear. It took a few exceptional copies to make us understand what Simon and Perry were going for. Compare this Hot Stamper to the typical copy and you’ll hear it for yourself right away. (You DEFINITELY want your electricity really cookin’ for this shootout, because bad electricity will certainly exacerbate problems with grit and grain.) (more…)

Carly Simon – What to Listen For

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Carly Simon – Carly Simon

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

Too many copies we played erred on the hi-fi-ish side, with not enough warmth. The copies that sound incredibly clean and clear just didn’t do much for us; they weren’t able to convey the intimacy and emotion of the music.

I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience playing CDs of some of your old favorites. You keep wondering why you liked the music in the first place. Don’t blame the music. Blame those crappy CDs.  (more…)

Carly Simon – Boys In The Trees – How Clearly Can You See the Hi-hat

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The Hi-hat Listening Test — yet another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

Carly’s soulful version of You Belong To Me is what made this album a Must Own back in the day (and still does). During our shootout, as we listened to the song over and over again on copy after copy, it became clear that the best pressings allowed us to easily hear the drummer’s hi-hat within the dense mix of this heavily produced pop song. On most copies it’s buried and all but inaudible.

If the pressing you own is full-bodied and tonally correct, and you can easily pick out the rhythmic contribution of the hi-hat within the mix, you have a copy with the kind of transparency that few we played managed to achieve.

Transparency (and all the other stuff we talk about) can and does make a big difference in your enjoyment of the music. If the average record sounded even close to right nobody would need us to find good sounding copies for them, copies would be in every record bin in town and we would have to find some other records to sell. Copies of this album may be in every bin in town — that’s where we found this one — but the sound sure isn’t.

(And without the very best cleaning technologies, the ones invented only recently as a matter of fact, there is no chance of achieving the kind of transparency our best copies have. We consider it one of the most important Revolutions in Audio of the last twenty years. If you want your records to sound their best, we would love to help you do it.) (more…)

Listening in Depth to Carly Simon’s Second Best Album – No Secrets

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Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For 

The immensely talented engineer ROBIN GEOFFREY CABLE worked his audio magic on this album. You may recall that he recorded a number of the greatest sounding rock records of all time, Elton John’s self-titled second album and Tumbleweed Connection, both in 1970, as well as this album and Nilsson Schmilsson in 1972, with Richard Perry producing. 

One more note: having your VTA set just right is critical to getting the best out of this album. The loudest vocal parts can easily strain otherwise. Once you get your settings dialed in correctly, a copy like this will give you the kind of rich, sweet sound that brings out the best in this music. (more…)