Top Artists – Neil Young

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…)

Neil Young – Neil Young – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

WOW! This copy has a KILLER A+++ side one backed with a strong A+ side two, both on unusually quiet vinyl! We just finished our first shootout in years for this great album and we came out with very little to show for it. It is INSANELY difficult to find great copies of this album, which is why we never have them available. 

The Loser and The Old Laughing Lady sound EXCELLENT on this copy.

Why is it so tough for us to find these? There’s a lot at play here, but one of the biggest issues is bad vinyl. Of the more than two dozen copies we identified as having the most potential (read: cleanest with good stampers), well over half of them had defective vinyl on side two that made at least the first song completely unlistenable. Again, those were our CLEANEST copies. And they were too noisy to play. What a mess!

Beyond that, the sound of most copies leaves a LOT to be desired. You get copies where Neil’s voice is so forward that it quickly becomes fatiguing and unpleasant. Many later pressings are just the opposite — Neil’s voice is so muffled, he is practically underwater. It’s the rare copy that puts him in the right place, and even then there’s still plenty of ways in which a copy can fail. (more…)

Neil Young- Tonight’s The Night – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

A KILLER COPY of one of the very toughest Neil Young albums to find with Hot Stamper sound is right here for the taking, folks. Side one earned an A++ grade while side two beat all comers to earn its A+++ rating. It is beyond difficult to find good sounding copies of this album. We see maybe one or two clean originals with Hot Stamper potential every year, so don’t expect to see a ton of these hitting the site. The music is OFF THE CHARTS, of course, and the sound here is AMAZING.   (more…)

Neil Young – Live Rust – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

SUPERB SOUND ACROSS ALL FOUR SIDES! Neil Young and Crazy Horse are really tearing it up here, and on a White Hot copy like this the sound is amazingly REAL. Full and spacious with plenty of weight and presence, this gets you as close to the stage as any copy of this album can.

This KILLER live set, the ultimate Neil Young concert collection, combines brilliant early material, such as “After the Gold Rush,” with his wonderful middle-era material, including the amazing “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” and “Tonight’s the Night.” (more…)

The Band – The Last Waltz

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  • The Band’s second live album returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) Hot Stamper sound or close to it on all SIX sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, dynamic and natural sounding with low end weight, midrange smoothness and powerful, punchy bass
  • Features an A-list of brilliant artists, including Van Morrison, Ringo Star, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters, just to name a few
  • 4 stars: “It’s the Band’s “special guests” who really make this set stand out — Muddy Waters’ ferocious version of “Mannish Boy” would have been a wonder from a man half his age, Van Morrison sounds positively joyous on “Caravan,” Neil Young and Joni Mitchell do well for their Canadian brethren, and Bob Dylan’s closing set finds him in admirably loose and rollicking form.”

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Neil Young – Harvest – Our Shootout Winner in 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame since 2008.

Harvest is undeniably one of the most beloved albums in all of classic rock. We get letters all the time from customers hoping to get their hands on Hot Stamper copies, but we’ll never have the supply to keep up with the demand. It’s a tough nut to crack, because a Hot Stamper Harvest has to get so many things right — the lovely pedal steel guitar on Out On The Weekend, the LSO on A Man Needs A Maid and There’s A World (engineered by Glyn Johns), Neil’s grungy electric guitar on Alabama, and so much more. 

Many copies we played would work for the heavy songs and then fall behind on the softer numbers. Others had gorgeous sound on the country-tinged numbers but couldn’t deliver any whomp for the rockers. (more…)

Neil Young – Hawks and Doves

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  • An exceptional pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and a solid Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The trick on this album is to find rich, smooth, edge-free sound, and this copy delivers those qualities like nothing else we played all day
  • “Hawks and Doves has a homey feel. “Little Wing,” bare and haltingly lyrical with its miked harp and unaccompanied acoustic, is simpler than anything on the folky Comes a Time, and the rest of the music is defined by Ben Keith’s laconic dobro and steel and Rufus Thobodeaux’s sawing fiddle.” Robert Christgau (A-)

On side one the second track has an especially intimate vocal, worth checking out. Flip the record over and listen to how full-bodied the piano is on the first track on side two. This is the sound of ANALOG. So many copies are dry and edgy, as is the CD I would guess, but here the sound is smooth, natural and enjoyable. (more…)

Neil Young – Zuma – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

The highest rated copy to ever hit the site, with Master Tape Sound on BOTH SIDES! This Reprise pressing has two INCREDIBLE SOUNDING (and QUIET) White Hot A+++ sides. If you are looking for a hard-rockin’ Neil Young album that boasts Demonstration Quality sound powerful to blow away just about any rock record in your collection, this is the hot ticket. Everything you could ever wanted from this album is here. It is nothing short of a knockout!

The sound is big, bold, and wide; it fills the room the moment the needle hits the grooves. The vocals have incredible immediacy and all of that Neil Young texture. The bass is AMAZING — deep, punchy, and tight, with lots of WHOMP. The clarity and transparency are stunning, and there’s tons of life and energy. Most copies we find do at least a few things right, but this is the rare copy that gets just about EVERYTHING right. (more…)

Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

A great (A++) side one backed with an AMAZING (A+++) side two, this is without a doubt one of the very best sounding copies of Rust Never Sleeps we have ever had the privilege of playing here at Better Records. Side two simply cannot be beat. Drop the needle on Powderfinger to hear the Crazy Horse sound at its best — the raging guitars, the big meaty bottom end, and the kind of immediacy that puts Neil Young and his band of misfits right in your listening room. 

Tubey Magic in 1979? Yes, analog was still alive and well then — both sides of this copy prove it. The disastrously synthesized ’80s were on their way but thankfully they hadn’t gotten here yet.

This is a live recording with minimal overdubs. Crazy Horse is of course widely recognized to be one of the all time killer concert acts of its day, so it’s a bit of a shame that most of the copies we played this week made us want to go to sleep. The not-so-Hot copies failed in a number of ways: thin guitars or vocals, overly dry or edgy sound, and insufficient presence, just to name a few. It was the rare copy that made us forget we were listening to a record and allowed us to really get into the music.

Needless to say we had this record playing very very loud. Twenty db less than at the live event, sure, at least, but very very loud for a 18×20 living room in the suburbs. (more…)

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This original Two Tone Super Hot Stamper pressing had condition issues — they all do don’t you know — but it also had KILLER Neil Young LIVE ROCK Sound. The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality, with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY. (Our commentary about Zuma to the left gets more heavily into the subject.) Suffice to say we love that sound.

Full-bodied and transparent, a combination that balances the best qualities of the recording beautifully, this copy has the goods. The sound is Big and Bold in the best Neil Young tradition, with studio ambience bouncing off the walls and into the open mics he favors. Not quite in the league with the likes of Gold Rush or Zuma, the best sounding tracks — and that does not mean all of them by any means — are a rough guide of what was to come as Neil and his engineer David Briggs got better and better, until they were As Good As It Gets. (For which they get no credit outside of Better Records of course.)

Sibilance Is Key

When the sibilance is cut clean, kept to a minimum and not grainy or gritty sounding, that’s the sign you have a copy with real Hot Stamper potential. This is one of those copies. (more…)