audiophile records

Rick Wakeman – The Myths and Legends of King Arthur…

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  • Superb sound for this A&M British Import LP with each side rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or BETTER – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings (or whatever crappy new reissue is around) – this the only way to hear the master tapes’ huge, lively and Tubey Magical qualities
  • 4 stars: “Rick Wakeman’s third solo album is among his best, as he employs his vast array of keyboards to their full extent, musically describing the characters pertaining to the days of King Arthur’s reign… The album’s entirety is a sensational execution of Wakeman’s adroitness, and with vocals from Ashley Holt and Gary Pickford Hopkins, it still stands along with Journey to the Center of the Earth and The Six Wives of Henry VIII as one of his most astute pieces.”

This vintage British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Chicago – Chicago VI

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  • An outstanding copy of Chicago VI, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key and these sides have the horns sounding clear and really jumping out of the speakers
  • VI was propelled to the top of the charts for five full weeks by two of the band’s best tracks: “Just You ‘n’ Me” “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day”
  • 4 stars: “Chicago VI is an undeniably strong effort – supported at the time by its chart-topping status…”

The background vocals on these sides are breathy and clear, a far cry from the typically smeary, dark voices we heard on most of the pressings we played, all originals in this case.

More often than not the brass lacks bite and presence, but these sides had the Chicago horns leaping out of the speakers. What is a Chicago record without great horns? Without that big bold sound you may have something, but it sure ain’t Chicago.

The sound of the brass on any Chicago album is key — it has to have just the right amount of transient bite yet still be full-bodied and never blary. In addition, on the best of the best pressings you can really hear the air moving through the horns. (more…)

Chopin – 24 Etudes / Vasary

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  • This stunning album of some of Chopin’s greatest piano pieces has superb sound, boasting a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • This magnificent sounding (and surprisingly hard to find) pressing is yet another example of a classical “sleeper,” one that can hold its own with practically any solo piano recording you have ever heard
  • As expected, Vasary performs with consummate skill, bringing out nuances in the work that may have escaped others – the results are captivating
  • “… an extraordinarily impassioned work, belying its technical utility.”

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Foreigner – Double Vision

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  • This outstanding copy of Foreigner’s sophomore release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from beginning to end – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • If you own the Half-Speed or any modern reissue, you won’t believe how much bigger, clearer and more energetic this pressing is
  • Keith Olsen produced and engineered – he’s the man behind the amazing sound of Buckingham/Nicks and Fleetwood Mac (1975)
  • 4 stars: “Foreigner promptly followed up its blockbuster debut with the equally successful Double Vision LP in 1978, which featured the FM mega-hits “Hot Blooded” and the driving title track.”

As I’m sure you know, there is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print, and an older one from the days when their records were pressed in Japan (#1-052).

We haven’t played the latter in years; as I recall it was as lifeless and sucked-out in the midrange as most of the other MoFis of that period, notably The Doors (#051) and Trick of the Tail (#062). Is there any doubt that the new MoFi will be every bit as bad or worse? If any of our Hot Stamper customers have purchased the current release, I would be interested in hearing how you think it stacks up against this copy. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – The Woman In Red

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  • The Woman In Red finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly good sound, perhaps the best sound Stevie Wonder got after about 1976 – we were shocked as you no doubt are
  • A superb collection, including I Just Called To Say I Love You and Love Light in Flight
  • “An ingenious jump from his trademark, spectacular, blend of Funk, R&B and Soul,contaminated with Pop, Disco, Gospel and Reggae, to a brand new Synthpop/Pop-soul sound that characterizes his ’80s works.”

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Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees

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  • With insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish, this copy will be very hard to beat — exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • It’s the impossibly rare copy that’s this lively, solid and rich… drop the needle on the title track and you’ll see what we mean
  • “Arguably the first consistently strong album Fleetwood Mac ever recorded [not true, Kiln House is] … 1972’s Bare Trees is also the album where the band finally defines its post-blues musical personality.”

This period of Fleetwood Mac, from Kiln House (1970) through Mystery to Me (1973) — both are albums I would put at the top of my list to take to my Desert Island — has always been my favorite of the band. I grew up on this stuff, and I can tell you from personal experience that it is a positive THRILL to hear it sound so good!

Until not that many years ago we simply were not able to successfully shootout Bare Trees, Fleetwood Mac’s wonderful album from 1972. The pressings we were playing just didn’t sound very much like Hot Stampers to us. British, German, Japanese, domestic originals, domestic reissues; all of them left much too much to be desired.

Thankfully we can tell you that the best copies sound a whole lot better now than they did then. (more…)

Cowboy Junkies – Whites Off Earth Now!!

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More Debut Albums of Interest

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s debut album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing is well balanced, yet big and lively, with such wonderful clarity in the mids and highs as well as an open and spacious soundfield
  • “Whites Off Earth Now!! establishes the spare country blues sound that took the band to international fame with their next album.” – Wikipedia
  • “… it’s fascinating to hear their signature country-on-valium sound develop. Margo Timmins sings beautifully.”

This vintage Latent Recordings pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Softly, As I Leave You

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  • With two insanely good sides, each with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this early stereo pressing was one of the best copies we played in our shootout
  • Big, rich and natural, the newer material for this album was recorded in 1964, with Sinatra’s voice in very fine form
  • This is one of the few Sinatra records where the second label pressings can still sound quite good – that is rare in our experience
  • “The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.”

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Jimmy Smith – At Club Baby Grand

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  • Jimmy’s superb live release from 1956 makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from top to bottom
  • A killer early mono pressing, with a strong bottom end, lovely richness and warmth, real space and separation between the instruments, and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • There is a mark that makes 25 pops, which would be a deal killer if this record were not so rare and so good – it’s literally the first copy we’ve ever found that could be played on an audiophile turntable
  • Credit goes to Rudy Van Gelder once again for the huge space this superbly well-recorded trio occupies
  • “It’s all Jimmy Smith in full flight, bubbling over with cascading notes and breathless detours, and if his studio work is generally more structured and considered (but only a little more so), this set shows him in what was his natural habitat, astounding an audience in a small club.”

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Della Reese – Della by Starlight

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More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • An outstanding copy of Della by Starlight with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing puts a living, breathing, big-as-life Della Reese performing at the peak of her vocal powers right in your listening room
  • The key to the best copies is Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, and this vintage analog copy has plenty of both

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