Top Artists – The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones / Exile On Main Street – A Good Test for Grit and Grain

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More Records that Are Good for Testing Grit and Grain

The best copies will tend to have the qualities detailed below, and the more abundant these qualities are on any given pressing, the higher its grade will be.

Yes, it is a science, an empirical one, which can only be carried out by the use of strict protocols and controls, but it sure ain’t rocket science. All you need is the system, the room, the records, the time and the will to do the painstaking critical listening required to carry out the task.

It can be done, but you could spend a lifetime meeting audiophiles of the vinyl persuasion and never run into a single one who has made the effort more than a handful of times.

To be honest, shootouts are a bitch. If you aren’t getting paid to do them the way we are, finding the motivation to devote the time and energy required to do them right — not to mention the piles of copies of each record you will need — is daunting to say the least.

So, back to the question: what to listen for? (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Out of Our Heads

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  • This is one of the best copies to ever hit the site — as good as we’ve ever heard with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • These British sides impressed us with their Tubey Magical, fairly natural sound
  • With top engineers like Dave Hassinger and Glyn Johns one would hope for better sonics, but this is as good as it gets as far as we know
  • 4 1/2 stars: “In 1965, the Stones finally proved themselves capable of writing classic rock singles that mined their R&B/blues roots, but updated them into a more guitar-based, thoroughly contemporary context. The first enduring Jagger-Richards classics are here…”

Like the really good Decca version of Aftermath, this record has amazing transparency, rich bass and relatively little distortion compared to other versions we have played. Also, like Aftermath, some songs sound much better than others. That’s just the way old Stones record are. Part of this album was recorded in Hollywood and part of it was recorded in Chicago — that may explain some of the variation in the quality of the sound.

By the way, stick with true stereo on this album; the mono pressings — at least the ones we played — aren’t worth anybody’s time (scratch that: any audiophile’s time). (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Their Satanic Majesties Request

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Reviews and Commentaries for Their Satanic Majesties Request

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this British pressing will be very hard to beat – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Released right before the raging bluesy rock of Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed
  • This is some crazy Stones music, with loads of psychedelic madness and a number of catchy tunes
  • It’s a lot of fun on a pressing that sounds as good as this one, with the space, clarity and richness that only vintage vinyl can offer in such abundance
  • Every one of the original Decca stereo pressings we’ve played has come up short against these recuts from the Seventies
  • 4 stars: “Never before or since did the Stones take so many chances in the studio… a fascinating anomaly in the group’s discography”.

This is the Stones at their most experimental, so there are plenty of strange effects and trippy arrangements. Only the best copies manage to make sense of it, but when you find one this music is a lot of fun.

If you’re looking for the raging bluesy rock of Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed, you’ll find some of that here but also a lot of psychedelia too. You do get some great rockers though — Citadel, 2000 Man, and 2000 Light Years From Home to name a few. She’s A Rainbow is the poppiest song here, and on this copy it sounds WONDERFUL. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Aftermath – The First in a String of Must Own Stones Albums

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More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

Lady Jane, Under My Thumb and Mother’s Little Helper are three of the best sounding tracks on side one — all three are lively and solid here. On side two Out of Time and I Am Waiting are especially well recorded.

DAVE HASSINGER rightly deserves the credit for the best sounding early Stones album — this one.

Although some songs sound amazing, not every track is well recorded. We just have to accept that the Stones are not The Beatles when it comes to the consistent quality of the earliest recordings. That said, a strong copy like this one paired with the great music on this album will certainly deliver a lot of pleasure to audiophile Stones fans.

Although some songs sound amazing, not every track is well recorded. We just have to accept that the Stones are not The Beatles when it comes to the consistent quality of the earliest recordings. That said, a strong copy like this one paired with the great music on this album will certainly deliver a lot of pleasure to audiophile Stones fans.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Mothers Little Helper

Superb! On the best copies this track is so transparent you can feel the cool air of the studio.

Stupid Girl

Somewhat dark and compressed as a rule. (more…)

Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! – “I haven’t felt better listening to an album in decades.”

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! Available Now

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

Hey Tom,   

Just a quick note to thank you for the extraordinary copy of “Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out.” I won’t enumerate all the remarkable qualities of the pressing since you know them well. I’ll just say that I haven’t felt better listening to an album in decades. What a remarkable experience.

By the way, since I bought this as a birthday present for my brother please let me know if another copy of equal or better quality becomes available. You know how this copy made my Londons and Japanese pressing sound. (more…)

The Rolling Stones / Aftermath – Surprisingly Good Domestic Pressings Do Exist

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We’ve paired up a Double Plus (A++) copy for each side to create this Super Hot 2-pack, which is the only way we were able to find good sound for the whole album. Paint It Black is missing from the Brit version, but it’s here and it sounds wonderful.

A big surprise — domestic Super Hot Stamper sound for Aftermath! We didn’t even know it was possible, but on a lark we pulled a big stack of these out of the back and played them against our best imports. We were blown away when the best domestic copies held their own and delivered some seriously good early Stones sound!

Both sides are richer and smoother than we expected. You get lots of presence and energy, a very solid bottom end, and impressive transparency. The best Brit copies give you a little more clarity, but the best domestics like the two Double Plus sides of this 2-pack were cut very well and can actually rock a bit harder. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll

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  • A KILLER early pressing of this Rolling Stones classic of Stripped Down Rock and Roll, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • What earned this pressing Top Grades was its extraordinarily textured, practically grain- and grit-free midrange – the bad copies tend to be smeary and gritty in the midrange (where the music is) and that’s just not our sound
  • The superbly talented Andy Johns engineered, so you can be sure that this is the sound the Stones were aiming for
  • “Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of “If You Can’t Rock Me” and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation… all the more enjoyable.”

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll is a consistently good, straight-ahead, no-frills rock album from the Stones with Mick Taylor still in the band. It was the last of its kind for a while; their next release was the reggae-influenced Black and Blue. The sound can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that that’s precisely the sound the Stones heard in the booth and were totally cool with. Andy Johns engineered and he’s made as many super-tubey, super-rich and super-smooth recordings as anybody this side of Bill Porter.

The Stones didn’t want that sound this time around. The Stones wanted this sound.

This album may have some of the best The Rolling Stones music, but those looking for top quality sonics for the Stones should head in the direction of Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, or Let It Bleed. They’re simply more audiophile-friendly recordings. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You

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  • Tattoo You returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • The midrange is both rich and clear, with Jagger’s vocals front and center, exactly where they belong
  • The piano has real weight, the grungy guitars are suitably distorted, and the tonal balance is correct from top to bottom, our classic Hot Stamper sound in a nutshell
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Tattoo You captures the Stones at their best as a professional stadium-rock band. Divided into a rock & roll side and a ballad side, the album delivers its share of thrills. . .”

In the tradition of other late ’70s / early ’80s Stones albums (Some Girls, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock And Roll), the sound is a bit raw at times, but a copy like this one gives you the kind of energy, body and richness to make for some very enjoyable serious listening.

The sound here is big and rich, with more “meat on the bones” as we like to say. The guitars are chunky and powerful, which exactly the sound you want for a song like Start Me Up, which leads things off here. The best sides have more extension up top and more size to the soundfield as well.

As with any Stones album, don’t expect any sonic miracles. Hot Stampers aren’t going to turn this into Tea For The Tillerman. If you want to hear an amazing sounding Demo Quality record, this ain’t it, but if you love this music and are frustrated with the sound of the typical pressing I bet you’ll enjoy the heck outta this one. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

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  • A Sticky Fingers like you’ve never heard — amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Finally, with the best vintage pressings we can hear the power and the beauty of this truly superb recording
  • A landmark Glyn Johns / Andy Johns recording, our favorite by the Stones, a Top 100 Title (of course) and 5 stars on Allmusic (ditto)
  • Q magazine said this was “the Stones at their assured, showboating peak … A magic formula of heavy soul, junkie blues and macho rock.”
  • 5 stars: “With its offhand mixture of decadence, roots music, and outright malevolence, Sticky Fingers set the tone for the rest of the decade for the Stones.”

A Very Special Pressing

On this copy you will find the best sounding side of any Stones album ever made. Nothing in our last few shootouts could touch it. We kept it as reference copy for a year or two, but decided that it would be better if someone enjoyed it rather than have it sit on a shelf in our stockroom.

We used to give a side like this Four Pluses, but we decided not to do that anymore, so the grade you see in the listing is Three Pluses. Make no mistake, these are the best sounding Three Pluses on the site right now, bar none.

Sure, it’s a lot of money for a record with condition issues. However, since almost every copy of Sticky Fingers has condition issues of some sort, they should be more acceptable here than they might be were they found on a different title.

Those of you who want to acquire one of the best copies of Sticky Fingers we’ve ever played — better than the last ten or fifteen we auditioned, and we only buy the ones with stampers that have Shootout Winning potential — may find the price not too out of line with the quality of the goods once the needle hits the groove. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street

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  • A KILLER copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on sides two, three and four and superb Double Plus (A++) sound on the first side
  • This is Exile raw and real the way it should be – full-bodied and punchy with great presence and energy
  • Fairly quiet vinyl for this Stones album – here is a copy that plays very close to Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on all four sides
  • 5 stars: “Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main St., and it stands not only as one of the Stones’ best records, but sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock.”

All four sides here have the kind of bass, energy, and presence that is essential for this music to rock the way it wants to. A copy like this conveys the emotional power of The Stones’ performances in a way that most pressings simply fail to do.

This shootout is always a struggle, an uphill battle all the way. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that can do this music justice. We’re sure that Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to be very pleased with this copy.

This vintage Artisan mastered pressing (the only ones that have any hope of sounding good) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)