Top Artists – The Band

The Band – The Last Waltz

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  • A vintage Palm Tree pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all SIX sides
  • Sides two through six are rich, dynamic and natural sounding with low end weight, midrange smoothness and powerful, punchy bass, and side one is not far behind in all those areas
  • 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.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Band, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this triple album from 1978 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1978 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • If you are more interested in the live album The Band recorded in 1972, we may have one in stock

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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 little in the way of 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 consistently) 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. They’re 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 / Music From Big Pink – Bad Bass Like This Is Just Annoying

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Roots Rock LPs with Hot Stampers Available Now

Sonic Grade: D

In 2012 the “new” MoFi put out another remastered Big Pink. Since their track record at this point is, to be honest, abysmal, we have not felt the need to audition it.

It’s very possible, even likely, that they restored some of the bass that’s missing from so many of the originals.

But bad half-speed mastered bass — poorly defined, never deep and never punchy — is that the kind of bass that would even be desirable?

To us, it is very much a problem. Bad bass is just plain annoying. Fortunately for us it is a problem we have to deal with much less often now that we’ve all but stopped playing half-speed mastered records.

(Here are some other records with exceptionally sloppy bass. If the bass on these records does not sound sloppy to you, you have your work cut out for you. Some of our favorite records for testing bass definition can be found here.)

Sucked Out Mids

The Doors first album was yet another obvious example of MoFi’s predilection for sucked-out mids. Scooping out the middle of the midrange has the effect of creating an artificial sense of depth where none belongs. Play any original Bruce Botnick engineered album by Love or The Doors and you will notice immediately that the vocals are front and center. 

The midrange suckout effect is easily reproducible in your very own listening room. Pull your speakers farther out into the room and farther apart and you can get that MoFi sound on every record you own. I’ve been hearing it in the various audiophile systems I’ve been exposed to for more than 40 years.

Nowadays I would place it under the general heading of My-Fi, not Hi-Fi. Our one goal for every tweak and upgrade we make is to increase the latter and reduce the former.

And note also that when you play your records too quietly, it results in an exaggerated, artificial sense of depth. That’s one of the main reasons we play them loud; we want to hear the pressings that have real presence and immediacy, because they’re the ones that are most likely to win our shootouts.

If you have any of our White Hot stampers you surely know what I’m talking about.


FURTHER READING

Records that Are Good for Testing Bass and Whomp

Records that Are Good for Testing Midrange Presence

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The Band / Northern Lights – Southern Cross

More of The Band

More Roots Rock

  • These sides are bigger, more natural, more warm and more solid than those of any other copy you’ve heard or your money back
  • This is The Band’s undiscovered gem, containing the most powerful tearjerker they ever wrote: “It Makes No Difference”
  • 4 stars: “…the Band’s finest since their self-titled sophomore effort … “Acadian Driftwood” stands out as one of Robertson’s finest compositions, the equal to anything else the Band ever recorded.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This album by The Band is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

Thankfully both sides here are rich and full-bodied. This pressing is not nearly as dry and flat as the vast majority of pressings we run across. Both sides have a nicely extended top end to go along with the weighty bottom. The guitars and keyboards are Tubey Magical as well, a quality we we focused on, and one that we believe is essential if the album is to sound its best. (more…)

The Band / Rock Of Ages – A Definitive Sonic Assessment?

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More Hot Stamper Pressings of Roots Rock Albums

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 vinyl itself.

Note that we are joking above: there is no such thing as a definitive sonic assessment of a record, from us or anybody else.

Bad Audiophile Thinking? We’ve done our share and then some.

We are firm believers in the idea that plenty of Audio Progress awaits you, but you must approach the problem rationally and put the necessary time and effort into it.

It is axiomatic with us that the more skeptical you become, the more successful you will be in pursuing this hobby of ours.

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The Band – “If I were to just buy one album by the Band this would be it for sure!”

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Reviews and Commentaries for Records that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

One of our good customers recently took our advice to Turn Up the Volume on this classic by The Band.

Hi Tom,

Wow. another winner!  But first I have to completely agree with you that this album has to be turned up!  When I started listening at a lower volume the soundstage was congested and small and the highs were hidden.

Crank it up and all of a sudden the entire room fills up with the Band.

I would not have imagined what a difference it would make by just turning up the volume.  The air around the vocals, as you pointed out, makes this album sing (pun intended).

A good test for me is when I don’t notice the speakers in my room but just hear the band on stage with no fake boundaries, and this is another one of those good examples.  The uber talented horn players on this album also add tremendously to the entire vibe of the album.

I seem to recall buying this record on CD decades ago and being so disappointed that there was no bass and no dynamics to the music.

Fast forward 3 decades plus and I feel I finally hearing this album for the first time and understanding why all of the reviews were so positive back in the day (but I bet most reviewers did not hear it the way it should sound!).  So glad you told me to take a chance with this one.  If I were to just buy one album by the Band this would be it for sure!

Rob

Dear Rob,

The differences you heard are the same ones we heard, and it’s the main reason we never tire of imploring audiophiles everywhere — not just our customers, everybody — to acquire the biggest dynamic speakers they can find (or horns; although I am not a fan, they will probably do the job) and turn them up good and loud.

How on earth is a speaker system like this one going to reproduce a live rock concert with a horn section behind them?

If you want to hear Rock of Ages sound the way it should, you need big speakers that can play loud to do it.

Thanks for your letter,

TP

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The Band – Rock Of Ages

More of The Band

More Roots Rock LPs

  • A superb vintage Capitol pressing of Rock of Ages with Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides
  • The best copies are surprisingly TRANSPARENT – just listen to all the “room” around the vocals on these four sides
  • With tracks from their first four albums, as well as a few handpicked favorites (“Don’t Do It”), not to mention killer horn charts on 11 songs, this is a superb overview of the group’s uniquely rootsy rock
  • A classic double live album with a consistently well-arranged and energetically performed set of songs – if you could only have one album by The Band, wouldn’t it have to be this one?
  • 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.”

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 just plain bigger, richer, clearer and smoother than 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 outstanding pressing should be unlike anything you have experienced before, unless you saw them back in the day, some fifty 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.

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Bob Dylan – Planet Waves

More Bob Dylan

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing of Dylan’s 1974 release 
  • With wonderfully rich, natural tonality, these early pressings are by far the best way to hear the album sound the way it should
  • Lots of great material on this one, not sure why it doesn’t get more respect: On A Night Like This, Going Going Gone, Forever Young, You Angel You… these are seriously good, very well-recorded songs
  • “Reteaming with the Band, Bob Dylan winds up with an album that recalls New Morning more than The Basement Tapes, since Planet Waves is given to a relaxed intimate tone…”

This is an excellent recording, boasting not only great Bob Dylan sound, but some of the best sound for The Band that you’ll ever hear. That’s right, Dylan is backed by Messrs. Robertson, Danko, Helm, Manuel and Hudson on this album, and I don’t know when we’ve ever heard such audiophile quality sound from that crew. It’s a real treat to hear their signature styles without the cardboard-y, compressed quality we usually find on their albums. (more…)

The Band – Stage Fright

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  • Both sides boast Tubey Magical richness, correct tonality and plenty of 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.”

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The Band Rock Of Ages – Turn Up Your Volume, Now It Rocks!

Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

Most copies of this album do not have a boosted bottom or top, which means that at normal listening levels — depending on how you define that term — they can sound pretty flat.

This is one album that needs to be turned up, obviously not to the levels of a live rock concert, but up about as loud as you can until you can get the bass and the highs to come out.

We found ourselves adding more and more level in order to get the sound to come to life, and it was playing pretty loud before the sound was right.  

But it’s SO GOOD when it’s loud. Why the hell would you not want to crank it up and ROCK OUT?

More of The Band

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