Top Artists – The Jefferson Airplane

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow – Another DCC Disaster

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Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked.

Sour and opaque, a major disappointment. You can do worse but you would really have to work at it.

Our Hot Stamper Commentary from 2008

It’s An Uphill Battle Every Time

This album is an exceedingly difficult nut to crack — no matter how many copies we have, no matter how much information we have to work with. Play the typical copy and you’ll likely run for cover — we heard played copies that were aggressive, shrill, lifeless, dull, thick, veiled, bass-shy — you name it, we heard it. Not only that, but as a rule these early pressings are BEAT TO DEATH. Finding a copy that sounds any good and plays Mint Minus Minus or better is a real challenge.

But we didn’t give up. We knew that the best pressings of this album have tubey magic in spades. Undaunted, we kept up the search and eventually found some OUT OF THIS WORLD Hot Stamper copies.

Almost every pressing you’ll ever find suffers from at least a bit of harmonic distortion — some MUCH worse than others. We were convinced at one point that it was on the tapes, but after playing these super clean copies, we now know better.

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Jefferson Airplane – After Bathing At Baxter’s – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This RCA pressing was a BIG step up from most copies we played. Most copies we’ve played are too lean down low, which takes a lot of the power out of this crazy psychedelic music. This one gives you more weight down low and good energy, which helps these songs sound the way The Airplane must have intended.

I’m not familiar with the Sundazed pressing, but I would be shocked if it was even in the ballpark with a Super Hot Stamper copy like this one. Is anyone seriously buying their records for sound quality these days? (more…)

Jefferson Airplane – Crown of Creation

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • This may actually be their most well recorded album from the ’60s – it’s rich, smooth, sweet, open, natural, and very analog sounding
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more presence and energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying some Heavy Vinyl LP
  • “The album captured the group’s rapidly evolving, very heavy live sound within the confines of some fairly traditional song structures, and left ample room for Slick and Marty Balin to express themselves vocally, with Balin turning in one of his most heartfelt and moving performances…”

This is not an easy album to find good sound for, and finding a copy with this kind of richness and transparency is nearly impossible. If you’re a fan, you’ll be hard pressed to do any better than this one.

We played a pile of these recently, and let me tell you — it is tough sledding finding good sounding copies of this one that play quietly. Of course, it didn’t surprise us too much having been through a number of shootouts for Surrealistic Pillow, but it was frustrating just the same.

The sound of the recording itself varies quite a bit from track to track, with songs like Lather sounding amazing but other tracks not so much. These crazy San Francisco hippies were high as a kite and running around with the Grateful Dead, so I’m guessing that getting audiophile quality sound onto vinyl was pretty far down their list of turn-ons. Still, they managed to produce an album with sonic qualities that should appeal to most audiophiles. (more…)

Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship – Blows Against The…

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  • Paul Kantner’s debut solo album finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this album from 1970, this is the way to go
  • “…the first use of the ‘Starship’ billing, predating the formation of the group with that name by four years.”
  • 4 stars: “Kantner employed often dense instrumentation and complex arrangements, but there were enough hooks and harmonies to keep things interesting. Blows eventually went gold, and it was even nominated for a science fiction award usually reserved for novels.”

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Jefferson Airplane – 2400 Fulton Street

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

The big selling point of this compilation is that practically all of Surrealistic Pillow is on it it. Any Hot Stamper pressing of that album we offer will clearly sound better. It will surely be priced at many hundreds of dollars. It’s a single disc. And there is no question it is going to be noisier.  

That’s if we can even find one! When was the last time you saw one on the site? It’s exceedingly rare to find one that’s not scratched, inner groove damaged or just plain worn out. We’re buying them all the time, but most end up going back to the sellers who mis-graded them (or can’t be bothered to play their records, even the ones that command high prices).

The sound here is big, open, rich and full, with the performers front and center (as well as left and right). The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than others by a long shot.

This 1987 compilation also has some of the midrange magic that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissues have been made from the 50+ year old tapes. However good those pressings may be, we guarantee that this one is clearly more REAL SOUNDING. (more…)

Jefferson Starship – Red Octopus

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  • A superb sounding copy with both sides earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them
  • Big and full-bodied with wonderfully breathy vocals, tons of energy and virtually none of the smear that plagues so many copies
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… there can be little doubt that it was Balin’s irresistible ballad “Miracles,” the biggest hit single in the Jefferson Whatever catalog, that propelled Red Octopus to the top of the charts, the only Jefferson album to chart that high and the best-selling album in their collective lives.”

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Jefferson Airplane – Volunteers

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This original RCA Orange Label pressing boasts dramatically better sound than most pressings – this is a very good way to hear this notoriously problematical album. Featuring a host of stellar guest musicians, including Jerry Garcia, David Crosby, and Stephen Stills.

This will never be an audiophile Demo Disc, but the good copies sound much more “right” than most, and that is about the best one can hope for with Volunteers. We rarely do shootouts for the album because finding good sound and quiet surfaces is just too hard these days, what with every vintage pressing now being suddenly collectible according to every record store owner in Los Angeles. (more…)

Hot Tuna – Hot Tuna

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• Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides make this the best sounding Hot Tuna we have ever played
• If you like the kind of music Brits such as John Renbourn, Stefan Grossman, Bert Jansch and the like were making back in the ’60s this should be right up your alley
• Live, all acoustic, mostly Blues and Rags, this is about as far from the Jefferson Airplane as you can get
• 4 Stars: “Kaukonen remained the accomplished fingerpicking stylist he had been before joining the Airplane, while Casady dispensed with the usual timekeeping duties of the bass in favor of extensive contrapuntal soloing, creating a musical conversation that was unique. The result was less an indulgence than a new direction.”

Top quality sound for both sides of Hot Tuna’s classic debut album. It’s the best Hot Tuna Hot Stamper to ever hit the site for a good reason — it’s hard to come by clean copies of this stuff, and even when you do most copies don’t sound all that good.

Schmitt and Zentz

A pair of big names behind the recording managed to achieve some of the better live sound of the day. I refer of course to none other than Al Schmitt, producer (and winner of 23 Grammy Awards to date), and Allen Zentz, engineer (who later went on to found Allen Zentz Mastering and Recording). (more…)

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

More Jefferson Airplane

Surrealistic Pillow

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

An OFF THE CHARTS side one with more tubey magic than you probably ever imagined! We always have fun playing a great copy of the psychedelic ’60s masterpiece, because the sound gives you so many of the qualities we love about good ol’ analog. No one’s recording albums any more with this kind of richness, sweetness, and warmth, that’s for sure! Drop the needle on My Best Friend or Today to hear that trippy Sixties San Francisco sound at its best. 

I don’t know how many more Hot Stamper copies we’ll be able to dig up, as these are getting harder and harder to come by — not to mention more expensive. Decent looking original pressings sell for good money these days, and not too many of them sound all that good. Add in the groove damage and surface noise that plague most of them, and you can see why it’s hard for us to continue picking them up and hoping for the best.

It’s An Uphill Battle Every Time

This album is an exceedingly difficult nut to crack — no matter how many copies we have, no matter how much information we have to work with. Play the typical copy and you’ll likely run for cover — we heard played copies that were aggressive, shrill, lifeless, dull, thick, veiled, bass-shy — you name it, we heard it. Not only that, but as a rule these early pressings are BEAT TO DEATH. Finding a copy that sounds any good and plays Mint Minus Minus or better is a real challenge.

But we didn’t give up. We knew that the best pressings of this album have tubey magic in spades. Undaunted, we kept up the search and eventually found some OUT OF THIS WORLD Hot Stamper copies.

Almost every pressing you’ll ever find suffers from at least a bit of harmonic distortion — some MUCH worse than others. We were convinced at one point that it was on the tapes, but after playing these super clean copies, we now know that not to be the case. (more…)

Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow (Mono) – Sundazed Reviewed

More Jefferson Airplane

More Surrealistic Pillow (Mono)

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Sonic Grade: C-

Back around 2000 I spent a fair amount of time comparing this pressing with both an RCA 1S Black Label original, two different RCA Orange Label reissues, and the DCC 180 gram pressing. To make a long story short, if you’re willing to buy this record for the songs that really sound amazing on it, like “Today”, then you should try one.  (more…)