Top Engineers – Glyn Johns

Humble Pie – Humble Pie

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

Both sides here are Super Hot – solid, big and fat with grungy guitars. Exceptionally quiet vinyl on both sides, mostly Mint Minus. A classic Glyn Johns rock recording from 1970 – he was really on a roll at the time. If you like a big bottom end on your rock records, this is the album for you.

This, their third album and first for A&M (which probably explains the master tape sound on domestic vinyl), is one of the few Humble Pie titles we’ve found that can offer honest-to-goodness Hot Stamper sound. There is no mystery in this case; the sound comes courtesy of none other than Glyn Johns. He knows Heavy British Rock like nobody else on the planet, or did at the time anyway. If you want fat, meaty drums and guitars — think Who’s Next, Sticky Fingers or A Nod Is As Good As A Wink — Glyn is your man. (more…)

Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Songs for Beginners.

This is one helluva well recorded album. Most of the credit must go to the team of recording engineers, led here by the esteemed Bill Halverson, the man behind all of the Crosby Stills Nash and Young albums. Nash was clearly influenced by his work with his gifted bandmates, proving with this album that he can hold his own with the best of the best.

Some songs (We Can Change The World, Be Yourself) are grandly scaled productions with the kind of studio polish that would make Supertramp envious. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better.

Others (Sleep Song, Wounded Bird) are quiet and intimate. Their subtlely is highlighted by the big productions surrounding them. This is that rare album in which every aspect of the production, from the arrangements to the final mix, serves to bring out the best qualities in the songs, regardless of scale.

The recording is of course superb throughout, in the best tradition of Crosby Stills and Nash’s classic early albums: transparent, smooth and sweet vocals, with loads of midrange magic ; deep punchy bass; lovely extension on the top to capture the shimmer of the cymbals and harmonic trails of the acoustic guitars; with the whole balanced superbly by one of our all-time heroes, Glyn Johns. (more…)

2-Packs – The Best Case for Dramatic Pressing Variations

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Just today (3/16/15) we put up a White Hot Stamper 2-pack of the Eagles’ First Album. One of the two pressings that made up the 2-pack had a killer side two, practically As Good As It Gets. 

What was interesting about that particular record was how bad side one was. Side one of that copy — on the white label, with stampers that are usually killer — was terrible. The vocals were hard, shrill and spitty. My notes say “CD sound. ” When a record sounds like a CD it goes in the trade-in pile, not on our site.

We encouraged the lucky owner to play the bad side for himself just to hear how awful it is, yet surprisingly, one might even say shockingly, it has exactly the qualities that audiophiles and collectors are most often satisfied with: the right label, and, in this case even the right stampers (assuming anyone besides us would know what the right stampers are). (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue – Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, if we’re talking about the better copies, like this one. The best pressings are big, open, dynamic and full-bodied, with exceptionally lively percussion. As always, credit goes to the recording engineers, Glyn Johns et al., as well as Lee Hulko at Sterling, the original mastering engineer (who’s cut about as many good sounding records as anyone we can think of).  

Hand of Fate is our favorite on side one, sounding like an unreleased track from Exile on Main Street. I’m guessing Glyn Johns had a lot to do with that one sounding as meaty and raw as it does. Following Hot Stuff, it balances that one’s bright, clear sound nicely, making it easy to separate the real winners from the also-rans. (more…)

Eagles – Desperado

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

This Original Asylum White Label Pressing has a STRONG A++ side one backed with a KILLER A+++ side two! It’s been a couple of weeks since we finished our big shootout for this great album and I still can’t get over how amazing this copy sounded. Most copies are too compressed to ever really come to life, but this one is big, bold and dynamic with lots of energy. The bottom end is positively killer on this one. 

Side one earned an A++ grade. It’s incredibly transparent with lots of ambience and space around the various instruments. There’s loads of tubey magic; most copies just aren’t this rich, warm or sweet. Our very best side ones have a little more presence, but I doubt anyone will be less than thrilled by the sound here.

Side two has it ALL going on, which is why we gave it our top grade of A+++. The soundfield is big, wide and DEEP. The top end is extended and silky sweet, qualities that you don’t get on most copies out there. This side has all the immediacy you could ask for. I just don’t think you could find a better sounding side two no matter what you did.

On the TAS Super Disc List, Harry Pearson recommends the British SYL pressings for this album. SYL pressings can sound very good; we’ve previously found one that rated a Double Plus on both sides. But our champions for both sides were both domestic, both this time and last time. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of NADM. 

Most copies tend to be dull, veiled, thick and congested, but the trick with the better pressings is being able to separate out the various parts with ease and hear right INTO the music.

Just listen to those meaty electric guitars, the note-like bass or that amazing snare drum sound with such a huge THWACK — that’s the raw power of rock n’ roll, baby.

It’s also surprisingly airy, open, and spacious — not quite what you’d expect from a bluesy British rock album like this, right? Not too many Faces records sound like this, we can tell you that.

But the engineers here managed to pull it off. One of them was Glyn Johns (mis-spelled in the credits Glynn Johns), who’s only responsible for the first track on side one, True Blue. Naturally that happens to be one of the best sounding tracks on the whole album. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet on London

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  • A killer vintage copy of this exceptionally well-recorded Stones album from ’69, with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Clear, rich and lively throughout – the Tubey Magic of the best pressings is what has them sounding the way they should
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own records which we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

Good pressings are certainly not easy to come by — this kind of rich, full-bodied, musical sound is the exception, not the rule. And there’s actual space and extension up top as well, something you certainly don’t hear on most pressings. This is a fantastic album, and excellent sides like these give it the kind of sound it deserves.

Raw Rock & Roll Sound

Of course, Hot Stamper Sound still only gets you what’s on the tape. In this case, it’s some rude, crude, dirty rock & roll. That’s clearly what the Stones were going for here. In terms of audiophile appeal, Tea For The Tillerman this ain’t. Nor does it want to be!

What sets the best copies apart from the pack is a fuller, richer tonal balance, which is achieved mostly by having plenty of bass and lower midrange energy. The copies that are bass shy — most of them, that is to say — tend to bring out more of that midrangy shortcoming. (more…)

Eagles – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy or copies of The Eagles amazingly well recorded first album.

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better! It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile Record pale in comparison. EVERYTHING you could ask for as an audiophile is all here and more.  

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better! It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile Record pale in comparison. EVERYTHING you could ask for as an audiophile is all here and more. When you drop the needle on Train Leaves Here This Morning, the opener for side two, the immediate impression you will get is “WOW”. The sound is as BIG and BOLD as any outside of the live event. The sweetness and the tubey magical quality of the vocals are virtually without equal. It’s my favorite track on the album and it KILLS on this copy!

A Top Ten Title

You may have seen our Top 100 list of the best sounding rock records elsewhere on the site. If we were to pick out a Top Ten from that list, this record would have made the cut. (more…)

Eric Clapton – Backless

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  • One of the better sounding copies to hit the site in a while – this British original earned Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • Rich, smooth, clear sound throughout – listen to the grungy guitars on Walk Out In The Rain – that’s the way they should sound all right
  • Clapton comes to life on the traditional blues Early In The Morning – it also has the best sound on the album
  • “Backless is a seductive record, if you’re attracted to the interplay of Clapton’s dolorous voice and Marcy Levy’s raspy backup vocals, George Terry’s slide guitar and Glyn Johns’ pristine production.” Rolling Stone

The true test for side two was the second track, the old blues song Early In The Morning. It’s by far the best sounding track on the album, with huge space, rich bass, a fat snare and Tubey Magic to die for. This is the kind of sound that only the likes of Glyn Johns can get down on tape, live in the studio no doubt, and it made it easy to do the shootout for side two. The bigger, the richer, the tubier, the more transparent the better. It’s THE track to demo with.  (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Let It Bleed

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Let It Bleed

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy ROCKS from start to finish; fairly quiet vinyl too! 
  • Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time
  • The acoustic guitar sound and the rich whomp of the snare proves that Glyn Johns is one of the Greatest Engineers who ever lived
  • Top 100, 5 stars on Allmusic – Jason McNeil of PopMatters wrote that Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed are, “the two greatest albums the band’s (or anyone’s) ever made.” 

This is, IMHO, the second or third best record the Stones ever made. (Sticky Fingers is Number One, and either this or Beggar’s Banquet comes in a strong second.) With this pressing we can now hear the power and the beauty of this superb recording.

Love In Vain on a copy like this is one of the best sounding Rolling Stones songs of all time. In previous listings I’ve mentioned how good this song sounds — thanks to Glyn Johns, of course — but on these amazing Hot Stamper copies it is OUT OF THIS WORLD. (more…)