1981

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

Albums with Stevie Nicks Performing

  • This STUNNING pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Both sides are punchy, big and clear, with plenty of hard rockin’ energy – exactly what you would expect from the team of Shelly Yakus and Jimmy Iovine
  • Two of her biggest hits are here (and they still hold up): Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around and Leather And Lace
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equally engaging are less exposed tracks like the haunting ‘After the Glitter Fades.’ Hit producer Jimmy Iovine wisely avoids over-producing, and keeps things sounding organic on this striking debut.”

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics.

Bella Donna may not reach those exalted heights, but it’s still quite good, especially for 1981. As the decade wore on things went south very quickly, sonically and musically, so we must be thankful that this record came out early in the decade and not much later.

(more…)

U2 – October

More U2

More New Wave Recordings

  • Outstanding sound throughout with both sides rating a strong Double Plus (A++) for their big, bold sound
  • Balanced, musical and full throughout – this pressing is a big step up from many of the other originals that we played
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl, with each side playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “… when U2 marry the message, melody, and sound together, as on “Gloria,” “I Threw a Brick Through a Window,” and “I Fall Down,” the results are thoroughly impressive.”
  • If you’re a U2 fan, a killer copy of their classic album from 1981 belongs in your collection

Recordings from the ’80s are always a bit tricky in terms of their sound quality, and U2 is not a band we have ever associated with the highest audiophile-quality sonics. We’ve been through a number of their albums now, including War, The Unforgettable Fire, and The Joshua Tree, and while Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, we’ve at least found a handful of pressings that do a much better job of communicating their music than others, and certainly a great deal better than any Heavy Vinyl reissue or digital source.

It’s not often that we come across audiophile-quality sound for U2’s early titles. The average copy of this record sounds as dry and flat as a cassette. Not this one, or to be more precise, not this pressing. (more…)

Lindsey Buckingham / Law and Order

More Lindsey Buckingham

More Fleetwood Mac

  • An outstanding copy of Buckingham’s first solo album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The sound here is rich, full-bodied and lively, with solid and present vocals, as well as excellent clarity all around
  • You can thank Richard Dashut for the superb recording quality, and Better Records for finding a copy of the record that sounds as good as this one does
  • September Song was an inspired choice – it might just be the best song on the album
  • “. . . this album to me covers a wide spectrum of emotion and musicality that is hard to find in solo departures like this one. The music carries a funny, kind of goofy vibe throughout . . . but Buckingham isn’t afraid to get serious and pull out dramatic day-to-day human circumstances . . . and let the audience become captivated by his minimalist approach that seems to fit in each time.”
  • If you’re a Lindsey Buckingham fan, a killer copy of his album from 1981 surely belongs in your collection

(more…)

ZZ Top – El Loco

More ZZ Top

  • El Loco makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “El Loco follows through on the streamlined, jet-engine boogie rock of Degüello, but kicking all the ingredients up a notch.”
  • If you’re a ZZ Top fan, a killer copy of their album from 1981 belongs in your collection

(more…)

Carly Simon / Torch – Surprisingly Rich, Natural Analog Sound for the Eighties

More Carly Simon

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly rich, natural and analog considering the recording date – very little sound of the sound of the day — the kind that ruined most of what was made in the ’80s — is on display here, and thank god for that
  • “Carly Simon’s Torch is a gorgeous throwback to the Fifties and early Sixties… By blending old and new material, and by incorporating a hint of jazz-fusion music into a studio-orchestra sound, Simon and her producer, Mike Mainieri, begin to suggest a continuity between Fifties torch and Eighties pop.”
  • If you’re a fan of Carly’s, this is a Top Title from 1981 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1981 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

(more…)

Kim Carnes – Mistaken Identity

More Kim Carnes

More Women Who Rock

  • Kim Carnes makes her site debut here with this superb copy of her 1981 release, Mistaken Identity
  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The immediacy of the vocals is striking, putting a living, breathing Kim Carnes right between your speakers
  • Bette Davis Eyes was the biggest selling single of 1981, but you can be sure no one until now has ever heard it sound as good as it does on this very LP
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars, Grammy Nomination for Album of the Year – the Big As Life Rock Sound Val Garay’s engineering and production achieved with this album surely deserve much of the credit

(more…)

David Lindley – El Rayo-X

More David Lindley

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

  • El Rayo-X finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • If you’re looking for deep punchy bass, crashing dynamics, silky sweet vocal harmonies, grungy slide guitars, tons of ambience, and super low distortion sound, this is the copy for you
  • Engineered in 1981 by Greg Ladanyi, the very next year he would take home the Best Engineering Grammy for Toto IV (one helluva good sounding album and a former member of our Top 100)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the greatest rock music albums of its time. Fabulous.”
  • If you’re a fan of the man, this is a classic from 1981 that belongs in your collection (and the only record of his that does).
  • The complete list of titles from 1981 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This superb Asylum original LP is a real DEMO DISC — if what you are trying to demonstrate is how BIG and BOLD a good old-fashioned analog recording can sound.

After hearing Lindley’s white-bread session playing on ’70s albums by Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, et al., you might think the man must have a stick up his butt. His solos just never seem to let loose or get loose, and they rarely rock. Mercury Blues is proof positive that he can rock like a wild man when he wants to. On this album, perhaps for the first time, he really does seem to want to.

The sound on this record is so punchy and dynamic, the rest of your rock records should seem positively anemic in comparison. Most of it sounds live in the studio, and live in the studio is how you get a bunch of guys to play with this kind of enthusiasm and energy.

Engineered in 1981 by Greg Ladanyi, the very next year he would take home the Best Engineering Grammy for Toto IV (one helluva good sounding album and a former member of our Top 100).

Fortunately for us audiophiles, this album catches him before the overly-processed, digital drums and digital echo “sound of the ’80s” had gotten into his blood. (Just play any of the awful Don Henley records he made to hear what we mean.) This record still sounds ANALOG, and even though it may be 1981 and mostly transistorized, the better copies display strong evidence of TUBES in the recording chain. (more…)

Art Pepper – Roadgame

More Art Pepper

More Jazz Recordings featuring the Saxophone

xxxxx

  • These sides are exceptionally low-distortion, lively, solid and dynamic – just what this live music needs
  • “Altoist Art Pepper’s 1981 appearances at Los Angeles’ now-obsolete Maiden Voyage club were fully documented, resulting in three LPs… Although only a year away from his death, the great Art Pepper was still very much in his prime for this memorable outing.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

(more…)

Tom Petty – Hard Promises

More Tom Petty

More of Our Favorite Titles from 1981

  • An impressive copy of this 1981 release, with KILLER nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Recorded at Sound City, home to some of the greatest analog sound ever recorded
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…filled with great songwriting, something that’s as difficult to achieve as a distinctive sound… The Waiting became the best-known song on the record, but there’s no discounting A Woman in Love, Nightwatchman, Kings Road, and The Criminal Kind, album tracks that would become fan favorites… it has a tremendous set of songs and a unified sound that makes it one of Petty’s finest records.”

This one is a huge step up from most of what we played. The album tends to be bright, thin, edgy, pinched and gritty — radio friendly, maybe, but not especially audiophile friendly.

We hate that sound but we are happy to report that some copies manage to avoid it, and this is one of them. Is that richer, fuller sound the sound of what’s on the master tape or did the mastering engineer “fix” it? We’ll never know, now will we? What we can know is the sound of the pressings we actually have to play, and this one is killer. (more…)

Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays – As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls

More Jazz Fusion

More Jazz Guitar

 

  • As Falls Wichita… finally returns with outstanding Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, right up there with our Shootout Winner — reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • This is the sound of the Master Tape — worlds better than what most record lovers have ever been granted the privilege of hearing in analog
  • This spacey music needs huge amounts of reproducible recording space to work its ethereal magic, and you will have no trouble finding that space on this very pressing
  • The best sides were always the biggest, clearest and most three-dimensional, assuming they were able to retain the rich, natural, balanced tonality that is inherently key to a good record, or a great one in this case
  • “This joint solo effort by Metheny and regular pianist and collaborator Lyle Mays is an impressive outing. In the process of stretching out away from the confines of the quartet setting of prior albums, Metheny and Mays presage the sleeker and more ethereal sound of the band’s Geffen years on portions of the title track…”

This superb pressing of Metheny’s ECM Chart-Topping release from 1981 shows you just how well recorded the album is. We don’t know how you feel about ECM recordings in general but we tend to think they are pretty lifeless and boring. Not so here!

We guarantee this copy has more CLARITY, ENERGY and DYNAMICS than any pressing of the album you have ever heard. Where is the muck? The blurry bottom end? The smear? All gone. And the bass is monstrous.

If you’re a fan of this album, this copy will show you what you’ve surely been missing all these years — the kind of sound that lets this music breathe. (more…)