Top Engineers – Mike Bobak

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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More Reviews and Commentaries for 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 side one has it ALL going on — all the Tubey Magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high-rez yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings, especially the reissues on the second label.

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.

Mike Bobak was the engineer for these sessions from 1970. He is the man responsible for some of the best sounding records from the early ’70s: The Faces’ Long Player, Cat Stevens’ Mona Bone Jakon, Rod Stewart’s Never a Dull Moment, The Kinks’ Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One, (and lots of other Kinks albums), Carly Simon’s Anticipation and more than his share of obscure English bands (of which there seems to be a practically endless supply).

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with the richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and remasterings). (more…)

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Every Picture Tells a Story

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – a sonic powerhouse and Demo Disc par excellence, with vinyl that’s about as quiet as we can find
  • 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
  • 5 stars: “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.”

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 records).

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.

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 show-stopping “(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…)

John Baldry Knows One Thing: It Ain’t Easy Finding Good Sounding Pressings of His Albums

A Record We may Never Shootout Again

Some records were just too much work to find, too expensive to buy and whose sales never really justified the investment in time and money required to find Hot Stamper pressings of them to offer to our customers.

This is one such album, and the link above will take you to many more.

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  • For its debut on the site, we present this amazing sounding British original pressing, with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one (the Rod Stewart side)
  • Side two (the Elton John produced side) was outstanding as well, earning a Double Plus (A++) for its rich, tubey sound
  • No wonder side one sounds like the best of Rod Stewart & The Faces’ early-’70s albums – Mike Bobak engineered them
  • “The backing band on Stewart’s side include fellow Face and future Rolling Stone, Ron Wood, on electric guitar and acoustic guitarist Sam Mitchell, who appeared on many of Stewart’s early-’70s solo albums.”

Here’s how this shootout got started.

A few years ago while I was working on the site I had music on youtube playing. The song “Flying” came on from the It Ain’t Easy album, and when the chorus came in I could not believe how big, rich and powerful it sounded — this, on computer speakers! (more…)

Carly Simon – Anticipation

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  • This outstanding early pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Produced by Mr. Paul Samwell-Smith, this album blends Carly’s lilting vocals with lush, harmonically detailed acoustic guitars and BIG punchy drums
  • Brimming with favorites, like Anticipation, Legend In Your Own Time and I’ve Got To Have You, this is clearly one of her most consistent albums
  • “Carly Simon’s second album found her extending the gutsy persona she had established on her debut album… a frankly passionate person whose vulnerability was a source of strength, not weakness, a valuable feminist trait and one Simon would pursue in her later work.”

The acoustic guitars sound particularly good on this copy, with just the right balance of pluck and body. The vocals are breathy and full-bodied with extraordinary immediacy. The tonality from top to bottom is Right On The Money. I don’t think you could find a much better sounding copy of this album no matter how hard you tried. We went through plenty to find this one, I can tell you that.

What the Best Sides of Anticipation Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

If Those Guitars Sound Familiar…

When you hear the incredibly lush, highly detailed acoustic guitars on this record, you won’t be surprised to find out that the album was produced by Mr. Paul Samwell-Smith, who handles the same duties on Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat. You’ll hear his signature sound all over this album, particularly on the track I’ve Got To Have You.

That’s not to say that we’d put this recording on the same level with those audiophile knockouts, but the richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies is exactly what you’d expect from the team of Samwell-Smith and Carly Simon.

What We’re Listening For on Anticipation

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

The Big Sound We Love

Drop the needle on Legend In Your Mind for some of the best sound and music on here. The overall sound is open and transparent, with real depth to the soundfield and lots of separation between the instruments.

The one word that comes to mind is BIG — this record gives you The Big Sound that Carly was no doubt going for.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Anticipation
Legend in Your Own Time
Our First Day Together
The Girl You Think You See
Summer’s Coming Around Again

Side Two

Share the End
The Garden
Three Days
Julie Through the Glass
I’ve Got to Have You

AMG  Review

Carly Simon’s second album found her extending the gutsy persona she had established on her debut album, notably on the title track and “Legend in Your Own Time” (both of them hit singles), and “I’ve Got to Have You.” The latter especially suggested a frankly passionate person whose vulnerability was a source of strength, not weakness, a valuable feminist trait and one Simon would pursue in her later work.

Rod Stewart – Never A Dull Moment

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  • With incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grades on both sides, this copy gets the heart of Rod’s Brit rock right like no other we played – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Extremely well-recorded, full of great songs, Rod Stewart was on top of the world when he followed up the brilliant Every Picture Tells a Story with this album in 1972
  • The music comes alive on this vintage pressing, assuming you have your volume up good and loud
  • 5 stars in AMG, and simply “… a masterful record … He never got quite this good ever again.”

Listen to the percussion on Angel — you can really hear all the transients and the sound of the drum skins. 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?

Along with Every Picture Tells A Story this is one of the two Must Own Rod Stewart albums. Practically every song here is a classic, with not a dog in the bunch. Rod Stewart did what few artists have ever managed to do: release his two best albums back to back.

And this, not to put too fine a point on it, is clearly the way to hear it. (more…)

Cat Stevens / Mona Bone Jakon – Live and Learn

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Mona Bone Jakon

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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…)

Seals & Crofts / Year of Sunday – A Masterpiece and Underrated Classic

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The best album by this duo – their strongest songwriting and arrangements. Nearly White Hot on side one, with vocals that are full-bodied, rich and solid.

A forgotten Classic from 1971, the album holds up very well forty plus years on.

Their commercial breakthrough would come with their next album, Year of Sunday, helped out by scores of session cats, but I much prefer the less commercial — although it’s far from uncommercial — sound of Year of Sunday. I am apparently not alone in my love for this album. Of the thirteen reviews on Amazon, every one gives it Five Stars(!).

The consistency of the songwriting is very strong here as well, with surprisingly powerful emotional currents. There’s not a dog in the bunch, and many of the better tracks are gems of popcraft. Some of the my favorites are When I Meet Them, Cause You Love, and Antoinette on side one, and Paper Airplanes, Irish Linen and Springfield Mill on side two.

Side One

Smooth and very rich, with big bass, this is without a doubt precisely the right sound for the album. Very few copies managed to pull off the rich tonal balance that this side has going for it.

Side Two

It’s big and clear, a bit thinner but still very good. (more…)

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…)