Top Artists – Jaco Pastorius

Joni Mitchell – Hejira

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joni Mitchell

  • This original Asylum pressing was doing just about everything right, earning excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides
  • Most copies we played were too compressed or veiled to involve you in the music, but this one has the big, rich, clear sound of analog at its best that Joni’s spacey “beatnik jazz” needs to work its magic
  • 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
  • “Joni Mitchell’s Hejira is the last in an astonishingly long run of top-notch studio albums dating back to her debut… Performances are excellent, with special kudos reserved for Jaco Pastorius’ melodic bass playing… This excellent album is a rewarding listen.”

We played a ton of copies and heard a lot to dislike. Many copies have a tendency to sound phony, a case of heavy-handed EQ in the mastering perhaps. When a copy sounds glossy, it loses its natural warmth and starts to sound like any old audiophile LP. We’re ideally looking for something akin to Blue here, and not the sound you find on Patricia Barber LPs. (Gratuitous maybe, but it feels like it’s been too long since we took a swipe at that junk. But I digress…)

Plenty of copies had natural sound but no real life or presence to speak of. It’s a sound you could live with until you heard a good one, but there’s no going back once you’ve heard what the album’s really capable of. A copy like this one gives you lots of richness and warmth without sacrificing the texture to the instruments or the breath to Joni’s voice. The percussion really comes through, the bass has more weight and the immediacy of the vocals put Joni front and center, just where she should be.

If you aren’t familiar with this album, it’s a few more steps down the path she started taking on Court and Spark. The musicians include Larry Carlton and Jaco Pastorius, so that should give you an idea about the jazz-fusion direction of the arrangements. It was a fun album to get to know and on a copy like this one, it really rewards multiple listens.

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Weather Report – Heavy Weather

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish, you will not believe how BIG and BOLD this copy is
  • Birdland on this pressing has some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl
  • Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius are both here and at the absolute peak of their creative powers – this is a work of GENIUS
  • 5 stars: ”Birdland’ is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Weather Report’s seventh (!) album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

The hottest of the hot stamper pressings demonstrate that this is a truly amazing recording, with some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl. The grit, grain and grunge of most pressings is nowhere to be found on these killer sides, and that alone puts them in a very special league indeed. (more…)

Al Di Meola – Land Of The Midnight Sun

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  • A stunning copy of this Fusion Guitar classic
  • Both sides are incredibly lively, full-bodied, open and present — the sound, in a word, is HUGE
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” A very impressive beginning to di Meola’s solo career”
  • A great lineup including Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorious, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Steve Gadd and more
  • If you’re a Jazz Fusion fan, this title from 1976 is surely a Must Own

If you’ve enjoyed the sonics on one of our Hot Stamper Return To Forever, Weather Report or Santana LPs, I think you’d find a lot to like about this record. (more…)

Pat Metheny / Bright Size Life – Now on the TAS Superdisc List

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Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

  • Metheny’s superb debut album finally arrives on site, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A recent addition to the TAS Super Disc List – these sides are natural and present, with plenty of bass and good space around all of the players
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Pat Metheny’s debut studio album is a good one, a trio date that finds him already laying down the distinctively cottony, slightly withdrawn tone and asymmetrical phrasing that would serve him well through most of the swerves in direction ahead. This LP also features one of the earliest recordings of Jaco Pastorius, a fully formed, well-matched contrapuntal force on electric bass, though content to leave the spotlight mostly to Metheny.”

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Joni Mitchell – An Overview

Hot Stampers of Joni Mitchell’s Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Albums of Joni Mitchell

When the dust settles, Joni Mitchell may stand as the most important and influential female recording artist of the late 20th century. Uncompromising and iconoclastic, Mitchell confounded expectations at every turn; restlessly innovative, her music evolved from deeply personal folk stylings into pop, jazz, avant-garde, and even world music, presaging the multicultural experimentation of the 1980s and 1990s by over a decade. – Allmusic

DISCOGRAPHY 1968-1991

1968 Song to a Seagull
1969 Clouds
1970 Ladies of the Canyon
1971 BlueTop 100, TAS List
1972 For the Roses – Some of her best sound
1974 Court and SparkTop 100, TAS List, her best sounding recording
1974 Miles of Aisles
1975 The Hissing of Summer Lawns
1976 Hejira
1977 Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter
1979 Mingus
1980 Shadows and Light
1982 Wild Things Run Fast – TAS List and a personal favorite
1985 Dog Eat Dog – Awful sound and music
1988 Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm – Maybe even worse
1991 Night Ride Home – Surprisingly good, but very hard to find these days and expensive when you do

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Joni Mitchell – Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter

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Reviews and Commentaries for Joni Mitchell

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  • With four sides that are either White Hot or close to it this copy murdered the competition
  • Rich, full-bodied, smooth, yet open and clear, this is about the best the album can sound 
  • Mastered by Bernie Grundman back when he was still cutting some of the best records around
  • Joni Mitchell meets Weather Report is the best way to describe much of the vibe here

We had trouble finding copies that played consistently quietly on all four sides. This copy has an issue with side four, but the second best sounding side four was noisier, so we feel that this is still the best way to go for the album. (more…)

Joni Mitchell / Shadows and Light – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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FOUR INCREDIBLE SIDES! We had a huge shootout for this famous double album and this copy blew our minds with a pair each of White Hot and Super Hot sides and quiet vinyl throughout. In the high-stakes game of Better Records Double Album Poker, that’s a full house, my man! Sides one and three earned the A+++ grades while sides two and four were close behind at A++. This one gives you the kind of YOU ARE THERE immediacy and transparency that put you front and center for a late ’70s jazzy Joni Mitchell show. Not too many copies will do that!

If you’re a fan of Joni’s more experimental work from the mid to late ’70s, this album is a must-own. She takes a top-notch crew of musicians including Pat Metheny, Jaco Pastorious and Michael Brecker through a set including many of her best album tracks from the era.

Sides one and three were absolutely top-notch, earning the top grade of A+++. The sound is full-bodied, lively and very DYNAMIC. On so many copies the sax sounds thin and hard, but on a Hot Stamper like this one you get fuller, smoother sound for the instrument. Joni’s voice is breathy and present with real texture, and the three-dimensional imaging gives the music a real sense of SPACE — just like you’d get at a concert. This helps convey the intimacy of the songs and the performances, and isn’t that what we audiophiles got in this crazy hobby for in the first place? (more…)

Listening in Depth to Heavy Weather

More of the Music of Weather Report

Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

The Track Commentary below has lots of What To Listen For advice to help you evaluate any copies you may have.

Side One

Birdland

Not an easy track to get right; there’s so much upper midrange and high frequency information to deal with. If the synthesizers and horns are too much, the effect is exciting but won’t wear well. Too much 6k is the problem on most copies, along with not enough above 10. That is a deadly combination.

A Remark You Made (more…)

Weather Report – Finding the Rare Pressing with An Extended Top End

More of the Music of Weather Report

Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

It has been our experience that the copies with high frequency extension and the clarity, space and percussive energy that results from it are consistently the best sounding. You may have read elsewhere on the site that what separates many of the best Columbia LPs from their competition is an open, extended top end.

For some reason, Columbia, more than most labels, had a habit of making slightly dull records. Dull does not work for this album. 

When the highs on the record are right, it all comes together. Unfortunately, most copies don’t have those highs. There’s more to it than that of course: some copies lack bass, some are a bit grainy and gritty sounding — the normal problems associated with vinyl records are all here.

But when you have good highs you are about 80 to 85% of the way toward a Hot Stamper. Complete the picture with bass, dynamics, etc. (and a big speaker system) and there’s a good chance the sound will blow your mind.


Heavy Weather is a classic case of yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is music that doesn’t make any sense unless you play it LOUD. This is a BIG SPEAKER recording. I know this because I was playing it too quietly, which is to say at normal listening volumes, and it just wasn’t thrilling me. As soon as I turned it up, it really started to work, both as a piece of music and as a recording. So much gets lost in a mix as dense as this one at moderate levels. Everything comes out into the open when you give it the volume it needs. Trust me on this one; without a big dynamic speaker this music is never going to do what it wants to do — which is to ROCK YOUR WORLD. (more…)