Top Artists – Jackson Browne

Letter of the Week – “I immediately noticed an improvement in lower end presence with the white hot stamper.”

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

Hey Tom, 

It’s been a good day of listening! Something about this copy of Late for the Sky is bugging me. Jackson’s voice just doesn’t seem as natural sounding as in the other albums I have. Wondering if the white hot stamper you have might be a better choice? Thinking this album (more his voice) should sound as good as the other two I bought ? If you think the white hot stamper would be a better choice should I just order it then send this one back?

Thanks again for your help!

Rob

Rob,

It is always a good idea to hear the best copy against whatever you have, even when you have a hot stamper. It’s unlikely to fix the problem you hear with the voice — not sure what those might be, the recording is what it is and if they wanted the voice to sound the way it does, we just accept it as a choice they made, grading on a curve and all that — but it is possible you might like it better, even a lot better. 

Go ahead and order it, you have nothing to lose and plenty to gain. Hang on to your old copy for now so you can play the two against each other.

TP

Tom,

I am so glad you recommended taking a listen to the Late for Sky white hot stamper and compare to the super hot stamper I have. I immediately noticed an improvement in lower end presence with the white hot stamper. Jackson’s vocal sounded more full and natural as well.

Another thing I noticed was that not all tracks are created equal as you pointed out. Side 1 seemed big, open and more like the other Jackson Browne LPs I own.

Side 2 was a very different story. Some of the tracks seemed more closed in and less engaging. So, instead of criticizing a pressing for not sounding right, I have realized that the recording itself is most likely at fault (it is what it is).

I would not have known this without listening to the best copies. Another invaluable lesson learned!

Will send Late for the Sky back as it is not really something I really want to listen to repeatedly compared to my other Jackson Browne albums. Till the next time!

Thanks again

Rob

Rob,

When you can hear a number of copies — the more the better — played directly against each other, it’s amazing what you can learn about the sound of an album. You experienced it, and you seem to have learned a lot.

Now you know something 99% of the audiophiles in the world, even those that are Jackson Browne fans, don’t know.

Such is the nature of records. They are happy to teach you something if you will simply take the time to listen to them.

Thanks for your letter.

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Jackson Browne – His Debut Is Still His Best Album

More Jackson Browne

More Asylum Label Recordings

  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this copy was a big step up from most of what we played, particularly on side two
  • “… Jackson Browne’s first album is among the most auspicious debuts in pop music history”
  • 5 stars: “… the album has long since come to seem a timeless collection of reflective ballads touching on still-difficult subjects — suicide (explicitly), depression and drug use (probably), spiritual uncertainty and desperate hope — all in calm, reasoned tones, and all with an amazingly eloquent sense of language.”
  • If you’re a Jackson Browne fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1972 is clearly one of his best, and one of his two best sounding, the other one being The Pretender.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Jackson Browne / Late for the Sky – Lovin’ That Rich, Smooth Asylum Sound

More Jackson Browne

More 5 Star Albums

  • This outstanding pressing of Browne’s third album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This one was bigger and bolder, with more Tubey Magical richness on Jackson’s voice, than most of what we played
  • We love the rich, smooth, natural sound that Asylum was known for, and this copy has a healthy dose of each of those qualities
  • It’s getting harder and harder to find these in good condition these days – the man has a lot of fans, and they prefer to hear him on vinyl
  • 5 stars from AMG and Rolling Stone calls it the “quintessential Browne album,” saying the “… open-ended poetry achieves power from the nearly religious intensity that accumulates around the central motifs; its fervor is underscored by the sparest and hardest production to be found on any Browne album yet… as well as by his impassioned, oracular singing style.”
  • If you’re a fan of the man, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best, and one of his best sounding
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here. (more…)

Jackson Browne’s Debut – What to Listen For

The real trick with this album is in striking the right balance between richness and presence. A White Hot Stamper from years back made me change my mind about this recording. I used to think it was dull, but I was wrong. I used to think that even the best copies of this recording sounded rolled off on the top end. I no longer believe that to be true. On the best pressings the top end is correct for this music.

It took the right pressing to show me the error of my ways.

Side one of that copy was rich and full and sweet as can be. Playing side two I noticed more transparency and clarity, especially in the guitars and voices. It seemed to have correct highs, highs that were a little soft on the first side.

But the more I listened, the less I liked it. It started to sound more like a record and less like music. Going back and forth between sides one and two, it was obvious that side one had less clarity because it had the kind of richness and fullness that made all the musicians and their instruments sound real in a way that wasn’t happening on side two. Side two had clarity, it had transparency, but it kept reminding me that it was a recording. Side one allowed me to forget that I was playing a record.

When the music started, my attention was completely focused on the songwriting and the performing. Aspects of the recording were lost in my enjoyment of the music. I kept thinking what a great album this is, not what a great recording it is. That tells me that both the recording engineer and the mastering engineer did their jobs right. They created a sound that best served this music.

I think if an audiophile label had produced a version of this album that sounded like side two, most audiophiles would love it. They would hear detail that they’d never heard before. (It’s my belief that the original Asylum master tape has been lost, so the details of which we speak can be heard on these good originals and nowhere else.)

But, fooled into listening for details in the music rather than the music as a whole, they would never know how RIGHT the album can really sound.

The best of our Hot Stampers are the ones that have the right sound for this music.

Jackson Browne – The Pretender

More Jackson Browne

 More Asylum Label Recordings

  • One of the all time great rock / pop Demo Discs — the best copies are so rich and full-bodied they make most rock records sound positively anemic
  • Five Stars in Rolling Stone, one of their Top 500 Albums, and a true classic from 1976
  • Without a doubt the best sounding record Jackson Browne ever made – this is the pressing that backs up everything we say and more
  • If you’re a JB fan, 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 I’m sure you know by now, especially if you own a copy or two, pressings of The Pretender don’t usually sound like Demo Discs. In fact, most copies of this record are mediocre at best — thin, grainy, and flat sounding.

This copy is none of those things. And it positively kills the famous MoFi pressing. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “The overall tonal balance is fantastic. Big, room filling sound.”

More of the Music of Jackson Browne

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

Hey Tom, 

I am taking my time going through all my hot stampers one by one. Still waiting for my cartridge to break in so I know things will only get better!

This album is amazing. I forgot how good it was. Only had the cassette back in the day and loved playing it in the car. The overall tonal balance is fantastic. Big, room filling sound. Jackson’s voice is just so well centered in the mix. I think your rating may have been a bit conservative. Hard to believe it can sound much better. Side 2 is probably my favorite and sounds even better than side 1 to my ears–but it is close. Another winner for sure!

Thanks!

Rob

Rob,

Glad you liked it!

As for the notes about the grades, we don’t keep them around, but we liked two copies better than that one, which just goes to show you can never know how good it can get until it gets that good. That is the only way to know: to hear it for yourself. That is what shootouts are for.

This is something the forum posters cannot understand. They think they have a Hot Stamper when what they actually have (maybe!) is a Good Sounding Record. They don’t know how amazing the record can sound — so much more amazing than the one they own, probably — so they assume they have the best. They probably do not, but who really knows? The shootout is the evidence, and they never bothered to conduct one.

The “probably” you see in two of the sentences is there for a good reason. We make a point of being clear about what we can know and we cannot know, and we cannot know what a record sounds like if we have not played it.

This is obviously true for those of us who try to listen as critically as possible, but we also know that it is important to think about records the right way. Bad Thinking keeps audiophiles from making progress in this hobby just as much as bad equipment and bad records do. We are trying to help, we’re doing the best we can, one Better Record at a time

Like I said, glad you are enjoying yours.

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

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Jackson Browne / Late for the Sky – This Kind of Clarity Wears Out Its Welcome Before Long

More of the Music of Jackson Browne

Hot Stamper Albums with Choruses that Are Big and Clear

It’s not easy to find copies that get the tonal balance right the way the best copies do. Most err in one of two ways — either they’re rich, full and a little veiled, or they’re clear and transparent, but leaned-out and boosted in the upper midrange.

The clear ones of course are the ones that initially fool you – they present an illusion of transparency because everything is easy to hear right from the get-go, but they quickly wear out their welcome with their more “modern,” cleaner, leaner sound.

The choruses are telling here. With so many background singers, the size and weight and energy of the singers only comes through on the copies that are full and rich.

What Else to Listen For

The jug on Walking Slow — you gotta love it!

Choruses Are Key

Three distinctive qualities of vintage analog recordings — richness, sweetness and freedom from artificiality — are most clearly heard on a Big Production Record like this in the loudest, densest, most climactic choruses of the songs.

We set the playback volume so that the loudest parts of the record are as huge and powerful as they can possibly become without crossing the line into distortion or congestion. On some records, Dark Side of the Moon comes instantly to mind, the guitar solos on Money are the loudest thing on the record.

On Breakfast in America the sax toward the end of The Logical Song is bigger and louder than anything on the record, louder even than Roger Hodgson’s near-hysterical multi-tracked screaming “Who I am” about three-quarters of the way through the track. Those, however, are clearly exceptions to the rule. Most of the time it’s the final chorus of a pop song that gets bigger and louder than what has come before.

A pop song is usually designed to build momentum as it works its way through the verses and choruses, past the bridge, coming back around to make one final push, releasing all its energy in the final chorus, the climax of the song. On a good recording — one with real dynamics — that part of the song should be very loud and very powerful.

The climax of the biggest, most dynamic songs are almost always the toughest tests for a pop record, and it’s the main reason we play our records loud. The copies that hold up through the final choruses of their album’s largest scaled productions are the ones that provide the biggest thrills and the most emotionally powerful musical experiences one can have sitting in front of two speakers. Our Top 100 is full of records that reward that kind of intense listening at loud levels.

We live for that sound here at Better Records. It’s precisely what the best vintage analog pressings do brilliantly. In fact they do it so much better than any other medium that there is really no comparison, and certainly no substitute. If you’re on this site you probably already know that. (more…)

Jackson Browne – Hold Out

More Jackson Browne

More Singer-Songwriter Albums

  • Jackson Browne’s sixth album finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Big, rich, energetic, with tons of Analog Tubey Magic, this early pressing has exactly the right sound for this music
  • “An exploration of the pull of work. stardom and bittersweet expectations.” – Rolling Stone

We had a huge stack of copies but most of them left us entirely cold. A mediocre copy of The Pretender is still a decent sounding record, but the average pressing of this one is just not going to get the job done. We suffered through some of the blandest records to hit the table in ages in the shootout, but I’m pleased to report that a small group of copies actually managed to impress.

So many copies we played were just thick and veiled, keeping Jackson’s vocals in the speakers stuck in a cloudy haze. Most of our copies lacked texture entirely, which really sucked the life out of the music. It’s a good thing this album sold so well in its day, because it took a TON of copies to find a few that actually sounded like the Jackson Browne we know and love from The Pretender, Late For The Sky and the wonderful first album. (more…)

Jackson Browne – For Everyman

More Jackson Browne

More Singer-Songwriter Albums

  • A KILLER copy of JB’s sophomore effort with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • David Lindley joins the band, and talented helpers include Bonnie Raitt, Glen Frey, David Crosby, Elton John and Joni Mitchell
  • “His work is a unique fusion of West Coast casualness and East Coast paranoia, easygoing slang and painstaking precision, child’s-eye romanticizing and adult’s-eye acceptance… Brilliantly conceived, incomparably immediate, For Everyman truly earns its title.” – Rolling Stone

The average copy of this record is MUD, but this pressing will show you that the master tape of For Everyman is a whole lot better than most music lovers and audiophiles might suspect. (The first album is the same way.)

Want a quick test for transparency? Listen to the piano on I Thought I Was a Child. On most copies you can’t really hear the attack of the hammers hitting the strings, but here you can. If the tonal balance is correct — and it is on this copy — then you know you are getting a pressing of very high quality.

Note that the first track on side one almost never sounds as good as those that follow. (more…)

Jackson Browne – Running On Empty

More Jackson Browne

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this Grammy-nominated release
  • Packed with previously unreleased songs, this live followup to The Pretender was an even bigger hit than that album
  • A hard record to find with audiophile quality sound – this is one of the few copies to ever hit the site
  • “…as impressed as I am with Jackson Browne’s art, I’m even more impressed with the humanity that shines through it.” — Rolling Stone Magazine

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