Jimi Hendrix – Band of Gypsys

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More Rock Classics

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  • Truly exceptional sound – these Ludwig-mastered Capitol Orange Label pressings are the only way to fly
  • Tons of bass, smooth vocals, and an overall freedom from distortion characterize the overall sound of both sides, and that’s unusual, because most copies of this record are just plain dreadful
  • Trust me on this one – you’re going to have a difficult and (and expensive!) adventure trying to find a great sounding copy of this one on your own
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Although he could be an erratic live performer, for these shows, Hendrix was on — perhaps his finest performances… not only an important part of the Hendrix legacy, but one of the greatest live albums ever.”

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Big Speakers, Loud Levels and More Power to the Orchestra

Pressings that Need to Be Reproduced on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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Recordings that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

More Exceptionally Dynamic Demo Disc Recordings 

The darker brass instruments like tubas, trombones and french horns are superb here. Other Golden Age recordings of the work, as enjoyable as they may be in other respects, do not fully reproduce the weighty quality of the brass, probably because of compression, limiting, tube smear, or some combination of the three.

The brass on this record has a power like practically no other. It’s also tonally correct. It’s not aggressive. It’s not irritating. It’s just immediate and powerful the way the real thing is when you hear it live. That’s what really caught my ear when I first played the recording.

There is a blast of brass at the end of Catacombs that is so big and real, it makes you forget you’re listening to a recording. You hear every brass instrument, full size, full weight. I still remember the night I was playing that album, good and loud of course, when that part of the work played through. It was truly startling in its power. (Back then I had the Legacy Whisper speaker system, the one with eight 15″ woofers. They moved air like nobody’s business. If you want to reproduce the power of the trombone, the loudest instrument in the orchestra, they’re your man.)
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Ry Cooder – Self-Titled

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More Debut Albums of Interest

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this vintage Reprise pressing of Cooder’s debut album from 1970 – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • If you want to hear the brilliant Lee Herschberg’s All Analog Recording skills brought to bear on so many different instruments serving an assortment of sonic textures, this is the copy that will let you do it
  • 4 stars: “Cooder’s debut creates an intriguing fusion of blues, folk, rock & roll, and pop, filtered through his own intricate, syncopated guitar; Van Dyke Parks and Lenny Waronker’s idiosyncratic production… Cooder puts this unique blend across with a combination of terrific songs, virtuosic playing, and quirky, yet imaginative, arrangements.”

The music reminds me a lot of early Little Feat, which is a good thing. The sound is somewhat similar as well, which is to say that it is natural and musical, nothing like the hyped-up hi-fi sound of his TAS-listed album Jazz — and that’s a good thing as well.

There are some great songs here, including My Old Kentucky Home, One Meat Ball and How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live. It may even be his best album. (more…)

Bob Seger – Against The Wind

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  • Both of these sides were out of this world — clean, clear, open and spacious yet still pretty rich and Tubey Magical with a solid bottom end
  • “Against the Wind finds Bob Seger turning toward craft. Perhaps he had to, since Against the Wind arrived after three blockbuster albums and never-ending tours… compared with its peers, it’s a strong, varied heartland rock album that finds Seger at a near peak.” – All Music, 4 Stars

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Santana / Santana – A True Masterpiece

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More Debut Albums of Interest

  • A Must Own album, clearly their Masterpiece, and one of the truly groundbreaking debuts in rock history – a personal favorite that knocked me out when I first heard it back in high school, and over the decades it has become even more impressive
  • The drums have real snap to them – this copy delivers the fast, clean percussion that is absolutely critical to Santana’s music
  • “Santana combined Latin rhythms with jazz-inspired improvisation, hard-rock guitar and lyrical, B.B. King-style blues – and even had a hit single, “Evil Ways. The combination of rock guitar and funk percussion was undeniable.” Rolling Stone

Santana’s first album came out of nowhere and rocked in a way that few music lovers (especially those who knew nothing about Tito Puente) had heard before.

In one sense it had something in common with Led Zeppelin’s debut from early in 1969. Their album took the blues and added heavy metal guitars. Santana took African and Latin rhythms and added his own heavy guitars. Each is a landmark recording in its own right. It’s hard to imagine and any collection of popular music that would be without both.

Folks, you owe it to yourself to hear what a great band Santana were back in the day. Hot Stampers of any of the first three records will do the trick. If you’ve got the stereo that can play loud rock and roll, we’ve got the records that sound like Santana playing live in your listening room. Take it from someone who likes to listen to his music at fairly loud levels, Santana’s first album is truly a thrill. (more…)

The Allman Brothers – … At Fillmore East

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More Southern Rock

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  • 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…)

The Traveling Wilburys / Volume One – Learning the Record, Any Record

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More Helpful Advice on Doing Your Own Shootouts

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Many of the pressings we played o f Volume One suffered from too much compression and a phony hi-fi-ish quality on the vocals. We knew there had to be great copies out there somewhere, so we kept dropping the needle until we found a few good men. Here is what we had to say about a killer copy we ran into during that process.

We heard a lot of copies with a spitty, gritty top end, but this one is smooth like butter and sweet like candy. Side two is nearly as good but doesn’t have quiet the same energy factor. It’s still dramatically better than most copies out there.

Now that we’ve discovered these Hot Stampers, the sound is finally where we want it to be. Until this week, we were convinced that these songs sounded better on the radio. (That’s what tons of compression and FM bass boost will do for you.)

Learning the Record

For our recent shootout we had at our disposal a variety of pressings we thought would have the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman’d it, found the right VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.

If you have five or ten copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what’s right and what’s wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that other pressings do not do as well, using a few specific passages of music, it will quickly become obvious how well any given copy reproduces those passages.

The process is simple enough. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle — or fail — to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.

It may be a lot of work but it sure ain’t rocket science, and we never pretended it was. Just the opposite: from day one we’ve explained how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection.

The problem is that unless your a crazy person who bought multiple copies of the same album there is no way to know if any given copy is truly Hot Stamper. Hot Stampers are not merely good sounding records. They are the copies that win shootouts. This is a fact that cannot be emphasized too strongly.

As your stereo and room improve, as you take advantage of new cleaning technologies, as you find new and interesting pressings to evaluate, you may even be inclined to start the shootout process all over again, to find the hidden gem, the killer copy that blows away what you thought was the best.

You can’t find it by looking at it. You have to clean it and play it, and always against other pressings of the same album. There is no other way.

For the more popular records on the site such as the Beatles titles we have easily done more than twenty, maybe even as many as thirty to forty shootouts.

And very likely learned something new from every one. (more…)

Miles Davis / Bitches Brew

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More Jazz Rock Fusion

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  • Stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on sides two and four with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides
  • These sides are clean, clear, lively and present with tons of space around all of the players; you can hear right in to the soundfield, and you can be sure that there’s a whole lot going on in there
  • It’s not an easy album to find in clean condition, let alone a copy that sounds like this and plays mostly quietly throughout!
  • If jazz-fusion is your bag, sides two and four of this copy will take you on a trip like few other records could
  • “Thought by many to be the most revolutionary album in jazz history, having virtually created the genre known as jazz-rock fusion (for better or worse) and being the jazz album to most influence rock and funk musicians, Bitches Brew is, by its very nature, mercurial.”” – All Music, 5 Stars

The incredible musicianship and Teo Macero’s innovative production each help take these jazz-fusion soundscapes to places most folks had never imagined before. And a copy like this one takes the entire production to a whole new level. I can’t begin to tell you how many crappy copies have hit our table over the years, but after finding this one I’m really glad we never gave up on this album.

I remember buying this record when I was in college and I had a hell of a time trying to make any sense of it. I also bought the first two Weather Report albums and had a hell of a time with those. But then when Sweetnighter came out, which was angular but still accessible, this kind of music started to make sense to me. This is music for those who want to be challenged. It’s as true today as it was 39 years ago when this record came out.

Our favorite track on this album, Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, is found on the A+++ side four, which means the sound for it is OFF THE CHARTS. (more…)

The Fabulous Thunderbirds- Tuff Enuff

More of The Fabulous Thunderbirds

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  • The band’s 1986 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full and balanced with Blues-Rock energy to spare, this is a killer copy of a fun album
  • “Their breakthrough success. The title track and soul covers point the band in a new, more mainstream direction.”

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The Grateful Dead – American Beauty

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A Proud Member of Our Rock & Pop Top 100

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One of Our Favorite Albums from 1970

  • With two Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is doing pretty much everything we want American Beauty to do – unusually quiet vinyl too
  • The acoustic guitars are magical on this copy, and you won’t believe how wonderfully breathy and sweet these guys’ voices sound
  • American Beauty is one of Stephen Barncard’s greatest recording achievements – the richness and clarity are really something here
  • A 5 Star Top 100 album – “A companion piece to the luminous Workingman’s Dead, American Beauty is an even stronger document of the Grateful Dead’s return to their musical roots. American Beauty remains the Dead’s studio masterpiece.”

We managed to find enough clean early pressings to get this always fun shootout going once again, and this copy took top honors. This is an amazingly well-recorded album — and a member of our Top 100, of course — but it takes a special copy to let the recording’s qualities shine the way this one does!

All the Elements Come Together for Once

All of the elements necessary to take this music to an entirely new level are here, my friends: smooth, sweet vocals; rich, meaty bass; an open and airy top end; top-notch presence and so forth. The sound is so spacious and transparent that you can easily pick out each of the instruments and follow them over the course of the songs.

You could choose any track you wanted to and find lovely sound here, but I’d recommend Ripple and Attics Of My Life for starters. Most copies suffer from a glaring lack of highs, but just listen to the ride cymbals on this one to find out that the top end is still alive and well here. (more…)