Top Artists – The Band

The Band – Music From Big Pink

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Forget all those veiled, lifeless, ambience-free, vague sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings – THIS is the sound of the album
  • This copy resolves the intricacies of the recording that make repeated plays the order of the day for us audiophiles
  • 5 stars: “…as soon as “The Weight” became a singles chart entry, the album and the group made their own impact, influencing a movement toward roots styles and country elements in rock. Over time, [the album] came to be regarded as a watershed work in the history of rock, one that introduced new tones and approaches to the constantly evolving genre.”

We guarantee you have never heard Music from Big Pink sound as good as it does on this very copy. There’s plenty of the all-important Tubey Magic and real weight to the bottom. You’ll have a VERY hard time finding one that sounds this good, if our experience is any guide.

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Band record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space); and last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated recording. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing?”

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

Hey Tom, 

I am an avid vinyl cat and have been all of my life. I am super curious about your vinyl. I have a pretty good ear myself for top-shelf LP’s but I am just curious as to why you never point out a Bob Ludwig “RL” pressing? Or maybe you have and I just have not noticed?

Thanks so much for a response and much respect for what you are doing and selling…

Dana

Dana, we explained it here, in a little commentary we like to call The Book of Hot Stampers.

We give out no stamper numbers, no information about cutting engineers as a rule, although we do break that rule from time to time. Here is an excerpt of a listing for Rock of Ages from way back when:

What We Thought We Knew

In 2006 we put up a copy with with what we implied were Hot Stampers (before we were using the term regularly) on at least one side:

Side One sounds tonally right on the money! This is as good as it gets… Robert Ludwig mastered all of the originals of these albums, but some of them have bad vinyl and don’t sound correct.

I only played side one of the album, so I can’t speak for the other sides, but what I heard was sound about as good as I think this album can have.

There are some truths along with some half-truths in the above comments, and let’s just say we would be quite a bit more careful in our language were we writing about that copy today.

One side is no indication whatsoever as to the quality of the other three, and without the kind of cleaning technologies we have available to us today, I wouldn’t want to make a “definitive” sonic assessment for any of them.

When you play uncleaned or poorly cleaned records you’re hearing a lot of garbage that has nothing to do with the sound of the actual vinyl. (Note that we are joking above: there is no such thing as a definitive sonic assessment of a record, from us or anybody else.)

Ludwig cut many bad sounding records. Roxy Music Avalon original domestic pressings are RL and are made from dubs — and sound like it.  Same with Dire Straits’ Alchemy. Some RL Houses of the Holy sound amazing and some only decent.  It’s the nature of the beast. (more…)

The Band – Rock Of Ages

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  • Superb sound throughout with all four sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The best copies are surprisingly TRANSPARENT — just listen to all the “room” around the vocals on these four sides
  • A classic double live album with a consistently well-arranged and energetically performed set of songs
  • 4 stars” “It could be argued that it captured the spirit of the Band at the time in a way none of their other albums do.”
  • One of the few copies from our shootout that had no marks that play, a rarity for this title!

The performances are uniformly excellent, and the live five-piece horn section adds a lot to the fun and energy of the music. (The same can be said for Little Feat’s live album, Waiting for Columbus. We’ve been offering Hot Stampers on that album for years; it’s the best way to hear the band at their best, outside the studio.)

There’s real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals, in-your-listening-room presence, and plenty of rock and roll energy.

All four sides here are bigger, richer, clearer and smoother than most of the other copies we played. The energy level is off the charts. This is The Band playing live at the peak of their powers. Hearing this killer pressing should be unlike anything you have experienced before, unless you saw them back in the day, more than forty years ago, and how many of us can honestly say we did? (Honestly being the operative word there.)

It should go without saying that this is music that belongs in any popular music collection. My favorite song here is “I Don’t Want To Hang Up My Rock And Roll Shoes.” It’s The Band at their best — LIVE. (more…)

The Band – Stage Fright

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Both sides boast Tubey Magical richness, musical tonality and big bottom end
  • Stage Fright and The Shape I’m In are among the most well-known tracks here and they sound out of this world on a copy like this
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… their most nakedly confessional [album]. It was certainly different from their previous work, which had tended toward story-songs set in earlier times, but it was hardly less compelling for that.”

(more…)

The Band – The Band

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  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sonic grades or BETTER on both sides, this is an outstanding copy of an absolutely essential album
  • Big bass, rich meaty guitars and smooth silky vocals make this a Band album like you have never heard before
  • Not only is the sound superb, but both sides here play Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as we can find them
  • 5 stars: “As had been true of the first album, it was the Band’s sound that stood out the most… The arrangements were simultaneously loose and assured, giving the songs a timeless appeal…”

The lucky person who takes this record home is in for quite a shock. This very pressing is proof positive that this album is much better recorded than the audiophile community gives it credit for being. How could anyone judge the sound of the record without a great copy such as this one to play?

This vintage pressing has no trace of phony sound from top to bottom. It’s raw and real in a way that makes most pop records sound processed and wrong. These two sides have plenty of the qualities we look for in an album by The Band. Energy, presence, transparency, Tubey Magic… you name it, you will find it here. Its biggest strength — and the biggest strength of the album as a whole — is its wonderful, natural midrange.

And the bass is HUGE. On the best copies it always is.

Drop the needle on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down or King Harvest Has Surely Come and get ready for some serious Analog Magic. This is a Band album like you have never heard before. (more…)

Bob Dylan and The Band – The Basement Tapes

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on ALL FOUR SIDES, making this the best copy to ever hit the site
  • All four sides are incredibly big, full-bodied, clean and clear with plenty of extension on both ends
  • … the music here (including the Band’s) is astonishingly good. The party line on The Basement Tapes is that it is Americana, as Dylan and the Band pick up the weirdness inherent in old folk, country, and blues tunes, but it transcends mere historical arcana through its lively, humorous, full-bodied performances. Dylan never sounded as loose, nor was he ever as funny as he is here, and this positively revels in its weird, wild character… among the greatest American music ever made.” – All Music

This vintage Columbia Double LP pressing has some of the very best sound we’ve ever heard for this album. Of course, given the nature of these recordings, you don’t get stunning sonics along the line of, say, Magical Mystery Tour or Dark Side Of The Moon, but at least you get to hear these great songs sound the way they were intended to, without the complications of bad mastering and pressing getting in the way. Most of the copies we’ve heard wouldn’t be fit to list on the site at any price, but we felt strongly that this copy did justice to the music in a way that the typical pressing does not. While this may not be a Demo Disc, it’s MUCH better sounding than most copies we’ve come across. We’ve played a bunch of these over the years and most of them paled in comparison to this one.

This is of course a famous album, with The Band backing up Dylan (and adding some of their own material) in the famous Big Pink House which would later be the place where The Band’s 1st album was born. (more…)

Letter of the Week – The Band, Leon Russell and Eagles

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

Hey Tom,   

Thank you for my most recent order and the work you do. A few specific observations on the records just received.

The Band, The Band:

This record has been a lifetime favorite of mine, since the early days when I listened to it all the time back in the 1970’s. I of course had a copy, and the MoFi release (which was not made from the Master Tapes because after they made the rock-documentary on the making of this record, someone literally lost the master tape, and the MoFi was made after that unfortunate event!).

When your RL copy arrived yesterday the first thing I noticed was the texture of the album cover. The copy I had was a smooth reproduction and the easy addition RL copy is more richly textured. When I took the album out of the outer sleeve the album cover alone took me back. Then I played it. I expected deeper RL style bass, and it delivers big time. Up on Cripple Creek took my breath away at the opening of the song.

Less anticipated was the enhanced detail in the midrange. I don’t believe I have ever heard the vocals so clear and smooth. Really sounds great, thank you!

Leon Russell and The Sheltered [sic] People:

This too is a record that has been a regular part of my musical diet since the 1970’s. Sadly, I have never been able to find a decent copy, and often played it on CD. I have never seen a copy on the Better Records site, and my guess is they are fairly rare for you as well. The English copy you sold me sounds significantly better than anything I have ever heard. The copy has very little surface noise and the dynamic range is fantastic. The echoing energy in the piano chords Leon bangs out on Sweet Emily is just one example of the richness this copy offers. Thank you!

The Eagles, The Eagles:

I am a huge fan of Desperado and On The Border, owning Hot Stamper versions of each. The direction the band took after On The Border is not for me, so they have always been a 2-album band for me. Damn good 2 album band, but just the 2.

The first album I once had the record and never played it, eventually selling it back to the local record stores. I have a copy on CD for the car, and even that I find myself not listening to it all the way through. After reading all that you guys have written on the record I decided to give it a try.

In short, it has never sounded like this on my system and the band is now a 3-record band in my house. Thank you! (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.”

(more…)

The Band – Music From Big Pink

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  • Two strong Double Plus (A++) sides AND quiet vinyl make this a consistently impressive copy of this all-time classic album
  • Forget all those lifeless, ambience-free, vague sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings – THIS is the sound of the album
  • It’s big, punchy and dynamic, and resolves all the intricacies of the recording that make it so interesting to us audiophiles
  • 5 stars on Allmusic: “Over time, Music from Big Pink came to be regarded as a watershed work in the history of rock, one that introduced new tones and approaches to the constantly evolving genre.”

We guarantee you have never heard Music from Big Pink sound remotely as good as it does on this very copy. (more…)

Bob Dylan & The Band – Before The Flood

More Bob Dylan / More The Band

Before The Flood

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  • An outstanding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on sides one and four and Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Dylan and The Band team up for exuberant versions of many classics from each of their repertoires – a copy like this lets you appreciate just how wonderful the performances are  
  • “Dylan reworks, rearranges, reinterprets these songs in ways that are still disarming, years after its initial release… “
  • “Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat.”

One of the great Live Classic Rock albums of all time in Hot Stamper form! We played a ton of these and found that most copies bored us to death. Some lacked energy, even more never opened up, and most of them were too thin-sounding. We had to play a HUGE stack of copies to come up with a few good ones, and on a double album like this, that’s a TON of work. (more…)