Alice Cooper – Is This the Warner Bros. House Sound?

More of the Music of Alice Cooper

Reviews and Commentaries for Warner Bros. Records

This White Hot Stamper copy had the two best sides back to back we heard in our shootout, with a Triple Plus side two that really brrough this music to life.

Which is not easy to do, given that the average copy of this album is a sonic mess —

There are a lot of green label Warner Bros. records from the ’70s that sound like that, one might even call it their “house sound.”

When you play the later pressings, it’s obvious that they’ve gone overboard in cleaning up the murk, leaving a sound that is lean, flat and modern — in other words, unmusical, inappropriate and just plain wrong.

Finding the right balance of fullness and clarity, especially on this album, may not be easy, but it can be done. This side two was far and away the best we heard and proves that the album can sound good. (more…)

ZZ Top / Fandango – Another Warners Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity

More of the Music of ZZ Top

Reviews and Commentaries for Rhino Records

Sonic Grade: C

Warner Brothers remastered Fandango in 2008, so we took some domestic pressings and put them up against their Heavy Vinyl LP. The results were mixed; most of our originals pressings were lackluster, many were noisy, and we just weren’t hearing anything with the sound we thought deserved to be called a Hot Stamper.

We shelved the project for another day. In the interim we kept buying domestic pressings — originals and reissues — in the hopes that something good would come our way.

Fast forward five years. It’s 2015. We drop the needle on a random pressing and finally — finally — hear a copy that rocks like we knew a ZZ Top album should. With that LP as a benchmark we got a shootout up and running and the result is the record you see here.

How did the WB remaster fare once we had some truly Hot Stamper pressings to play it against?

Not well. It’s tonally correct, with a real top and bottom, something that a substantial number of copies cannot claim to be.

But the sound is stuck behind the speakers, veiled, and sorely lacking in energy and excitement.

The transparency is of course compromised on all these new reissues, and without transparency and resolution much of the audience participation on the first side is lost.

I won’t say the new pressing is boring. Let’s just say it’s a lot more boring than it should be. (more…)

Today’s Mediocre LP – Pet Sounds on DCC

Reviews and Commentaries for Pet Sounds

More Titles that Sound Best in Mono

Sonic Grade: C-

The no-longer-surprising thing about our Hot Stamper pressings of Pet Sounds is how completely they trounce the DCC LP. Folks, it’s really no contest. Yes, the DCC is tonally balanced and can sound decent enough but it can’t compete with the best “mystery” pressings that we sell.

It’s missing too much of the presence, intimacy, immediacy and transparency that we’ve discovered on the better Capitol pressings.

As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing. Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a bad case of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can try turning up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want; they simply refuse to come to life.

The Allman Brothers – Listen for Thin, Edgy Vocals

More of the Music of The Allman Brothers

Easily the group’s best sounding studio recording and especially impressive on a copy like this

Drop the needle on Midnight Rider or In Memory Of Elizabeth Read to hear what this copy can do. You get lots of extension here both up top and down low that makes the overall sound far more engaging and musical than what you’d hear on a typical copy.

One of the biggest problems we ran into with this shootout was thin, recessed or edgy vocals. This is a band known for their rockin’ guitar jams, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the vocals are not where they focused their energy when recording.

I wish the vocals here were a bit fuller but at least they have enough presence to put them front and center. (more…)

Cat Stevens / Tea for the Tillerman – This Is Your Idea of Analog?

Dear Record Loving Audiophiles of Earth,

I’m afraid we have some bad news. [This was written back in 2011 when the record came out so it’s hard to imagine that what I am about to say is news to anyone at this stage of the game.]

Regrettably we must inform you that the 2011 edition of Tea for the Tillerman pressed by Analogue Productions on Heavy Vinyl doesn’t sound very good. We know you were all hoping for the best. We also know that you must be very disappointed to hear this unwelcome news.

But the record is what it is, and what it is is not very good. Its specific shortcomings are many and will be considered at length in our review below.

Yes, we know, the folks over at Acoustic Sounds, in consultation with the late George Marino at Sterling Sound, supposedly with the real master tape in hand, and supposedly with access to the best mastering equipment money can buy, labored mightily, doing their level best to master and press the Definitive Audiophile Tea for the Tillerman on Vinyl of All Time.

It just didn’t come out very good, no matter what the reviewers say. And what do they say? Allow me to quote one.

…superbly dynamic, spacious and detailed…The attack of the pick on the guitar strings is astonishingly clean and detailed.

Depth is pronounced…

…the resolution of low level detail reveals a host of details that are either buried or glossed over on the other versions I’ve heard…

Uh-oh, wait a minute, here’s a blindingly red flag:

If you have the  edition, you’ll find this similar in one way: there’s nothing “mellow” about the overall production and when the music gets loud (and Marino lets it get so) it can get a bit hard, but better that than to soften it and lose the clarity, focus and detail of this superb recording, especially in the quieter passages where the resolution of low level detail is astonishing.

More about that later.

Another fellow, this time a blogger writing under the heading “my vinyl review,” had this to say:

This latest pressing… has a decidedly leaner tonal balance than the UK pink Island, and favors the chiming highs and upper mids of the guitars over the lower frequencies. That said, the QRP’s bass is also tighter than what is heard on the other pressings. As with the UK pink, Stevens’ vocals are right up front in the mix on the QRP, but also gain an additional layer or two of complexity over the other issues. This new reissue… is simply the most dynamic, detailed version of this classic album that I’ve heard to date, with more of the vocal nuances, guitar flourishes, and bass string vibrations that audiophiles crave. The U.K. pink undoubtedly possesses a rounder overall sound — and some with particularly bright systems or a sensitivity to the hint of stridence or sibilance in the vocals, might appreciate the touch of tube compression found on the original U.K.

Hey, that’s what I heard too.

Some of what is quoted above does sound very much like the Acoustic Sounds QRP record I played.

For example, when they mention that it’s not “mellow,” that “it can get a bit hard,” that it has a “leaner tonal balance than the UK pink Island,” yes, I would agree with all of that.

But that only scratches the surface of its many faults. (more…)