Top Engineers – Mike Bobak

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon – Live and Learn

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When we said this album was not the sonic equal of Teaser and the Firecat or Tea for the Tillerman, boy, We Was Wrong and then some. Read all about it in this White Hot Stamper copy review below.

It’s been about a year since we last found Hot Stampers of this album, and having made a number of improvements to the stereo over that time, I’m here to report that this album got a WHOLE LOT BETTER, better than I ever imagined it could get. Mona Bone Jakon now ranks as a DEMO DISC of the highest order, every bit the equal of Teaser and Tea.

To think that all three of these records came out in one fifteen month period is astonishing. The only other artists to have produced music of this calibre in so short a time would have to be The Beatles, and it took four of them to do it.

Which is not what we used to think, as evidenced by this paragraph from a previous Hot Stamper listing.

This album is one of Cat’s top four titles both musically and sonically. Tea and Teaser are obviously in a league of their own, but this album and Catch Bull At Four are close behind. The music is WONDERFUL — the best tracks (including I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light) rank right up there with anything from his catalog. Sonically it’s not an epic recording on the scale of Tea or Teaser, but with Paul Samwell-Smith at the helm, you can be sure it’s an excellent sounding album — on the right pressing.

That last line is dead wrong. It IS an epic recording on the scale of Tea and Teaser. This copy proves it! Now that we know just how good this record can sound, I hope you will allow me to borrow some commentary from another classic Cat Stevens album listing, to wit:

Right off the bat I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folk-pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

When you hear I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on a Hot Stamper copy you will be convinced, as I am, that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world. I don’t know of ANY other album that has more LIFE and MUSICAL ENERGY than this one. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND FROM START TO FINISH on this stunning copy of Rod Stewart’s masterpiece! We just finished another massive shootout for this album, and this was the copy that completely knocked us out. It’s an original Mercury pressing that earned an A+++ grade on BOTH sides. You probably had no idea how amazing this album could sound on the right pressing, because most copies out there just don’t do it. Maggie May is KILLER on this one.  

Not too many of our Hot Stamper titles are going to ROCK you the way this one does.

We put it in a class with Led Zep II, Sticky Fingers, Nevermind, and Back In Black — elite company to say the least!

Side one is BIG, punchy, and full of energy — in other words, IT REALLY ROCKS! Very few copies we’ve ever played had the kind of bottom end WHOMP found here — it really takes the music to a whole new level of enjoyment. The bass is tight, meaty, and note-like; you can really follow each note. Overall, the sound is open, rich, and super transparent. And, Rod’s vocals are more PRESENT and textured than ever before. We rate side one A+++ — it’s STELLAR!

Side two is EVERY BIT AS AMAZING! It’s very spacious with more depth to the soundfield; you can really hear INTO the music. The immediacy, richness and clarity of the vocals is off the charts. Drop the needle on Maggie Mae and turn it up; it will be as if Rod was belting out the lyrics right there in your living room, in all his raspy glory! There is BIG TIME ENERGY with WHOMP and an open top end. The acoustic guitars on this side have plenty of pluck and body, just listen to the intro on this side — the guitar is AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Side two rates A+++ as well, making this a VERY remarkable copy.

Nevermind, and then some

I Know I’m Losing You on this album rocks as hard as any album from the period, with DEMO DISC SOUND. If you have BIG DYNAMIC SPEAKERS and the power to drive them to serious listening levels, you will be blown away by the power of this recording.

You know what this album is? It’s the Nirvana Nevermind of the early ’70s. It has that kind of power in the bass and drums.

But it also has beautifully realized acoustic guitars and mandolins, something that virtually no recording for the last twenty years can claim. In that sense it towers over Nevermind, an album I hold in very high esteem. (Heck, I’ve even called it perfect!)

We Love Big Drums!

If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS, with jump-out-of-the-speakers direct-to-disc sound quality, this is the album for you. The opening track on side one has drums that put to shame 99% of the rock drums ever recorded. The same is true of I Know I’m Losing You on side two. It just doesn’t get any better for rock drumming, musically or sonically.

Some of the best rock bass ever recorded can be found here too — punchy, note-like and solid as a rock. Got big dynamic speakers? A concrete foundation under your listening room? You are going to have a great time playing this one for your audiophile friends who have screens or little box speakers. Once they hear what big well-recorded drums can sound like on speakers designed to move air, they may want to rethink their choices.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Every Picture Tells a Story
Seems Like a Long Time
That’s All Right
Tomorrow Is a Long Time

Side Two

Maggie May
Mandolin Wind
(I Know) I”m Losing You
Reason to Believe

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Without greatly altering his approach, Rod Stewart perfected his blend of hard rock, folk, and blues on his masterpiece, Every Picture Tells a Story. Marginally a harder-rocking album than Gasoline Alley — the Faces blister on the Temptations cover “(I Know I’m) Losing You,” and the acoustic title track goes into hyper-drive with Mick Waller’s primitive drumming — the great triumph of Every Picture Tells a Story lies in its content. Every song on the album, whether it’s a cover or original, is a gem, combining to form a romantic, earthy portrait of a young man joyously celebrating his young life… It’s a beautiful album, one that has the timeless qualities of the best folk, yet one that rocks harder than most pop music — few rock albums are quite this powerful or this rich.

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.  

A knockout Top Copy, with a side one so jaw-droppingly amazing that we awarded it the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade. The sound is incredibly rich, full-bodied and open with excellent clarity — you will be FLOORED.

Please note that we do not have a graphic for the above chart to indicate the Four Plus grade, since we award it so rarely. Our rating system usually only goes to three pluses, but this side one was so amazing we had to give it a fourth!

This is a superb recording, and on a pressing like this it is true Demo Disc material! Not too many of our Hot Stamper titles are going to ROCK you the way this one does. We put it in a class with Led Zep II, Sticky Fingers, Nevermind, and Back In Black — elite company to say the least!

If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS in a BIG ROOM, with jump-out-of-the-speakers practically direct-to-disc sound quality, this is the album for you. The opening track on side one has drums that put to shame 99% of the rock drum kits ever recorded. The same is true of I Know I’m Losing You on side two. It just doesn’t get any better for rock drumming, musically or sonically. Micky Waller is brilliant throughout. Kenney Jones, who only plays on the showstopping “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, is clearly out of his mind).

Some of the best rock bass ever recorded can be found here too — punchy, note-like and solid as a rock. If you have the system for it you are going to have a great time playing this one for your friends, audiophiles or otherwise. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

The credit must go to the engineering of MIKE BOBAK for the DEMO DISC SOUND. We just finished our most comprehensive shootout ever for the album, culling the best sounding dozen from about twenty five entrants, and this copy just plain kicked all their butts, earning our highest grade on side one (A+++).

Having made a number of serious improvements to our system in the last few months, I can state categorically and without reservation that this copy of Never a Dull Moment achieved the best stereo sound I have ever heard in my life (outside of the live event of course). I’m still recovering from it.

Side one here is OFF THE CHARTS! No other side one could touch it. It’s got all the elements needed to make this music REALLY ROCK — stunning presence; super-punchy drums; deep, tight bass; and tons of life and energy.

So many copies tend to be dull, veiled, thick and congested, but on this one you can separate out the various parts with ease and hear right INTO the music. It’s also surprisingly airy, open, and spacious — not quite what you’d expect from a bluesy British rock album like this, right? But the engineers here managed to pull it off! One of them was Glyn Johns (mis-spelled in the credits Glynn Johns), who’s only responsible for the first track on side one, True Blue. Naturally that happens to be one of the best sounding tracks on the whole album. (more…)

Rod Stewart / Never a Dull Moment – Unless You’re Playing the DCC Heavy Vinyl…

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In which case you are in for an unending string of dull moments (see below).

We were thrilled when we dropped the needle on side one of this Hot Stamper pressing and heard sound that was AMAZINGLY airy, open, and spacious.

It’s got all the elements necessary to let this music REALLY ROCK — stunning presence; super punchy drums; deep, tight bass; and tons of life and energy. Rod’s voice sounds just right with lots of breath, texture, and ambience. The sound is clean, clear, smooth, and sweet — that’s our sound.

Side two here is nearly as good and dramatically better sounding than most. Listen to the percussion on Angel — you can really hear all the transients and the sound of the drum skins.

On the same track, the meaty guitar in the left channel sounds mind-blowingly good. The bass is deep and well-defined, and the sound of the drums is awesome in every way. Who has a better drum sound than Rod Stewart on his two best albums? (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon – Listening in Depth

More Cat Stevens

More Mona Bone Jakon

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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 of Mona Bone Jakon. 

When you hear I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on a Hot Stamper copy you will be convinced, as I am, that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world. I don’t know of ANY other album that has more LIFE and MUSICAL ENERGY than this one. 

Right off the bat I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folk-pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, this copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you are now revealed as never before 
  • When you play I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This one has it ALL going on — all the tubey magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high resolution yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Test for Proper Tonal Balance

More Rod Stewart

More Every Picture Tells A Story

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

One note on how to tell if you have a tonally balanced copy, at least on side two. Maggie May has multi-overdubbed, close-miked mandolins that should have strong midrange presence and an especially extended, harmonically correct top end. As soon as that song ends, a very sweet, smooth guitar opens the next track, Mandolin Wind. The two songs lean towards opposite ends of the tonal balance spectrum, but on a good copy, both of them sound right. One’s a little darker, one’s a little brighter, but they should both be right if your system is tonally balanced.    (more…)

Mona Bone Jakon – A Forgotten Classic

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More Mona Bone Jakon

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this original copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album 
  • The sound is so transparent, open, and spacious that nuances and subtleties that escaped you before are now front and center 
  • When you hear I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light here you will understand why we say that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world 
  • The original A&M LPs we like are nearly impossible to find with good sound and quiet vinyl – this copy plays quieter than any we currently have in stock
  • “Mona Bone Jakon is a delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

Right off the bat, I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of Folk Pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other Folk Pop recordings that are as good but we know of none that are better. (more…)

Every Picture Tells A Story – Our Shootout Winner for 2017

 

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  • A truly incredible copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one – a sonic powerhouse and Demo Disc par excellence
  • If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS in a BIG ROOM, with jump-out-of-the-speakers sound, this is the album for you
  • A Top 100 album, and Rod’s best music and best recording by far – nothing can touch it
  • “It’s a beautiful album, one that has the timeless qualities of the best folk, yet one that rocks harder than most pop music — few rock albums are quite this powerful or this rich.” – 5 Stars

More Rod Stewart / More Faces

This is a superb recording, and on a pressing like this it is a Demo Disc with little competition (if you have the kind of system designed to play these sorts of recordings).

Not too many of our Hot Stamper titles are going to ROCK the way this one can. We put it in a class with Led Zep II, Sticky Fingers, Nevermind, and Back In Black — elite company to say the least.

If you’re a fan of BIG DRUMS in a BIG ROOM, with jump-out-of-the-speakers practically direct-to-disc sound quality, this is the album for you. The opening track on side one has drums that put to shame 99% of the rock drum kits ever recorded. The same is true of I Know I’m Losing You on side two. It just doesn’t get any better for rock drumming, musically or sonically. Micky Waller is brilliant throughout. Kenney Jones, who only plays on the showstopping “(I Know) I’m Losing You”, is clearly out of his mind).

Some of the best rock bass ever recorded can be found here too — punchy, note-like and solid as a rock. If you have the system for it you are going to have a great time playing this one for your friends, audiophiles or otherwise. (more…)