Top Producers – Tom Dowd

Eric Clapton – 461 Ocean Boulevard

More Eric Clapton

  • An outstanding UK pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Big and full-bodied with wonderfully breathy vocals, strong rhythmic energy and virtually none of the smear that plagues so many copies
  • As good as the best domestic pressings can be, these British LPs simply capture more of the 461 midrange magic than they do
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the pop concessions on the album don’t detract from the rootsy origins of the material, whether it’s Johnny Otis’ ‘Willie and the Hand Jive,’ the traditional blues ‘Motherless Children,’ Bob Marley’s ‘I Shot the Sheriff,’ or Clapton’s emotional original ‘Let It Grow.'”

This album has some of Clapton’s best material, including Motherless Children and the famous cover of Bob Marley’s I Shot The Sheriff. (more…)

Derek and the Dominos – Layla

More Eric Clapton

More Reviews and Commentaries for Eric Clapton

  • Some of our favorite Clapton songs are here: Bell Bottom Blues, Tell The Truth, Little Wing, Layla and Have You Ever Loved A Woman?
  • One of the most difficult albums to find audiophile sound for, but a lot easier for us now that we know what pressings can actually sound good
  • Clapton’s greatest album: “But what really makes Layla such a powerful record is that Clapton, ignoring the traditions that occasionally painted him into a corner, simply tears through these songs with burning, intense emotion.”

Outstanding sound for all four sides of this classic album. Unless you plan on playing a very big pile of copies you will be hard-pressed to find a copy with sound like this. (more…)

Rod Stewart / Atlantic Crossing – Thick, Dull and Dubby on British Vinyl

More Rod Stewart

More records that have the potential to sound their best on the right domestic pressing.

The copies we liked best were the biggest and richest, the least thin and dry. Many of the brighter copies also had sibilance problems which the richer and tubier ones did not.

On some of the Rod Stewart albums that we happen to know well, the British pressings are clearly superior; the first two Rod Stewart albums come immediately to mind. After that, strange as it may seem, all the best pressings are domestic. This album is certainly no exception.

I remember bringing back a few Brit copies from England many years ago and being surprised that they were so thick, dull and dubby sounding. Of course, they were; the album was recorded right here in the good old US of A. The master tapes are here. The Brit pressings sound dubby because they are made from copy tapes.

If there is any doubt, the following is a list of the studios in which Atlantic Crossing was recorded.

  • A&R, NY
  • Criteria, Miami, FL
  • Wally Heider, Los Angeles, CA
  • Hi Recording and
  • Muscle Shoals Sound, AL

(more…)

Rod Stewart – A Night On The Town

More Rod Stewart

  • Stewart’s 1976 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A Night on the Town isn’t a revival of Atlantic Crossing, it’s its inverse, with Stewart shining as an interpreter on the fast songs and writing the best slow ones, but it’s also its equal, proving that Stewart could still stay true to his open-hearted, ragged soul while on a big budget.”
  • If you’re a Rod Stewart fan, this title from 1976 is surely of interest, assuming you already have Every Picture Tells a Story and Never a Dull Moment and Atlantic Crossing – all three are Must Own Titles

(more…)

The Allman Brothers – … At Fillmore East

More Allman Brothers

More Southern Rock

xxx

  • With four STUNNING sides, all boasting Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this Pink Label original is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other copy you’ve heard
  • This is one of the all-time great live albums, and with a copy like this one YOU ARE THERE at the Fillmore
  • The WHOMP factor here kicks up the excitement – here is the low end foundation that lets the extended guitar jams work their magic
  • This early label Capricorn pressing plays as quietly as they ever do – even better, it has no audible marks, which makes it a very special copy indeed
  • 5 stars: “At Fillmore East is like a great live jazz session, where the pleasure comes from the musicians’ interaction and playing… The pinnacle of the Allmans and Southern rock at its most elastic, bluesy, and jazzy.”

When the music sounds this good, with this kind of rich, musical tonality and big, open soundstage, it just WORKS.

We’ve been looking for great copies of this one forever, but most of them are trashed and don’t sound all that good. A transparent, lively copy like this one really lets everything that’s great about this music come through. You can easily pick out each of the musicians and follow their contributions over the course of the songs.

The huge WHOMP factor throughout kicks up the excitement and sets the necessary foundation for the crazy guitar jams to sound correct. The top end has the kind of extension that brings out the ambience and spaciousness of the recording.

You can really hear the extension on the top end when you listen to the drumming. The cymbals are clear and silky sweet. In fact, the drums on this album are some of the most well-recorded drums I have EVER heard on a live rock record. (more…)

Allman Brothers / Eat a Peach – Transparency, Energy, and Whomp

xxxMore of the Music of The Allman Brothers

What do high grades give you for this album? Unbelievably Tubey Magical guitars, huge whomp factor on the bottom end, incredible dynamics and life, shocking transparency and clarity, and the kind of immediacy that puts these crazy southern rockers right in your very own living room. The overall sound is impressively BIG, BOLD, and POWERFUL!

This and Live At Fillmore East are the two monumental albums these guys ever put out, and they have a lot in common. You know what you’re gonna get with the Allmans: dueling electric guitars, sweet acoustic guitars, energetic drumming, and full-bodied vocals throughout. There’s obviously a lot of exploration — two complete sides are dedicated to the song Mountain Jam — but the heartfelt radio-friendly songs such as Melissa and Little Martha keep up the energy and provide maximum enjoyment factor.

The Three Keys: Transparency, Energy, and WHOMP

A great copy like this one really lets everything that’s great about this music come through. You can easily pick out each of the musicians and follow their contributions over the course of the songs. The huge WHOMP factor throughout kicks up the excitement factor and sets the foundation for the extended guitar jams to work their Southern bluesy magic. The top end extends beautifully to bring out all the ambience and spaciousness of the Fillmore. (more…)

Dusty Springfield / Dusty In Memphis – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

The Gold Standard for Female Vocal Blue-Eyed Soul is here in White Hot Stamper form! It takes us AGES to pull together enough clean copies to get this shootout going, and this one was a HUGE step up from most of them. We’re always looking for a killer pressing (who out there doesn’t want to hear Son Of A Preacher Man sound great?) but it is difficult to find one that does half as many things right as this one does!

Most copies of this album are noisy, and unfortunately this one is no exception. It can get pretty ticky at times, so if that’s going to drive you crazy this may not be the one for you. If that’s not a problem though, this could be your best chance to get great sonics at a substantial discount! (If we ever find a copy that sounds this good and plays quietly, I guarantee it would cost at LEAST twice as much!). This record was picked as the #9 coolest record of all time in the April 11, 2002 issue of Rolling Stone and chosen by Mojo Magazine as one of the best 100 albums ever released. The All Music Guide review linked above is especially insightful and well worth reading.

Side one is a HUGE step up over most we’ve heard. It’s WAY richer and fuller, WAY bigger, and has possibly the best bottom end we’ve ever heard for this album! The sweet, extended top end here does wonders for Dusty’s voice as well. We rated side one at A+++, and I doubt there are many out there that can compete with it.

Side two may not be quite as stunning at A++, but it still runs circles around the typical pressing. It’s got the top end extension and presence you really need if you want the vocals to sound their best. Just a touch more clarity and this side could very well be competitive with the elites! (more…)

Cream / Disraeli Gears – Live and Learn

More of the Music of Cream

A classic case of Live and Learn

Our shootout quite a while ago for Cream’s classic second album provided proof positive that We Was Wrong when we said:

“No reissue we’ve ever played sounded especially good and none likely ever will.”

Ah, but some do! We would love to tell you exactly what to look for so that you can go find one for yourself, but that’s bad for business as I’m sure you can see. Let’s just say there will be at least one later reissue of the album with very good grades coming soon to a site near you.

We also have to admit to being wrong about this:

If you’re expecting Sunshine of Your Love to rock on record like you remember it rockin’ on the radio back in the day, forget it. When you heard that song your brain added the bass and dynamics that are missing from the record. Either that or you did it through the loudness control on your old receiver. There’s maybe five db of dynamic range on that song and there can never be more than that.

There are copies with dynamic vocals on that track. The vocals are practically the only thing that do get loud, but on some copies they do; we heard it. Likewise, on some copies the drums have much more body and punch than than they do on most.

So, when it comes to bass and dynamics, yes, some copies have some, maybe even more than you remember. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Atlantic Crossing

More Rod Stewart

  • You’ll find truly exceptional Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this vastly underrated Rod Stewart classic
  • One of the few to hit our site over the years, and for that we apologize – Atlantic Crossing should be enjoyed by everyone in Hot Stamper form
  • This is some of the best Muscle Shoals rock- and soul-inflected pop from producer Tom Dowd we know of
  • It’s the last consistently good record Rod Stewart made – I bought it when it came out and I listen to it to this very day
  • AMG awards 4 1/2 stars and raves, “Three Time Loser and Stone Cold Sober catch fire,” and on this copy we guarantee they do

The copies we liked best were the biggest and richest, the least thin and dry. Many of the brighter copies also had noticeable sibilance problems, which the richer and tubier ones did not. (more…)

Cream – Disraeli Gears

  • A KILLER UK stereo copy of Cream’s second studio album with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • You aren’t going to believe how hard this pressing rocks, with all the WHOMP and ENERGY you never knew was there
  • Surprisingly good sound for classics like Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the imagination of the arrangements, the strength of the compositions, and especially the force of the musicianship make this album transcend its time.”

This amazing copy has the kind of smooth, analog sound you need for this music — warm, rich, smooth, and pretty much free of the nasty grain that gets in the way on most pressings. There’s good extension up top, and the bottom end is meaty and well-defined.

The lesson we’ve learned over the years is that when the extremes are properly transferred to the vinyl, the middle will take care of itself. Since the extremes seem to be the hardest thing to get right, at least on this record, that might explain why so many copies don’t really sound the way they should.

What the Best Sides of Disraeli Gears 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 1967
  • 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.

(more…)