Top Engineers – Phill Brown

Roxy Music – Manifesto

More Bryan Ferry

More Roxy Music

  • An incredible early UK import pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s simply BIGGER and RICHER than any other copy we played, with rock solid energy to beat them all
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the Tubey Magic on this pressing and the others in our shootout prove again and again that the UK LPs are the only way to fly on Manifesto
  • “The songs ending each side fade out with real grace and leave you hanging, wanting more — drenched in a romance out of reach.”
  • If you’re a Roxy fan, this title from 1979 surely deserves a place in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1979 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

(more…)

The Rolling Stones – Beggars Banquet

More Rolling Stones

  • An outstanding vintage London pressing of this surprisingly well-recorded Stones album from 1968, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout and fairly quiet vinyl, all things considered
  • The long lost Tubey Magic of these early pressings has them sounding better than we ever thought possible with the audio equipment of the day
  • This is exactly the way you want Beggars Banquet to sound and it sure doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it
  • One of a select group of Rolling Stones Must Own titles we prize above all others – Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed round out the trio
  • 5 stars: “Basic rock & roll was not forgotten, however: ‘Street Fighting Man’… was one of their most innovative singles, and ‘Sympathy for the Devil’… was an image-defining epic.”

(more…)

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

More Joe Cocker

  • This copy of Cocker’s sophomore release boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy with sides that play this quiet, and the first ever to hit the site with our condition grade of Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than this one?
  • Take a gander at this track listing: “Dear Landlord,” “Bird on the Wire,” “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window,” “Something,” “Delta Lady,” “Darling Be Home Soon” – and there’s plenty more where those came from
  • Records like these are getting awfully hard to find these days in audiophile playing condition, which explains why you so rarely see them on the site
  • 4 stars: “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.”

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music.

This album is a ton of fun, with Cocker and his band putting their spin on some of the best songs of the era. You need energy, space and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound if this music is going to sound right, and on those counts these copies deliver. (more…)

Joe Cocker / With a Little Help From My Friends – A Masterpiece of Blue Eyed Soul

More of the Music of Joe Cocker

We just finished our first shootout in over FIVE [2012 or so] years for the album and were SHOCKED by how amazing the best copies can sound, even better than we remember them from last time around. Turn this one up good and loud and you’ll have Joe Cocker in all his raspy glory belting out With A Little Help From My Friends right in your very own listening room!

Blue-Eyed Soul doesn’t get much better than this. Cocker and his band chose SUPERB material for this album, including Dave Mason’s Feelin’ Alright; two of Dylan’s best, Just Like A Woman and I Shall Be Released; and of course the wonderful title track by no less than Joe’s fellow Brits Lennon and McCartney. The backing band features many great musicians including giants such as Jimmy Page and Stevie Winwood. No one’s making records like this anymore, not with this kind of musical and songwriting talent anyway.

What’s surprising is how good all the not-so-famous musicians are here. Chris Stainton is killer on bass, piano and organ. (He later toured extensively with Eric Clapton.) Henry McCullough (who joined Wings in 1971) handles the electric guitar duties so well (along with Jimmy Page and Albert Lee) that we would be hard pressed to say who turns in the better axe work on the album. (Some of these guys went on to become The Grease Band, but all of them had no trouble finding professional work with the best in the business.)

Whoever put this band together deserves our gratitude; they are playing with the Best of the Best and holding their own every step of the way. It was a thrill to hear the quality of the musicianship on this album; they sound like one of those great British bands that’s been together for years and finally got the chance to show off their chops.

The Recording

This album sounds just like one of the better Aretha Franklin outings from the late ’60s, early ’70s, with Aretha ducking out and Joe taking her place at the mic. If you’ve heard one of our Hot Stamper Aretha records you know exactly what you’ll be getting here. The background vocalists, piano and organ are eerily similar. It’s pretty clear that her recordings were being used as a template for this album, and it seems to have worked out very well for everyone involved. There is really nothing to fault here; the arrangements, the performances and the sound are GLORIOUS.

Overview

We played a large number of copies in our shootout and found that the average copy just didn’t cut it. They tend to be overly smooth with no real extension up top. Some are grainy and spitty, with edgy background vocals. It’s the Hot copies that split the difference — smooth and sweet in the upper mids, with an extended top end, but without sacrificing the all-important texture and presence in the vocals. If Cocker’s voice isn’t front and center and raspy as all get out, what’s the point?

Reissues

We used to recommend and sell the Speakers Corner German pressing of the album, one of the few Heavy Vinyl pressings we carried up until a few years ago. It’s a good value at $35 but obviously would not hold a candle to one of our Hot Stamper original pressings. (The domestic reissues on the later A&M label are not to our liking and should probably be avoided.)

Robert Christgau’s Insightful Review

With a Little Help From My Friends is the major triumph of rock interpretation thus far. Cocker’s material leans to the conventional … but his conception and performance, as well as Denny Cordell’s production, are always audacious.

His transformation of “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “A Little Help From My Friends” from light-hearted ditties into wails of human need succeeds perfectly, and his version of ‘Feelin’ Alright’ is not only better than Three Dog Night’s but better than the original, by Dave Mason and Traffic.

If that means Cocker is the best singer in England, well—overlook Mick Jagger and it’s possible, even likely. His voice is very strong, influenced by Ray Charles, and he has no inhibitions about using it. All of his inhibitions came before the fact, in the immense care that went into each track …

Cocker’s affection for rock is uniquely personalized. He is gruff and vulgar, perhaps a touch too self-involved, but his steady strength rectifies his excesses. He is the best of the male rock interpreters, as good in his way as Janis Joplin is in hers.

Traffic / Mr. Fantasy – We Was Wrong

This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best.

We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG.

Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault.

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends on Speakers Corner

More of the Music of Joe Cocker

Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner Rock and Pop releases. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

“Speakers corner knocks one out of the park with this wonderful reissue! Those conga drums and the back-up singers sound so much better than I remember them! If you’re going to own one Joe Cocker album make it this one. It’s a man-size serving of English Soul.”

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

More Joe Cocker

  • This outstanding copy boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • There’s a reason this album is so tubey and real – it was recorded at Olympic and Trident in the halcyon days of 1968
  • The sound is solid, present and rich – you’re unlikely to find a better sounding pressing, and if you own the mediocre Speakers Corner pressing from years back, a world of sound will open up to you that you never knew was there
  • 4 stars: “Joe Cocker’s debut album holds up extraordinarily well across four decades, the singer’s performance bolstered by some very sharp playing… Tracks like “Just Like a Woman,” with its soaring gospel organ above a lean textured acoustic and light electric accompaniment… help make this an exceptional listening experience.”

(more…)

Traffic – The Best of Traffic

More Steve Winwood

More Traffic

For those who wish to find their own Hot Stamper pressings of the album, we say more power to you. Our helpful advice can be found at the bottom of the listing,

  • Best of Traffic finally returns to the site with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on this Pink Label Island pressing – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this 1969 release come alive
  • This amazing compilation boasts superb sound, often better than the very same tracks on many of the original British releases
  • Top 100 and 4 stars: “The entire second side of the LP, comprising ‘Medicated Goo,’ ‘Forty Thousand Headmen,’ ‘Feelin’ Alright,’ ‘Shanghai Noodle Factory,’ and ‘Dear Mr. Fantasy,’ was the kind of progressive rock that would define Traffic and give it its place in the rock pantheon.”

(more…)

Traffic – Mr. Fantasy

More Steve Winwood

More Traffic

  • This early Pink Label import pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, making this one of the best copies to hit the site in many years, if not THE best
  • We used to think that The Best of Traffic had better sound, but in a head to head comparison with this very copy, we were proved WRONG
  • Big, full-bodied and lively, with huge amounts of space and off the charts Tubey Magic, the sound here is Hard to Fault – thanks Eddie and Jimmy!
  • “Winwood is simply incredible. He has a top group of musicians with him and they have made an album which is one of the best from any contemporary group.” – Rolling Stone, 1968

This is one of the best sounding Traffic records ever made. Musically it’s hit or miss, but so is every other Traffic record, including my favorite, John Barleycorn. The best songs here are Heaven Is In Your Mind, Dear Mr. Fantasy, and Coloured Rain. The first of these is worth the price of the album alone, in my opinion. It’s a wonderful example of late ’60s British psychedelic rock. (more…)

Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley

More Robert Palmer

Island Is One of Our Favorite Labels

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for the most part too, although one mark is a problem
  • Rich, smooth, Tubey Magical sound is what makes these wonderful import pressings win our shootouts – that and lots of funky bass
  • The best album Robert Palmer ever made – with Little Feat and The Meters helping out, it had to be
  • 4 stars: “While the music is tight and solid, it is Robert Palmer’s voice that is revelatory — he sounds supremely confident among these talented musicians, and they seem to feed off his vocal intensity. Fans of the Meters or people who want to discover the funky side of Robert Palmer should check this one out.”

(more…)