- This early UK Apple pressing of James Taylor’s debut LP boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last
- Side one is big, rich and solid, with a more relaxed, musical quality, as well as the clarity that was missing from most other copies we played (and side two is not far behind in all those areas)
- We do this shootout about once every ten years, so if you are James Taylor fan, this may be your last chance to get a killer copy of this album in audiophile playing condition from us
- 4 1/2 stars: “The absolute conviction that runs throughout this music takes the listener into its confidence and with equal measures of wit, candor, and sophistication, James Taylor created a minor masterpiece…”
- If I were to make a list of my Favorite Rock and Pop Albums from 1968, this album would definitely be on it
We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” with an accent on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.
James Taylor’s first album is a good example of a record audiophiles probably don’t know well, but we think they might really enjoy getting to know it better
- This original Columbia pressing of JT’s 1981 release boasts incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last, just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
- Both of these sides are exceptionally rich, Tubey Magical and spacious – thanks, Val Garay!
- We were knocked out at how good this album sounds on a great pressing like this one – one of the more impressive ’80s pop recordings we’ve played in some time
- The sound may be heavily processed, but that kind of sound works surprisingly well on the best sounding pressings
- 4 stars: “James Taylor bounced back from the spotty Flag with this all-original album led by his collaboration with J.D. Souther on ‘Her Town Too,’ his biggest pop hit since ‘Handy Man,’ and his biggest non-cover hit since his first, ‘Fire And Rain’…”
- If you’re a fan of JT’s, or Folky Pop in general, this has to be seen as a Top Title from 1981.
- We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Dad Loves His Work is a good example of a record many audiophiles would benefit from knowing better.
The soundstage and depth on our best Hot Stamper copies is HUGE — this is without a doubt the most spacious recording by James Taylor we’ve ever heard. If you want your speakers to disappear, replaced by a huge studio full of musicians playing their hearts out, this is the album that can do it.
- Both sides of this vintage copy were doing pretty much everything right, earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades
- The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
- Credit the engineering chops of Val Garay – the guy makes these sort of Demo Disc Quality Pop Records about as good as they can be made
- Musically this is one of JT’s most underrated albums – it’s a Better Records Top Recommendation and Must Own LP
From the opening notes you will be amazed at how good this album sounds. As far as JT’s recordings go, it’s right up there at the top. Like his album JT, which came just before this one, the best copies of this record are smooth, rich, punchy and have great bass.
The average copy of this record is dreadful. All the recuts that were done by Columbia that I’ve ever heard are garbage. There are a number of different stampers for both sides one and two and it’s almost impossible to find two good sides on the same album.
- This STUNNING copy of Taylor’s breakthrough album from 1977 boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
- It’s a superb recording – a member of our Top 100, in fact – but it takes a pressing like this to show you just how BIG and LIVELY it can sound
- The big hits “Your Smiling Face” and “Handy Man” both sound great here – thanks Val Garay!
- This and Sweet Baby James are the man’s best recordings, and his best albums too, but he has so many great albums that it almost seems unfair to him to point that out
- 4 stars: “JT was James Taylor’s best album since Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon because it acknowledged the darkness of his earlier work while explaining the deliberate lightness of his current viewpoint, and because it was his most consistent collection in years.”
The good copies REALLY ROCK on songs like Honey Don’t Leave L.A. or I Was Only Telling A Lie, yet have lovely, delicate vocals on ballads such as Another Grey Morning or There We Are (two of our favorite songs on the album).
Just turn up the volume and play the opening to Honey Don’t Leave L.A. — this is James Taylor and his super tight studio band at the peak of their powers. Russ Kunkel hits the drum twice, then clicks his sticks together so quickly you can hardly notice it, then goes back to the drums for the rest of the intro. On the best copies, the subtleties of his performance are clearly on display. Until copies like this one came along, we had never even noticed that stick trick. Now it’s the high point of the whole intro!
Clearly this is one of Linda’s best albums, and I would have to say, based on my fairly extensive experience with her recorded output, that it is in fact THE BEST SOUNDING record she ever made.
I love Heart Like a Wheel, but it sure doesn’t sound like this, not even on the Triple Plus copies that win our shootouts. (Roughly 150 other listings for the Best Recording by an Artist or Group can be found here.)
I confess to having never taken the album seriously, dismissing it as a commercial collection of pop hits with about as much depth as the L.A. River — but I was wrong wrong WRONG.
This is a great sounding album on the right pressing, not the compressed piece of grainy cardboard we’ve all been playing for years, unaware of the tremendous sound quality lurking in the grooves of other copies, the ones that were blessed with the right stampers, the right vinyl and a healthy amount of fairy dust wafting over the press that day.
That’s what Hot Stamper shootouts are all about — finding those copies, the ones no one knows exist.
This Is a Real Band
Until a Hot Stamper found its way onto our turntable, we had absolutely no idea the album could sound like this, or that the music was so good.
The first thing that came to mind when I looked inside the fold open cover and saw all the guys who back Linda up on the album is that this is a real rock band. These are not a bunch of studio cats punching a time card. These guys are a band, and they know how to ROCK; just listen to the way they come blasting out of the gate on It’s So Easy. Linda is with them all the way, giving one of the best performances of her career.
Song after song, this super-tight band with the hot female lead (!) show that they can rock with the best of them. And do beautiful ballads (Blue Bayou) too.
Folks, I hereby testify that a Hot Stamper copy of this very album gave me a newfound respect for Linda beyond her work on Heart Like a Wheel. This is the album that shows she can do it all, as the All Music Guide points out, and I’m a believer.
Play Chili Dog here, one of our favorite tracks, and note not only the clarity and spaciousness, but the PUNCH and LIFE of the music. This song is supposed to be fun. The average somewhat compressed and dull copy only hints at that fact.
Then skip on down to the hit at the end of the side, Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight, another favorite track for testing.
There’s a lot of bass in the mix on this track, but the best copies keep it under control.
When it gets loose and starts blurring the midrange, the vocals and guitars seem “blocked.” The best copies let you hear all that meaty bass, as well as letting you hear into the midrange too.
One Man Dog, like many early WB pressings, has a tendency to be dull and opaque. (Most side twos have a real problem in that respect.) When you get a good, with more of an extended top end, it tends to come with much more space, size, texture, transparency, ambience and openness.
Of course it does; that’s where much of that stuff is, up high. Most copies don’t have nearly enough of it, but thankfully the best copies do.
- Records that Are Good for Testing Bass and Whomp
- Records that Are Good for Testing Bass Definition
- Records that Are Good for Testing Energy
- Records that Are Good for Testing the Lower Midrange and Mid-Bass
Mud Slide Slim is one of those albums that we think should be more popular with audiophiles, at least the ones looking for timeless music with top quality sound.
It has some of the man’s strongest material:
- You’ve Got a Friend;
- You Can Close Your Eyes;
- Hey Mister, That’s Me up on the Jukebox, and one of his best and most underrated,
- Love Has Brought Me Around.
If you’ve got a top copy of the album, this song, the leadoff on side one, can really rock. It’s yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.
Love Has Brought Me Around
One of my all-time favorite James Taylor tracks. When you get a good copy, this music comes ALIVE! This is not your typical sad sack, touchy feely James Taylor song. This song ROCKS!
You’ve Got a Friend
Listen to Carole King’s piano. On the best copies the transparency allows her playing to be heard clearly. Her style is unmistakable. (more…)
The good copies REALLY ROCK on songs like Honey Don’t Leave L.A. or I Was Only Telling A Lie, yet have lovely transparent, delicate sound on the ballads, songs such as Another Grey Morning or There We Are.
Just turn up the volume and play the opening to Honey Don’t Leave L.A. — this is James Taylor and his super tight studio band at the peak of their powers. Russ Kunkel hits the drum twice, then clicks his sticks together so quickly you can hardly notice it, then goes back to the drums for the rest of the intro. On a superb copy like this one, the subtleties of his performance are clearly on display.
Until copies like this one came along, we had never even noticed that stick trick. Now it’s the high point of the whole intro.
Sound Equals Music
As audiophiles, we all know that sound and music are inseparable. In our shootout, after dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, we KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not.
As with any pop album, there are always some songs that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material.
The most important of all these Musical Values is ENERGY, and boy do the best copies of JT have it going on.
Val Garay is the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: JT (a Top 100 title), Simple Dreams (also a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc.
They all share his trademark super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound.
With BIG drums — can’t forget those. (To be clear, only the best copies share it. Most copies only hint at it.)
I don’t think Mr Garay gets anything like his due with audiophiles and the reviewers who write for them. This is a shame; the guy makes Demo Disc Quality Pop Records about as good as those kinds of records can be made.
If you have a Big System that really rocks, you owe it to yourself to get to know his work. This is truly a KNOCKOUT disc if you have the equipment designed to play it.
We do, and it’s records like this that make the effort and expense of building a full-range dynamic system worthwhile.
- An outstanding copy of Ronstadt’s 1984 release with Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on both sides
- Getting the strings to sound sweet and rosiny, not smeary and hard, is no mean feat, but it’s the kind of thing the better Hot Stamper pressings are guaranteed to give you on any of Linda’s American Songbook albums
- “What’s New illustrated that Linda Ronstadt was no longer interested in contemporary pop, and since it was a surprise success, there was no reason not to repeat the formula on Lush Life. Working again with Nelson Riddle, Ronstadt runs through several pop standards — ‘When I Fall in Love,’ ‘Sophisticated Lady,’ ‘Falling in Love Again,’ ‘It Never Entered My Mind’…”
- An original Asylum pressing with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
- Linda’s best sounding recording and a proud member of our Top 100 – this is the album that showed us she could do it all
- Val Garay does it again, filling the grooves with his trademark super-punchy, jump-out-the-speakers, rich and smooth ANALOG sound
- 4 1/2 stars: “…reconfirms [Rondstadt’s] substantial talents as an interpretive singer…and [her] powerful performance makes the record rival Heart Like a Wheel in sheer overall quality.”
- If you’re a Linda Ronstadt fan, this undeniable classic from 1977 is surely a Must Own
- Simple Dreams is our pick for Linda’s best sounding album. Roughly 150 other listings for the Best Recording by an Artist or Group can be found here.
This is clearly one of Linda’s best albums and I would have to say, based on my fairly extensive experience with her recorded output, that it is in fact the best sounding record she ever made. I love Heart Like a Wheel, but it sure doesn’t sound like this, not even on the Triple Plus copies that win our shootouts. (It is her best album, though.)
I confess to having never taken the album seriously, dismissing it as a commercial collection of pop hits with about as much depth as the L.A. River — but I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
This is a great sounding album on the right pressing, not the compressed piece of grainy cardboard we’ve all been playing for years, unaware of the tremendous sound quality lurking in the grooves of other copies; the ones that were blessed with the right stampers, the right vinyl and a healthy amount of fairy dust wafting over the press that day.
That’s what Hot Stamper shootouts are all about — finding those copies, the ones no one knows exist. (No one but us it seems; who else would think to put this album in their Top 100?)