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Elton John’s Too Low For Zero – The Last in a Great Run

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides of this early British import LP – quiet vinyl too
  • There’s some real Tubey Magic on this album, along with breathy vocals and plenty of rock and roll energy 
  • I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues – the best song Elton’s done in the last 35 years – is killer here
  • One of engineer Bill Price’s best efforts behind the boards in the ’80s, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art as usual
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 Stars: “Happily, this is a reunion that works like gangbusters, capturing everybody at a near-peak of their form.” 

Much of the production — the smooth, sweet harmony vocals, the rich, grungy guitars, the solid, warm piano — reminds me of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, one of the classics from back in the day when Gus Dudgeon was running the show.

Caribou (1974) and Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy (1975) have a similarly glossy, perfectionist approach to production as well of course. It was 1975’s Rock of the Westies that went off in another direction. (more…)

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – Long After Dark

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  • A STUNNING sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides are brimming with Petty’s unique brand of “meat and potatoes” rock and roll
  • 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
  • Rich and full-bodied with tight bass, and brimming with Petty’s unique brand of straight ahead rock and roll, best exemplified by the radio smash You Got Lucky
  • Rolling Stone raves “Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers play a finely crafted brand of meat-and-potatoes rock. They shudder to a stop for the occasional ballad or showy guitar figure, but the next surging chorus is never far away. They’ve been honing that sound for five albums now, and Petty has gradually hoisted himself into the company of such masterful travelers of Route 66 as Seger and Springsteen. …overall, Long after Dark is Petty’s most accomplished record.”

Long After Dark boasts the monster rocker You Got Lucky and very good sound considering that the album was recorded in 1982, not an especially good year (or decade) to be recording rock music. (more…)

Paganini / Violin Concertos 1 & 2 – Where Is the Outrage?

The Music of Paganini Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Paganini

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Had I paid good money to buy this pressing in the hopes of hearing the supremely talented Yehudi Menuhin of 1961 tear it up on Paganini’s legendary first two concertos, I can tell you one thing: I would be pissed.

Where is the outrage in the audiophile community over this kind of trash? I have yet to see it. I suspect I will grow quite a bit older and quite a bit greyer before anyone else notices just how bad this record sounds. I hope I’m proven wrong.

Screechy, bright, shrill, thin and harsh, it’s hard to imagine worse sound from this piece of Heavy Vinyl trash.

NO warmth. NO sweetness. NO richness. NO Tubey Magic. In other words, NO trace of the original’s (or the early reissue’s) analog sound. I may own at most one or two classical CDs that sound this bad, and I own quite a few. I have to wonder how records this awful get released. Then again, the Heavy Vinyl Buyer of today is not known for his discrimination; if he were Sundazed and Analogue Productions would have gone out of business many years ago. (more…)

Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

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  • Black Sabbath’s fifth studio album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is the vinyl embodiment of the Classic Analog Rock sound we love – rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and tonally correct
  • “an extraordinarily gripping affair”, and “nothing less than a complete success” — The Rolling Stone
  • 4 1/2 stars: “All things considered… Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was arguably Black Sabbath’s fifth masterpiece in four years, and remains an essential item in any heavy metal collection.”

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These vintage WB pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, quite a few of them I would guess, but those of us with a good turntable could care less. (more…)

The Rolling Stones / Out of Our Heads – Mono or Reprocessed Stereo?

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On this London LP, even though it says the record is electronically re-processed into stereo, the songs we heard on side one were dead mono.

So much for believing what you read on album covers. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Swing Easy! And Songs For Young Lovers

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More Nelson Riddle

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  • This superb compilation of Sinatra’s two 1954 releases makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one mated with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on side two, and the vinyl is about as quiet as we can find it
  • Drop the needle at the start of side one and you will soon find a living, breathing Frank Sinatra standing between your speakers
  • Exceptionally lovely All Tube sound from 1954, with a huge, rich orchestra conducted by the legendary Nelson Riddle
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sinatra plays around with the melodies without leaving them behind, delivering each line with precision. It ranks as one of his most jazzy performances, as well as one of his most fun and carefree records.”

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Elvis Presley – On Stage February 1970

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  • With superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last, right up there with our Shootout Winner, this original RCA Orange Label pressing is guaranteed to sound dramatically better than any copy you’ve ever heard
  • Here’s Elvis doing songs made famous by others, proving that he can still out-rock and out-soul practically anybody alive
  • With ten million copies sold to date, this album’s appeal has transcended its time and must be considered a true Elvis Classic
  • 4 stars: “”The Wonder of You” might not have been “That’s All Right” or even “Heartbreak Hotel,” but it was a towering performance by a singer who could, even then, run circles around virtually anyone in the business this side of Roy Orbison.”

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Harry Belafonte – Jump Up Calypso

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More Titles on Living Stereo

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  • Stunning sound for this Living Stereo pressing of upbeat calypso tunes; Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • This is a difficult album to find with good sound – for all practical purposes, this is As Good As It Gets, and worlds better than most pressings
  • You have to love the sound of those steel drums recoded through an All Tube Chain with mastering to match
  • Worlds better than the DCC and surely anything else on Heavy Vinyl
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Belafonte was an established all-around entertainer and actor by the time of this album, so it could be seen in a sense as a return to “roots” styles. In any case, it’s all-out calypso, with backing by the Trinidad Steel Band, and qualifies as one of his most energetic albums, even getting rambunctious at times.”

KILLER sound for this Living Stereo pressing that is guaranteed to trounce your DCC, assuming you have one. We played a big stack of these recently and are happy to report that the best copies are full of old-school RCA Tubey Magic, magic that DCC struggled and more often than not failed to achieve with their mostly awful remasters. Tubes are essential to bringing out the natural, relaxed FUN in Belafonte’s music, and DCC had no tubes in their cutting chain.

Unfortunately, the big hit “Jump In The Line” is not one of the better sounding tracks on this album. It has a bit of radio EQ, meaning it’s a little brighter and leaner in a way that’s designed to jump out of your AM radio, but not the best effect on a high resolution audiophile system. Still, on a copy like this it’s still musical and enjoyable; on many copies we played it was absolutely painful. (more…)

Eddie Kramer Is One of Our Favorite Engineers

Eddie Kramer Engineered Albums with Hot Stampers

Eddie Kramer Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

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Eddie Kramer is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Check out our supply of Eddie Kramer engineered or produced albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries.

Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper Shootouts).

More of Our Favorite Engineers

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Kenny Dorham – Una Mas

Hot Stamper Blue Note Albums Available Now

More recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

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  • Side one was the best we heard in our shootout, earning a grade of nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++)
  • It’s clear yet rich- the horns are full-bodied and warm, and the top is fairly extended
  • Side two earned a Double Plus (A++) grade – by track two it’s full, smooth and natural
  • Both sides are exceptionally quiet, playing a true Mint Minus – for Blue Note that’s rare!

A fun and lively Blue Note, presented here with two especially hot sides and quiet vinyl!

After hearing a copy that blew us away a few years back, we went on the hunt for enough pressings to get this shootout off the ground. It wasn’t easy — run across many clean Kenny Dorham LPs recently? — but we finally pulled it off and this copy really impressed the hell out of us compared to the others we had on hand to play.

Dorham is backed by a killer lineup here — Joe Henderson, Herbire Hancock, Butch Warren and Anthony Williams. AMG calls the music “explorative yet swinging music” that “lives up to its potential”. I’d say it’s one of the better “lesser-known” Blue Note titles, a real sleeper in their catalog. (more…)