Top Engineers – John Haeny

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

More of the Music of Linda Ronstadt

Hot Stamper Pressing on the Asylum Label

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:

  1. Note how breathy her voice is in the quiet passages. Only the least smeared, most transparent copies reproduce that breathy quality in her voice
  2. 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.

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 is that there will usually 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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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

More Rita Coolidge

  • 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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Judy Collins – Who Knows Where The Time Goes

More Judy Collins

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Judy Collins

  • The sweetness and transparency to the guitars and vocals on this wonderful pressing won us over
  • “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” – one of our favorite Judy Collins songs – is achingly powerful here
  • 4 stars: “Enthusiasts of Judy Collins rank this among their favorite recordings and it is likewise a perfect touchstone for the burgeoning listener as well.”
  • If you’re a fan of Judy’s, this early pressing from 1968 surely belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Finding the Best Sound

Most copies were a bit thinner than ideal, and even the best pressings we heard had a bit of that quality. Frequency extension high and low was also hard to come by.

If the sound is rich and full-bodied, yet clear and transparent, you probably have yourself one of the few that were mastered and pressed properly — and one of the few that survived the turntables of their day to be playable forty-plus years later on the revealing equipment you undoubtedly own.

If you don’t own such a copy, and with all due respect chances are you don’t, we have a lovely copy right here for you, only a click away.

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Jackson Browne – The Pretender

More Jackson Browne

 More Asylum Label Recordings

  • 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
  • If you’re a JB fan, this title from 1976 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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…)

Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now

More Linda Ronstadt

Asylum – A Label We Love

  • The transparency and vocal presence here are wonderful – the piano is solid and Linda’s vocals are breathy and heartfelt
  • We love her emotionally powerful interpretations of Desperado, Sail Away and Neil Young’s achingly sublime I Believe in You
  • She really belts it out on this album – it’s what she does best – but only the best copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing
  • Rolling Stone raves it’s “the Ronstadt album for which we’ve been waiting.”
  • If you’re a Linda Ronstadt fan, this has to be considered a Must Own Title of hers from 1973.
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

A 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. (more…)

Bonnie Raitt / Sweet Forgiveness – Dynamic Vocals? Thank John Haeny

More Bonnie Raitt

Reviews and Commentaries for Bonnie Raitt’s Albums

I learned only recently that John 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.)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

About to Make Me Leave Home 

This is where you will hear the best sound on the best copies. If it doesn’t sound BIG, you don’t have a Hot Stamper.

Runaway
Two Lives 

This is my favorite song on the album. Many copies get congested when Bonnie and the chorus are singing loudly, but this one plays it fairly clean.

Louise 

This is an easy one. The guitars are sweet and tubey magical.

Gamblin’ Man

Side Two

Sweet Forgiveness
My Opening Farewell

This track has the most dynamic vocals on the album, some of the most dynamic vocals on any pop record. She really gets LOUD on this one.

Three Time Loser
Takin’ My Time
Home 

Possibly the most beautiful song on the album. As I am writing this, it becomes more and more clear to me that this is Bonnie’s strongest album. It has more good songs than any other that I can think of.

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Judy Collins / Judy Collins #3 – Gold Versus Red Label in 2007

This is a Minty Elektra Red Label LP with two AMAZING sounding sides! Typical copies are dull and thin sounding, making Judy Blue Eyes’ beautiful voice sound honky and weak like she has a head cold. This copy is the remedy!

It has rich, full-bodied sound with the sweetest highs and tons of ambience, especially around the guitars and bass. Most importantly, there is virtually NO STRAIN on the her vocals, which is extremely rare.

Out of the three labels we listened to for this shootout, nothing could compare to this Red Label. The Gold Labels could have some sweet, musical qualities to them, but were consistently dull and lifeless. Out of the multiple Butterfly Labels we listened to, we could not find one that didn’t sound like a bad cassette. This Red Label was by far the best sounding copy of Judy Collins #3 we’ve EVER HEARD!

More Judy Collins

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

Records We’ve Reviewed that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

John Sebastian – John B. Sebastian

More John Sebastian

  • 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…)

Judy Collins – Wildflowers

More Judy Collins

More Folk Rock

  • 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…)