tom port

10cc – How Dare You!

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  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this outstanding early UK pressing of 10cc’s fourth album, How Dare You! – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This wonderful LP will show you that 10cc’s commitment to Audiophile Recording Quality was – at the time – beyond reproach 
  • Forget the dubby domestic stuff and the no-doubt-awful Heavy Vinyl, this early British pressing is huge, spacious and rich, with prodigious amounts of bass, like no other copy you’ve heard
  • 4 stars: “…a well-crafted album that shows off 10cc’s eccentric humor and pop smarts in equal measure… it remains a solid album of witty pop songs that will satisfy anyone with a yen for 10cc.”

With this superb British pressing some of you who might consider yourselves more devoted fans of the band will finally be able to hear what a good recording this is. The typical domestic copy is a disaster as are some of the British originals and reissues; we should know, we cleaned them, played them and heard them for ourselves. (more…)

Supertramp – Crisis? What Crisis? – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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CRISIS? WHAT CRISIS? is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it. 

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries.

This link will take you to our other SUPERTRAMP albums. 

This album ticks off a number of boxes that are important to understanding records and their reproduction.

  • The original is not the way to go on this album, at least not on the domestic pressings. There are currently 70+ listings discussing this idea and there could easily be double that if we took the time to create them.
  • This recording is Difficult to Reproduce. We described some of the challenges in a recent shootout-winning listing:

The overall sound is as big and bold as it gets, with huge amounts of difficult-to-control, or perhaps we should say difficult-to-reproduce, UPPER MIDRANGE musical information.

Layer upon layer of multi-tracked guitars, voices, keyboards, percussion instruments and more build up in the loudest and most dynamic passages. The good copies keep it all clean, separate and undistorted, and the bad copies make a hash of it.

  • The recording is yet another that we found can really come alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

And boy does this record get LOUD when it wants to. One pop record out of a hundred has dynamics like those found on the best pressings of CWC. Dark Side of the Moon has them. Blood Sweat and Tears has them. Thick as a Brick too. We love that sound but we sure don’t hear it that often. When we do we sit up and pay attention!

And when it gets this loud, it had better be mastered and pressed right or it will tear your head off. Only the best copies get better as they get louder.

  • Years ago we actually used to prefer the Half-Speed Mastered pressing, made by Jack Hunt for A&M, to the domestic and British copies we had been doing our shootouts with. Eventually, with improvements to every aspect of our playback system, as well as the record cleaning technologies we developed, we came to see the error of our ways.
  • There are a large number of commentaries associated with being wrong. Unlike practically any audiophile reviewer we have ever encountered, we don’t have a problem with making mistakes. If you already know it all, how can you learn anything?
  • We go out of our way to mention the records that helped us to Live and Learn something. Besides the fact that we are the only record sellers in the world who do comprehensive records shootouts, admitting to our mistakes would be enough to make us unique in the world of audiophiles
  • Here’s more on the benefits to be gained by Making Mistakes. We discussed the issue recently on a copy of Led Zeppelin’s Presence that wasn’t exhibiting the problems we had ascribed to it in recent listing.

Of course the reason I hadn’t heard those problems is that over the last year or so we fixed them. How I don’t really know.

Maybe the main improvements happened just last week with the cartridge being dialed in better. Or maybe it was that in combination with the few new room tweaks. Or maybe those changes built upon other changes that had happened earlier; there’s really no way to know. You have to get around to doing the annual shootout for any given record in order to find out how far you’ve come, or if you’ve come any way at all. Fortunately for us the improvements, regardless of what they might be or when they might have occurred, were incontrovertible. The album was now playing at a higher level.

It’s natural to blame sonic shortcomings on the recording; everyone does it. But in this case We Was Wrong. The grain and distortion we mentioned are no longer a problem on the best copies. We’ve worked diligently on every aspect of record cleaning and reproduction, and now there’s no doubt that we can get Presence to play much better than we could before. This is why we keep experimenting, and why we encourage you to do the same.

  • Without a doubt Crisis? What Crisis? is a Big Speaker album, in exactly the same way that Crime of the Century, the only other Supertramp album engineered and produced by Ken Scott, is. Our commentary:

Playing a Hot Stamper copy at loud levels with big woofers will have your house quaking. Add to that the kind of ENERGY that the better pressings have in their grooves and the result is an album guaranteed to bring most audiophile systems to their knees, begging for mercy.

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, don’t expect to hear Crime of the Century the way Ken and the boys wanted you to. The album wants to rock your world, and that’s exactly what our Hot Stamper pressings are capable of doing.

  • Supertramp is certainly one of the most influential and important bands in my growth as a music lover and audiophile, joining the ranks of Roxy Music, Ambrosia, 10cc, Steely Dan, Yes, Bowie and countless others, musicians and bands who seemed to me dedicated to exploring and exploding the conventions of popular music.My equipment was forced to evolve in order to be able to play the scores of challenging recordings issued by these groups in the ’70s. You could say that the albums of Supertramp and others (The Beatles of course) informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on. It’s what Progress in Audio is all about. I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for the last four decades, precisely in order to play records like this, the kind of music I fell in love with back in the ’70s.
  • And Large Scale Orchestral Recordings surely represent one of the tougher challenges to a system, which is precisely what makes them a good choice for selecting records with which to evaluate equipment or tweak your stereo.
  • In case you haven’t seen it on the site, here is a quick rundown on what we use to evaluate the very special pressings we call Hot Stampers, Our Playback System, a work in progress to be sure.
  • Rather than continue to go on for days like this, let’s wrap it up with a shout out to one of the Engineering Giants of the ’60s and ’70s, KEN SCOTT, the man at the board for albums such as Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century, Birds of Fire and many, many more.

 

Falla / Three Cornered Hat (Complete Ballet) / Ansermet

More of the music of Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)

Three Cornered Hat (Complete Ballet)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This London is energetic, dynamic, spacious, transparent, rich and sweet. James Walker was the producer, Roy Wallace the engineer for these 1961 sessions in Geneva’s glorious Victoria Hall. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology.  (more…)

Gershwin / Concerto In F & Rhapsody In Blue / Kostelanetz

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This early Columbia 360 Label pressing has Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides. Exceptionally rich and Tubey Magical from start to finish. The sound on this vintage pressing is natural and above all musical. Both works are performed with consummate skill and attention to detail, the result magnificent. 

I’ve always loved these performances, but the crude, smeary and painfully-shrill-when-loud Columbia recording quality has always been a barrier to their enjoyment. So many copies suffer from upper-midrangy, glary, hard sound and blary brass. I’ve come to accept that this is nothing more nor less than the “Columbia Sound.” As a consequence we rarely put much effort into surveying their vintage pressings; the good ones are just too hard to find. (more…)

Elton John – Great job on finding what for me is a new reference disk

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“This hot stamper shows off the difference between a recording and a performance. Great job on finding what for me is a new reference disk.”  

The entire letter can be found below, along with our general notes about the recording.

Hi, Tom:

Got a chance to try your Elton John Goodbye Yellow Brick Road hot stamper, and wow! EJ has never been one of my favorite artists, my liking his earlier output to some degree, but in my opinion GYBR is his magnum opus and his high water mark, down from which he slid rapidly into mediocrity.

I have tried a number of pressings of this record and always found it to be a good, but not great, recording, which is a shame considering it is one of the few double LP’s extant without anything approaching filler material. So I tried my Direct Disk Labs version, which was OK, but sounded veiled compared to the MFSL version, actually not bad for one of their efforts. (more…)

Dr. John – In The Right Place

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” sound for this Must Own Dr. John album – both sides earned our top grade of A+++
  • SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND – who knew how well recorded this album was? (Certainly not the audiophile press)
  • We don’t know of any other Dr. John album with sound remotely as good, and the modern albums of his we’ve played were just awful
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Dr. John finally struck paydirt here and was certainly In the Right Place. With the hit single “Right Place Wrong Time” bounding up the charts, this fine collection saw many unaware listeners being initiated into New Orleans-style rock.”

Punchy drums, solid bass, smooth vocals, extended highs — this album was produced, recorded and mastered by superbly talented individuals who deserve a lot of credit for the work they have done here.

If you like Little Feat this album should be right up your alley. And if you like this album and don’t know little feat, the link on the left will take you to their music. They’re one of the all time great bands of the ’70s (and still going as far as I know). (more…)

Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks – Where’s The Money?

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Where’s The Money?

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This live album has White Hot Stamper sound on side two, with sound that is rich, real and musical in ways that we have never heard ANY Dan Hicks record sound. Who knew it could sound like this? Certainly not us. 

The dryness, the flatness, the you-are-so-not-thereness of their studio recordings is nowhere in evidence on this side two, which is as good and probably better than any side we heard in our shootout. It’s not an easy record to find in clean condition in the first place.

Side Two

A+++ White Hot Stamper Good As It Gets sound, so transparent and full of life. The female singers’ voices are so clear, breathy and sweet on this copy, we were a bit taken aback. On a Dan Hicks record? That just never happens! (more…)

Blood Sweat and Tears – Direct Disc Labs

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Sonic Grade: C

Yet another Half Speed of questionable sound quality.

Back in the ’80s I thought this DD Labs version smoked domestic copies, because the only domestic copy I had ever bought was a bad sounding one. This was many years before I came to understand that no two domestic copies were the same and that there were dozens of pressing variations. I believe it was not until about 1990 that I heard my first Hot Stamper of BS&T. Oddly enough, those stamper numbers managed to best all comers for about the next 15 years. Now we know they can be awesome, but there is actually another stamper that is potentially even better. It’s so good in fact that it has been awarded our Four Plus grade. 

The reason this pressing doesn’t get a lower grade is that, regardless of how compressed and veiled the sound is, the average Columbia pressing is surely no better.

When it comes to finding your own great sounding pressing, sure, you can do it, but it’s a lot of hard work. I’m guessing most of you already have a job and don’t need another one. I do this for a living as well as for a hobby, so I’m willing to put in the time and effort to slog through all the trash in order to find the treasure.

Also, I have a big advantage over my customers. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I have a big head start on all of you. I know many stampers that are good and many that are bad. I found out the hard way. On BS&T I know exactly which copies to buy and which copies to avoid. I have literally heard more than 100 copies of this record.

This is true for scores if not hundreds of other albums. Why did I bother to listen to so many different pressings? The overridng reason is because I wanted to find a better sounding version for myself. It’s not worth the effort if it’s not music you love. This is also the reason you will never find Hot Stamper pressings of some artists’ records on the site. I don’t like their music and I will just never make the effort to listen to enough pressings to find the hot one.

1/17/05

Sonny Rollins – Sound of Sonny – Reviewed in 2007

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Sound of Sonny

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Riverside White and Blue original 2 Mic Label Mono LP. Side one sounds like a typical old Riverside jazz record, but side two sounds EXCELLENT! I don’t know when I’ve heard an early Sonny Rollins record sound better. His horn is really full-bodied and dynamic and has amazing IMMEDIACY on some tracks. It makes side one sound sick in comparison. (more…)

Barney Kessel – Easy Like – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

This is an original Mono Contemporary Yellow Label DEMO LP (although the cover shows the OJC). The record plays EX++ to Mint Minus Minus — if you can stand some surface noise this is a very good sounding LP. The sound is good; however, it’s almost impossible to find quiet pressings of these old Contemporary albums. This is about as quiet as they get! 

“…the set features Kessel in boppish form with quintets in 1953 and 1956 featuring, either Bud Shank or Buddy Collette doubling on flute and alto. Kessel shows off the influence of Charlie Christian throughout the performances, with the highlights including “Easy Like,” “Lullaby of Birdland,” “North of the Border,” and the accurately titled “Salute to Charlie Christian.”  (more…)