Top Producers – Phil Spector

John Lennon – Rock ‘N’ Roll

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  • These sides are doing practically everything right — rich, full-bodied, present and spacious with plenty of extension on both ends
  • “Rock ‘n’ Roll, in fact, stands as a peak in his post-Imagine catalog: an album that catches him with nothing to prove and no need to try… Today, Rock ‘n’ Roll sounds fresher than the rock & roll that inspired it in the first place. Imagine that.” – All Music, 4 Stars

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The Beatles / Let It Be – Listening In Depth

This is the first time we’ve discussed individual tracks on the album. Our recent shootout [now many years ago], in which we discovered a mind-boggling, rule-breaking side one, motivated us to sit down and explain what the best copies should do on each side of the album for the tracks we test with. Better late than never I suppose. 

These also happen to be ones that we can stand to hear over and over, dozens of times in fact, which becomes an important consideration when doing shootouts as we do for hours on end.

On the better pressings the natural rock n’ roll energy of a song such as Dig A Pony will blow your mind. There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ — just the sound of the greatest pop/rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out.

It’s the kind of thrill you really don’t get from the more psychedelic albums like Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour. You have to go all the way back to Long Tall Sally and Roll Over Beethoven to find the Beatles consistently letting loose the way they do on Let It Be (or at least on the tracks that are more or less live, which make up about half the album).

Let’s quickly review, in general terms, some of the qualities we listen for in our record shootouts.

Select Track Commentary for Let It Be

Side One

Two of Us

Dig a Pony

On the heavy guitar intro for Dig a Pony, the sound should be full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with plenty of bass. If your copy is too lean, just forget it, it will never rock.

What blew our minds about the Shootout Winning side one we played recently was how outrageously big, open and transparent it was. As the song started up the studio space seemed to expand in every direction, creating more height, width and depth than we had ever experienced with this song before.

But there is no studio space; the song was recorded on Apple’s rooftop. The “space” has to be some combination of “air” from the live event and artificial reverb added live or later during mixing. Whatever it is, the copies with more resolution and transparency show you a lot more of “it” than run-of-the-mill pressings do (including the new Heavy Vinyl, which is so airless and compressed we gave it a grade of F and banished it to our Hall of Shame).

In addition, Ringo’s kit was dramatically more clear and present in the center of the soundfield just behind the vocal, raising the energy of the track to a level higher than we had any right to believe was possible. The way he attacks the hi-hat on this song is crazy good, and the engineering team of Glyn Johns and Alan Parsons really give it the snap it needs.

These are precisely the qualities that speed and transparency can contribute to the sound. If you have Old School vintage tube equipment, these are two of the qualities you are most likely living without. You only need play this one track on faster, better-resolving equipment to hear what you’ve been missing.

On the line after “All I want is you”, the energy of “Everything has got to be just like you want it to” should make it sound like The Beatles are shouting at the top of their lungs. If you have the right pressing they really get LOUD on that line. (more…)

John Lennon / Imagine – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – this was one of the better copies to emerge from our most recent shootout
  • These superb UK pressings are rich, weighty and oh-so-tubey – it took us a long time to find the right stampers
  • Two of our favorite engineers worked their magic on this recording – our thanks go to Eddie Offord and Shelly Yakus
  • 5 stars: “…it was only marginally less confessional than its predecessor. Underneath the sweet strings of “Jealous Guy” lies a broken and scared man, the jaunty “Crippled Inside” is a mocking assault at an acquaintance, and “Imagine” is a paean for peace in a world with no gods, possessions, or classes, where everyone is equal… A remarkable collection of songs that Lennon would never be able to better again.”

NOTE: A very small mark near the end of track three, side two, How Do You Sleep?, makes three loud pops.

Both sides here are excellent. capturing the essence of what Lennon and Phil Spector (and let’s not forget Yoko, who also gets a producer credit here) were going for. Copies that sound as good as this one do not grow on trees. If it wasn’t ridiculously difficult to find Hot Stamper pressings of Imagine it certainly would not have taken us until 2015 to offer one. (more…)

Leonard Cohen – I’m Your Man

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are doing everything right — big, rich and full of Tubey Magic with a wonderfully extended top end and a more natural sound than most other copies we heard
  • Top tracks here include First We Take Manhattan, Take This Waltz, and the classic Everybody Knows
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A stunningly sophisticated leap into modern musical textures, I’m Your Man re-establishes Leonard Cohen’s mastery….”

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The Beatles – Let It Be

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More Hot Stampers of Let It Be

  • With solid Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides, this UK pressing boasts outstanding Let It Be sound
  • There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ – here is some of the most realistic, natural Beatles sound you can get
  • Copies like this one make good on the promise that Let It Be captures the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The album is on the whole underrated… it’s an album well worth having, as when the Beatles were in top form here, they were as good as ever.”

At its best, Let It Be has the power of live music, but it takes a special pressing such as this one to show you that sound. It’s a bit trickier trying to find good sound for this album than it is for some of the other albums in the Beatles’ catalog. (more…)

The Beatles – Let It Be – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Let It Be

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TWO AMAZING SIDES, including a MIND-BLOWING A++++ SIDE ONE for this White Hot Stamper 2-pack! At its best, this album has the real power of live music, but it takes a special pressing to make it happen. Both of these copies had one stunning side and one that just didn’t impress us, so we’ve paired them up to give you incredible sound for the entire album!

So many copies of Let It Be lack the kind of energy and transparency that you need to bring this music to life, but these killer sides did EVERYTHING we were looking for. It doesn’t get any better than this, folks!

Side One

A++++ — nothing else in our shootout came close! Super spacious with serious immediacy and presence, this one knocked us out from the moment we dropped the needle. This level of clarity and transparency is typically accompanied by a hard, thin midrange, but you won’t hear anything like that here! The mids are just as rich and Tubey Magical as we could ask for (and we ask for a lot!). Absolutely stunning!

Side Two

A+++, easily the best side two in our shootout. Big and clear, rich and full-bodied, with tons of presence and detail, this is exactly the way we want this music to sound. White Hot Stamper material, all the way!

Boring? Not This Copy!

We just finished another big shootout for this great album, and it still surprises me how BORING the average British copy is. (Of course, the German pressings and the domestic copies are even worse, but you probably already knew that.)

You’ve got to do a lot of work to find a copy of Let It Be that doesn’t sound murky, sleepy, thick and/or veiled. We went through a massive stack of nothing but British imports and only a select few were FUN and INVOLVING enough to merit the Hot Stamper designation.

The Beatles: Rock Band

On a copy like this the natural rock n’ roll energy of a song such as Dig A Pony will blow you away. There’s no studio wizardry, no heavy-handed mastering, no phony EQ — just the sound of the greatest rock band of all time playing and singing their hearts out. It’s a thrill that you don’t really get from the more psychedelic albums like Sgt. Pepper’s or Magical Mystery Tour. (more…)

Leonard Cohen – Death of a Ladies’ Man

 

What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and on and on down through the list. (more…)