1976-best

J.J. Cale – Troubadour

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More of Our Favorite Titles from 1976

  • Cale fans take note: this early Shelter pressing was doing almost everything right — rich, full and musical with great bass
  • Eric Clapton described the man as “one of the most important artists in the history of rock.”
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “J.J. Cale’s albums are so steeped in his introspective style that they become interchangeable. If you like one of them, chances are you’ll want to have them all.”

If you’re hankerin’ to hear Cocaine on the authentic original, you will really have to work hard to hear it sound any better than it does on this pressing.

Wikipedia lists his many styles as “Americana, Cajun, blues, swamp rock, country rock, Red Dirt, Tulsa Sound” but we think Americana is probably all you really need.

AMG  Review

Producer Audie Ashworth introduced some different instruments, notably vibes and what sound like horns (although none are credited), for a slightly altered sound on Troubadour. But J.J. Cale’s albums are so steeped in his introspective style that they become interchangeable. If you like one of them, chances are you’ll want to have them all. This one is notable for introducing “Cocaine,” which Eric Clapton covered on his Slowhand album a year later.

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Although “Cocaine” would be a major hit for Clapton in 1977, the first single released by Cale from Troubadour in 1976 was the restless “Travelin’ Light” with “Hey Baby” as the b-side. Critics from the music website Alltime Records reviewed the recording: “‘Travelin’ Light’, with its funky James Burton–style guitar that Jimmy Page tried to copy on “The Crunge”, along with great xylophones to fill out the sound – it moves and cooks and rolls and rocks and has just an absolutely earthy quality.”

Wikipedia

Cocaine

Troubadour was produced by Audie Ashworth, who had also produced Cale’s first three studio albums. In the 2004 documentary To Tulsa and Back, Cale recalled, “I wrote ‘Cocaine’, and I’m a big fan of Mose Allison…So I had written the song in a Mose Allison bag, kind of cocktail jazz kind of swing…And Audie said, ‘That’s really a good song, John, but you oughta make that a little more rock and roll, a little more commercial.’ I said, ‘Great, man.’ So I went back and recut it again as the thing you heard.”

The song’s meaning is ambiguous, although Eric Clapton describes it as an anti-drug song. He has called the song “quite cleverly anti-cocaine”, noting:

It’s no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous—that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be “anti”—which the song “Cocaine” is actually an anti-cocaine song.

If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought … from a distance … or as it goes by … it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.

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The Rolling Stones – Black and Blue

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  • Glyn Johns engineered, and the better pressings are full-bodied and lively, with solid and present vocals, as well as excellent clarity all around
  • A copy this good lets you appreciate Billy Preston’s contributions on the keys – he’s all over the album, a very good thing indeed
  • “Melody ought to be a tentative experiment with Billy Preston’s jazzy keyboard sound. Instead, it’s a triumph, Jagger’s voice swooping and snaking around Preston’s piano and harmonies.”

This is in fact one of the better sounding “later period” (1976) Stones records we’ve played, that’s if we’re talking about the better copies of course, like this one. The best pressings are big, open, dynamic and full-bodied, with exceptionally lively percussion. As always, credit goes to the recording engineers, Glyn Johns et al., as well as Lee Hulko at Sterling, the original mastering engineer (who’s cut about as many good sounding records as anyone we can think of). (more…)

Boston – Self-Titled

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Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

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  • With big, bold, hard-rockin’ Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this pressing will show you just how good Boston’s debut can sound
  • The multi-tracked, multi-layered guitars are as big as life on this copy and guaranteed to rock your world
  • Top sound for all the hits: More Than a Feeling, Long Time/Foreplay, Rock & Roll Band, Peace Of Mind…
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Nearly every song on Boston’s debut album can still be heard on classic rock radio today due to the strong vocals of Brad Delp and unique guitar sound of Tom Scholz. Boston is essential for any fan of classic rock, and the album marks the re-emergence of the genre in the 1970s.”

Boston’s first (and only good) album is a long-time member of our Top 100, and on a great pressing like this it’s easy to see why. It’s an incredible recording when you can hear it right, and this is about as right as it gets!

It’s obvious why the first Boston album became a Multi-Platinum Record. Practically every one of its songs still gets heavy radio play on every rock station in town. Consummately well-crafted music like this is almost impossible to find nowadays. I guess that’s why they call it Classic Rock. (more…)

Milt Jackson / Joe Pass / Ray Brown – The Big 3

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  • A superb sounding Pablo recording from 1976 – this copy gives you outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or better from start to finish  
  • We found the sound superb, but even better is the fact that with only three instruments – vibes, guitar (Joe Pass) and bass (Ray Brown) – each of the players has plenty of room to stretch out and have fun with the tunes
  • 5 Stars: “The colorful repertoire — ranging from “The Pink Panther” and “Blue Bossa” to “Nuages” and “Come Sunday” — acts as a device for the musicians to construct some brilliant bop-based solos.”

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Emmylou Harris – Luxury Liner

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  • Luxury Liner makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This copy is full-bodied and natural, with a nicely extended top end, plenty of space around the instruments and vocals, and few of the problems that plagued many pressings we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Luxury Liner ranks as Emmylou Harris’ best-selling solo record to date, and it’s one of her most engaging efforts as well; her Hot Band is in peak form, and the songs are even more far afield than usual”

The sound that Emmylou and her producers were going for here is clean, detailed and low distortion, which is exactly what the best pressings like this one deliver. What really sets the good copies apart, though, is a natural, relaxed quality in the midrange. Emmylou sounds like a real person, with none of the too-clean, too-modern, tube-free sound that ruins many of the pressings of her records.  (more…)

Mark-Almond / To The Heart

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy for us to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

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It takes two copies paired up to get Triple Plus (A+++) sound for both sides, but here they are, a Triple Triple 2-pack. With Roy Halee’s brilliant engineering, the sound is as big, rich, clear, open, and ANALOG as you could hope for. New York State of Mind and Here Comes the Rain, Parts 1&2 have a wonderfully relaxed, mellow, jazzy vibe. Allmusic users give this one 4 1/2 Stars and we think that’s about right.

A 2-pack is the only way to get top quality sound and surfaces on this title — the pressing quality is all over the map, with bad ABC vinyl no doubt holding back potentially good sounding pressings. If the vinyl doesn’t hold onto the sound of the stamper, your needle sure won’t be able to find it in the grooves. The lack of space, the lack of size, the lack of richness or clarity are all too common with this record, even when the stampers are right.

Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these.

That’s why we do these shootouts. It’s the only way to discover the musical and sonic qualities the best pressings are capable of. It simply cannot be done any other way. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Presence

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here is a pressing with the power, the dynamic contrasts, the low end whomp, as well as the in-the-room midrange presence (pun only slightly intended) you’ve been waiting for
  • Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this early LP
  • “Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One.”

We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how HARD this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one. (more…)

Steely Dan / The Royal Scam

  • Stunning sound from start to finish: Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it on both sides
  • This is a killer Shootout Winning copy of The Dan’s hard-rockin’ classic from 1976 – HERE is the right sound for this music
  • These two sides give you what you need for The Royal Scam – rich, meaty, with powerful rhythmic energy and not too bright
  • “Drummer Bernard “Pretty” Purdie lashes out the rolling grooves on most of the nine tracks, establishing the album’s anxious feel, and Larry Carlton’s jaw-dropping guitar work provides a running commentary to Fagen’s strangulated vocals… These are not the sort of Steely Dan songs favored by smooth-jazz stations.”

The best copies of Steely Dan’s brilliant effort from 1976 — so different from the album before, Katy Lied, as well as the album to follow, Aja — manage to combine richness and smoothness with transparency and clarity, a tough combination to find on The Royal Scam. (more…)

Duke Ellington – The Ellington Suites

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  • The Ellington Suites finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Lively, dynamic, transparent, spacious and musical throughout – you won’t believe how good this Jazz Classic from 1976 sounds
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than anything you have ever heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “Ellington devoted special attention to The Queen’s Suite, which in the end hewed closely to his original sketch. Its six episodes were inspired by natural phenomena encountered in his travels. . .”

I know of no other Pablo record with sound so rich, full, and warm. This one destroyed a big stack of copies we’d been collecting for years in order to do this shootout. Unless you have a good-sized batch, ten or more, you will have a tough time finding one with sound anywhere near this amazing.

The Queen’s Suite, which takes up side one, was recorded in 1959 and sounds amazing. As you can imagine, this has one of the best Ellington bands ever assembled, with players like Clark Terry, Paul Gonzalves, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges… the list of jazz giants goes on and on. If you enjoy the classic albums by Mingus on Atlantic, you’re gonna love this work. The sound is excellent as well, spacious and transparent with tight bass and an extended top end.

Side two has material performed by Ellington in the early ’70s, which though not as good musically, is still very enjoyable. On this copy, it sounds amazing, with incredible transparency and immediacy. The overall sound is airy and open with lots of breathy texture to the horns and woodwinds.

1976 Grammy Award Winner for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band! (more…)

Little Feat – Hoy-Hoy

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A Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

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  • All four sides earned Double Plus (A++) grades for sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Our pick for the best sounding Little Feat album – it’s a monster, and a Must Own for any fan of the band
  • “Filled with live performances, obscurities, album tracks, and a new song apiece from Bill Payne and Paul Barrere, Hoy Hoy is a bit scattered, a bit incoherent, a little bewildering, and wholly delightful — a perfect summation of a group filled with quirks, character, and funk, traits which were as much a blessing as they were a curse.”

This is one of the all time TOP Little Feat albums and a longtime personal favorite, but it takes a pressing like this to bring it to life.

As we said last time around, there is not a rock album on the The Absolute Sound’s Super Disc List that can hold a candle to the real Rock and Roll Power of a pressing such as this. It’s really not fair to judge the Harry’s List by records like this, which have never been the man’s forte. We, on the other hand, know these kinds of records about as well as anyone, and to prove it we would love to send you this copy. The AMAZING sound is guaranteed to blow your mind.

What a Recording!

The recording quality of many of these songs is OUT OF THIS WORLD, as good as any rock record I can think of. Although Waiting For Columbus is arguably the best sounding live rock ‘n roll album ever made, some of the tracks on this album are every bit as good or BETTER. (And the promo EP is practically in a league of its own for sound!)

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of many of these tracks 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.

The sides that had sound that jumped out of the speakers, with driving rhythmic energy, worked the best for us. They really brought this complex music to life and allowed us to enjoy the hell out of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy where the music works as music. (more…)