Top Engineers – Keith Olsen

Grateful Dead – Terrapin Station

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  • This original pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it throughout – you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds any better than this!
  • Produced by Keith Olsen of Fleetwood Mac fame, it’s no surprise that the recording quality is quite a bit better than most of the records they had been making at the time
  • Pretty darn quiet throughout, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus, as quiet as we can find them
  • “Terrapin Station offers a few choice glimpses of the band doing what it does best. While the most prominent example is the album’s extended title suite, there are a few others such as the cover of the Rev. Gary Davis gospel-blues “Samson and Delilah” and a resurrection of the Martha & the Vandellas hit “Dancin’ in the Streets.” 

Most Dead studio albums after Workingman’s Dead are full of filler, but this one actually has some good songs: the extended title song suite, the hard-rockin’ Passenger mated Prophet. The cov(note the similarities to Fleetwood Mac’s Station Man), and the darkly funky Estier of Dancin’ In The Streets may have earned this album the epithet of Disco Dead, but it’s actually a good bit of fun if you don’t take it too seriously.

Terrapin Station marked the Dead’s return to a major label (Arista) and was only their second album ever to make use of an outside producer (Keith Olsen, who also worked on the two smash hit Fleetwood Mac albums of the era — Rumours and the self-titled LP, two records that can sound stunning on the right pressing). As such, the songs are a bit more concise than you might expect from these crazy guys — only the title song goes over five and a half minutes, and it’s one of the band’s most famous jams! (more…)

Bob Weir – Heaven Help The Fool

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • A surprisingly well recorded album, this pressing is simply bigger, bolder and richer than most of the other copies we played
  • ” … showcases the special flavor that Weir added to Jerry [Garcia]’s genius, where 2 identities blend effortlessly. “
  • “Jazzy in places, soft and smooth in others. Out of the ordinary for the Grateful Dead’s co-founder, but easier for the uninitiated to absorb without losing the trademark oddity that Weir has always displayed. Top-notch stuff.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 20 light to moderate pops at the end of Track 2.

What separated the best copies from the also-rans was more than just rich, sweet, full-bodied sound. The better copies make Bob’s voice more palpable — he’s simply more of a solid, three dimensional, real presence between the speakers. You can hear the nuances of his delivery much, MUCH more clearly on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.

Keith Olsen produced and co-engineered here, which should go a long way toward explaining why the sound is so good. He is of course the man helped make Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 album such a sonic blockbuster. (more…)

Foreigner – Double Vision

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  • This outstanding copy of Foreigner’s sophomore release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from beginning to end – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you own the Half-Speed or any modern reissue, you won’t believe how much bigger, clearer and more energetic this pressing is
  • Keith Olsen produced and engineered – he’s the man behind the amazing sound of Buckingham/Nicks and Fleetwood Mac (1975)
  • 4 stars: “Foreigner promptly followed up its blockbuster debut with the equally successful Double Vision LP in 1978, which featured the FM mega-hits “Hot Blooded” and the driving title track.”

As I’m sure you know, there is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print, and an older one from the days when their records were pressed in Japan (#1-052).

We haven’t played the latter in years; as I recall it was as lifeless and sucked-out in the midrange as most of the other MoFis of that period, notably The Doors (#051) and Trick of the Tail (#062). Is there any doubt that the new MoFi will be every bit as bad or worse? If any of our Hot Stamper customers have purchased the current release, I would be interested in hearing how you think it stacks up against this copy. (more…)

Dr. John – Dr. John’s Gumbo

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  • Dr. John’s Gumbo is back, now with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Full, lively, and solid, this copy has just the right sound for this collection of quintessential New Orleans Rhythm and Blues tracks
  • The superbly talented Keith Olsen engineered – just one year later he would record Buckingham-Nicks, and two years after that Fleetwood Mac
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Dr. John’s Gumbo bridged the gap between post-hippie rock and early rock & roll, blues, and R&B… that sly fusion of styles makes Dr. John’s Gumbo one of Dr. John’s finest albums.”

You may have read this commentary in our other Dr. John listing, the one for In The Right Place. The two recordings — and therefore the Hot Stamper pressings made from them — share much in common, so we’ve more or less copies the listing for that album into this one. What’s good about one is good about the other, and vice-versa.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original Yellow Label Atco pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Foreigner – Double Vision

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

The fullest, richest, smoothest, most energetic and clearest copy we played in our shootout by far – this is how good the album can sound! This one has the clarity and energy that let this music come to life. The sound was jumping out of our speakers.

As I’m sure you know, there is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print, and an older one from the days when their records were pressed in Japan (#052).  (more…)

Dr. John – Dr. John’s Gumbo

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  • Dr. John’s Gumbo is back, now with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Full, lively, and solid, this copy has just the right sound for this collection of quintessential New Orleans Rhythm and Blues tracks
  • The superbly talented Keith Olsen engineered – just one year later he would record Buckingham-Nicks, and two years after that Fleetwood Mac
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Dr. John’s Gumbo bridged the gap between post-hippie rock and early rock & roll, blues, and R&B… that sly fusion of styles makes Dr. John’s Gumbo one of Dr. John’s finest albums.”

You may have read this commentary in our other Dr. John listing, the one for In The Right Place. The two recordings — and therefore the Hot Stamper pressings made from them — share much in common, so we’ve more or less copies the listing for that album into this one. What’s good about one is good about the other, and vice-versa.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original Yellow Label Atco pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Pat Benatar – Crimes of Passion

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  • This impressive Double Plus (A++) copy is ROCKIN’ with Sound City Classic Rock energy like you will not believe
  • Credit engineer Keith Olsen, the man behind the Buckingham Nicks album and the even-more-amazing Fleetwood Mac self-titled release
  • All kinds of big hits can be found on this one, including Benatar classics such as Treat Me Right, You Better Run and Hit Me With Your Best Shot
  • “Benatar avoids the synth-happy trends of the early ’80s and delivers a hard rocking ten-song session of power pop tempered with a few ballads for balance.”

Credit for the sound must go to the brilliant engineer Keith Olsen, the man behind the amazing sounding Fleetwood Mac self-titled release from 1975. Is there a better sounding Fleetwood Mac album? I certainly can’t think of one. 

The man knows Big Rock sound as well as anyone in the business. The two recordings mentioned above and our Crimes of Passion here have too much in common for it to be a mere coincidence. All three have tons of bass (which is the sine qua non of live rock music), huge size and scope, richness, Tubey Magic, a smooth top and last but not least, hard-rockin’ energy. (more…)

Foreigner Double Vision – MoFi Half-Speed Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

There is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print, and an older one from the days when their records were pressed in Japan (#052).

We haven’t played the latter in years; as I recall it was as lifeless and sucked-out in the midrange as some other famous MoFis of that period, notably The Doors (#051) and Trick of the Tail (#062). Is there any doubt that the new MoFi will be every bit as bad or worse? (more…)

Listening in Depth to Fleetwood Mac’s Self-Titled Album from 1975

So few copies we ran across in our shootout had that “jump out of the speakers” sound we knew was possible from our previous shootouts of the album. When finally one did, boy did it ever. What a knockout. Hot Stampers? The best copies are on fire!

If you have a big speaker system and have taken advantage of the audio revolutions we discuss throughout the site, this is the kind of record that shows just how much progress you’ve made.

When a record like this blows everything you’ve ever heard out of the water, you are definitely on the right track!

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Monday Morning

This copy is so transparent that it revealed a quality of the recording that we were never aware of before. The songs that Lindsey sings, which tend to be the rockers, have a certain gritty quality to the vocals which is not on any of the other songs, those sung by Stevie Nicks or Christine McVie. It’s not a pressing problem. It HAS to be the way they wanted his vocals to sound. There’s a certain rawness and bite that he seems to be going for, so don’t expect the smoothness and sweetness of the other tracks when playing his.

Warm Ways

Folks, it doesn’t get any better than this. This song is PURE POP PERFECTION. This is our favorite test track for side one. Christine’s voice needs to be present and immediate, while at the same time completely free from grain or artificial EQ. On the best copies she is breathy and sweet. In case you haven’t noticed, these are not qualities you hear often in the songs Christine sings lead on. Most of her vocals are veiled and farther back in the mix. Stevie Nicks tends to get better sound for some reason, don’t ask me why. Just listen to the sound of the vocals on Landslide; McVie never gets that kind of presence and immediacy. (more…)