Top Artists – Neil Young

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • The “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills. Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

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Neil Young – Time Fades Away

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  • A stunning vintage pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) Front Row Center sound on both sides
  • A huge step up from every other copy we played in our shootout – full-bodied, smooth and musical, the classic sound of Neil Young at his performing peak
  • Never released on CD, this is one of the toughest Neil Young albums to find in the bins, especially with sound like this
  • 4 stars: “Time Fades Away ranks with the bravest and most painfully honest albums of his career — like the tequila Young was drinking on that tour, it isn’t for everyone, but you may be surprised by its powerful effects.”

Unlike most “live” albums this one was made direct to tape, with no fixes or overdubs, and on the best pressings that warts-and-all approach really pays off. There’s good weight, real openness, and the tonality on these better copies is both rich and sweet. This kind of sound can put you right in the front row.

Finding a copy like this is no walk in the park. The stamper numbers are all over the map, providing little if any guidance. Also, since the album didn’t sell all that well and was never released on CD, there just aren’t that many clean copies floating around. Complicating matters even further, the eight songs here were recorded at seven different shows, so the sound, of course, varies a bit from track to track. It took a long time and a lot of work to make sense of it all, but you Neil Young fanatics are going to get a thrill out of the sound on a Hot Stamper copy — guaranteed. (more…)

Neil Young – American Stars ‘N’ Bars

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  • This stunning Shootout Winning copy boasts Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Side one of this album was recorded just before Comes A Time and it shows — the music is country-flavored and relaxed
  • Side two’s material was recorded throughout the ’70s and has more of the dark, heavy sound that we know and love from albums such as Zuma and Tonight’s The Night
  • Superb sound for some really great songs, including Like A Hurricane and Star Of Bethlehem 

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 3 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, The Old Country Waltz.

This album consists of tracks recorded over the course of three years so naturally there is some variation between songs, particularly on side two. Star Of Bethlehem, one of the most underrated Neil Young songs ever, sounds great here with strong vocal presence and an open, spacious top end.

Side one of this album was recorded just before Comes A Time and it shows — the music is country-flavored and relaxed. Side two’s material was recorded throughout the ’70s and has more of the dark, heavy sound that we know and love from albums such as Zuma and Tonight’s The Night. The tracks on side two seem to have a little more sonic potential. (more…)

The Dynamic Energy of Neil Young and His Crazy Pals – They’re LIVE in the Studio

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Hot Stampers are all about finding those rare and very special pressings that manage to represent the master tape at its best.

Notice I did not say ACCURATELY represent the master tape, because the master tape may have faults that need to be corrected, and the only way to do that is in the mastering phase.

I can tell you without fear of contradiction that fidelity to the master tape should never be, and rarely is, the goal of the mastering engineer.

Which, as a practical matter, means that flat transfers are usually a mistake.

Chesky is famous for boasting that their early remasterings of the Living Stereo catalog were flat transfers. They sure sound flat all right. If there is a more clueless bunch of audiophiles on the planet than the people running Chesky you would have a hard time proving it to me.

But I digress.

Whether we like or dislike the presentation of any given recording is of course a matter of taste. When listening we constantly make judgments about the way we think the recording at any moment ought to sound, based on what we like or don’t like about the sound of recordings in general and how our stereos deal with them. (more…)

Neil Young – After the Gold Rush – Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, there are plenty).

I won’t go into too much detail discussing the sound of this new pressing because, frankly, it’s just not worth anybody’s time, even mine, and I do this for a living. 

We know what the good pressings of the album sound like, we play them regularly, and this newly remastered vinyl is missing almost everything that makes the album essential to any Right Thinking Music Lover’s collection.

We can summarize the sound of this awful record in one word: boring. Since some of you may want to know more than that we’ll be happy to break it down for you a bit further.

What It Does Right

It’s tonally correct.

Can’t think of anything else… (more…)

Neil Young – On The Beach

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  • A KILLER early pressing of this Neil Young Classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The title track has that live-in-the-studio sound we love about Zuma, but in this case it sounds like it was recorded at three in the morning in a room full of pot smoke
  • 5 stars on Allmusic: “…where Time Fades Away was embattled and Tonight’s the Night mournful, On the Beach was savage and, ultimately, triumphant… he was saying goodbye to despair, not being overwhelmed by it.”

Folks, we don’t find too many Hot Stamper copies of this great album, so don’t assume that another one will pop right up once this one goes. This album may not be as well-known as Harvest or After The Gold Rush, but it’s every bit as worthy of a place in your collection — especially when it sounds this good!

Prime Time For Neil Young

I want to take a moment to acknowledge the string of superb studio albums Neil released from 1970 to 1976. I mean, look at these titles: After The Gold Rush, Harvest, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma. Not a dog in the lot, to say the least. I can’t think of anyone else besides Led Zep (first five titles) and The Beatles (pick ’em!) who put out at least this many killer albums consecutively. We consider each of those albums a work of genius, and we can proudly claim to have found copies of each with the sonic credentials necessary to bring you these masterpieces at their absolute best — exactly the way you want to hear them.

That Live In The Studio Sound

On the best copies, the title track is OUT OF THIS WORLD. It’s got that live-in-the-studio sound we recognize and love from Zuma, but in this case it sounds like it was recorded at three in the morning in a room full of pot smoke! When you play a Hot Stamper copy, the soundfield is HUGE — big, wide, and deep — and there’s lots of space around each of the instruments. You will not believe all the studio ambience, and you can probably catch a contact high from it! (Results may vary.) (more…)

Neil Young – After the Gold Rush – Listening in Depth

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Folks, a Hot Stamper collection of the Greatest Records of All Time would not be complete without a knockout copy of After the Gold Rush. That’s why it’s been a Better Records All Time Top Ten Rock Title right from the start. We built our reputation on finding Demo Disc Quality recordings like this. Who else can offer you a copy of the album that delivers this kind of ANALOG MAGIC?

Side One

Tell Me Why

Just listen to those Tubey Magical acoustic guitars. You know right away that you’re about to have a sublime musical experience. Nothing sounds that way but analog. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Again – Extracting the Midrange Magic

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So many copies of this album sound so bad and play so poorly that most audiophiles have given up by now and written it off as a lost cause.

But we didn’t. We kept at it. Our main motivation? The music.

Extracting the midrange magic from a album 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 copies of typically poorly-mastered, beat-to-death records such as this one is to go through a big pile of them, well then, I guess that’s what we’ll have to do. (more…)

Letter of the Week – After the Gold Rush and Beatles For Sale

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

Hey Tom, 

Just wanted to write and tell you how much I love that Neil Young After The Gold Rush White Hot Stamper I picked up last week. Really awesome. This ranks up with the best I’ve bought from you guys.

The sound is incredible. Neil’s voice is right in the room. The guitar sounds real and that harmonica is super. I love when he performs, just him and nobody else. I’m really stuck on Neil’s albums. The sound is just soooo good. I’m working on my system to get more out of these records.

Oh yeah, I picked up one of your “Beatles for Sale” albums for $65. Really nice for the money. Those Beatle albums can really be awesome. Have to get a White Hot Stamper Beatles album someday. (more…)

Neil Young – Zuma

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  • These Double Plus (A++) sides of Neil’s amazingly well recorded 1975 Masterpiece are guaranteed to floor audiophiles and Neil Young fans alike – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Zuma captures a kind of garage band purity that makes practically any other studio album you own sound processed and desiccated in comparison
  • For a hard-rockin’ Neil Young album with Demonstration Quality sound, you’ll have a hard time finding a better choice than a Hot Stamper pressing of Zuma
  • A Must Own Top 100 Title – just drop the needle on Danger Bird or Cortez the Killer to have your mind blown!

Can any one artist lay claim to TWO of the BEST SOUNDING rock albums ever made? Neil Young can!

After the Gold Rush and Zuma are DEMO DISCS and SUPER DISCS of the highest order, right up there with Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat, the other two albums by a single artist that deserve to be placed on that rarified plane.

The fact that Gold Rush and Zuma both involve Neil Young is doubtless not an accident. I would be very surprised to learn that he was not intimately involved with every aspect of the recording of both masterpieces, from the miking to the final mix and every step in between.

Presenting The Zuma Magic

Hot Stampers are all about finding the pressings that present the master tape at its best. Notice I did not say “represent” the master tape, because the master tape may have faults that need to be fixed, and the only way to do that is in the mastering.

The presentation of the music is, of course, a matter of taste. We make judgments about the way we think the record “ought” to sound, based on what we like or don’t like about recordings in general. Audiophiles listen for different things and ascribe to them higher and lower relative values based on their own preferences; we do the same. (more…)