Top Artists – Sly and the Family Stone

Letter of the Week “I have often found myself listening to things on your albums that I never imagined would be captured on vinyl!”

More of the Music of Sly & The Family Stone

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ry Cooder

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

Hey Tom, 

Please accept my apology. This email has been written in my head many times before now. However, life, and its many responsibilities have forced their own priority and delayed the composition of this message.

I have long been a skeptical person. My personality, and profession encourage skepticism. That skepticism was high when I first purchased a Ry Cooder album from you in 2014. Prior to that first purchase, I had been conducting research to discover what album pressings were likely to contain the best sound. I do not recall where I initially viewed your banner advertisement (possibly stevehoffman.tv, [not a chance!] or audiokarma.org? [maybe]).

Either way, I clicked on the ad for your site and noticed a Ry Cooder album that I have always loved, and I took a chance. Boy was I surprised!

Since then I have purchased many albums from you, and I have been extremely happy with nearly all of them (even 95% accuracy is rare in the physical word, and you have easily achieved accuracy beyond that point). I have often found myself listening to things on your albums that I never imagined would be captured on vinyl!

Just as a side note, I want to thank you for including Sly Stone (a personal favorite), and War in your catalog of albums. Most audiophiles are not focused on those genres, but they are missing some interesting music. Thank you for your excellence!

Justin

Justin,

No apology needed, thanks for joining in the Hot Stamper fun.

Ry Cooder is popular with many audiophiles, but Sly and the Family Stone and War? Not so much.

And both artists are personal favorites of mine.

We created a special section for artists who don’t get the respect from audiophiles that we think they deserve, and we named it Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles so that there can be no confusion as to what kinds of records are compiled within it: great sounding ones with excellent music.

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Sly and The Family Stone – Stand

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  • Tired of the crude, congested, hard, harsh and otherwise unpleasant sound of most pressings? The solution is right here!
  • Stand, I Want To Take You Higher, Everyday People, You Can Make It If You Try — what a killer lineup of songs
  • 5 stars: “Stand! is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone’s early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group’s musical vision and accomplishment. …everything simply gels here, resulting in no separation between the astounding funk, effervescent irresistible melodies, psychedelicized guitars, and deep rhythms.”
  • This is a Must Own Soul Classic from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1969 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Sly and The Family Stone – Greatest Hits

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More Soul, Blues, and R&B

  • An INCREDIBLE pressing of this nearly perfect Sly record, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is huge – big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare, as well as cleaner, smoother, sweeter upper mids and a more extended top
  • You will find real high-resolution sound on this pressing, not the congestion, opacity and smear you would expect from a greatest hits compilation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This summarizes their first four albums perfectly, adding the singles ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime,’ ‘Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),’ and ‘Everybody Is a Star,’ possibly the loveliest thing they ever recorded… Greatest hits don’t come better than this — in fact, music rarely does.”

Both sides here have lively punchy drums; a big soundfield, front to back and side to side; tonally correct vocals (which obviously are key and sound edgy and thin on most copies), and real resolution to the sound overall, not the opacity and blur you would expect from a greatest hits compilation.

Also, and just as importantly, you lose the sibilance most copies suffer from and the smear on the horns goes away, thank goodness.

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Various Artists / Woodstock

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  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “As potent a musical time capsule as ever existed, it captures the three-day, 1969 concert event that united close to half a million members of what came to be known as the ‘Woodstock Generation’. It topped the Billboard Charts for four weeks and sold two million copies.”

You will have a very hard time finding a quieter copy!

Folks, it was a struggle, let me tell you! Not as much of a struggle as putting on the concert itself to be sure, but a struggle for those of us charged with finding good sound on this famously badly recorded album.

First off there are six sides to play for every copy.

Secondly the sound is problematical at best; figuring out what the best copies do well that the run-of-the-mill copies don’t takes quite a bit of concentration, and one has to stay focused for a long time (most of the day in fact). After a while it can really start to wear on your nerves. (more…)

Sly and The Family Stone / Greatest Hits – Three Labels, But Only One Wins Shootouts

More of the Music of Sly and the Family Stone

Reviews and Commentaries for Sly and the Family Stone

More Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Better on the Right Reissue

There are three Epic labels for this record. The originals are yellow, the first reissue is orange, and the last reissue is bluish black. I can tell you that only one of those labels produced the best sounding copies in our shootout.

Beyond that you will have to buy a sample of each and do your own shootout. Finding clean copies was quite difficult; it took us a long time to get enough to play, and, as we said, most pressings are dreadful. Those of you who like to read our commentaries and play along at home are going to have a rough time with this title. We sure did.

But the results are worth it, because we LOVE this music! Music just doesn’t get any better. If this album doesn’t lift your spirits, I can’t imagine what would. And note that many of the best songs here are exclusive to this greatest hits and cannot be found on any other album. That makes it a Must Own in our book.


FURTHER READING

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Other Important Lessons We’ve Learned from Record Experiments

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Sly & The Family Stone / There’s A Riot Going On – From the Analog Master!

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Sonic Grade: F

Ouch this record sounds bad. Some of the worst sound I have ever heard on Heavy Vinyl. The average cassette sounds better than this piece of crap.

My notes:

Side one: track one is thin and hard. Track two is not very tubey and the sibilance is harsh.

Side two: track two is full and tubey but track three shows that the sound may be tubey but it is very compressed.

But some people think that records that were made from the analog master tapes should sound good.  Especially those pressed on virgin vinyl.

What could possibly have gone wrong?

We have no idea. We just play the records and listen to them. We let them tell us if they are wrong or right.

This one told us it may have been made from good tapes — may have been, the good folks at Columbia records might be lying to us about that, it wouldn’t be the first time and I certainly would not put it past them — but it sure wasn’t made very well. (more…)

Sly and the Family Stone – Dance to the Music

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  • Dance to the Music makes its debut on the site, with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound and reasonably quiet vinyl
  • This early Epic Yellow label pressing blew them all out of the water – the hit “Dance to the Music” sounds better here than we have ever heard it – who knew?
  • “This is exuberant music, bursting with joy and invention. Consider this — prior to this record no one, not even the Family Stone, treated soul as a psychedelic sun splash, filled with bright melodies, kaleidoscopic arrangements, inextricably intertwined interplay, and deft, fast rhythms.”

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Sly and The Family Stone – Fresh

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Fresh

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

Both sides here had exceptionally good bass, and that earned it a lot of points in our shootout. The sound is punchy and full-bodied with excellent clarity. It’s also smooth, in the best tradition of analog from the early ’70s. This is the right sound for the music, no question about it.   (more…)

Sly & The Family Stone / There’s A Riot Going On – Reviewed in 2009

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This very nice looking Epic Demo LP sounds about as good as you could hope for from this famously compromised recording. Some tracks sound great and others don’t. It’s not a Demo Disc by any stretch but I can’t imagine it sounding much better than it does here; it’s tonally correct from top to bottom.

Almost any remastering engineer is going to want to brighten this up, but believe me that will ruin it and turn it into the dry, grainy, transistory crap that labels like Sundazed and Get Back like to put out. 

The music is wonderful, of course, earning 5 big stars in the All Music Guide.

You just don’t see too many clean copies of this one around. DJs and the like tend to snap them up as soon as they hit the bins. What’s a good party without a little Family Affair? 


AMG 5 Star Rave Review

And damn if this music isn’t funk at its deepest and most impenetrable — this is dense music, nearly impenetrable, but not from its deep grooves, but its utter weariness. Sly’s songwriting remains remarkably sharp, but only when he wants to write — the foreboding opener “Luv N’ Haight,” the scarily resigned “Family Affair,” the cracked cynical blues “Time,” and “(You Caught Me) Smilin’.” Ultimately, the music is the message, and while it’s dark music, it’s not alienating — it’s seductive despair, and that’s the scariest thing about it.

Sly & The Family Stone – Life – Reviewed in 2008

EXCELLENT MUSIC AND SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND! We picked up this Epic Yellow Label Promo LP just for fun because someone here remembered liking this album back in the day. When we cleaned it up and dropped the needle on it, we couldn’t believe how CORRECT it sounded. It’s not going to ever make anyone’s SuperDisc list, but if you dig funky, energetic, soul music from the late ’60s, you can’t do much better than this record. It’s right up there with Sly’s next two albums, Stand! and There’s A Riot Goin’ On.

The sound is lively with wonderful presence. You can really hear the room around the handclaps and lots of ambience around the voices. The bottom end is tight and punchy — just what the doctor ordered for this kind of music. The electric guitars have a great, meaty texture that takes a song like Dynamite to new heights. There’s just a bit of congestion in the craziest parts of the songs, but overall there’s surprisingly low distortion here. The top end could use just a bit more extension, so add a click of treble to make the sound even better.  (more…)