Top Engineers – Martin Birch

Deep Purple – One of the All Time Great Sounding Live Rock Albums

deeppmadei_1606_1152215422More of the Music of Deep Purple

More Live Recordings of Interest

Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought Martin Birch along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles.

Machine Head is clearly one of the best sounding hard rock records ever made, and Made In Japan, its successor, sounds more like a top quality studio production than any live album I’ve ever heard. It’s shocking how clean and undistorted the sound is. Equally shocking is the fact that it’s every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Live Album should be.

This is a combination the likes of which we hear far too rarely.

We’ve raved about a number of live albums over the years. Some of the better sounding ones that come readily to mind (in alphabetical order) are listed below. Fans of any of these bands can be proud to have a Hot Stamper pressing of any of these albums in their collection.

The albums I would want in my personal collection are noted with an asterisk [*].

  • The Band / Rock of Ages*
  • Harry Belafonte / At Carnegie Hall*
  • David Bowie / David Live*
  • Johnny Cash / At San Quentin
  • Cheap Trick / At Budokan
  • Eric Clapton / Just One Night*
  • Deep Purple / Made in Japan
  • Donny Hathaway / Live*
  • Jimi Hendrix / The Jimi Hendrix Concerts
  • Humble Pie / Performance – Rockin’ The Fillmore
  • Albert King / Live Wire – Blues Power
  • Little Feat / Waiting For Columbus*
  • Lou Rawls / Live!*
  • The Rolling Stones / Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out* 
  • The Who / Live at Leeds*

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan, I’d put it right up there with the best of the best.

In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan might just take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Rock Album of All Time. Yes, the sound is that good.

Want to find your own top quality copy?

Consider taking our Moderately Helpful Advice about the pressings that have tended to win shootouts over the years.

In our experience, this record sounds best this way:

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

On the Right Early Pressing 

On the Right British Import Pressing 

Watch out for this UK pressing, it sounds as dubby as the domestic pressings do.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Key Tracks for Critical Listening 

Deep Purple – In Rock

  • Both these UK sides have excellent sound for the band’s 1970 Classic
  • Only the Brit Harvest LPs such as this one are made from the actual master tape, and it sure ain’t hard to hear the difference using the real tape makes
  • In our experience, these import pressings are the only way to hear the band with the big, rich, Tubey Magical sound they’re famous for
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Deep Purple’s soon to be classic Mark II version made its proper debut and established the sonic blueprint that would immortalize this lineup of the band on 1970’s awesome In Rock.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this classic from 1970 belongs in your collection.

The best pressings give you exactly what you want from this brand of straight ahead rock and roll: presence in the vocals; solid, note-like bass; big punchy drums, and the kind of live-in-the-studio energetic, clean and clear sound. (AC/DC is another band with that kind of live studio sound. With big speakers and the power to drive them YOU ARE THERE.) (more…)

Deep Purple – Made In Japan

More Deep Purple

More Recordings Engineered by Martin Birch

  • Get ready to rumble! This UK copy boasts INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on all FOUR SIDES – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • A phenomenally well-recorded album that’s a true Demo Disc on an exceptional pressing such as this
  • Turn it up and you will hear sound that is incredibly powerful and natural with amazing presence, energy and weight down low
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • Rolling Stone: “They’ve done countless shows since in countless permutations, but they’ve never sounded quite this perfect.”.
  • If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1972 is clearly one of their best
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan, I’d put the album right up there with the best recorded live albums of all time. In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan would be very likely to take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Album of All Time.

Yes, the sound is that good.

Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought Martin Birch along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles.

Machine Head is clearly one of the best sounding hard rock records ever made, and Made In Japan, its successor, sounds more like a top quality studio production than any live album I’ve ever heard. It’s shocking how clean and undistorted the sound is. Equally shocking is the fact that it’s every bit as big and lively as a Hard Rockin’ Live Album should be.

This is a combination the likes of which we have never heard.

(more…)

Deep Purple – Fireball

More Deep Purple

More British Blues Rock

  • Fireball returns to the site on this KILLER original Harvest UK import with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • This LP was simply bigger, richer and clearer, with more Tubey Magic, less smear and less congestion than the other vintage pressings we played
  • One of Ian Gillian’s favorite albums, “… it was really the beginning of tremendous possibilities of expression.”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of Deep Purple’s four indispensable albums (the others being In Rock, Machine Head, and Burn), 1971’s Fireball saw the band broadening out from the no-holds-barred hard rock direction of the previous year’s cacophonous In Rock.”

This vintage Harvest pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely 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…)

Black Sabbath – Mob Rules

More Black Sabbath

More Rock Classics

  • Mob Rules returns to the site on this original WB pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quite vinyl too
  • MASSIVE and powerful throughout – this copy is big, rich, full-bodied and solid like you won’t believe
  • 4 stars: “[A] quick follow-up to Heaven and Hell, continuing…that record’s energy as well as its shift away from dark metal to more commercial hard rock. [They] work well as each other’s companion pieces, making the first round of Dio-fronted Sabbath material a bright spot…”

(more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Penguin

  • This early Reprise LP is a huge step up from most – this copy is full-bodied, smooth and musical – classic Fleetwood Mac sound
  • One of my favorite songs on the album is one of Christine McVie’s best from this period, Did You Ever Love Me – on this pressing it’s rich and sweet exactly the way it should be
  • “Fleetwood Mac’s first album made after the departure of Danny Kirwan features the additions of guitarist Bob Weston and singer Dave Walker… This album gave Fleetwood Mac its best U.S. chart showing yet…”

On the best pressings, the sound is positively JUMPING out of the speakers in a way that is completely unexpected. We often talk about the size of the soundfield on a particular pressing, side to side, bottom to top, and even more often about the energy found on one copy relative to another.

(more…)

Deep Purple / Made In Japan – UK Vinyl But Mastered in the States?

More of the Music of Deep Purple

Reviews and Commentaries for Made In Japan

To our dismay, we discovered that some of the stampers for some of the sides on some of the British import pressings are actually sourced from a well known American cutting house. When those sides did poorly in the shootout, naturally we wanted to know more about them in order to avoid buying any more pressings with those markings.

We had no idea the British would “import” the metalwork from here, but they did, and the results were not good, at least not for us audiophiles. I hope it goes without saying that we will not be selling any versions of the album that are not cut in England.

This is what you learn when you have lots of copies of the same album and play them against each other.

We constantly Experiment with Different Record Pressings this way and we recommend you do the same.

Carry out as many experiments as you can find time for. The quality of your collection — at least the sonic quality of your collection — will improve immensely.

(more…)

Deep Purple / Machine Head on Rhino 180 Gram Vinyl

More Deep Purple

More British Blues Rock

Sonic Grade: F

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.)

I’m guessing that very few people have ever heard this record sound good. The average copy is nothing special, but this one is a boring, lifeless mess, so save your money.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

(more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees

More Fleetwood Mac

Reviews and Commentaries for Fleetwood Mac

  • It’s the impossibly rare copy that’s this lively, solid and rich… drop the needle on the title track and you’ll see what we mean
  • “Arguably the first consistently strong album Fleetwood Mac ever recorded [not true, Kiln House is] … 1972’s Bare Trees is also the album where the band finally defines its post-blues musical personality.”

This period of Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House (1970) through Mystery to Me (1973) — both are albums I would put at the top of my list to take to my Desert Island — has always been my favorite of the band. I grew up on this stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience that it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good!

Until not that many years ago we simply were not able to successfully shootout Bare Trees, Fleetwood Mac’s wonderful album from 1972. The pressings we were playing just didn’t sound very much like Hot Stampers to us. British, German, Japanese, domestic originals, domestic reissues; all of them left much too much to be desired.

Thankfully we can tell you that the best copies sound a whole lot better now than they did then. (more…)

Martin Birch Knows How to Get the Big Rock Sound of Deep Purple on Tape

Hot Stamper Pressings of Deep Purple Albums (Rarely in Stock, Sorry!)

When you get a Hot Stamper pressing like this one, Machine Head is a True Rock and Roll Demo Disc. Since our stereo is all about playing these kinds of records, and playing them at good loud levels as nature — and the artists — intended, we had a helluva time with Machine Head.

It had the kind of presence and energy that puts most copies of this album to shame. It’s also amazingly spacious, the result no doubt of it being recorded practically live in the studio. On the best copies you can really hear the sound bouncing off the studio walls, just as you can on the best Zep, AC/DC and Bad Co. albums. You can just tell they are all playing this one live: it’s so relaxed and natural and REAL sounding.

The vocalist is no doubt in a booth, but everyone else seems to be in a lively studio. With lovely extension up top this was a very sweet copy that cried out to be turned up good and loud. The louder we played it the better it sounded! (more…)