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Black Sabbath – Paranoid

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  • Black Sabbath’s killer second album returns to the site with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has the kind of energy, presence, and fullness needed to bring the best out of this Heavy Metal classic
  • This copy is on the second label, which is not a problem for this album because it’s still got the right mastering house mark in the dead wax, which is the main reason it would qualify to be put in a shootout
  • Drop the needle on a good copy and you’ll quickly hear how correct it sounds — it’s got a HUGE bottom end, excellent presence, a good amount of tubey magic and TONS of energy
  • 5 stars: “Paranoid refined Black Sabbath’s signature sound — crushingly loud, minor-key dirges loosely based on heavy blues-rock — and applied it to a newly consistent set of songs with utterly memorable riffs, most of which now rank as all-time metal classics.”

It’s taken us ages to find good pressings of this album, probably because just about every copy we see has been beat to death by the crazy muthas who originally bought ’em! Let’s face it — this wasn’t an album bought and treasured by people who know how to take care of their records; this was a record bought by kids who probably played it after getting wasted with their buddies. (No shame in that, of course!)

The music is freakin’ great, by the way. Since Ozzy has basically become a cartoon version of himself (as charming as that is) it’s easy to forget that these guys were a serious classic rock band that was duking it out with Zep for the hearts and minds of young hard rock fans in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

This album set the foundation for heavy metal, and I’m not sure anyone ever topped it. Play this album back to back with Zep II and it’s pretty clear the two bands were fueling each other, pushing both bands into creating bigger, bolder, better riff-based rockers.

Allmusic calls this “one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time” and when it sounds this good, I’m guessing you’ll agree! “War Pigs,” “Fairies Wear Boots,” “Electric Funeral,” “Rat Salad” (drummer Bill Ward’s answer to Bonham’s “Moby Dick”) and the title track are some of the classic tracks on this album.

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Herb Alpert – South of the Border

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More Sixties Pop

  • This A&M stereo pressing features an INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet vinyl on the first side too
  • Tubey Magical, punchy, spacious, natural sound – these sides have plenty of what we love most about Larry Levine’s engineering
  • Not many audiophiles know how well recorded some of these early Herb Alpert albums were, but we count ourselves among the ones that do, going back more than twenty years
  • 4 stars: “…the rise of Alpert’s approach in arranging familiar melodies in fresh, creative settings…[is] pronounced…in the horn-driven updates of several then-concurrent chart hits. [T]he mod sonic wrinkle in ‘Girl from Ipanema’ emits a darkness veiled in mystery, directly contrasting the light buoyancy of ‘Hello! Dolly’ or the footloose feel of the Beatles’ ‘All My Loving.'”

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Duke Ellington – Midnight In Paris / Ellington Fantasies

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  • You’ll find INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout this Harmony reissue LP
  • Both of these sides have plenty of Tubey Magic – they’re fuller, more musical and more natural than all the other copies we played in our shootout
  • Vibrant orchestrations, top quality Columbia sound from 1962 and reasonably quiet surfaces combine for an immersive listening experience
  • Originally released as Midnight In Paris under the Columbia label in 1962, it was reissued as Ellington Fantasies under Harmony beginning in 1967
  • The original is very rare, but the good news there is that it doesn’t sound as good as our good reissues on the Black Label, which works out great for everybody

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Eric Clapton – Self-Titled

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More Debut Albums of Interest

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish on this early UK Polydor pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Man, what a revelation to hear this old favorite sound so rich and open – you’ll have a VERY difficult time finding one that sounds this good lying around in your local record store’s bins, that’s for sure
  • Spaciousness, richness and freedom from grit and grain are key to the best pressings, and here you will find all three
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Throughout the album, Clapton turns out concise solos that de-emphasize his status as guitar god, even when they display astonishing musicality and technique.”

This is not your usual Clapton album, and that’s a good thing because most Clapton albums are full of filler. Not so here — almost every song is good, and many are superb.

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Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

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More Brian Eno

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this UK copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for over ten years – here is one of the better copies we have to show for our effort
  • 5 Stars: “… another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting.”
  • If you’re a Roxy fan, For Your Pleasure has to be considered a Must Own Title of theirs from 1973.
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Spacious, dynamic, present, with HUGE MEATY BASS and tons of energy, the sound is every bit as good as the music. (At least on this copy it is. That’s precisely what Hot Stampers are all about.)

Strictly in terms of recording quality, For Your Pleasure is on the same plane as the other best sounding record the band ever made, their self-titled debut.

Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album and this one are the only two with the kind of dynamic, energetic, powerful sound that Roxy’s other records simply cannot show us (with the exception of Country Life, was is powerful but a bit too aggressive).

The super-tubey keyboards that anchor practically every song on the first two albums are only found there. If you want to know what Tubey Magic sounds like in 1972-73, play one of our better Hot Stamper Roxy albums.

Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums that few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to. I love the band’s later albums, but none of them sound like these two. The closest one can get is Stranded, their third, but it’s still a bit of a step down. (more…)

Marty Robbins – By The Time I Get To Phoenix

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  • By The Time I Get To Phoenix finally returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this original Columbia 360 Stereo LP
  • Both sides here are rich, tubey, clear and present with wonderfully full strings, breathy vocals, and a solid bottom end
  • This one features a mixture of originals and covers – a showcase for Marty’s tremendous range and ability to cross musical genres

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Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland

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More Rock Classics

  • A superb copy of Electric Ladyland with roughly solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides of this UK import
  • Forget the Track originals – they can’t hold a candle to the Hot Stamper reissues like the one we are offering here
  • Big, clear, tubey, sweet ANALOG sound – we played it good and loud and it was ROCKIN’!
  • Probably the best-recorded of Hendrix’s studio albums – huge studio space and the Tubey Magical richness of analog are key to the best sound
  • 5 stars: “…not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix’s original musical vision at its absolute apex.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jimi and his band, this UK import of his 1968 classic belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Some of Jimi’s best songs can be found here, including “Crosstown Traffic,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and his incendiary cover of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” All four sides have truly killer sound, big and full-bodied with a MUCH better low end than you’ll find on most. You get enough energy and weight to make the rock songs really ROCK, and enough clarity and transparency to bring out the more spacey, psychedelic elements that Jimi and Eddie Kramer worked so hard on.

Ready to go on a trip? You’ve come to the right place. While the sound is not Demo Quality on every track, the acid-drenched soundscapes created by Jimi and producer Eddie Kramer are certainly going to be exciting to the kind of audiophile who still digs Classic Rock. Unfortunately, most copies are missing a lot of the magic — the space, the tubes, the ambience, the size, the weight.

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Lincoln Mayorga and Distinguished Colleagues – The Missing Linc (Volume II)

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More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

  • This Sheffield Direct to Disc recording boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Guaranteed to be dramatically richer, fuller and more Tubey Magical than any other copy you have heard, with especially punchy drums and rosiny-textured strings
  • The bass on side one extends all the way into WHOMP land for that big bass drum at the end of “Limehouse Blues” – what a sound!
  • The top end is also key to the better pressings – lots of string harmonics and bells and other high frequency stuff gets lost on most copies, but not this one, it’s all here
  • The Audiophile “Sgt. Pepper” of its day, a record that was so much better than anything else you’d ever heard it made you rethink the possibilities (and they did the same thing with Volume III two years later)
  • If you’re a Sheffield Labs fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1972 is clearly one of their best
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This is definitely not your typical Sheffield pressing. Some of them are aggressive, many of them are dull and lack the spark of live music, some of them have wonky bass or are lacking in the lowest octave — they are prey to every fault that befalls other pressings.

Which shouldn’t be too surprising. Records are records. Pressing variations exist for every album ever made. If you haven’t noticed that yet, start playing multiple copies of the same album while listening carefully and critically.

If your stereo is any good at all, it should not take you long to notice how different one record sounds from another.

Just listen to the texture on the saxophone on “Limehouse Blues” — you can really hear the leading edge transients of the brass that are so important to the sound of those instruments. The strings sounds rich and full, and the drums are punchy. Track after track, the sound gets surprisingly more open and airy. The harpsichord has such great presence it jumps out of the speakers. Side Two had the best bass ever — extending all the way into WHOMP land.

I was selling audio equipment (Audio Research, Fulton speakers) back in the ’70s and this was a favorite demo disc in our store. The bass drum at the end of track two would shake the foundation with a big speaker like the Fulton J.

Every bit as amazing to me was the string quartet on side 2. You could actually hear the musicians breathing and turning the pages on their music stands, just as if you were actually in their “living presence.”

This is one of the albums that made me realize how good audio in the home could really be. In a way this was the Audiophile “Sgt. Pepper” of its day, a record that was so much better than anything else you’d ever heard it made you rethink the possibilities.

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Vivaldi / 4 Bassoon Concertos in Living Stereo

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

If you’re a fan of Vivaldi, this Living Stereo from 1959 belongs in your collection. The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This rare and mostly quiet Shaded Dog pressing has SUPERB sound on side one, earning a sonic grade of A++. To our surprise side two was even better; we called it A++ to A+++.

It was surely one of the best sounding records we played in our classical shootouts that day.

This is Golden Age Living Stereo sound at its Tubey Magical best.

Side One

A++, with tonality that is Right On The Money (ROTM). Huge stage as well, deep and wide. Not as transparent as some of the other Golden Age pressings we played that day, we call this one Super Hot.

Side Two

A++ to A+++, and here the music seems to be better as well as the sound, which is more open and even sweeter and smoother (in a good way). (more…)

Vivaldi, Bach, et al. / Concertos for Cello / Janigro

Living Stereo Classical and Orchestral Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

  • A glorious Living Stereo recording from 1960 of cello concertos on the early Shaded Dog label – this copy had Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • It’s also fairly quiet at Mint Minus Minus, remarkably quiet for a record that is 60 years old
  • Janigro’s cello is immediate, real and lively here – you are in the presence of greatness with this copy
  • This record will have you asking why so few Living Stereo pressings actually do what this one does. The more critical listeners among you will recognize that this is a very special copy indeed. Everyone else will just enjoy the hell out of it.

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