Top Engineers – John Haeny

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

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Bonnie Raitt / Sweet Forgiveness – Bonnie’s Best?

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • 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. The piano is HUGE.) (more…)

Judy Collins – Judith – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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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…)

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…)

John Sebastian – John B. Sebastian – Reviewed in 2012

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

This Super Hot side one was clearly better than every other side one we played, with the exception of our shootout winner of course. 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.

Side One

A++, clear and harmonically rich. Tonally correct and ROCKIN’ too. It’s got a bit of smear and is not resolving at 100% but is awfully good in every other way.

Side Two

A+, it’s big and open but a bit thin, so the rockers don’t rock the way they should. The quieter songs work fine though. (more…)

Rita Coolidge – The Lady’s Not For Sale

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  • Rita Coolidge’s superb 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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Judy Collins – Judy Collins #3

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this pressing will be very hard to beat – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too  
  • The “breath of life” is alive and well on these old LPs, the best reason for the truly serious audiophile to stay committed to analog
  • “Having established herself as one of the foremost interpreters of traditional material, Collins did the same for contemporary folk songwriters on this album, which mixed standards with pristine covers of compositions by Dylan, Pete Seeger and Shel Silverstein. With Jim (Roger) McGuinn arranging and playing second guitar and banjo, this album, which included a fine version of Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn!,” had a clear (if overlooked) influence on the folk-rock he pioneered with the Byrds.”

We had a devil of a time finding clean, quiet, good sounding copies of this album. The mono pressings, which are far more common than the stereo pressings, didn’t sound right to us, and everything produced after the Big Red E label era is a joke, which leaves the Folksinger label pressings from 1963 and the Gold Label pressings from 1965. Both can be good. This LP was by far the quietest we played, which makes it very special indeed. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

WOW! This White Hot Stamper Asylum pressing has TWO AMAZING A+++ SIDES — better than every other copy we played it against. Side one is huge, rich and full. The sound is absolutely jumpin’ out of the speakers and Linda’s vocals are wonderfully present and breathy. Side two is every bit as good. It’s nice and clear with a great top end, present vocals and lovely sounding pianos.

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.

NOTE: the balance on side two is slightly off the left on most copies.

Linda’s Problems in the ’70s

The most common problem with these Ronstadt records from the ’70s is grainy, upper-midrangy sound. The average copy of Heart Like a Wheel, the album that followed this one, is pure transistory grain on most copies, making it practically unlistenable.

The average copy of Don’t Cry Now, though not quite as bad as HLAW, shares many of its shortcomings. 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.

Mobile Fidelity (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now – 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.

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. (more…)

Bonnie Raitt – Sweet Forgiveness – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Sweet Forgiveness

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

This White Hot Stamper side one had the kind of sound that just JUMPS out of the speakers! This side one had more of everything: more size and weight. more separation, more ambience, more vocal dynamics, more presence, more bottom end (which is unusual in that most copies of this album tends to be bass shy); in short, more LIFE. This copy, more than any other we played, showed us just how good the master tapes must be. (more…)