1979

Rod Stewart – Every Picture Tells A Story – Test for Proper Tonal Balance

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

One note on how to tell if you have a tonally balanced copy, at least on side two. Maggie May has multi-overdubbed, close-miked mandolins that should have strong midrange presence and an especially extended, harmonically correct top end. As soon as that song ends, a very sweet, smooth guitar opens the next track, Mandolin Wind. The two songs lean towards opposite ends of the tonal balance spectrum, but on a good copy, both of them sound right. One’s a little darker, one’s a little brighter, but they should both be right if your system is tonally balanced.    (more…)

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness On The Edge Of Town – Cleaner and Clearer than You Might Think

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We used to say that Springsteen recordings from this era always suffered from some grit and grain. With the better cleaning technologies we employ now, and dramatically better playback quality as well, much of that gritty, grainy sound is simply no longer a problem. That change and the others like it come under the general heading of Revolutionary Changes in Audio. It’s what real Progress in Audio is all about. 

It’s not easy to find good sound on this record — or any Springsteen album, for that matter — but the better copies prove that this is a much better recording than we ever gave it credit for. Full and solid with a big, punchy bottom end, this pressing has the kind of energy and power to really communicate the passion and excitement of the music. (more…)

Steely Dan – Gaucho – Listening In Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Gaucho, the last of the Must Own Steely Dan albums. 

Of all the great albums Steely Dan made, and that means their seven original albums and nothing that came after, there are only three in our opinion that actually support their reputation as studio wizards and recording geniuses.

Chronologically they are Pretzel Logic, Aja, and Gaucho. Every sound captured on these albums is so carefully crafted and considered that it practically brings one to tears to contemplate what the defective DBX noise reduction system did to the work of genius that is Katy Lied, their best album and the worst sounding. (Those cymbal crashes can really mess with your mind if you let them. To get a better picture of the DBX sound just bang two trash can lids together as close to your head as possible.)

The first two albums can sound very good, as can Royal Scam, but none of those can compete with The Big Three mentioned above for sonics. A Hot Stamper copy of any of them would be a seriously good sounding record indeed. (more…)

Steeleye Span – Commoners Crown – We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing!

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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs . The second track on side two, Demon Lover, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is. (more…)

Steely Dan – The Parker’s Band Saxophone Battle Listening Exercise

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Parker’s Band — another in our series of Home Audio Exercises

Take three or four Pretzel Logic pressings, clean them up and just play the saxophone battle we discuss below. You won’t find any two copies that get those saxes to sound the same. We had twenty and no two sounded the same to us. 

By far the TOUGHEST test on side two is the saxophone battle at the end of the song. If you’ve got a badly mastered or pressed copy it’s sure to be an unmitigated sonic DISASTER: aggressive, hard, shrill, sour, irritating — pick whatever adjective makes you wince, because wincing is exactly what you will find yourself doing with the typical ABC or MCA LP on your table.

You need a copy with an extended top end to allow the harmonics of the saxes to be reproduced correctly. This is the only way they will sound balanced. Otherwise you will be left with a honky upper midrange aggressiveness that will no doubt be doing its level best to tear your head off. If the pressing in question has any added grit or grain, and they almost all do, you are in for even more trouble. Only the sweetest, most tonally correct, grain-free, full-bandwidth copies will let you dig those battling bopish saxes.

Ah, and it’s so good when they do.

The Band Music From Big Pink – EMI Centennial Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B?

[I believe this review is from the mid to late ’90s.]

This is the EMI Centennial version we sold years ago for close to thirty bucks. I thought at the time the MFSL gold CD was better. Now, after many stereo changes, I realize the gold CD is actually fat in the midbass and a little thick and sucked out in the midrange. (MFSL’s, and quite a few others’, standard audiophile EQ.)

I know this because the EMI LP is correct in those areas and shows you how truly wonderful the recording is. If only it had more bass. Who knows? Between the music and the sound you may not even miss it.

Above 100 hertz this album is magic. Below 100 it’s tragic. (Ha ha.)

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Neil Young Harvest – Nautilus Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

Another Half Speed reviewed. We haven’t played a copy of this record in more than a decade, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. 

This is a SURPRISINGLY good sounding Nautilus Half-Speed mastered LP with AMAZING transparency. The sound here is DRAMATICALLY more natural than your average audiophile pressing.Just listen to the phoney top end found on most MOFIs to see what we mean. On this record you’ll hear non of the hyped up highs that are MoFis claim to fame.

This Nautilus is sure to destroy a typical American pressing, which will tend to sound opaque, thick and dull. This wouldn’t really match up to our Hottest Stampers but you could sure do a lot worse. Although it’s a tad fat at the bottom, it still retains much of the warmth and richness found on the best copies.

The Doors – The Doors – MoFi Debunked

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Sonic Grade: D

Another MoFi LP debunked.  

If anyone still thinks that this pressing is anything but a bad joke played on the audiophile public — so sucked out in the midrange, bass-shy and compressed to death — that person has a way to go in this hobby. A very long way. You can hear how bad it sounds from another room.

But wait a minute. I liked the MoFi just fine when it came out. I guess I had a way to go in this hobby too. That was back in the early ’80s. I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in the last thirty five plus years. I’m pretty sure we can offer you a better record now. (more…)

America – Homecoming – Their Second Best Album

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  • An outstanding copy of America’s second album, boasting Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This is a simply wonderful Green Label original pressing – big and rich with excellent transparency and breathy vocals
  • Some of the most tubey, warm acoustic guitar reproduction you could ever ask for – this is the sound of real analog!
  • Ventura Highway sounds amazing here, as does everything else; it’s a Demo Disc for acoustic guitars and vocals

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction quality. Most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. And when the guitars are perfection, the voices and all the other instruments are right as well. Let’s face it: they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like this anymore. You have to go back to 40+ year old records like this one to find that sound.  

Warner Brothers Green Labels

Green label Warner Brothers originals are sonically all over the map. The biggest problem these pressings suffer from is a lack of extreme top end to provide harmonics for the guitars. The guitars on this copy sound just right, really sweet and open. On the average copy, they sound veiled and dull. (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Fool on the Hill

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  • Sergio’s unique rearrangement of two songs in particular here make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill
  • We rarely have had good copies on the site up in recent years – these are tough to come by in clean condition with this kind of sound
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records.

Two songs in particular make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill. Both of them are given wonderfully original treatments. These songs hold their own against the originals, and that’s saying something.

Sergio took on many of the heavyweights of his day, and most of the time he succeeded in producing a uniquely satisfying version of well-known material. Superb original tracks by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and others were given the Sergio Mendes latin pop treatment and came out much the better for it.

What do the best Hot Stamper pressings give you? (more…)