Top Artists – Neil Young

Neil Young – Live Rust

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  • A superb copy of this Neil Young classic, with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Not many recordings, live or otherwise, give you this kind of unvarnished, front-row experience
  • This KILLER live set, the ultimate Neil Young acoustic and electric concert collection, combines brilliant early material (After the Gold Rush) with wonderful later songs such as the amazing “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” and Hey Hey, My My and Tonight’s the Night
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic, just check the tracklisting and get ready to hear these NY classics come to life

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When I (We?) First Started Doing Shootouts, They Would Sometimes Go on for Days

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Reviews and Commentaries for After the Gold Rush

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Our first Hot Stamper listing from back in 2005 talked about what a struggle it was doing them at first. Back then, with not much in the way of staff, I often had to put the records on the table one at a time and do all the listening and note-taking myself. For our first Hot Stamper listing I wrote:

A record like this might go through 4 or 5 stages of cleaning and listening and cleaning again. I spent many hours listening to the various copies I played over the course of two days, first one track, then another, this copy, then that one. There’s no other way to do it. There’s no shortcut. There’s no substitute for hard work.

If you can call it that. It ain’t too hard playing a great album over and over again. Some people — myself included — might even call it fun. And now I love this album more than I ever did. I feel like I have come to know it. I’m positively thrilled to finally know how good it really is!

Isn’t that why we audiophiles go through all this shite, as the Brits say? When I hear a piece of familiar music sound better than I ever thought I would hear it, better than I ever imagined it, it’s everything to me. It’s the biggest thrill I know of in audio. It’s what I live for. If you like that feeling, this is the record for you!

One of Those Records

Is this one of those records in your collection that you wished had better sound, because the music is so wonderful? Well it does have better sound — just not on the copy you own.

The reason a record like this needs to sell for this kind of serious bread is because there just aren’t that many clean copies that have survived; there aren’t that many copies with these stampers; and there aren’t that many copies that were pressed just right, the way this one was. I’ve been picking up originals of this record for 20 years. I pick up every clean copy that I see. People loved this album and beat it to death. Who can blame them? It’s a masterpiece. I’d say it’s actually a better album than Harvest, and Harvest is about as good as it gets.

I don’t know how long it’s going to be before I find another copy that sounds like this one, but I’m guessing it’s going to be a long time. How many bad domestic rock records did I have to play in order to find a record that sounds like this? A hundred? More?! Who knows? It was a lot, that’s for damn sure.


MORE MUST OWN TITLES

Well Recorded Rock & Pop Albums – The Core Collection

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Buffalo Springfield / Retrospective – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series, with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Retrospective.

Here are some albums on our site you can buy with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

Extracting all the midrange magic from a legendary album and Desert Island Disc like this should be the goal of every right-thinking audiophile.

Who cares what’s on the TAS Super Disc List? I want to play the music that I love, not because it sounds good, but because I love it.

And if the only way to find good-sounding clean copies of typically poorly-mastered, beat-to-death records like this is to go through a big pile of them, well then, I guess that’s what we will have to do.

We’ve never heard a copy of this album that truly qualifies as a Demo Disc, but some of the songs can sound superb — Kind Woman and I Am A Child come immediately to mind. The recording, like so many from the ’60s, may not be perfect, but it’s so full of midrange magic, ambience and sweetness that the musical values of the recording are communicated effortlessly and completely — assuming you have a good copy.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

For What It’s Worth

Almost all copies have surface noise issues at the start of this song.

Mr. Soul

The aggressive quality of the screaming crowd at the beginning of this track is a dead giveaway of the poor sound found on most pressings. When the screaming is clean, undistorted and extends well up top, you have a contender. Add bass, some tubey magic to the midrange and then you can call it a Hot Stamper.

How hot is another question entirely, but if you get this far, you are definitely in the majors. The typical pressing of this album is strictly bush league.

Sit Down, I Think I Love You

On the best copies the tape hiss is clearly audible and tonally correct; this is the first thing you will notice if you have a Hot Stamper. The second thing is how much the guitars “ring”. On the higher rez copies the guitars have some of the loveliest tone you can find on any Springfield album. (more…)

The Stills-Young Band / Long May You Run – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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Side one is highly resolving; the breathy vocals are a clear indication that there is simply more information on this side than the other copies we played. The tonal balance is correct. It’s not brighter, there’s just more “there” there. 

The second track is even richer and smoother, with lovely studio space for the band to stretch out into. The second side has good lower midrange weight, which serves to keep things smooth and full-bodied. The first track has that “live in the studio” sound that we love so much about vintage rock records.

It’s also big and clear, which means it’s getting the sound right in the most important areas. (more…)

Neil Young – Comes A Time

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  • A STUNNING copy of Neil Young’s 1978 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from first note to last
  • Drop the needle on Comes A Time or Look Out For My Love and hear how rich, warm and Tubey Magical the sound is
  • The best copies of Comes a Time are the sonic equal of the best recordings in Neil’s catalog – and that’s saying a lot
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Comes a Time finally was the Neil Young album for the millions of fans who had loved Harvest, an acoustic-based record with country overtones and romantic, autobiographical lyrics, and many of those fans returned to the fold, enough to make Comes a Time Young’s first Top Ten album since Harvest.”

Here’s a copy of Comes A Time that actually delivers the kind of Tubey Analog Magic you get from the good pressings of his earlier albums.

This superb Demo Disc has been overlooked by the audiophile press for forty years. The best-sounding Neil Young records — just look in our Hot Stamper listings to find them — have Demo Disc sound to beat the band. I defy anyone to play me a better-sounding record than Zuma or Gold Rush. Analog doesn’t get any more magical.

On the best copies, all the Demo Disc qualities are here: breathy vocals with solid body; huge amounts of ambience; super-transparency; dynamics; note-like punchy bass — the list goes on and on.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

The All Music Guide is right on the money with their four and a half star assessment. We also wholeheartedly agree that this is the True Successor to Harvest, and would add that it’s the only Neil Young album to merit that distinction. To be blunt about it, Harvest Moon is no Comes a Time. (more…)

Neil Young – Freedom

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  • Freedom finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Freedom, which was a major critical and commercial comeback after a decade that had confused reviewers and fans, seemed to be a selection of the best tracks from several different unissued Young projects. …[W]hat made it all work was that Young had once again written a great bunch of songs. The romantic numbers were carefully and sincerely written. The long imagistic songs were evocative without being obvious.”

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Buffalo Springfield – Retrospective – The Best Of…

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  • STUNNING throughout with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides of this original Atco pressing
  • Big, full-bodied, clear and present, the Tubey Magical richness of the best pressings is a joy to hear on modern highly resolving equipment
  • Kind Woman and I Am A Child are just two of the best sounding songs – listen to all that space around the voices and instruments
  • And the Pysch stuff – On the Way Home, Broken Arrow and Expecting to Fly – is even more three-dimensional
  • 5 stars on Allmusic – this is Must Own Music from one of the most groundbreaking and accomplished groups of the late-’60s (even though they never cracked the Top 40 Album chart)

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Neil Young – After The Gold Rush

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Hot Stamper Pressings of After the Gold Rush Available Now

  • This KILLER original Reprise pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • This is the vinyl embodiment of the Classic Analog Rock sound we love – smooth, rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and clear
  • 5 Stars in Allmusic, Top 100, and a Demo Disc that is guaranteed to knock your socks off
  • “It’s a magnificent, style-setting album which saw the Canadian’s elevation to rock hero. For those who like their emotion raw.”

Folks, a Hot Stamper collection of the Greatest Rock Records of All Time would not be complete without a knockout copy this album. That’s why it’s been a Better Records All-Time Top Ten Title right from the start. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / So Far – Listening in Depth

Hot Stamper Pressings of So Far Available Now

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening 

For example, on Find the Cost of Freedom the best copies have DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND. You could say everything that needs to be said about the beauty of analog with this one track alone. It’s not even two minutes long, but it’s two really wonderful minutes of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young at the height of their powers. The voices should sound as sweet and as silky as any CSN three part (four part?) harmony you have ever heard. This song rivals Helplessly Hoping for vocal blend.

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In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Déjà Vu

When you get a good copy of this album, this song sounds like it was lifted right off of a Hot Stamper copy of Deja Vu itself. It’s so rich and Tubey Magical you’d swear it couldn’t get any better. Huge amounts of deep bass. Acoustic guitars that ring for days. Midrange magic to die for. Not many of them sound this way, unfortunately.

If I could indulge in some more MoFi and Half-Speed bashing for a moment, the bass “solo” at the end of this song is a great test for bass definition. The notes are relatively high, and it’s easy for them to sound blurred and wooly. The MoFi, like virtually all Half-Speed mastered records, has a problem with bass definition. If you own the MoFi, listen for how clearly defined the notes are at the end of this track. Then play any other copy, either of So Far or Deja Vu. It’s a pretty safe bet that the bass will be much more articulate. I know how bad the MOFI is in this respect. Rarely do “normal” records have bass that bad.

Stephen Barncard Does It Again

Listen to this song and compare it to anything on the Barncard-engineered first solo LP by David Crosby. That is the sound of Barncard’s engineering — open, spacious, rich, sweet; tons of deep bass; absolutely no trace of phony eq on vocals; acoustic guitars that ring for days — the man is a GENIUS. Thank god he was involved with music of this quality. If only more of the LP pressings did a better job of revealing the exquisite beauty of the recordings themselves. (I suppose that burden must be carried by the few Hot Stamper copies we can dig up.) (more…)

Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, making this one of the more enjoyable copies we played in our recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s not easy to find copies that get both the quieter, acoustic material and the big, rockin’ Crazy Horse stuff right, but this one managed it
  • 5 stars: “His strongest collection since Tonight’s the Night, its obvious antecedent was Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, and, as Dylan did, Young divided his record into acoustic and electric sides while filling his songs with wildly imaginative imagery.”

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