Top Engineers – Andy Johns

Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. 

Zep fans, rejoice — PHYSICAL GRAFFITI HOT STAMPERS ARE HERE! We thought this day might never come. As you probably know by now, most copies of this album just plain suck!

After making some improvements in our evaluation process (minor tweaks to the room and the stereo, plus some new steps in our cleaning process) and — let’s face it — some seriously good luck, we’ve finally been able to track down a few killer copies of Zep’s monster double album.

If you’ve been waiting for The Ultimate Kashmir Experience, today is your lucky day.

Though we’ve known forever that many of you were eager for them, we just weren’t sure we’d ever have Hot Stampers for Physical Graffiti. There are a number of factors at play here. First off, you’ve gotta have a whole lot of copies around to do a shootout, and clean copies of this album sure ain’t cheap. When we’re doing a shootout for a title like The Stranger, Toto IV, or even Rumours, we can afford to pick up any nice-looking copy we see without breaking the bank. Not so with this one — minty copies don’t come cheap, and most of them sound so bad that it ain’t worth the risk. (more…)

Free – Tons Of Sobs

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  • Two stunning sides rating at or near A+++
  • Big, bold sound with plenty of detail and texture
  • Relatively quiet vinyl for this album — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • A 4 1/2 star album in the AMG

This is the just the kind of sound you want on an album like this — Big and Bold! If you’ve got the full range dynamic speakers to play the album good and loud, you will discover, as we have, what a powerful British Blues Rock album this is. No hits, just heavy electric blues played with feeling, a year before Zeppelin came along and took it to a whole new level.

Years ago — in 2011 to be exact — we said the following in a listing for a very good sounding domestic pressing:

Solid bass, present vocals, plenty of energy — the only thing missing here is the Tubey Magical richness and sweetness that only the British originals (in our experience) have, and in spades by the way. But try to find one! Over the last two or three years I think we’ve managed to get hold of exactly one clean copy.

Fast forward almost eight years and we’ve only had a couple more! I personally have seen the original British pressing of this album sell on the web for more than 1000 dollars, which explains why we never have them. (more…)

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

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It’s Only Rock N’ Roll

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

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll is no slouch if you get hold of a good one. It can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that’s 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 Rolling Stones best music on it, but those looking for the best sounding Stones album should look in the direction of Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers or Let It Bleed. They’re simply better recordings. (more…)

Renaissance – Renaissance

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  • A killer copy and the first to hit the sit in three years – Double Plus (A++) or better on both sides
  • The overall sound here rich, smooth and Tubey Magical with huge amounts of energy and presence
  • This is an outstanding recording. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s engineered by Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin II and many more)
  • “The original group’s debut album was a then-groundbreaking meld of progressive rock with classical and jazz influences…” – All Music 

Prog fans take note: this album’s audiophile credentials are more than in order. Some of the best recordings we have ever heard involved one of these guys, and on this one you get them both. That’s almost too much production talent for one album. (more…)

The Rolling Stones Goats Head Soup – Live and Learn, A Lesson from 2011

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This is a classic case of Live and Learn.

We would agree with very little of what we had to say about Goat’s Head Soup as a recording when we wrote about it back in 2011 — and for the previous 35+ years since I first played a domestic original.

Having done a big shootout for the album in 2016 we now know there most certainly are great sounding pressings to be found, because we found some. The data are in, and now we know just how wrong we were. In our defense, let me just ask one question: Did anybody else know this record was well recorded? I can find no evidence to support anyone having ever taken such a contrarian position.

But we’re taking that position now. All it takes is one great sounding copy to show you the error of your ways, and we had more than one! (more…)

Leon Russell and the Shelter People – His Best Sounding Album?

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) from first note to last on this original British pressing 
  • Engineered by Andy and Glyn Johns, this is his best sounding album, especially on a copy that sounds as good as this one does
  • No other Leon Russell album has the richness, the sweetness, and the Tubey Magic of this, his second album from 1971
  • “Russell practically invented what might as well be called Okie rock — with that shit-kicker Gospel sound, heavy on Baptist-revival piano and chorus [a template Elton John found more than a little useful for his first ten albums or so] – and it gets as good on this album as you’ll ever hear.”

Stranger in a Strange Land, which leads off side one, might just be the best song the man ever wrote. What a joy it is to hear it sound so big and powerful.

Domestic Vs. Import

The domestic pressings of Leon Russell and the Shelter People that we’d auditioned over the years always seemed flat, dry, and closed-in. We know that sound well; it’s the sound you hear on records that have been made from dubbed tapes (and it’s the hallmark of the modern Heavy Vinyl reissue, truth be told). It bores us to tears, and had us questioning what we could possibly have seen in the album in the first place. What happened to the glorious sound of early ’70s analog we were expecting to find? (more…)

Led Zeppelin II on Classic Records – What Could Be Sadder?

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Led Zeppelin – II on Classic Records

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

An absolute DISASTER — ridiculously bright, ridiculously crude, in short, a completely unlistenable piece of garbage.

Over the years we have done many Led Zeppelin shootouts, often including the Classic Heavy Vinyl Pressings as a “reference.” After all, the Classic pressings are considered by many — if not most — audiophiles as superior to other pressings. What could be sadder?

In fact. you will find very few critics of the Classic Zep LPs outside of those who write for this very website, and even we used to recommend three of the Zep titles on Classic: Led Zeppelin I, IV and Presence.

Wrong on all counts. (more…)

Andy Johns Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

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More of Our Favorite Engineers

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ANDY JOHNS is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Click on the link to find our in-stock Andy Johns engineered or produced albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries. 

Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts).

Andy Johns Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Andy Johns Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

Partial Discography

Stand Up – Jethro Tull (1969)

Town and Country -Humble Pie (1969)

Living in the Past – Jethro Tull (1972)

Disposable – The Deviants (1968)

Spooky Two – Spooky Tooth (1969)

Songs for a Tailor – Jack Bruce (1969)

Ssssh -Ten Years After (1969)

The Clouds Scrapbook – Clouds (1969)

Up Above our Heads – Clouds (1969)

Blind Faith – Blind Faith (1969)

Led Zeppelin II – Led Zeppelin (1969)

Led Zeppelin III – Led Zeppelin (1970)

Highway – Free (1970)

Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin (1971)

Sticky Fingers – Rolling Stones (1971)

Brain Capers – Mott the Hoople (1971)

Sailor’s Delight – Sky (1971)

Exile on Main St. – Rolling Stones (1972)

Goats Head Soup – Rolling Stones (1973)

Houses of the Holy – Led Zeppelin (1973)

It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll – The Rolling Stones (1974)

Physical Graffiti – Led Zeppelin (1975)

In Another Land – Larry Norman (1976)

“Eddie Money” – Eddie Money (1977)

Welcome to Paradise – Randy Stonehill (1976)

Sky – Sky (1979)

Ghost Town Parade – Les Dudek (1978)

DFK – Dudek, Finnigan, & Krueger (1979)

Shadows and Light – Joni Mitchell (1980)

Coda – Led Zeppelin (1982)

Jethro Tull – Stand Up – A True Tull Classic




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  • A stunning Island Pink Label Import LP with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • This is a True Tull Classic, and a VERY tough record to come by with this kind of sound
  • Both British sides give you richness, Tubey Magic, clarity and resolution few copies can touch – and what’s more, IT ROCKS
  • Their best album? It gets my vote, and this copy will really make the case if you turn it up good and loud

See all our Jethro Tull albums in stock

We just finished a big shootout for Stand Up with a variety of Brit pressings and a few domestics (which most of the time are awful but occasionally you run across one that’s pretty good on one side or another).

The following are some older notes that apply to the album in general.   (more…)