Top Artists – Stephen Stills

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…)

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)

(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…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides – hard to find this one quiet nowadays, so fans should take note than not many unscratched copies are going to make it to the site
  • 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.”

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four! (more…)

Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout, this copy of Still’s superb debut is doing just about everything right
  • Love the One You’re With and Sit Yourself Down are to die for, but there’s really not a bad track on the album
  • A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns – this and Deja Vu are the very definition of Big Production Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Listening to this album three decades on, it’s still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them.”

When we say it’s getting harder and harder to find clean copies of albums such as this in the bins of our local record stores, we are not kidding. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Last Time Around

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides and fairly quiet vinyl, this was clearly one of the most enjoyable copies we played in our last shootout
  • Relaxed, rich and tubey, yet clear, this is the kind of sound you always wanted from The Buffalo Springfield but had no way to hear, until now
  • Some of the best songs the band ever wrote are right here: I Am A Child, Kind Woman and too many more to list
  • If Buffalo Springfield Again deserves a Five Star rating then Last Time Around does too – it’s equally brilliant, and a real Desert Island Disc for yours truly

These two sides are relaxed, rich and tubey, giving you exactly what you would expect from a Top Quality pressing — without the noise, veiling and distortion that you’re used to hearing on the copies you picked up locally, or the one you mistreated back in the day (didn’t we all?).

When you get hold of the right copy and know how to clean it right, you find that some of these pressings are a damn sight better than the most audiophiles think they are.

The kind of MIDRANGE MAGIC on this pressing let us hear into the music in a way we (and you too I’m guessing) never imagined was possible.

Most copies have no bass, no real top, and are compressed so badly they sound more like cardboard than vinyl. But not this copy — it breaks the mold, revealing to the world (well, our world anyway, the world at Better Records) that those badly recorded Buffalo Springfield records from the ’60s weren’t so badly recorded after all. (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…)

You Too Can Get an Old Buffalo Springfield Record to Sound This Good

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Not long ago we found a White Hot Stamper pressing of Last Time Around that really blew our minds. We were surprised to hear some of the breathiest, silkiest vocals we’ve ever heard on ANY Buffalo Springfield album, with startling presence and immediacy to boot! Side two had BY FAR the most energy and life of any side of any copy we’ve ever played. Man, does it ROCK.

Even as recently as 2010 we would not have expected to find that kind of sound on a vintage ’60s pop/rock album. We know better now.

When you get hold of the right copy and know how to clean it and play it right, these vintage pressings (well, the White Hot ones anyway) are a damn sight better than the vast majority of audiophiles think they are. How is such apparently never-before-possible sound being heard now, 45 years after the record came out? Our answer can be found below. 

The kind of MIDRANGE MAGIC found on this pressing let us hear into the music in a way we (and you too I’m guessing) never imagined was possible.

Most copies have no bass, no real top, and are compressed so badly they sound more like cardboard than vinyl. But not this copy — it breaks the mold, revealing to the world (well, our world anyway, the world at Better Records) that those badly recorded Buffalo Springfield records from the ’60s weren’t so badly recorded after all. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Stephen Stills and Abraxas

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

Hey Tom, 

Received the LPs today from Stephen Stills and Santana. Definitely a very and unexpected high quality. I grew up with these LPs. Unfortunately these can no longer be played because of the tobacco of the joints that were left behind. (more…)