Top Artists – Leon Russell

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs And Englishmen

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  • A superb copy of Mad Dogs and Englishmen with all four sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades or BETTER – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is rich and tubey, with driving energy and the top end and clarity that was simply missing from far too many of the copies we had to work through in order to find this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Unlike a lot of other “coffee table”-type rock releases of the era, such as Woodstock and The Concert for Bangladesh, people actually listened to Mad Dogs & Englishmen — most of its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique.”

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Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

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  • Cocker’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than these?
  • How’s this for a track listing: Dear Landlord; Bird on the Wire; She Came in Through the Bathroom Window; Something; Delta Lady; Darling Be Home Soon – and there’s more
  • 4 stars: “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.”

*NOTE: Side two Track Four, Hello, Little Friend, is slightly noisier, on the low end of Mint Minus Minus.

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music.

This album is a ton of fun, with Cocker and his band putting their spin on some of the best songs of the era. You need energy, space and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound if this music is going to sound right, and on those counts these copies deliver. (more…)

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…)

Leon Russell – Leon Russell

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • His first and best album, engineered by our man Glyn Johns, but it only sounds as brilliant as it should on the right UK original pressings – the domestic LPs are dead on arrival
  • Delta Lady, A Song for You and Roll Away the Stone are all here, which makes this a true Must Own for fans of the Classic Era
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Leon Russell never quite hit all the right notes the way he did on his eponymous debut. He never again seemed as convincing in his grasp of Americana music and themes, never again seemed as individual, and never again did his limited, slurred bluesy voice seem as ingratiating.”

*NOTE: On side one, Track 1, A Song For You, plays M– to EX++.

Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of Leon’s wonderful debut album, a vintage UK pressing like this one is the only way to go.

The best copies of Russell’s debut album have excellent sound, as expected from a record engineered by Glyn Johns in 1970. Surprisingly, a number of UK copies suffered from somewhat dry sound, especially in the vocals. Our best copies are rich and Tubey Magical, which is what these songs need to have in order to sound their best. (more…)

Letter of the Week – The Band, Leon Russell and Eagles

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

Hey Tom,   

Thank you for my most recent order and the work you do. A few specific observations on the records just received.

The Band, The Band:

This record has been a lifetime favorite of mine, since the early days when I listened to it all the time back in the 1970’s. I of course had a copy, and the MoFi release (which was not made from the Master Tapes because after they made the rock-documentary on the making of this record, someone literally lost the master tape, and the MoFi was made after that unfortunate event!).

When your RL copy arrived yesterday the first thing I noticed was the texture of the album cover. The copy I had was a smooth reproduction and the easy addition RL copy is more richly textured. When I took the album out of the outer sleeve the album cover alone took me back. Then I played it. I expected deeper RL style bass, and it delivers big time. Up on Cripple Creek took my breath away at the opening of the song.

Less anticipated was the enhanced detail in the midrange. I don’t believe I have ever heard the vocals so clear and smooth. Really sounds great, thank you!

Leon Russell and The Sheltered [sic] People:

This too is a record that has been a regular part of my musical diet since the 1970’s. Sadly, I have never been able to find a decent copy, and often played it on CD. I have never seen a copy on the Better Records site, and my guess is they are fairly rare for you as well. The English copy you sold me sounds significantly better than anything I have ever heard. The copy has very little surface noise and the dynamic range is fantastic. The echoing energy in the piano chords Leon bangs out on Sweet Emily is just one example of the richness this copy offers. Thank you!

The Eagles, The Eagles:

I am a huge fan of Desperado and On The Border, owning Hot Stamper versions of each. The direction the band took after On The Border is not for me, so they have always been a 2-album band for me. Damn good 2 album band, but just the 2.

The first album I once had the record and never played it, eventually selling it back to the local record stores. I have a copy on CD for the car, and even that I find myself not listening to it all the way through. After reading all that you guys have written on the record I decided to give it a try.

In short, it has never sounded like this on my system and the band is now a 3-record band in my house. Thank you! (more…)

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker (1969)

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than these?
  • How’s this for a track listing: Dear Landlord; Bird on the Wire; She Came in Through the Bathroom Window; Something; Delta Lady; Darling Be Home Soon – and there’s more
  • “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.”

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you can hear it on a killer Hot Stamper copy such as this, it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless White Soul music.

The consistently high quality of the material is another reason this album has to be considered a Must Own. Did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than these?

On side one alone you’ll find Dear Landlord; Bird on the Wire; She Came in Through the Bathroom Window; and Hitchcock Railway.

On side two: Something; Delta Lady; Hello, Little Friend; and Darling Be Home Soon.

I put this album up against the best Cocker has ever made. He released both of his first two albums in 1969, strikingly reminiscent of another band we revere, Led Zeppelin. (Small world: Jimmy Page plays on Cocker’s first release.) (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs and Englishmen – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This original A&M 2 LP pressing has FOUR EXCELLENT SIDES, including a shootout-winning A+++ SIDE TWO!

We did not give out a lot of top grades on this record — Super Hot is WAY better than most of what we heard (which to be honest was just not very good, a subject we discuss below). Overall this is the best copy to ever hit the site, boasting plenty of soulful rock and roll energy.

Biggest Problems

(Other than noisy, scratched up vinyl of course.)

Well, for one thing, if you get the wrong stampers on this record, you will discover, as we did, that it’s clearly been mastered from a badly made dub. The “cassette-like” sound quality will not be hard to recognize. If you have stumbled onto one of those pressings, give up on it and try your luck elsewhere, making sure to note the bad stampers.

Most copies have a tendency to sound smeary and congested. Listen for good transients and not too much compression. Most copies are opaque, as well as dull up top; try to find the ones with some degree of transparency and as much top end extension as you can (the percussion will be helped most of all by the extended top).

And of course you need to find a copy that rocks, as this is a definitely a Rock Concert, although what it most reminds me of is Ray Charles doing a choice set of modern classics, mixing it up by off-handedly mixing in a few of his own. See how they all fit together? That’s how the pros do it. (The main pro in this case is Leon Russell, the mastermind of the whole operation. He clearly knows what he is doing.) (more…)

Leon Russell – Leon Russell

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  • With a solid Double Plus (A++) side one and a side two that’s right up there with it, this outstanding UK pressing of Russell’s debut release has much to recommend it
  • His first and best album, engineered by our man Glyn Johns, but it only sounds this brilliant on these UK original pressings – the domestic LPs are dead on arrival
  • Delta Lady, A Song for You and Roll Away the Stone are all here, which makes this a true Must Own for fans of the Classic Era
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Leon Russell never quite hit all the right notes the way he did on his eponymous debut. He never again seemed as convincing in his grasp of Americana music and themes, never again seemed as individual, and never again did his limited, slurred bluesy voice seem as ingratiating.”

*NOTE: A mark makes 3 loud pops at the beginning of track 4, Shoot Out On The Plantation.

The best copies of Russell’s debut album have excellent sound, as expected from a record engineered by Glyn Johns in 1970. Surprisingly, a number of copies suffered from somewhat dry sound, especially in the vocals. Our best copies are rich and Tubey Magical, which is the sound these songs need in order to sound their best. (more…)

Leon Russell’s Carney – Classic Analog from 1972

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  • The best copy to ever hit the site! Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side, better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) on the first
  • Carney as a recording is classic analog from 1972 – the best vintage copies are exceptionally rich, solid and smooth
  • Russell’s highest charting album, making it all the way to Number Two if you can believe that, no doubt on the strength of the hit single, “Tight Rope,’ but “This Masquerade” is on here too
  • “The music is good, the lyrics are entertaining, the album worthwhile. Leon Russell – the only man around that can pull it off when he’s not trying.” – Cameron Crowe (San Diego Door, Aug. 1972) 

 

If you have full-range speakers (the bigger the better) some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are weight and warmth. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

In other words, like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and misaligned tonearms that scrape off the high frequencies. But some copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, revealing to us the kind of sound we would never expect from an old Leon Russell record. (more…)

Joe Cocker (1969) – With More Than a Little Help from Leon Russell

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  • A killer 2-pack, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound, or close to it, from first note to last – they don’t get much better than this!
  • Here it is – the energy, space, and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound this music needs to work
  • You get Triple Plus sound for some of his best tracks here: Dear Landlord, Bird on the Wire, She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, and Hitchcock Railway
  • “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.” – 4 Stars

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music. (more…)