Well Recorded Soul. RnB, Blues, Etc. Albums – The Core Collection

Sade – Promise

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  • Sade’s Best Album returns with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides of this UK disc are guaranteed to be amazing sounding compared to whatever you’ve heard
  • There’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it – she is on fire on this album
  • Her best song is on side one here – Is It a Crime – and the big band arrangement will surely send chills up and down your spine, especially with Triple Plus sound quality

Not many copies manage to have this kind of consistently sweet sound across both sides. Here are the kind of present, breathy vocals this music absolutely requires to work its magic.

If you know this album at all, you know that most pressings are just too damn dark sounding. Sade herself is typically recessed in the mix and veiled; it takes an exceptional copy such as this one to make her voice both present and breathy. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs And Englishmen

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  • A superb copy of Mad Dogs and Englishmen with all four sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades or BETTER – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is rich and tubey, with driving energy and the top end and clarity that was simply missing from far too many of the copies we had to work through in order to find this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Unlike a lot of other “coffee table”-type rock releases of the era, such as Woodstock and The Concert for Bangladesh, people actually listened to Mad Dogs & Englishmen — most of its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique.”

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Lou Rawls – Live!

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Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

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Well Recorded Soul. RnB, Blues, Etc. Albums – The Core Collection

  • Lou Rawls Live! is an amazing recording that really comes to life on the best Hot Stamper pressings
  • The songs are fantastic, the musicians are brilliant, the sound is superb – Stormy Monday & Tobacco Road are highlights, but really, there’s not a bad track here
  • If you could only have one Lou Rawls album, no question it would have to be this one – everything that’s good about the man’s music is fully on display
  • 4 stars: “Lou Rawls gives a riveting performance on Live!, covering standards from Basie/Rushing’s tambourine-jumpin’ ‘Goin’ to Chicago’ to T-Bone Walker’s foot-stompin’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ and whole lot in between.”

What an album! For live soul-infused vocals, we know of none better. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Innervisions

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Innervisions Available Now

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this is an all around killer pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the funkiest audiophile-quality discs money can buy, but you need a copy that sounds as good as this one to make that case
  • The key qualities are richness, warmth, Tubey Magic, and clarity, and here you will find a healthy dose of all four
  • “Stevie Wonder applied his tremendous songwriting talents to the unsettled social morass that was the early ’70s and produced one of his greatest, most important works, a rich panoply of songs addressing drugs, spirituality, political ethics, and what looked to be the failure of the ’60s dream — all set within a collection of charts as funky and catchy as any he’d written before.”

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Stevie Wonder singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Michael Jackson / Thriller – A Top 100 Title

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Reviews and Commentaries for Thriller

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  • With outstanding grades throughout, this pressing of Michael Jackson’s Masterpiece of Funky Rock Pop will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is huge – big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare, as well as cleaner, smoother, sweeter upper mids and a more extended top
  • Billie Jean and Beat It sound out of this world, but that’s not fair, since every track does
  • A Top 100 and 5 Stars on AMG: “This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul — expanding the approach to have something for every audience.”

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’80s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of Thriller is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and far too many of our favorites to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

Sound that came Jumping-out-of-the-speakers coupled with driving rhythmic energy were the hallmarks of the best copies. These qualities really brought this complex music to life, gave it room to breathe, and made it possible for us to enjoy the hell out of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music. (more…)

Van Morrison / His Band And Street Choir – An All But Forgotten Classic

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Reviews and Commentaries for Van Morrison

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This is the album that came out between Moondance (in the same year in fact, 1970) and Tupelo Honey, but for some reason, it don’t get no respect. We think that’s insane — the material on this album is stellar and the sound on the best pressings is out of this world!

For years I thought that Moondance was the best sounding album in the Van Morrison catalog. His Band And Street Choir is even better. One reason for that would have to be that Robert Ludwig mastered it, and he can usually be counted on to do an excellent job.

I wasn’t familiar with this album at all. I knew a couple of the big songs from it: Domino and Blue Money, and that was about it. But this is prime Van Morrison; 1970 was a very good year for him. As I played through the album I was surprised to discover that every track is good; there is simply no filler here. The tracks on each side flow seamlessly from one to the next. The result is an exceptionally involving listening experience.

Warner Bros. Green Label Magic

We’ve made a habit of scooping up all the Green and Gold Label Warner Brothers records we come across, albums by the likes of James Taylor, Van Morrison, America, Little Feat, The Doobie Brothers, Peter Paul and Mary, The Association, The Faces, The Grateful Dead and more.

When you get good pressings of these albums they just can’t be beat. They sound so right in so many ways that you find yourself ignoring the sound and just getting lost in the music. This is one of those albums. Drop the needle on any track for a taste of real ’60s and ’70s Tubey Magical analog and some lovely blue-eyed soul.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Domino 
Crazy Face 
Give Me a Kiss 
I’ve Been Working 
Call Me up in Dreamland 
I’ll Be Your Lover, Too

Side Two

Blue Money 
Virgo Clowns 
Gypsy Queen 
Sweet Jannie 
If I Ever Needed Someone 
Street Choir

Rolling Stone

By Jon Landau
February 4, 1971

If Moondance had a flaw it was in its perfection. Sometimes things fell into place so perfectly I wished there was more room to breathe. Every song was a polished gem, and yet too much brilliance at the same time and in the same place can be blinding. The album would have benefited by some changes in mood and pace along the way. One or two light and playful cuts would have done the job.

On His Band and the Street Choir he seems to have realized that and has tried for a freer, more relaxed sound. Knowing he could not come up with another ten songs as perfectly honed as those on Moondance, he has chosen to show another side of what goes on around his house.

“Give Me A Kiss,” “Blue Money,” “Sweet Jannie” and “Call Me Up In Dreamland” are all examples of Van’s new, rollicking, good-timey style.

As if to balance this assortment of light material, there is a group of down tunes all identified by the prominent use of acoustic lead guitar: “Crazy Face,” “I’ll Be Your Lover Too” and “Virgo Clowns.” The former is about a man who pulls out a gun and announces, “I got it from Jesse James.” The other two are simple love songs, the latter urging the girl to “Let your love come fill the room.”

On the rocking material the arrangements involving the whole band are kept to a simple minimum, with most of the creative sounds coming from the high pitched horn section. On the ballads, the rhythm section is kept loose with the lead acoustic predominating, and the horns, again, adding a distinctive and unexpected touch. Van’s singing is as smooth and powerful as it’s ever been.

The creative core of the album lies in four songs. “Gypsy Queen” is a sort of tribute to the Impressions that doesn’t really sound like the Impressions. It merely gives Van an excuse to use his falsetto, which he does brilliantly. “I’ve Been Working” is one of two songs on the album that makes direct use of Van’s roots in modern soul music. The born riff could have found its way to a James Brown session without any problems. The chorus in which the horns and Van’s voice come together to say “Woman, woman, woman, you make me feel alright” is breathtaking. And the rhythms especially bass, drums, and guitar are an awful lot funkier than one would have expected.

As “Domino” opens the album with a show of strength, “Street Choir” closes it with a burst of both musical and poetic energy which is not only better than anything else on the album but may well be one of Van’s two or three finest songs. Here, the keyboard holds the arrangement together, while the Street Choir enhances the chorus as they do only as well on “Call Me Up In Dreamland.”

His Band and the Street Choir is a free album. It was recorded with minimal over-dubbing and was obviously intended to show the other side of Moondance.

In his own mysterious way. Van Morrison continues to shake his head, strum his guitar and to sing his songs. He knows it’s too late to stop now and he quit trying to a long, long time ago. Meanwhile, the song he is singing keeps getting better and better.

Van Morrison: Rock on.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Key Tracks for Critical Listening 

Making Audio Progress 

We Get Letters 

We Was Wrong

Albert King – Born Under a Bad Sign – Where Are All the Clean Copies?

A Record We May Never Shootout Again

Some records were just too much work to find, too expensive to buy.

This is one such album. Our last shootout was in 2007!

The link above will take you to many more.

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This original Stax LP has AMAZING sound. You could not make this record sound any better. We really liked the Sundazed copy of this record until we heard this bad boy. It MURDERS the Sundazed! It has more life, energy and natural presence.

We always suspected that a good original pressing would be better than the Sundazed but we had no way of knowing since all the copies we ever saw were beat to death. This is the first clean copy of this record I’ve seen in 20 years.

The sound is RICH and FULL with lots of texture to the guitars. It’s very natural sounding and full-bodied.

Like many of these old Stax pressings this record would benefit from a bit more extension on the top end. If you can add a a click of treble the sound will be even more out of this world.

One of the all time great electric blues albums — a Must Own for fans of the genre (more…)

Son Seals – The Son Seals Blues Band

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  • An excellent Electric Blues record with exceptionally big, clear, lively sound that earned Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • This copy will shame most Blues albums for sound and music – it’s quite a bit better than any other Son Seals album we have played as well
  • 4 stars: “The Chicago mainstay’s debut album was a rough, gruff, no-nonsense affair typified by the decidedly unsentimental track ‘Your Love Is like a Cancer.’ Seals wasn’t all that far removed from his southern roots at this point, and his slashing guitar work sports a strikingly raw feel on his originals ‘Look Now, Baby,’ ‘Cotton Picking Blues,’ and ‘Hot Sauce’ (the latter a blistering instrumental that sounds a bit like the theme from Batman played sideways).

Son Seals’ 1973 debut album has the kind of Live-in-the-Studio sound that most Blues albums (and every other kind of album) strive for but rarely if ever achieve. If you turn this one up good and loud, the Son Seals Band will be right there in the room with you. If there’s any overdubbing on this record, you sure can’t hear it.

If you’ve been suffering with one bad sounding Stevie Ray Vaughan album after another, this record should come as a godsend. This album will show you just how dynamic and energetic Electric Blues recordings can be.

You can’t see this guy live anymore, he’s dead, RIP, but you can still hear him perform live in your listening room if you have a killer system and a Hot Stamper copy of this album — and you can hear him as often as you want to, too. Play this one for all your friends who love Stevie Ray. Son Seals has the chops to go head to head with him, with recording quality that’s night and day better than Stevie’s non-posthumous albums in every way. Your friends’ minds will surely be blown (and if they aren’t, turn up the volume a click or two and try again. Live music is loud). (more…)

Janis Joplin – I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!

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  • This outstanding 360 Stereo pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has the ideal combination of openness and transparency, coupled with the richness and solidity of vintage analog
  • When Janis starts singing, watch out – her voice positively JUMPS out of the speakers, something we didn’t hear her do on many of the other copies in our shootout
  • Features Try, one of Janis’s All Time Classics — and with these grades you can be sure it sounds positively amazing here

This Columbia 360 Stereo pressing is THE CURE for Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues!

Drop the needle on the great song Try and just listen to how crisp, punchy, and BIG the drums sound.

The bottom end has real weight and the top end is silky and extended. The overall sound is rich, full, and smooth.

ENERGY is the key element missing from the average copy, but not on this bad boy (or girl if you prefer). The electric guitars are super Tubey Magical and the bass is solid and punchy.

On many copies — too many copies — the vocals are pinched and edgy. Here they’re breathy and full — a much better way for Janis to sound. There’s a slight amount of grit to the vocals at times and the brass as well, but the life force on these sides is so strong that we much preferred it to the smoother, duller, deader copies we heard that didn’t have that issue.

On copy after copy we heard pinched squawky horns and harsh vocals, not a good sound for this album. Janis’ voice needs lots of space up top to get good and loud, and both of these sides have it in spades.

Few other copies had this combination of openness and transparency on the one hand, and full, rich tonality on the other. (more…)

Willie Dixon – I Am The Blues

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  • This early Columbia pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Notably richer and livelier than most, with plenty of Tubey Magic and good weight down low
  • A longtime favorite of ours, with unusually good sound for a blues recording, even one from as late as 1970
  • Features updated versions of many Dixon Classics: Spoonful, Hoochie Coochie Man, I Can’t Quit You Baby and more
  • “The material is superb, consisting of some of Willie Dixon’s best-known songs of the 1960s, and the production is smoothly professional…”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the end of Track 3, (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man.

The material here is TOP NOTCH — Dixon was one of the blues’ greatest songwriters, responsible for Spoonful, Hoochie Coochie Man, Little Red Rooster, Back Door Man and other songs you’ve probably heard your favorite classic rock band covering. A copy such as this gives you more detail and texture, more extension up top and real weight to the bottom end — absolutely crucial for this music. (more…)