Top Artists – The Grateful Dead

Letter of the Week – “The instruments fill my room like they would in a live performance.”

More of the Music of Neil Young

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

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

Hey Tom, 

I have really been enjoying the Neil Young “After The Gold Rush” and CSN&Y “So Far.” They are like the “Workingman’s Dead” LP. Just a thrill to hear. The instruments on “After The Gold Rush” fill my room like they would in a live performance. Addictive.

AJ

Addiction is the name of the game!

If you’re an audiophile who is not addicted to good sound and good music, you won’t be one for long.

And if you have been in this game for a very long time like I have, you have no doubt met self-identified audiophiles with systems that haven’t been improved in twenty years, and are rarely used.

I like to think those are the audiophiles who own lots of audiophile records, the ones that are designed to show off stereo equipment and typically have little in the way of musical value.

Audiophiles with vintage pressings of real music rarely abandon the hobby in my experience.

And if you have Hot Stamper pressings, why would you ever give up on hearing music that sounds as good as our records sound?

Thanks for your letter.

TP


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Letter of the Week – “The harmony vocals on “Uncle John’s Band” are so much clearer, sounding like three distinct voices…”

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

  Hey Tom, 

I was extremely surprised when I received my WD Hot Stamper. I was expecting an olive (green) Warner Brothers original (I have one) – and this one is the “floral” later label. I’ve read your comments long enough to know it’s the sound, not the label, which dictates quality. Was quite surprised either way! But I shouldn’t have been….

And what a lovely sound! The harmony vocals on “Uncle John’s Band” are so much clearer, sounding like three distinct voices (my peasant original was dark and gritty in comparison); being able to actually hear Micky’s rhythmic contributions to the track, it sounds like a full band, really grooving and live.

The pedal steel on “Dire Wolf”! I could go on and on.

Anyway, great stuff, liked it so much had to write a letter!

Kyle Miller

Kyle,

The person who listened to your copy did not know what label it had. It got the proper sonic grade because no bias could enter into the proceedings, and that is the revolutionary approach we developed for judging records.

But there is nothing revolutionary about it. Scientists have been using blind testing for more than a hundred years!

All we did was incorporate good testing protocols into our record shootouts, and voila, you have Hot Stampers that really are hot and Better Records that really are better.

Even when they have the “wrong” label.

Sometimes the green label copies win shootouts and sometimes the Burbank label copies win. In either case, the best sounding record wins, and that makes for satisfied customers. We call that a Win Win.

Thanks for your letter,

TP

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of The Grateful Dead

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Bob Weir – Heaven Help The Fool

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • A surprisingly well recorded album, this pressing is simply bigger, bolder and richer than most of the other copies we played
  • ” … showcases the special flavor that Weir added to Jerry [Garcia]’s genius, where 2 identities blend effortlessly. “
  • “Jazzy in places, soft and smooth in others. Out of the ordinary for the Grateful Dead’s co-founder, but easier for the uninitiated to absorb without losing the trademark oddity that Weir has always displayed. Top-notch stuff.”

What separated the best copies from the also-rans was more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better copies make Bob’s voice more palpable — he’s simply more of a solid, three dimensional, real presence between the speakers. You can hear the nuances of his delivery much, MUCH more clearly on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.

Keith Olsen produced and co-engineered here, which should go a long way toward explaining why the sound is so good. He is of course the man helped make Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 album such a sonic blockbuster. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Wake Of The Flood

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  • This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • A difficult album to find audiophile quality sound for, this is one of the best copies to ever hit the site
  • “Wake of the Flood was certainly as good – if not arguably better than – most of their previous non-live efforts.”

This is the album that comes after American Beauty on the Grateful Dead timeline, and while it’s certainly not in the same league as that masterpiece, there’s still a lot of good music on here. The All Music Guide gives it four stars out of five and calls it “certainly as good — if not arguably better than — most of their previous non-live efforts”.

Again, I think American Beauty is a stronger album, but this is a very good representation of the kind of jazzier sound The Dead carried on with for the next twenty-plus years. Many of these songs remained staples of their concert repertoire, including Stella Blue, Eyes Of The World, and Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo. You might get more incendiary performances of the tracks on the best of the band’s famous bootleg tapes, but you certainly won’t get sound this good. (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Aoxomoxoa

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  • This original Green Label Warner Brothers LP has STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • These sides were doing everything right — big, full-bodied and present with tons of energy and a nice extended top end
  • “When the LP hit the racks in the early summer of 1969, Deadheads were greeted by some of the freshest and most innovative sounds to develop from the thriving Bay Area music scene.” – All Music 

NOTE: This is the later remixed version from 1971. We found it far better sounding than the original 1969 mix. If you’re interested in the original mix, we have some of those copies with lower grades but if you want the best sound, this copy is definitely the way to go. (more…)

The Grateful Dead – American Beauty

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A Proud Member of Our Rock & Pop Top 100

One of Our Favorite Albums from 1970

  • With two Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is doing pretty much everything we want American Beauty to do – unusually quiet vinyl too
  • The acoustic guitars are magical on this copy, and you won’t believe how wonderfully breathy and sweet these guys’ voices sound
  • American Beauty is one of Stephen Barncard’s greatest recording achievements – the richness and clarity are really something here
  • A 5 Star Top 100 album – “A companion piece to the luminous Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty is an even stronger document of the Grateful Dead’s return to their musical roots. American Beauty remains the Dead’s studio masterpiece.”

We managed to find enough clean early pressings to get this always fun shootout going once again, and this copy took top honors. This is an amazingly well-recorded album — and a member of our Top 100, of course — but it takes a special copy to let the recording’s qualities shine the way this one does!

All the Elements Come Together for Once

All of the elements necessary to take this music to an entirely new level are here, my friends: smooth, sweet vocals; rich, meaty bass; an open and airy top end; top-notch presence and so forth. The sound is so spacious and transparent that you can easily pick out each of the instruments and follow them over the course of the songs.

You could choose any track you wanted to and find lovely sound here, but I’d recommend Ripple and Attics Of My Life for starters. Most copies suffer from a glaring lack of highs, but just listen to the ride cymbals on this one to find out that the top end is still alive and well here. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Steal Your Face

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  • An outstanding pressing of this live Dead record with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides
  • 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
  • “… newer originals such as the Jerry Garcia/Robert Hunter ballads ‘Ship of Fools,’ ‘It Must Have Been the Roses,’ and the album’s unmitigated gem, ‘Stella Blue,’ rate among the package’s most thoughtful and lyrical moments.”

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Workingman’s Dead is Dead as a Doornail on Rhino Records

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and a Heavy Vinyl Disaster if there ever was one (and oh yes, there are plenty).

The 2003 Rhino reissue on heavy vinyl of Workingman’s Dead is absolutely awful. It sounds like a bad cassette. The CD of the album that I own is superb, which means that the tapes are not the problem, bad mastering and pressing are. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Terrapin Station

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  • This original pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it throughout – you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds any better than this!
  • Produced by Keith Olsen of Fleetwood Mac fame, it’s no surprise that the recording quality is quite a bit better than most of the records they had been making at the time
  • Pretty darn quiet throughout, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, as quiet as we can find them
  • “Terrapin Station offers a few choice glimpses of the band doing what it does best. While the most prominent example is the album’s extended title suite, there are a few others such as the cover of the Rev. Gary Davis gospel-blues “Samson and Delilah” and a resurrection of the Martha & the Vandellas hit “Dancin’ in the Streets.” 

Most Dead studio albums after Workingman’s Dead are full of filler, but this one actually has some good songs: the extended title song suite, the hard-rockin’ Passenger mated Prophet. The cov(note the similarities to Fleetwood Mac’s Station Man), and the darkly funky Estier of Dancin’ In The Streets may have earned this album the epithet of Disco Dead, but it’s actually a good bit of fun if you don’t take it too seriously.

Terrapin Station marked the Dead’s return to a major label (Arista) and was only their second album ever to make use of an outside producer (Keith Olsen, who also worked on the two smash hit Fleetwood Mac albums of the era — Rumours and the self-titled LP, two records that can sound stunning on the right pressing). As such, the songs are a bit more concise than you might expect from these crazy guys — only the title song goes over five and a half minutes, and it’s one of the band’s most famous jams! (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

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  • A KILLER original Warner Brothers pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • A Top 100 album, and a truly superb recording of the Dead at the peak of their creativity (along with American Beauty)
  • We love the amazingly big, rich, weighty bottom end found on the better pressings such as this one
  • 5 stars: “The lilting Uncle John’s Band, their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly.”

This original Warner Brothers pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. (more…)