1979

America’s Wonderful Debut from 1971

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  • An outstanding early pressing with superb Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish 
  • One of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums – the instruments and voices seem to be right in your listening room
  • The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction – thanks Ken Scott!
  • “America’s debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg…”

This is clearly America’s best album, and on some of the better pressings like this one the sound is worthy of Demo Disc status. You’ll find the kind of immediacy, richness and harmonic texture that not many records (and even fewer CDs) are capable of reproducing.

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction. As it says down below, most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. On many copies they will sound veiled and dull, and on a copy with a bit too much up top, they will have an unfortunate hi-fi-ish sparkle.

A Clear Picture

The best copies are of course wonderfully transparent; they just seem to give you a clearer picture of all the instruments in the soundfield. They’re also better defined and localized in space. The bass on the better copies is more note-like and less blurry. These Hot Stamper qualities are simply the result of higher resolution pressing and mastering, for people who appreciate the higher resolution of analog.  (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…)

Donny Hathaway Lives On

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This live recording has YOU ARE THERE sound! It’s so natural, rich and transparent, what is there to fault? The soundstage is wide and deep. Within moments of the needle hitting the groove your speakers disappear and the music just flows into the room. On the best original domestic pressings you can immediately understand and appreciate the honest, emotive sound that made Donny Hathaway the tremendous performer he was known to be.

I’ve been playing this record regularly since I first heard it back in the mid-’90s and even after twenty years it has never failed to thrill. If I could take only one soul album to my desert island, it would be this one, no doubt about it.

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Phil Collins – Face Value with Hugh Padgham’s Big Drum Sound

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  • Great sound throughout with both sides of this original UK pressing rating a solid Double Plus (A++) and playing quietly 
  • Hugh Padgham discovered an amazing drum sound on Peter Gabriel’s 3rd album, and he really went to town with it on this one, Collins’ debut (and Masterpiece)
  • His most consistent songwriting and many of his biggest hits – In The Air Tonight sounds amazing, but practically everything here does
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Collins proves himself a passionate singer with a gift for both deeply felt ballads and snarling rockers.”

Collins’ songwriting and musicianship shine on this breakout debut, the first and clearly the best of all his solo albums. We’ve tried to do some of his other albums but nothing we’ve played seems remotely as well recorded as this album from 1981.

There may be some hope for Hello, I Must Be Going! (1982), but Phil’s third album, 1985’s No Jacket Required, sounds digital and ridiculously processed. I suppose not many albums from 1985 weren’t, but it’s still an unfortunate development for us audiophile types who might’ve wanted to enjoy these albums but are just not able to get past the bad sound. (more…)

Bad Company – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame  and a recording that comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

The sound was JUMPING out of the speakers and filling the room. 

Sometimes a copy is just BIGGER than the others – it’s somehow physically wider and taller than other pressings, how we haven’t a clue — and that’s exactly what this copy had more of than any other: SIZE. If you’ve never heard a rock record like this — and knowing how rare they are it’s more than possible — you are in for a treat here.

If you’re a fan of this kind of stuff (as we definitely are) you aren’t going to want to let this one get away. Movin’ On and the title track are going to absolutely blow your mind. The best sounding tracks have MASTER TAPE QUALITY SOUND. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Peter Gabriel – So

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Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of So. 

With a digital recording such as this, the margin for mastering error is very slim. Most copies just aren’t worth the vinyl they’re pressed on. They can sound harsh, gritty, grainy, edgy, and thin. We love this music and we know there are great copies out there, so we keep picking these up. More often than not, we’re left cold.

This is a digital recording, and most of the time it is BRIGHT, SPITTY and GRAINY like a typical digital recording, which plays right into our prejudices. After hearing a bad copy, what audiophile wouldn’t conclude that all copies will have these bad qualities? After all, it’s digital. It can’t be fixed simply by putting it on vinyl.

Ah, but that’s where the logic breaks down. Proper mastering can ameliorate many if not most of a recording’s sins. When we say Hot Stampers, we are talking about high quality mastering doing exactly that. (more…)

Arthur Fiedler Conducts Our Favorite Night on Bald Mountain – for DG!

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  • Our favorite performance of Night on Bald Mountain in Double Plus (A++) sound is back, guaranteed to blow your mind (and maybe a woofer or two)
  • Side one also boasts an excellent Danse Macabre, with a powerful finish that may remind you of the thrill of live orchestral music
  • Side two of this amazing sleeper LP contains a wonderfully exciting Sorcerer’s Apprentice, also in very good sound
  • Watch your levels on this record – it’s dramatically more DYNAMIC than most Golden Age recordings

If you like Orchestral Spectaculars, have we got the record for you!

This pressing clearly has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND — not in every way, but in some important ways. The ENERGY of both the sound and the performances is truly awesome. Fiedler brings this music to LIFE. (more…)

The Doors Debut – What to Listen For

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What to Listen For? you ask?

ENERGY and RAW POWER. Few audiophiles have any idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don’t do a very good job of encoding the life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day, regardless of whether that day is in 1967 or 2017.

The first Doors album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most powerful recording in the entire Doors catalog.

Huh? I’m guessing this statement does not comport well with your own experience of the album, and there’s a good reason for that: not many copies of the album provide strong evidence for any of the above qualities. Most pressings are opaque, flat, thin, veiled, compressed, lifeless and sound exactly the way so many old rock records sound: like an old rock record. (more…)

Steve Winwood – Back In The High Life

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  • One of the best copies to ever hit the site — Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • The sound of this early British pressing is guaranteed to be dramatically bigger, richer, fuller and smoother than anything you’ve heard
  • Higher Love sounds great here. You won’t believe it! And there’s really not a bad track on the album
  • “The first undeniably superb record of an almost decade-long solo career … the passion long smoldering in his finest work explodes in the album-opening duet with Chaka Khan, Higher Love…” — Rolling Stone

Rich, solid and Tubey Magical, this copy is a huge improvement over most of what we played (all imports of course; see below). The vocals are nice and breathy, and the presence and energy here are off the charts. 

On the best copies the sound is spacious and high-resolution. The bright, dry, grainy, analytical sound is replaced with something warmer, richer, fuller, sweeter, smoother — in other words, more ANALOG sounding. (more…)