Top Engineers – John Haeny

Bonnie Raitt / Sweet Forgiveness – One of Bonnie’s Best

  • Full-bodied and warm, with harmonically rich guitars as well as real immediacy to Bonnie’s heartfelt vocals, this is the classic sound of Seventies Rock
  • The sound is big, bold, clear, rich and dynamic, which wouldn’t mean anything if the music weren’t good, but this actually happens to be Bonnie’s best album in our opinion, with Home Plate a close runner-up

I learned recently that Jack Haeny is one of the two engineers on this album, which goes a long way toward explaining the excellent ’70s analog sound. He worked on The Pretender, Don’t Cry Now, and many of the early and quite wonderful sounding albums Judy Collins did for Elektra in the earlier part of the decade. This guy knows sound.

(A good copy of The Pretender is an amazing Demo Disc that will put 99% of all the rock records you’ve ever played to shame. But the truly Hot Stamper pressings are few and far between, so most audiophiles have no idea how well recorded that album is.) (more…)

Rita Coolidge – It’s Only Love

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Fans of Linda Ronstadt’s ’70s music are going to find a lot of Tubey Magical sound to like here – spending some time with Rita and getting reacquainted with her albums is just the kind of thing that makes record collecting fun
  • John Haeny, the principal engineer for Rita and hubby Kris Kristofferson during the ’70s, in fact worked on some of Linda’s albums, as well as those by Judy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Little Feat and many others
  • If you’re a fan of Rita’s, this 1975 release is one of her best and surely belongs in your collection

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John Sebastian – John B. Sebastian

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this original Reprise pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • “Freed from the confines of a four-piece band, he stretched further on his debut solo album… an eclectic but low-key introduction to the solo career of a former group member whose band was known for more elaborate productions, and all the more effective for that. ” – All Music

This Shootout Winner was clearly better than every other copy we played. It’s big, full-bodied and rich; in other words, it has that classic 1970 analog rock sound that we love. Bruce Botnick and his brother are two of the many engineers on the project, along with John Haeny, the man who recorded his share of legendary albums, some of our favorites by Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt and others. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt / Don’t Cry Now – What to Listen For

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

Her vocals on both sides can be very DYNAMIC, but only the best copies will present them with no hint of STRAIN or GRAIN, two problems that make most pressings positively painful to listen to at the loud volumes we prefer.

Linda really belts it out on this album — face it, it’s what she does best — and only the rarest copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing.

Another key to recognizing the best copies is the fact that they tend to be highly resolving. Two places to check:

Note how breathy her voice is in the quiet passages. Only the least smeared, most transparent copies reproduce that breathy quality in her voice

Next check out the tambourine on Silver Threads and Golden Needles. If the sound is delicate, not gritty or transistory, you have yourself a winner in the resolution department.

Side One

The vocals on side one are often recessed and a bit dark on this album.

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Linda’s Problems in the ’70s

The most common problem with these Ronstadt records from the ’70s is grainy, upper-midrangy sound. The smooth copies that still have plenty of presence, life, energy and top end extension are the ones that really get this music sounding RIGHT.

Every copy we played had problems on the last track of side one, Don’t Cry Now. Linda is singing at the top of her lungs practically from beginning to end, so both cutting the record and playing back the record would be difficult. The result: there will be some coarsening of her vocal.

Some copies had the same problem on side two for I Believe in You, but not all.

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Jackson Browne – The Pretender

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  • One of the all time great rock / pop Demo Discs — the best copies are so rich and full-bodied they make most rock records sound positively anemic
  • Five Stars in Rolling Stone, one of their Top 500 Albums, and a true classic from 1976
  • Without a doubt the best sounding record Jackson Browne ever made – this is the pressing that backs up everything we say and more

As I’m sure you know by now, especially if you own a copy or two, pressings of The Pretender don’t usually sound like Demo Discs. In fact, most copies of this record are mediocre at best — thin, grainy, and flat sounding.

This copy is none of those things. And it positively kills the famous MoFi pressing. (more…)

Judy Collins – Wildflowers

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More Folk Rock

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  • Judy Collins superb 1967 release finally returns to the site after many years with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this Gold Label original stereo pressing
  • The sound is rich, sweet and open, with Judy’s voice especially clear and breathy – if you’re not quite sure what Tubey Magic is all about, the sound of this pressing will show you just how Tubey Magical the real deal can be
  • There is plenty of wonderful music on this album, including two of best songs Judy ever recorded (in our opinion), Michael from Mountains and Since You Asked, as well as two of Leonard Cohen’s best-penned tunes
  • “Soothing. Unique. Natural. These are clear adjectives used best when describing the style and grace of Judy Collins and her album Wildflowers. Her blend of folk and meditative music paints a tapestry of soft, nurturing colors that transcends the mind of the listener and seeks one’s soul.”

The first three songs on side one alone are worth the price of the album, three of the best Judy ever recorded. Joni Mitchell’s Michael from Mountains is one of the best songs on her debut album; Judy sings it with comparable taste and skill. Since You Asked is Judy’s own composition, her first to be recorded in fact. In this writer’s opinion, it’s the best song she ever wrote, “as good as it gets” as we like to say. And of course, Leonard Cohen’s Sisters of Mercy is one of his many masterpieces and brilliant in all respects as performed here.

Grammy Award for Best Folk Performance that year by the way. (more…)

Judy Collins – Sometimes the Hits Are Mastered from Sub-Generation Tapes, and There’s Not Much You Can Do About It

Both Sides Now, the Top Ten hit that finally put Judy on the map, is clearly made from a copy tape and doesn’t sound as good as the songs that follow it on side two. Hey, it happens, and I suspect it happens more often than most audiophiles think. I would wager that back in the day most people who bought this album never even noticed.

One thing I’ve noticed about audiophiles over the years: they’re like most people. The difference of course is that they call themselves audiophiles, and audiophiles are supposed to care about sound quality.

They may care about it, but are they capable of recognizing it? Are they capable of listening critically?  Critically enough to notice dubby sound when they hear it?

Or to notice that one side of a record often sounds very different from another?

Or that some reissues sound better than the originals of the album?

Or that there is no correlation between the country that a rock band comes from and the country that made the best sounding pressings of their albums?

The embrace of one third-rate Heavy Vinyl pressing after another by the audiophile community has rendered absurd the pretense that their members ever developed anything beyond the most rudimentary critical listening skills.

Sadly, the Dunning-Kruger effect, the best explanation for the sorry state of audio these days, means they simply don’t know how little they know and therefore see no reason to doubt their high opinions of themselves, their equipment and their acumen.

Progress in audio is possible, but only if you know that you are not already at the top of the mountain. You should recognize that you have a lot of serious climbing to do.

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Linda Ronstadt – Heart Like A Wheel

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  • With two outstanding sides, this vintage Capital pressing was giving us the sound we were looking for on Linda Ronstadt’s Best Album
  • “You’re No Good” was the hit but “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” “Faithless Love” and “The Dark End of the Street” are every bit as good – and that’s just side one!
  • A Must Own Classic, the best album Ms Ronstadt ever made, and a True Country Rock Masterpiece practically without peer and
  • 5 stars: “What really makes HLAW a breakthrough is the inventive arrangements that producer Peter Asher, Ronstadt, and the studio musicians have developed. …[they] help turn Heart Like a Wheel into a veritable catalog of Californian soft rock, and it stands as a landmark of ’70s mainstream pop/rock.”
  • If you’re a Country Rock fan, then Linda’s Masterpiece from 1974 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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.

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Judy Collins / Judith – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

White Hot A+++ sound on side two of this 2-pack, with Shootout Winning sound. Great material including The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and Sondheim’s Send in the Clowns. Another 2-pack that proves our case – the good sides here are wonderful, the bad sides plainly awful.

The engineer for Judith is Phil Ramone, who went on to win the Grammy the following year for Still Crazy After All These Years. (more…)

Rita Coolidge – The Lady’s Not For Sale

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  • Rita Coolidge’s third album arrives with superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • Fans of Linda Ronstadt’s ’70s music are going to find a lot of Tubey Magical sound to like here – this is a simply wonderful example of the kind of album that makes record collecting fun
  • John Haeny, the principal engineer for Rita and hubby Kris Kristofferson during the ’70s, in fact worked on some of Linda’s albums, as well as those by Judy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Little Feat and many others
  • “… a fine mixture of covers and originals that manages to showcase her fine vocal abilities as well as show off an impressive array of friends.”

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