Top Engineers – Martin Birch

Deep Purple – Made In Japan – 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 the album.

We’ve raved about a number of live albums over the years. Some of the better sounding ones that come readily to mind (in alphabetical order) are Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, David Live, Johnny Cash At San Quentin, Donny Hathaway Live, The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, Performance – Rockin The Fillmore, Live Wire – Blues Power, Waiting For Columbus, Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out and Live at Leeds. I would be proud to have any of them in my collection.

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan I’d put it right up there with the best of the best. In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan would be very likely to take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Album of All Time. Yes, the sound is that good.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

The best sides tended to have the same qualities. They were huge, open, clear, transparent, rich, tubey and natural.

And of course they rocked, with startling dynamics, massive amounts of bass and a full-bodied midrange. The better the pressing the more the instruments jumped right out of the speakers. Live in your listening room was the sound we were after, and this copy delivers like nothing you have ever heard.

Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought MARTIN BIRCH along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles. (more…)

The Faces – Long Player

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  • A killer copy with a stunning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time
  • 5 stars in Allmusic and probably the Faces’ Best Album, for sound and music – Maybe I’m Amazed? Hell yeah!
  • “…a ferocious rock & roll band who, on their best day, could wrestle the title of greatest rock & roll band away from the Stones.”

We knew this album could sound good, but back in the day we sure didn’t know it could sound like this. The best pressings of this album have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. (more…)

Martin Birch – One of Our Favorite Engineers

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MARTIN BIRCH is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Click on the link to find our in-stock Martin Birch engineered albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries. 

Martin Birch Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Martin Birch Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

Spencer & Kirwan, Lost Guitar Heroes

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Kiln House is one of the all-time great Fleetwood Mac albums. It’s the first album they recorded after Peter Green left. With Green gone Jeremy Spencer’s influence came to the fore. Apparently he was quite a fan of Buddy Holly. His songs are excellent: straightforward and unerringly melodic.

The co-leader for Kiln House is Danny Kirwan, and he rocks the hell out of this album. Three of the best songs Fleetwood Mac ever did, regardless of incarnation, are here: Tell Me All The Things You Do, Station Man and Jewel Eyed Judy, all written by Kirwan (with the help of others). His guitar work on these three songs is blistering.

Any Fleetwood Mac greatest hits collection would be a joke without these tracks. Of course they are consistently missing from all such compilations, at least the ones with which I am familiar. The sad fact is that few people miss them because few people have ever heard them.

The closest thing I can think of to the kind of music the new Mac plays is moody rock of the middle-period Beatles. Kiln House is similar to Beatles ’65 in its dual concerns with vintage rock ‘n’ roll and muted, romantic pieces.Jeremy Spencer took care of the former area, while Danny Kirwan extended the style best represented by McCartney’s “I’ll Follow the Sun.”

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Deep Purple – Machine Head on Rhino 180 Gram Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing. 

I’m guessing that very few people have ever heard this record sound good. The average copy is nothing special, but this one is a boring, lifeless mess so save your money.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

 

 

Listening in Depth to Bare Trees, a Classic Fleetwood Mac Album from 1972

 

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Listening in Depth

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This period of Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House (1970) through Mystery to Me (1973) — both are records I would take to my Desert Island — has always been my favorite of the band. I grew up on this stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience, having played a dozen copies of Bare Trees practically all day at some pretty serious levels, it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good. 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 than rockin’ out to the song Bare Trees.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Child of Mine

A real rocker from Danny Kirwan. If the electric piano is rich on your copy and you have some top end and space you are probably off to a very good start.

The Ghost
Homeward Bound
Sunny Side of Heaven

A wonderfully poignant, even melancholy instrumental track by Bob Welch. Not sure if that’s him on guitar but the playing is beautiful. The high point of side one. (more…)

Martin Birch Knows How to Get The Big Rock Sound on Vinyl

Martin Birch Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Martin Birch Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

 

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When you get a Hot Stamper presssing like this one, Machine Head is a True Rock and Roll Demo Disc. Since our stereo is all about playing these kinds of records, and playing them at good loud levels as nature — and the artists — intended, we had a helluva time with Machine Head.

It had the kind of presence and energy that puts most copies of this album to shame. It’s also amazingly spacious, the result no doubt of it being recorded practically live in the studio. On the best copies you can really hear the sound bouncing off the studio walls, just as you can on the best Zep, AC/DC and Bad Co. albums. You can just tell they are all playing this one live: it’s so relaxed and natural and REAL sounding.

The vocalist is no doubt in a booth, but everyone else seems to be in a lively studio. With lovely extension up top this was a very sweet copy that cried out to be turned up good and loud. The louder we played it the better it sounded! (more…)

Deep Purple’s Amazing Made In Japan

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Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought Martin Birch along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles.

Machine Head is clearly one of the best sounding hard rock records ever made, and Made In Japan, its successor, sounds more like a top quality studio production than any live album I’ve ever heard. It’s shocking how clean and undistorted the sound is. Equally shocking is the fact that it’s every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Live Album should be.

This is a combination the likes of which we have never heard. (more…)