Top Artists – Graham Nash

Crosby, Stills and Nash – Self-Titled

More of the Music of David Crosby

 More of the Music of Stephen Stills

More of the Music of Graham Nash

  • A vintage copy of CS&N’s self-titled debut LP that was doing just about everything right, with both sides earning superb Double Plus (A++) grades
  • The sound is big and rich, the vocals breathy and immediate, and you will not believe all the space and ambience
  • We love the album, but it is a cryin’ shame, as well as a fact, that few were mastered and pressed well, and that includes none of the originals in our experience
  • The reason you don’t see this title on the site more frequently is simply that it has become nearly impossible to find copies with the right stampers in audiophile playing condition
  • The right stampers for this album are at least ten times more rare than those for Zep II, but for some reason everybody thinks that record is rare!
  • We’ve discovered a hundred or more titles in which one stamper always wins, some of which we’ve identified, and no, we have no intention of giving out that information, sorry
  • The fact that only one specific later pressing ever wins our shootouts is proof that freeing your mind from unscientific thinking is the only way to find the highest quality pressings
  • 5 stars: “A definitive document of its era.”
  • This is a Must Own Hippie Folk Rock Masterpiece from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection

Although millions of copies of this album were sold, so few were mastered and pressed well, and so many mastered seemingly with no regard to sound quality, that only a vanishingly small number of copies have ever made it to the site with Hot Stampers.

We consider this album a Masterpiece. It’s a recording that should be part of any serious Popular Music Collection.

Others that belong in that category can be found here.

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Letter of the Week – “I know in one sense you’re only doing your job but who the hell else does what you do?”

Reviews and Commentaries for Deja Vu

Reviews and Commentaries for After the Gold Rush

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

Hey Tom, 

Just received Deja Vu – so good. I have never ever heard the vocals sound so natural and so full of power and energy.

The only similar record I have is After The Gold Rush and I got that from you guys too.

I know in one sense you’re only doing your job but who the hell else does what you do?

Thanks again guys for a brilliant record, a fantastic piece of history and art that I can hear whenever I want to.

Peter

Peter,

Thanks for your letter. Those are two of our favorite records too, with sound that is hard to beat once you figure out which stampers are the ones with the potential for top quality sound.

These two records have a lot in common as it turns out.

Both are The Best Sounding Album by either the group or artist.

Both are Must Own Records from 1970.

Both are of course in our Rock and Pop Top 100. Deja Vu is actually a member of our Top Ten, a rarefied group indeed.

Both are Rock Demo Discs for Big Speakers that Play at Loud Levels.

Both are members of The Core Collection of Well Recorded Rock & Pop Albums.

And, lastly, both are records that sell for large sums of money and rarely can be found in stock.

If we were to compile a list of records that are worth whatever you have to pay for them, these two would be right at the top of that list too.

Best, TP


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More Hot Stamper Testimonial Letters

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash / More Young

  • A killer copy of So Far boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • The two tracks exclusive to this album, “Ohio” and “Find the Cost of Freedom,” are amazingly well recorded – both have Demo Disc quality sound on this incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one
  • Huge, rich and energetic, this pressing brings the gorgeous harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to life like nothing you have ever heard
  • We don’t imagine we’ll be tracking down too many copies that sound this good and play this reasonably quiet so if you’re a fan, scoop this one up!
  • If you’ve made the mistake of buying any Heavy Vinyl pressing containing any of these songs, this record will show you just exactly what you’ve been missing

When you get hold of a pressing as good as this one, the sound is so correct it makes a mockery of the phony EQ and just plain bad mastering and pressing of the Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered versions.

The MoFi and the Classic 200g LP are both clearly wrong in important ways. This record will make it clear exactly what’s wrong with them, assuming you have the critical listening skills to recognize the differences. If you are on this site chances are very good you do.

Once you hear this copy you will never be able to enjoy those audiophile pressings again, of that we are quite confident. (more…)

Crosby / Nash – Whistling Down The Wire

More David Crosby

More Graham Nash

  • A vintage pressing that was doing everything right, earning INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades from start to finish
  • These sides were noticeably richer than all other copies we played, which generally tended to be lean and dry
  • We played a big pile of these, but finding the Tubey Magical, spacious, sweet ANALOG sound we were after was not easy
  • Fortunately this copy showed us that it indeed was possible to get the clear, breathy vocals necessary to bring out the wonderful harmonies these two are so rightly famous for
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • If you’re a fan of Hippie Folk Rock, this title from 1976 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

As a budding audiophile, I went out of my way to acquire any piece of equipment that could make these records from the ’70s (the decade of my formative music-buying years) sound better than the gear I was then using. It’s the challenging recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as scores of other pop and rock artists like them, that drove my pursuit of higher quality audio, starting all the way back in high school.

And here I am — here we are — still at it, fifty years later, because the music still sounds fresh and original, and the pressings that we find get better and better with each passing year.

That kind of progress is proof that we’re doing it right. It’s a good test for any audiophile. If you are actively and seriously pursuing this hobby, perhaps as many as nine out of ten non-audiophile pressings in your collection should sound better with each passing year. As your stereo improves, not to mention your critical listening skills, the shortcomings of some will be revealed, but for the most part, vintage pressings should sound better each time you play them with continual refinements and improvements to your system, room and cleaning techniques.

That’s what makes it fun to play old records: They just keep getting better!

(more…)

Crosby Stills & Nash – Critical Listening Exercise

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Reviews and Commentaries for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Debut

This very old commentary from an early Hot Stamper listing (2005?) for CSN’s debut makes note of some specific qualities in the recording that are a good test for midrange transparency and naturalness.

Here are some other albums with specific advice on What You Should Be Listening For.

What’s magical about Crosby, Stills, Nash (& Young)? 

Their voices of course. It’s not a trick question. They revolutionized rock music with their genius for harmony. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no value whatsoever. A CSN record with bad midrange — like most of them — is a worthless record.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

Listen to the section of the song that starts with Stills’ line “Can I tell it like it is,” with Nash and Crosby behind him — it’s clearly a generation of tape down from what came before and what comes after. The voices and the acoustic guitars just seem to lose their immediacy and transient impact for no apparent reason. Wha’ happen?

It’s the mix, folks, and no mastering engineer can fix it. This album is full of parts and pieces of various songs that are occasionally problematical in that way. Recognize them for what they are, a little bump in the road of the recording, no more, no less.

On the hot copies the best sounding material will sound amazing, and the lesser sounding material (i.e., the more poorly recorded or mixed bits and pieces) will sound as good as they can sound.

That’s the nature of the beast. It is what it is. The more intensely you listen to a record like this — a true Rock Classic from the ’60s — and we listen very intensely around here when doing these shootouts — the more you will notice these kinds of recording artifacts. It’s what gives them “character.”

It’s also what allows you to play a record like this on a regular basis and still find something new in it after all these years.

We’ve made some recent improvements to the stereo and room here at Better Records and I can tell you I heard things in this recording I never knew were there.

What could be more fun than that? The music never gets old, and neither does the sound.

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Crosby / Nash – Graham Nash / David Crosby

More David Crosby

More Graham Nash

  • An early Atlantic pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The vocals are wonderfully breathy, smooth and sweet here – this recording is the very definition of Midrange Magic, thanks to the brilliant engineering of Bill Halverson
  • 4 stars: “This self-titled release is one of most impressive side project to arise from CSN. The best elements of each are readily available here, punctuated at every turn by their complicated vocal arrangements and air-lock harmonies.”

Where in the world did all the Midrange Magic that we were hearing on this copy of the album come from?

On a song like Where Will I Be the sound is so unbelievably transparent, open and intimate it sounds like an outtake from David Crosby’s first album, one of the ten best sounding rock records ever made. 

I was in high school when I first played this album and I remember being disappointed with it, mostly because I was expecting another Deja Vu. As I grow older I appreciate other qualities in a recording; I’ve come to appreciate this album for what it is: not the Grand Musical Statement that Deja Vu is, but a simpler, more intimate portrait of two artists at the start of a lifelong harmonious collaboration. With a damn fine batch of songs to sing.

Top Quality Sound

The Midrange Magic on some of these tracks is off the scale. The transparency is also remarkable, with richness and sweetness matched by few copies in our huge shootout.

Listen to the three-dimensional quality of the piano on the first track of side two. Skip to the second track and you will hear some of the best bass to be found on the side. The song is not about the bass, obviously, so we hasten to point out the vocals and harmonies — the sine qua non of any CSN or Y record — are Truly Right On The Money as well. (more…)

Crosby / Nash – Check Out that Zither

More of the Music David Crosby

More of the Music of Graham Nash

What to Listen for?

The zither.

At first I thought it might be a harpsichord placed well back in the mix, but we looked up the list of instruments being played and there it was — the zither. I think we heard it on Taken At All on side two. It’s a favorite test track for that side because the vocals on that song are some of the best of the post-CSN era. If your system is sufficiently transparent, you should be able to pull the zither out of the mix.

Here are some other albums with specific advice on What You Should Be Listening For.

Side two of this album is, in our estimation, the strongest side of any album by the group after Deja Vu (1970).

As a budding audiophile I went out of my way to acquire any piece of equipment that could make these records from the ’70s (the decade of my formative music-buying years) sound better than the gear I was then using. It’s the challenging recordings by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, as well as scores of other pop and rock artists like them, that drove my pursuit of higher quality audio, starting all the way back in high school.

And here I am — here we are — still at it, more than forty years later, because the music still sounds fresh and original, and the pressings that we find get better and better with each passing year.

As we never tire of saying, only one thing drives progress in audio: the music.

That kind of progress is proof that we’re doing it right. It’s a good test for any audiophile. If you are actively and seriously pursuing this hobby, perhaps as many as nine out of ten non-audiophile pressings in your collection should sound better with each passing year. As your stereo improves, not to mention your critical listening skills, the shortcomings of some will be revealed, but for the most part, vintage pressings should sound better each time you play them with continual refinements and improvements to your system, room and cleaning techniques.

That’s what makes it fun to play old records: They just keep getting better!

(more…)

Detail on Crosby, Stills and Nash – Holy Grail or Audio Trap?

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Reviews and Commentaries for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Debut

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash

Detail may be the Holy Grail to some audiophiles, but detail can be a trap we all too easily fall into if we are not careful.

Tonal balance is the key. Without it no judgments about detail have any real value. 

One example: As good as the Classic Heavy Vinyl pressing is, the guitar at the opening of Helplessly Hoping tells you everything you need to know about what’s missing. The guitar on the better Hot Stamper domestic copies has a transparency and harmonic integrity that cannot be found on Classic’s version.

The Classic gets the tonal balance right, but their guitar doesn’t have the subtlety and harmonic resolution of the real thing.

I’m laboring here to avoid the word detail, since many audiophiles like bright, phony sounding records because of all their wonderful “detail.” Patricia Barber’s albums come to mind.

The MoFi guys and the CD guys often fall into this trap.

Get the sound tonally balanced first, then see how much detail you have left.

Detail is not the end-all and be-all of audio. Those who think it is usually have systems that make my head hurt.

But most people will never know what they’re missing on Helplessly Hoping, because they will never have an amazing sounding copy of this album. The hot copies are just too rare.


This record is good for testing the following sonic qualities:

Midrange Congestion 

Midrange Presence 

Midrange Tonality

Transparency 

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars 

Making Mistakes and Finding Better Sounding Records

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What Exactly Are Hot Stamper Pressings?

Wise men and women throughout the ages have commented on the value of making mistakes.

Here is one of our favorite quotes on the subject.

“A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.”   Alexander Pope, in Swift, Miscellanies

When I think of the 20 odd years (early ’70s to early ’90s) I wasted trying to figure out how audio works before I had much in the way of critical listening skills, it brings to mind that old Faces’ song, “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger.”

Learning how to do shootouts for your favorite albums is without a doubt the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and most cogently in this commentary from way back in 2005.

We believe that the only way to really learn about records is to gather a big pile of them together, clean them up and listen to them one by one as carefully and critically as possible.

We do not recommend devoting much time to reading about them in magazines or on forums.

We also would dissuade the serious record collector from paying much attention to what the most sought after or most expensive pressings are. Records have market prices based on a host of factors that mostly have nothing to do with sound quality.

And don’t think you can “logically” predict which pressings should sound the best and then just go about acquiring them.

None of these methods are likely to produce good results.

Making mistakes will though. And the more you make, the more you learn. The more you learn, the easier it is to recognize and pursue good records. It also makes it easy to part with your bad ones. The latter group we hope will include the majority of your holdings of Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered Recordings. At best those should be seen as placeholders. They’ll do until something better comes along. And considering how mediocre so many newly remastered records are, “something better’ should not be hard to find.

And the better developed your critical listening skills become, the less likely “they’ll do” at all. They’ll just get put on a shelf. It has been our experience that good records get played and bad records don’t.


Further Reading

More of the Music of David Crosby

More of the Music of Stephen Stills

More of the Music of Graham Nash

More of the Music of Neil Young

(more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

More David Crosby

More Stephen Stills

More Graham Nash

More Neil Young

  • An outstanding pressing with Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on all FOUR sides – hard to find this one quiet nowadays, so fans should take note than not many unscratched copies are going to make it to the site
  • This live album gives you the “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four! (more…)