Top Artists – Leon Russell

Leon Russell’s Carney – Classic Analog from 1972

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  • 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) 
  • More Must Own titles from 1972 can be found here.

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Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

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  • This copy of Cocker’s sophomore release boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy with sides that play this quiet, and the first ever to hit the site with our condition grade of Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than this one?
  • Take a gander at this 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 plenty more where those came from
  • Records like these are getting awfully hard to find these days in audiophile playing condition, which explains why you so rarely see them on the site
  • 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.”

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…)

Joe Cocker / Mad Dogs and Englishmen – The Wrong Early Pressings Have Horrendous Sound

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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.)

All tracks were selected and mixed by none other than the legendary Glyn Johns.

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Mad Dogs, Englishmen and Copies with Bad Stampers

The weaker copies have a tendency to sound smeary and congested. Listen for good transients and not too much compression. Many are also somewhat 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 pop classics, mixing it up by off-handedly throwing in a few hits 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.)

Biggest Problems

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 transferred dub tape. 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. That’s how we do it; there is in fact no other way. Trial and error is the name of the record hunting game.

All tracks were engineered by the legendary Eddie Kramer, then selected and mixed by the equally legendary Glyn Johns. (more…)

Leon Russell – The Imports Are the Only Way to Go on Leon’s Debut

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

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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.

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.

Domestic Vs. Import

The domestic pressings of Leon Russell’s debut that we’d auditioned over the years always seemed flat, dry, and closed-in. We know that sound well; it’s the sound you hear on records that have been made from dubbed tapes (and it’s the hallmark of the modern Heavy Vinyl reissue, truth be told). That sound bores us to tears, and had us questioning what we could possibly have seen in the album in the first place. What happened to the glorious sound of early ’70s analog we were expecting to find?

It was only when we dropped the needle on a good British copy that the scales fell from our eyes. We found ourselves dumbfounded by the truly wonderful Tubey Magical richness, space and clarity of the real master tape. Finally, the key to the mystery had been found.

American artist, American pressing? A good rule of thumb but one that breaks down badly on this album, and for one obvious reason: the very British engineering of Glyn Johns.

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Leon Russell and the Shelter People – His Best Sounding Album?

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More of Our Favorite Artists’ Best Sounding Albums 

Some Records, Like This One, Are Just Too Noisy for Us to Find

  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) from first note to last on this original British pressing 
  • Engineered by Andy and Glyn Johns, this is his best sounding album, especially on a copy that sounds as good as this one does
  • No other Leon Russell album has the richness, the sweetness, and the Tubey Magic of this, his second album from 1971
  • “Russell practically invented what might as well be called Okie rock — with that shit-kicker Gospel sound, heavy on Baptist-revival piano and chorus [a template Elton John found more than a little useful for his first ten albums or so] – and it gets as good on this album as you’ll ever hear.”

Stranger in a Strange Land, which leads off side one, might just be the best song the man ever wrote. What a joy it is to hear it sound so big and powerful.

Domestic Vs. Import

The domestic pressings of Leon Russell and the Shelter People that we’d auditioned over the years always seemed flat, dry, and closed-in. We know that sound well; it’s the sound you hear on records that have been made from dubbed tapes (and it’s the hallmark of the modern Heavy Vinyl reissue, truth be told). It bores us to tears, and had us questioning what we could possibly have seen in the album in the first place. What happened to the glorious sound of early ’70s analog we were expecting to find? (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs And Englishmen

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  • 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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Dave Mason – What’s with All the Bad Vinyl and Murky Sound?

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Dave Mason

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.

We struggled for years with the bad vinyl (on the original colored vinyl pressings, those are the ones that have the potential to win shootouts) 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, old classical records, and old 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 do very well in our Hot Stamper shootouts indeed.

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Leon Russell – Self-Titled

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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…)

Dave Mason – Alone Together on MCA Heavy Vinyl

More of the Music of Dave Mason

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Dave Mason

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.

As for other records we got wrong, you can find plenty more here, under the heading: Live and Learn.

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…)