Top Artists – Dave Mason

Dave Mason / Alone Together – Bad Vinyl and Murky Sound

Some records are consistently too noisy to keep in stock no matter how good they sound.

This is one of them.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

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We struggled for years with the bad vinyl and the murky sound of this album. Finally, with dozens of advances in playback quality and dramatically better cleaning techniques, we have now [circa 2012] managed to overcome the problems which we assumed were baked into the recording. I haven’t heard the master tape, but I have heard scores of pressings made from it over the years. I confess I actually used to like and recommend the Heavy Vinyl MCA pressing. Rest assured that is no longer the case. Nowadays it sounds as opaque, ambience-challenged, lifeless and pointless as the rest of its 180 gram brethren.

You want to keep what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of Rock while avoiding the pitfalls so common to them: poor resolution, heavy compression, thickness, opacity, blubber, compromised frequency extremes, lack of space and lack of presence.

How’s that for a laundry list of all the problems we hear on old rock records, and classical records and jazz records; all records really.

What record doesn’t have at least some of these faults? Not many in our experience. A copy with few or none of these problems would have White Hot Stamper sound indeed.

This Copy Rocks

Punchy and surprisingly DEEP bass is one of the first things you will notice when playing one of these Hot Stamper copies. Huge amounts of ambience fill out the space the extends from wall to wall (and all the way to the back of the studio), leaving plenty of room around each of the players. (more…)

Traffic – Self-Titled

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  • An incredible sounding Island pink label pressing and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Both of these sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still incredibly open and spacious; there’s tons of bottom end weight too!
  • “As Mason’s simpler, more direct performances alternate with the more complex Winwood tunes, the album is well-balanced… their second consecutive Top Ten ranking in the U.K.; the album also reached the Top 20 in the U.S.” – All Music, 5 Stars

This vintage Island pink 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…)

Traffic – The Best of Traffic

More Steve Winwood

More Traffic

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or those who wish to find their own Hot Stamper pressings of the album, we say more power to you. Our helpful advice can be found at the bottom of the listing,

  • Best of Traffic finally returns to the site with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on this Pink Label Island pressing – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this 1969 release come alive
  • This amazing compilation boasts superb sound, often better than the very same tracks on many of the original British releases
  • Top 100 and 4 stars: “The entire second side of the LP, comprising ‘Medicated Goo,’ ‘Forty Thousand Headmen,’ ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ ‘Shanghai Noodle Factory,’ and ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy,’ was the kind of progressive rock that would define Traffic and give it its place in the rock pantheon.”

(more…)

Traffic – The Best of Traffic

More Traffic

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this British Pink Label Island pressing
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this 1969 release come alive
  • This amazing compilation boasts superb sound, often better than the very same tracks on many of the original British releases
  • Top 100 and 4 stars: “The entire second side of the LP, comprising ‘Medicated Goo,’ ‘Forty Thousand Headmen,’ ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ ‘Shanghai Noodle Factory,’ and ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy,’ was the kind of progressive rock that would define Traffic and give it its place in the rock pantheon.”

(more…)

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

More Steve Winwood

More Traffic

  • This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best
  • We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG
  • Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault – thanks Eddie and Jimmy!
  • “Winwood is simply incredible. He has a top group of musicians with him and they have made an album which is one of the best from any contemporary group.” – Rolling Stone, 1968

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

Traffic / Mr. Fantasy – 25th Anniversary British Pressing

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This Minty looking Island 25th Anniversary British Import LP has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND! I’d have to say it’s the best sounding record from this series I’ve ever heard. (Note that this is the British version and not the Italian one.)

I can’t vouch for other copies of this record — they may not sound as good as this one — but this one has the bass that’s missing from some of the Pink Label copies and is overall tonally Right On The Money (ROTM), with almost none of the transistory grain that you find on domestic pressings. If you don’t want to spend the big bucks for a Hot Stamper, this is probably the next best way to go.

Dave Mason – Alone Together on MCA Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing. I confess I actually used to like and recommend the Heavy Vinyl MCA pressing. Rest assured that is no longer the case. Nowadays it sounds as opaque, ambience-challenged, lifeless and pointless as the rest of its 180 gram brethren.

We struggled for years with the bad vinyl and the murky sound of this album. Finally, with dozens of advances in playback quality and dramatically better cleaning techniques, we have now managed to overcome the problems which we assumed were baked into the recording. I haven’t heard the master tape, but I have heard scores of pressings made from it over the years. 

It is a surely a MASTERPIECE that belongs in any Rock Collection worthy of the name. Every track is good, and most are amazingly good. There’s not a scrap of filler here. The recording by Bruce Botnick is hard to fault as well.

1970 was a great time in music. Tea for the Tillerman, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Moondance, Sweet Baby James, Tumbleweed Connection, After the Goldrush, The Yes Album, McCartney, Elton John, His Band And Street Choir, Deja Vu, Workingman’s Dead, Tarkio, Stillness, Let It Be — need I go on?

Even in such illustrious company — I defy anyone to name ten albums of comparable quality to come out in any year — Alone Together ranks as one of the best releases of the year. (more…)

Dave Mason – It’s Like You Never Left

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout for this excellent Dave Mason title from 1973
  • Both of these sides are super clean, clear, present and musical with superb clarity and tons of bottom end weight — a huge step up from most copies
  • Mason’s comeback got help from Graham Nash, Stevie Wonder and George Harrison
  • “Mason is perhaps one of the most creative forces, lyrically, musically and vocally, in pop today.” — Billboard, 1973

I was a big fan of this album when it came out in 1973, used to play it all the time in fact. Now I hear why – it’s big and rich with a solid bottom end and a smooth, sweet top, perfect for the big but not especially sophisticated speakers (the Fulton J System) I had back in the day.

This album has the kind of sound that the typical CD just doesn’t want anything to do with. Not that the Compact Disc couldn’t pull it off — there are good sounding CDs in the world — but it doesn’t seem to want to even try.

Graham Nash helps out on vocals on tracks one, two and five on the first side. Stevie Wonder plays a lovely harmonica solo on The Lonely One on side two, and George Harrison guests on guitar on If You’ve Got Love, the third track on side one. (more…)

Dave Mason – Certified Live – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

Unlike Frampton Comes Alive, recorded at different venues, Certified Live was recorded at one location, the Universal Amphitheatre, resulting in very little variation in the sound from track to track. The variation in the sound from side to side is the kind of variation we hear on virtually every pressing we play, since no two sides of a record ever really sound exactly the same. 

We like our ’70s Rock Records to be rich and full; that’s what live Rock Concerts have always sounded like to us and we see no reason to revise our biases now. It’s what good analog does effortlessly and what even the best digital finds difficult to achieve.

A common problem with many of the sides we played was strain or congestion in the loudest passages. Another was sound that’s too “clean.”

It’s not hard to figure out what the best pressings do well that the average ones struggle with.

The Shootout Winning sides are simply bigger, fuller, more clear, more present, more transparent, more punchy, and have more space and energy than the other pressings we played. A couple of minutes in on any side and you know if it has The Big Sound or not. We’re happy to report these four sides are some of the biggest and liveliest we heard.

I’ve actually seen Dave Mason twice in the last five years or so; he tours relentlessly and always puts on a good show. Check him out if he comes to your town. Remarkably he plays these songs nowadays about as well as he ever did, which is very well indeed. (more…)

Dave Mason – Headkeeper

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  • An excellent copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the best sound Dave Mason ever managed, so let’s give credit where credit is due, to the amazing engineer Al Schmitt
  • If you’re a Dave Mason fan this is one of the better albums he’s put out and it deserves a place in your collection
  • “The spare, acoustic solo performance of “Can’t Stop Worrying, Can’t Stop Loving” heard here, for example, makes the undistinguished full-band studio version instantly obsolete. And the live version of “World In Changes” is one of the best pieces of early ’70s rock, period.”

This is some of the best sound Dave Mason ever managed, so let’s give credit where credit is due, to the amazing Al Schmitt. He recorded and mixed this album and he sure knocked it out of the park.

We know his work well; he happens to have engineered many albums with SUPERB SOUND: Aja, Hatari, Breezin’, Late for the Sky, Toto IV – the guy’s won 13 Grammies, which ought to tell you something.

Side one of the album is recorded in the studio, side two live from the Troubador. Many of the songs on side one would be recorded again by Mason, and not as well in most cases. Mastered at Artisan (where Kevin Gray got his start) by none other than the owner, Bob MacLeod, this record got the A Team treatment from start to finish. (more…)