1982

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers / Long After Dark – What the Best Pressings Get Right

More of the Music of Tom Petty

Energy and rock and roll rhythmic drive are of course paramount on any Tom Petty album.

Many copies were brighter than ideal, which is nothing new for Petty’s body of work but not the sound we find most pleasing.

Some copies in our shootout were dark and small; we took serious points off for both of these shortcomings.

The climaxes of the songs should be as uncompressed and uncongested as possible to earn our higher grades. When the music gets loud it should stay tonally correct and undistorted, and not all copies can do that, not at the serious levels we like to play our records.

Choruses Are Key

Watch out for too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression or distortion, there will be too many upper midrange elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space, resulting in congestion and a loss of clarity.

With the more solid-sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich. Above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments and voices comfortably, without piling them on top of one another as so often happens. Consequently, the upper midrange “space” does not get overwhelmed with musical information.

Also watch for edge on the vocals, which is of course related to the issues above. Most copies have at least some edge to the vocals — the band wants to really belt it out in the choruses, and they do — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull, or smeary.

The highest quality equipment, on the hottest Hot Stamper copies, will play the loudest and most difficult-to-reproduce passages with virtually no edge, grit, or grain, even at very loud levels.

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Lionel Richie – Self-Titled

  • A KILLER sounding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from the first note to the last, just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The key to its success — is that Richie doesn’t even make a pretense of funk here… The ballads, of course, provided two big hits with “My Love” and “Truly,” two numbers that illustrate that he was moving ever-closer to mainstream pop, since these are unapologetic AOR slow-dance tunes. [It’s] a dynamic mainstream pop-soul record, one of the best the early ’80s had to offer.”

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Crosby, Stills and Nash – Daylight Again

Hot Stampers of Crosby, Stills and Nash

More David Crosby / More Stephen Stills / More Graham Nash

  • This outstanding copy of Daylight Again (the last good record these guys would ever make) earned solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • This is the embodiment of the Classic CSN sound we love – rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and clear 
  • Stephen Barncard, one of our favorite recording engineers, no doubt deserves most of the credit
  • Allmusic on Wasted on the Way and Southern Cross: “Both were extracted as singles and became among the best-known tracks not only on Daylight Again, but also in the post-’60s CSN canon.”

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Linda Ronstadt – Get Closer

More Linda Ronstadt

More Women Who Rock

  • Superb sound on both sides of this Asylum pressing from 1982 with each earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Engineering prowess provided by Val Garay and George Massenburg, which means the sound is full-bodied, dynamic and lively, with plenty of bottom end punch
  • “Linda Ronstadt’s voice has never sounded better than it does on Get Closer… [her] ringing soprano vibrates with clarity and authority on the record’s best songs…” Rolling Stone, 4 Stars
  • If you’re a fan of the lovely Linda Ronstadt, looking especially fetching on the cover in her red dress, a killer copy of her album from 1982 might just need a home in your collection

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Michael Jackson / Thriller – A Rock, Pop and Soul Masterpiece

More Michael Jackson

Reviews and Commentaries for Thriller

  • With outstanding grades throughout, this pressing of Michael Jackson’s Masterpiece of Funky Rock Pop will be very hard to beat 
  • The sound is huge – big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare, as well as cleaner, smoother, sweeter upper mids and a more extended top
  • Billie Jean and Beat It sound out of this world, but that’s not fair, since every track does
  • A Top 100 and 5 Stars on AMG: “This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul — expanding the approach to have something for every audience.”

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’80s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of Thriller 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.

Sound that came Jumping-out-of-the-speakers coupled with driving rhythmic energy were the hallmarks of the best copies. These qualities really brought this complex music to life, gave it room to breathe, and made it possible for us to enjoy the hell out of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music. (more…)

Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom

More Elvis Costello

More 5 Star Albums

  • Geoff Emerick engineered, creating a unique sound – a sound which only works if you have the right pressing
  • This dense, darkly serious album contains some of the best songs EC ever wrote – the last of his True Classics
  • Allmusic 5 Stars: “Essentially, the songs on Imperial Bedroom are an extension of Costello’s jazz and pop infatuations on Trust. Costello’s music is complex and intricate, yet it flows so smoothly, it’s easy to miss the bitter, brutal lyrics.”
  • If you’re an Elvis Costello fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1982 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1982 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Six of Elvis’s first seven albums received a Five Star rating from Allmusic, the exception being Almost Blue, and we generally would agree with that assessment (although Get Happy should probably also get Four Stars, not Five).

Which is to say that Elvis Costello is a brilliant artist whose albums work as albums, a fact that is in danger of being lost in a world of single-song downloads and greatest hits packages. We record-playing audiophiles are inclined to start at the beginning of a side and let it flow through to the end, and that is clearly the best way to appreciate and enjoy the work of this very gifted man.

Check out the Tracklist below to see a sample of some of the lyrics to a few of the songs on the album.

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Roxy Music – Avalon

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More Roxy Music

  • This excellent UK pressing boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Copies that are exceptionally transparent, with three-dimensional depth and a wide soundstage, present this music the way it was meant to be heard
  • Credit Rhett Davies with creating the sonic space to allow the singers, instruments and subtle studio effects to be balanced and integrated from front to back, side to side and top to bottom
  • 5 stars: “Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics.”

Records like Avalon get people (often known as audiophiles) to spend wads and wads of money in pursuit of expensive analog equipment good enough to bring this wonderful music to life in their very own listening rooms.

The album rewards a stereo with many of the qualities that audiophiles prize most highly when selecting equipment — spaciousness, transparency, clarity, detail, depth, soundstaging, speed, high frequency extension and the like.

The mix is as dense as any we know. Only the best copies have the ability to show you everything that’s on the tape. Credit must go to the amazingly talented Rhett Davies for creating the space to put so many instruments and sounds in.

We would add to that list presence and energy, along with warmth, fullness, and lack of smear on the transients. Whomp and rock and roll power do not seem to play much part in separating the best from the rest, although it’s nice when the bottom end is big and solid.

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XTC – English Settlement

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More New Wave

  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides of this early Virgin UK import pressing – impossibly quiet vinyl too
  • Side two boasts the best condition grade we give out, Mint Minus, and the other three sides play close to it – you won’t find another record on the site with vinyl this quiet!
  • You won’t believe how good this record sounds – on a Big System with lots of firepower down low, this is a sonic tour de force, a MONSTER Demo Disc
  • The first three sides of this copy have huge amounts of open studio space and that Tubey Magical, rich, fat, dense, bass-heavy British Rock Sound we love, and the fourth isn’t far behind in all those areas
  • It has taken YEARS to get this shootout going – what happened to all the clean British pressings? They have disappeared over the last five years it seems
  • 4 stars: “There are plenty of pop gems – ‘Senses Working Overtime’ stands as one of their finest songs — but the main focus seems to be the more expansive sound…the textural sound of the album is quite remarkable.”

This is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with huge amounts of open studio space and that Tubey Magical, rich, fat, dense British Rock Sound. That sound isn’t easy to reproduce, but this copy absolutely nails it. Nothing else in our shootout came close to it!

If you have big speakers and the room to play to play them good and loud , this is quite the sonic tour de force.

Credit Hugh Padgham, producer and engineer, who’s worked with the likes of Peter Gabriel, Genesis, The Police, Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Those bands recorded music that makes good use of Padgham’s trademark sound: wall-to-wall, deep, layered, smooth, rich and stuffed to the gills. XTC, with Padgham’s help, have here produced a real steamroller of an album in English Settlement.

The big hit on this album is one that most audiophiles will probably know: “Senses Working Overtime.” Even over the radio you can hear how dense the production is. Imagine what it sounds like on an original British pressing with Hot Stampers, played on a modern audiophile rig. Simply put, IT ROCKS.

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Peter Gabriel / Security

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More Art Rock Records

  • One of the most important records in the Peter Gabriel canon, original and influential on so many levels
  • With the benefit of today’s technology, on a copy this good you hear into the soundfield in a way never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of multi-tracked choruses
  • “Security remains a powerful listen, one of the better records in Gabriel’s catalog, proving that he is becoming a master of tone, style, and substance…”
  • If you’re a Peter Gabriel fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1982 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1982 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Security is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

Man, does this album sound better than I remember it from back in the ’80s when I first played it. Stereos have come a long way since then, along with a host of other things that help records sound better, such as cleaning fluids, room treatments and all the rest.

Now you can really hear INTO the soundfield in a way that simply was never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of PG’s multi-tracked choruses.

On the best pressings, both sides are huge, and the music jumps out of the speakers. The balance is perfection. (more…)

Duran Duran – Rio

More Duran Duran

  • Stunning sound throughout this EMI UK import pressing
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings with their boosted mids – this is the way the album is supposed to sound, and the difference is not a small one
  • This kind of record often shows up from overseas in beat to death shape – few survived, and that reality is compounded by the fact that even fewer record dealers know how to properly grade their records (hence our prices)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The original Duran Duran’s high point, and just as likely the band’s as a whole, its fusion of style and substance ensures that even two decades after its release it remains as listenable and danceable as ever… From start to finish, a great album that has outlasted its era.”

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