Top Engineers – Eddie Kramer

Humble Pie – What Other Live Rock Record Sounds This Good?

One of the best — if not THE best — rock concert albums we have ever heard. Can you imagine if Frampton Comes Alive sounded like this? If you want to hear some smokin’ Peter Frampton guitar work from the days when he was with the band, this album captures that sound better than any of their studio releases, and far better than FCA on even the best copies.

Grungy guitars that jump out of the speakers, prodigious amounts of punchy deep bass, dynamic vocals and drum work — the best pressings of Rockin’ The Fillmore have more firepower than any live recording we’ve ever heard.

We know about quite a few records that rock this hard. We seek them out, and we know how to play them.

Who knew?  We didn’t, of course, until not that many years ago (2014 maybe?). But we are in the business of finding these things out. We get paid by our customers to find them the best sounding pressings in the world. It’s our job and we take it very seriously.

Did any audiophile reviewers ever play the album and report on its amazing sound? Not that we are aware of.

Do they have the kind of playback systems — the big rooms, the big speakers, the freedom from compression and artificiality — that are required to get the most from a recording such as this one?

Doubtful. Unlikely in the extreme even.

They don’t know how good a record like this can sound because they aren’t able to play it the way it needs to be played.

And when was the last time you read a review of a record that hadn’t just been reissued on Heavy Vinyl?

There was a time when audiophile reviewers wrote about exceptionally good sounding vintage pressings they had come across. Harry Pearson comes immediately to mind, but there were many others following his lead. Now they it seems none of them can be bothered. More’s the pity.

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

And One We Also Just Added to Our Rock & Pop Top 100 List

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Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man

We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

The list is purposely wide-ranging. It includes some famous titles (Tumbleweed Connection, The Yes Album), but for the most part I have gone out of way to choose titles from talented artists that are less well known (Atlantic Crossing, Kiln House, Dad Loves His Work), which simply means that you won’t find Every Picture Tells a Story or Rumours or Sweet Baby James on this list because masterpieces of that caliber should already be in your collection and don’t need me to recommend them.

Which is not to say there aren’t some well known masterpieces on the list, because not every well known record is necessarily well known to audiophiles, and some records are just too good not to put on a list of records we think every audiophile ought to get to know better.

Out of the thousands of records we have auditioned and reviewed, there are a couple of hundred that have stood the test of time for us and we feel are deserving of a listen. Many of these will not be to your taste, but they were to mine.

An outstanding pressing of what we consideDonovan’s best album, musically and sonically. The 1968 sound here is wonderful — rich, sweet, Tubey Magical and very, very Analog.

Donovan records tend to be hit or miss affairs, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could not find a bad track on either side of the album. Most are in fact quite wonderful.

Both Yellow Label Epics and Orange Label Epics fared well in our shootout. (We could find no Blue/ Black later labels to play.) Finding any pressing with clean surfaces was another matter, but we managed to have a pretty healthy group with which to do our shootout.

Some of these tracks may remind you more than a little of Pentangle. Danny Thompson, that band’s amazingly talented and unusually well recorded double bassist, just happens to be the bass player on the album. Go figure. Tony Carr does most of the drumming as he has on many of Donovan’s albums from the period. Needless to say, the rhythm section is first-rate.

A Must Own Pop Record

This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious audiophile Popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

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Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys

More Jimi Hendrix

More Rock Classics

  • Truly exceptional sound – these Ludwig-mastered Capitol Orange Label pressings are the only way to fly
  • Tons of bass, smooth vocals, and an overall freedom from distortion characterize the overall sound of both sides, and that’s unusual, because most copies of this record are just plain dreadful
  • Trust me on this one – you’re going to have a difficult and (and expensive!) adventure trying to find a great sounding copy of this one on your own
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Although he could be an erratic live performer, for these shows, Hendrix was on — perhaps his finest performances… not only an important part of the Hendrix legacy, but one of the greatest live albums ever.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jimi’s, this 1970 release belongs in your collection.

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Peter Frampton – Frampton’s Camel

The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now

Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • On his second album, Frampton fronts a real rock band, playing his unique style of rock and pop, electric and acoustic, with consummate skill – if you’re a Frampton fan this is a record that belongs in your collection
  • Superb engineering from Chris Kimsey and Eddie Kramer at Olympic and Electric Lady Studios
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Named after Frampton’s touring band at the time, Frampton’s Camel has a harder-rocking feel than its predecessor Wind of Change, with Mick Gallagher’s percussive electric piano and organ taking a prominent position in the mix and Frampton getting a harder sound from his electric guitars (though his acoustic playing is so lush and lyrical that it dominates the album here and there in its quiet way).”
  • If you’re a Frampton fan — I sure am — then this title from 1973 comes heavily recommended.
  • All titles from 1973 we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Led Zeppelin II on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl – Seriously, What Could Be Sadder?

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 of us (me and the rat in my pocket) 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.

Since then we’ve made it a point to review most of the Classic Zeps, a public service of Better Records. We don’t actually like any of them now, although the first album is still by far the best of the bunch.

Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin II

More Led Zeppelin on Classic Records Reviewed

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Traffic / Mr. Fantasy – We Was Wrong

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This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best.

We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG.

Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

The Dirty Little Secret of the Record Biz Part 3

More Traffic

More Steve Winwood

Hits That Are Made from Dub Tapes

The sound of some songs on some greatest hits albums can be BETTER than the sound of those very same songs on the best original pressings.

How can that be you ask, dumbfounded by the sheer ridiculousness of such a statement? Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. It’s a dirty little secret in the record biz that sometimes the master for the presumptive Hit Single (or singles) is pulled from the album’s final two track master mix tape and used to make the 45 single, the idea being that the single is what people are going to hear on the radio and want to buy, or, having heard it sound so good on the radio, go out and buy the album.

One way or another, it’s the single that will do the selling of the band’s music. This is clearly the case with the albums of Traffic.
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Led Zeppelin / Houses of the Holy – Listening in Depth

You really get an understanding of just how much of a production genius Jimmy Page was when you listen to a copy of Houses with the kind of resolution and transparency found on our best copies.

To take just one example, listen to how clearly the multi-tracked guitars can be heard in the different layers and areas of the soundstage. On some songs you will have no trouble picking out three, four and even more guitars playing, each with its own unique character. The clarity of the better copies allows you to recognize — perhaps for the first time — the special contribution each makes to the finished song.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

The Song Remains the Same
The Rain Song

Check out the guitars — the sound should be warm, sweet and delicate. There are some dead quiet passages in this song that are almost always going to have some surface noise. Most copies start out a bit noisy but almost always get quieter as the music goes along.

Over the Hills and Far Away

This is a great test track for side one. It starts with lovely acoustic guitars before the Monster Zep Rock Chords come crashing in. If both parts of the song sound correct and balanced, you more than likely have a winner. And the bigger the dynamic contrast between the parts the better.

Turn your volume up good and high in order to get the full effect, then stand back and let the boys have at it.

The Crunge (more…)

Jimi Hendrix / The Jimi Hendrix Concerts – Huge, Powerful Live Rock Sound

More Jimi Hendrix

More Live Recordings of Interest

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This live album, taken from concerts recorded from 1968 to 1970, is wonderful sounding on the best tracks. If you’re in the market for live Hendrix on a Hot Stamper, you’ll be hard pressed to do any better. The bass on this recording is huge, which is exactly what this kind of music needs most. At the levels we were playing this album it was really rockin’.

That’s the true test of a good live rock record — the louder you play it the better it sounds! (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs And Englishmen

More Joe Cocker

  • The sound is rich and tubey, with driving energy and the top end and clarity that was simply missing from far too many of the copies we had to work through in order to find this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Unlike a lot of other “coffee table”-type rock releases of the era, such as Woodstock and The Concert for Bangladesh, people actually listened to Mad Dogs & Englishmen — most of its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique.”

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