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Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited (Mono)

Written by: Dennis Davis

Mobile Fidelity’s version grants slightly greater stage width but somewhat collapses the depth. The reissue also touts more bass weight and enjoys more dynamic punch. Consequently, it makes the original LP sound almost delicate.

Blackberry Smoke - Find a Light

Written by: Joe Taylor

Southern influences course through Blackberry Smoke’s music. Continuing a winning streak that effectively began on 2015’s Holding All the Roses, the group takes command of such idioms and seamlessly ties them together into compelling original creations on Find a Light.

Elvis Costello & The Imposters - Look Now

Written by: Joe Taylor

Look Now leans less towards the rock side of Costello and more towards sophisticated pop. The horn arrangement on “Under Lime,” a sequel to “Jimmy Standing in the Rain” from 2010’s National Ransom, hints at psychedelia before the vocal arrangement pulls the tune over to Broadway.

Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers - Bought to Rot

Written by: Todd Martens

Yet Grace proves uniquely self-aware as a songwriter and let’s the audience know her frustrations really owe to a recent break-up. In such a context, her venom comes across as less of a rant and more of an opportunity to blow off some steam. In other words, it’s relatable.

Pistol Annies - Interstate Gospel

Written by: Todd Martens

While slightly rawer and rougher around the edges than the solo work of members Miranda Lambert and Ashely Monroe, the Pistol Annies write with honesty and humor about functioning albeit dysfunctional families and romances. Even as they up the sarcasm—witness the family drama everyone avoids at Christmas while downing spiked eggnog on “Hush Hush”—Interstate Gospel delights in nuance.

Jeff Tweedy - Warm

Written by: Todd Martens

The album, produced by Tweedy with Tom Schick, emphasizes closeness, and the pitch-black backgrounds of the LP pressing allows us to hear simple hand-taps on an instrument with clarity. Songs such as “Bombs Above” and “Warm (When the Sun Has Died)” rank among the quietest on the record. No interference comes between the listener and the twilight guitar notes.

George Harrison - Living in the Material World

Written by: Dennis Davis

Much of sonic magic gets lost in the reissue. The guitar sound that explodes off the original vinyl with gorgeous bloom instead plods here. When Harrison sings “give me life” in the opening track, the reissue seems to be speaking to the remastering that sucks the movement out of the music, as if everything has been slowed down. The beautifully pressed heavy vinyl is quiet and flat, but I can’t recommend a dull version that gives me the “sue me, sue you blues.”

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Paul Simon - In the Blue Light

Written by: Joe Taylor

Even at 77 years old, Simon’s voice remains fluid. He doesn’t appear to have lost the ability to hit the high notes. The reverb on his singing casts a stronger presence on vinyl, and the separation between the instruments and Simon seems more pronounced. The LP also has a slightly more solid, better-defined low-end fullness.

Eric Dolphy - Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions

Written by: Dennis Davis

Fans of Dolphy, and inquisitive souls who wish to study some of the most creative jazz ever recorded, should grab this limited-edition set—released as a Record Store Day Black Friday (November 23, 2018) special. It also comes with an outstanding 20-page booklet replete with photos and informative liner notes. Many prior Resonance sets have quickly sold out and turned up for twice the retail price on eBay. Consider yourself warned.

Mark Knopfler - Down the Road Wherever

Written by: Joe Taylor

Bernie Grundman’s cut of the album deepens the soundstage and gives instruments a little more room than they enjoy on the CD version. Guy Fletcher’s keyboards accompany Knopfler’s guitar on the intro to “Trapper Man” and possess a light, airy quality. Knopfler’s voice remains out in front of the music, with the nicely layered backing vocals confined to the left channel. Low frequencies, too, boast pleasing fullness and ample separation.

Smashing Pumpkins - Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

Written by: Todd Martens

Shiny and Oh So Bright also still manages to feel like an event, at least when it comes to the vinyl packaging. A handsome, hefty, and graphically attractive gatefold sleeve holds the vinyl and contains a deluxe-worthy 16-page booklet.

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper - A Star Is Born

Written by: Dennis Davis

... songs are credited to Lady Gaga and Cooper as well as Lukas Nelson, Jason Isbell, and a handful of other collaborators. The music begins with Cooper’s country rock and, as his star falls, the soundtrack focuses more on Lady Gaga’s jazzy disco-infused diva pop. Her turns are the reason for repeat listening. Cooper’s singing exceeds expectations, but Lady Gaga’s songs make it all worthwhile.

Neil Young - Hawks and Doves

Written by: Joe Taylor

When Young released the album, he was dealing with his son Ben’s health issues, which affected the effort and several that followed. Critical reaction proved, at best, muted, even as Robert Christgau rated it highly in his review for Village Voice. After nearly 40 years, Hawks & Doves is definitely worth revisiting.  

Ry Cooder - Chicken Skin Music

Written by: Dennis Davis

Many years ago, Mobile Fidelity reissued Cooder’s Jazz and, after it sold out, prices on the used market skyrocketed. Chicken Skin Music remains a superior album with equally superb sound. The current reissue is limited to 3,000 copies. Wait at your own risk.

The Stooges - The Stooges

Written by: Dennis Davis

... the group was ahead of its time in almost every way—even extending to its avoidance of destructive editing techniques. Yes, the album is loud, but it retains an alluring dynamic snap. Nothing gets lost in the mix, and each instrument and voice maintains body and texture. The Stooges is not “audiophile” quality by any means, but such an approach wouldn’t have been appropriate.

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The Beatles - The Beatles (The White Album 2018 Stereo Mix, 2-LP)

Written by: Joe Taylor

In sum, Martin and Showell give The Beatles more sonic consistency and tame the occasional high-frequency aggressiveness of the original. While my memories of earlier pressings remain strong and favorable, this remixed and remastered version stands as a welcome and pleasing alternative. Recommended without reservation.

Julia Holter - Aviary

Written by: Todd Martens

And while the Los Angeles-based artist recorded a significant portion of the album at home, judging from its clarity, one might assume Aviary had been cut at one of the world’s most famous studios. Each synthesizer tone gets a starring role, and horned instruments such as the trumpet are conversational, as if Holter wanted them to sound human.

Muse - Simulation Theory

Written by: Todd Martens

Muse on Simulation Theory sounds like it belongs in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s roller-staking musical Starlight Express. There are guitars, but they whiz by in a neon-coated haze, covered and surrounded by blindingly bright synthesizers.

Thom Yorke - Suspiria: Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film

Written by: Todd Martens

Housed in a gatefold jacket with lyrics and demented scrawls, Suspiria sounds immaculate on pink vinyl. Considering much of the 80-minute work relies on silence and quiet noses, it remains unsettling at how clean and airy everything feels. As one piano lullaby ends, a harsh mix of digital sonics began.

Ramones - Rocket To Russia

Written by: Vance Hiner

While it may provide a bit more definition compared to Greg Calbi’s original master of the Sire original, some listeners may find that the 2018 remaster (lacquers cut by Ray Janos at Sterling Sound) loses a bit of the first pressing’s raw energy. A better reissue of this title is Rhino’s 2010 remaster cut by Chris Bellman from the original analog tapes. It retains the original’s snap while allowing the bass and midrange to open up even more.

Joe Strummer - Joe Strummer 001

Written by: Todd Martens

Yet the major appeal of Joe Strummer 001 relates to how it showcases the less-heralded aspects of the man, portraying an artist with a lust for cinema, a widescreen approach to musical styles, and songs with imaginative lyrics.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced

Written by: Shane Buettner

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: Jimi Hendrix was like no other guitarist or songwriter. While listening, I think of some of his imitators, especially Robin Trower. More often I recall a pivotal figure in jazz, Charlie Parker, who changed the course of the music. Also, Hendrix’s use of […]

John Lennon - Imagine: The Ultimate Mixes

Written by: Dennis Davis

Leaving aside the question of whether you may or may not think the remix violates the artist’s vision, the stripped-down recording sounds very, very good. Lennon’s voice has real body and texture, and the instrumental parts spread out wide over a nicely formed stage.

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Patti Smith - Horses

Written by: Vance Hiner

While I prefer the original pressing’s sonics, finding a near-mint copy with a decent cover costs well in excess of $50. Because the remaster is considerably less expensive and free of the occasional wow and flutter on the original, the Speakers Corner LP makes for an easy recommendation.

The Doors - The Doors

Written by: Joe Taylor

However, as good as the original LP sounds, Analogue Productions’ 45RPM edition betters it, and not by a little. he vinyl pressing, by Quality Records Pressings, is flat, dead quiet, and jet black. The tipped-on gatefold cover art looks great, with the cover itself comprised of hefty cardboard—in contrast to the lightweight cardboard used for the packaging on the original release.

Jason Isbell - Live From The Ryman

Written by: Todd Martens

Live from the Ryman courses with a force that makes it impossible to ignore that these songs are about life in America during a less-than-romantic era.

Miles Davis - E.S.P.

Written by: Dennis Davis

Against these odds, Mobile Fidelity has produced a brilliant reissue that edges out the Impex edition with better dynamic range (more bite in the horns), a little more sparkle in the drum kit, and slightly enhanced depth of image.

The Eagles - Hotel California

Written by: Danny Kaey

The 2009 analog pressing by Gray is a whole other animal. It matches the precise imaging of the current reissue, but sounds bigger, with more bass punch and more air around all the instruments and vocals than the other pressings.

Gene Clark - White Light

Written by: Dennis Davis

Most who listen to an original A&M copy of White Light would not recognize any hidden gold in the master tapes. A comparison with Intervention’s reissue, however, shows otherwise. Intervention’s copy takes a so-so-sounding recording and turns it into a reference-class disc.

Bruce Springsteen - Nebraska

Written by: Joe Taylor

Nebraska unfolds on a much deeper soundstage on this pressing, which gives Springsteen’s voice a three-dimensional quality. Not to say that I don’t miss the DIY quality of the original release, which definitely sounds more like a home recording. Its rough quality always matched the music, and for all the traits I admire about the new master, I’m sure I’ll return to the original at times.

Fucked Up - Dose Your Dreams

Written by: Todd Martens

" ... like, say, the Clash’s Sandinista!, a similarly sprawling album with moments of wonder scatter amidst filler, Dose Your Dreamsis likely to only appeal to Fucked Up diehards."

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ZZ Top - Cinco: The First Five LPs

Written by: Vance Hiner

Each album’s cover looks identical to that of the original and the RTI-pressed 180-gram LPs are all quiet and ruler flat. While an accompanying extras booklet would’ve been nice, the bulk of the budget went where it belongs—the music. Retailing for under $115, it constitutes a bargain.

The Who - Who’s Next

Written by: Vance Hiner

Fans looking for a fresh copy of this classic shouldn’t allow themselves to be fooled by the 2015 Geffen Records reissue. While the lacquers are cut by Ron McMaster and the pressing flat and relatively quiet, the music sounds dull and empty when compared to an expensive U.K. Track Record original.

Kurt Vile - Bottle It In

Written by: Todd Martens

Bottle In In is no hurry whatsoever to get to wherever it’s trying to go. The record’s 80-minute run time, coupled with Kurt Vile’s relaxed vibe, rewards those seeking simple pleasures rather than immediacy.

MC5 - Kick Out The Jams

Written by: Dennis Davis

If you have an original in good shape, there’s no need to spring for the reissue. If you don’t, grab the reissue. Rhino also packaged the LP as part of its Total Assault 3-LP box set as a red-vinyl pressing (the other two discs are white and blue, respectively). It touts the same mastering as the standard Rhino issue, except it comes pressed on lighter-weight red vinyl and the high-quality heavy board cover used for the individual release is replaced by lightweight card stock.

Linda Ronstadt - Heart Like A Wheel

Written by: Vance Hiner

The 1975 U.S. pressing used as a comparison for this review sounds full, three-dimensional, and dynamic—which makes the stunning improvements wrought by engineer Krieg Wunderlich on the 2017 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab remaster all the more noteworthy.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Your Funeral … My Trial

Written by: Vance Hiner

Nonetheless, the original pressing wins out for being slightly more holographic and emotionally compelling—and for providing more analog warmth and stage dimension. It also comes with lyrics, a vintage pornographic sketch, and helpful liner notes on the insert sleeves.

Rush - Moving Pictures

Written by: Joe Taylor

I don’t hear any of the edginess often attributed to DMM, and I’ve heard other DMM pressings during the last few years that suggest the process has improved. The original pressing of Moving Pictures sounds a tad warmer, but Magee’s remaster is more spacious and boasts far more instrumental detail.

The Stooges - Raw Power

Written by: Dennis Davis

Carefully mastered by Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio, it includes the Bowie mix on one LP and the 1993 Pop remix on a second LP. The acid test of whether an engineer properly dialed in the music relates to whether or not it falls apart at loud volumes. Columbia’s reissue passes the test with flying colors, maintaining the textures of guitars and voices even more convincingly than the original.

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Marshall Crenshaw - Field Day Expanded Edition

Written by: Joe Taylor

Kevin Gray’s remaster of the album for Intervention Records retains the excitement and drive of the original while giving instruments more space to make their mark. He also remains true to Lillywhite’s detail-dense production even has he delivers a bigger soundstage. Field Day justifies the A+ rating famed Village Voice critic Robert Christgau awarded it in his original review—a fact made clearer by this first-class release.

Joe Walsh - The Smoker You Drink, The Player You Get

Written by: Vance Hiner

Naturally, I was skeptical about what more could be done to improve it. After listening extensively to Analogue Productions’ 2016 reissue, I admit remastering engineer Kevin Gray has hit another sonic home run. His “do no harm” restoration approach helps explain why this graveyard-quiet, 200-gram pressing is a gift to Barnstorm fans.

The Rolling Stones - Studio Albums Vinyl Collection, 1971-2016

Written by: Joe Taylor

One of the pleasures of Studio Albums Vinyl Collection, 1971-2016 relates to affording fans the ability to return to albums the Stones recorded over the years and reminding them of the band’s remarkable consistency. Records that took me a while to enjoy at first, such as Emotional Rescue and Undercover, are better than I remembered. And the group’s later-era records proved something of a revelation in these masters, which register an enormous improvement over the originals. If your Stones collection has big gaps, you could do much worse than acquiring this beautifully packaged, well-mastered reissue.  

The Steve Miller Band - Fly Like An Eagle

Written by: Joe Taylor

Miller and Hertz also bring more balance to this master of Fly Like an Eagle, toning down the upper end and tightening the bass. Resultingly, other elements in the recording come into play with added clarity ... The new pressing is cut at a lower volume than the original, yet increasing the volume on my system evokes the rock ‘n roll excitement of the original while revealing a more subtle recording than I’d ever realized.

Marissa Nadler - For My Crimes

Written by: Todd Martens

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: One, perhaps, should look at the company Marissa Nadler keeps in order to get a grasp of her enveloping, engrossing take on American folk. For My Crimes, the eighth full-length from the East Coast singer/songwriter now in her late 30s, is her third […]

Bruce Springsteen - Born in the U.S.A.

Written by: Joe Taylor

Vocals possess a deep, choral-like aura that links the song to the 50s doo-wop and R & B that inspired it. Every tune benefits from a more spacious presentation and less digital reverb, along with the aforementioned refined top end. MPO’s high-quality pressing is very quiet and flat. The album jacket seems a little thicker than the original to allow for the heavier vinyl and the reproduction of the inner sleeve and lyric sheet.

Billy Squier - Don’t Say No

Written by: Joe Taylor

What’s surprising is how well Don’t Say No stands up nearly four decades after its release. Squier is, first and foremost, a rocker, and his music carries as much Rolling Stones in its DNA as it does Aerosmith or Led Zeppelin.

Ramones - Ramones

Written by: Vance Hiner

Sourced from Sean Magee’s 2016 high-resolution stereo remaster, the lacquers for the vinyl were cut at half-speed by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios. It reveals more of the recording’s midrange energy than the ‘76 edition.

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Alice Cooper - Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits

Written by: Dennis Davis

riday Music’s reissue sucks much of the life out of the presentation, with instruments sounding bleached and two-dimensional. The liner notes supply no information about how the reissue was mastered.

Neil Young - Harvest

Written by: Joe Taylor

In addition to serving as the best and most musical version of Harvest, Reprise’s 2009 reissue features artwork and packaging better than that of the original. Printed on heavier cardboard, the album cover has a more textured, weathered look. As with all the vinyl releases I’ve heard in Young’s Archive Series, Harvest stands as a model of how reissues should be done.

Bob Seger - Greatest Hits

Written by: Dennis Davis

Nonetheless, the vinyl remains remarkably consistent in terms of intent—plenty of punch and little if any compression. While not great-sounding, the record delivers a very good presentation of the material at hand.

Elvis Costello - Almost Blue

Written by: Vance Hiner

Sourcing from the original analog master tapes, Wunderlich eliminates the U.K. edition’s grain and opens up the soundstage a touch. The downside? Some of the original pressing’s upper-midrange energy goes missing. While Pete Thomas’ kick drum feels even more forceful on the remaster, Bruce Thomas’ bass melodies are less prominent. I lean toward the original, but those with brighter systems could easily favor the Mobile Fidelity. Call it a tie.

Animal Collective - Tangerine Reef

Written by: Todd Martens

Animal Collective has good intentions. Climate change remains an urgent subject worthy of more exploration in pop art, but the group takes on the role of dooming alarmists.Coral reefs can let the imagination wander, but Animal Collective instead plays the role of defeatists who infer the reefs’ destruction at the hands of man is already a forgone conclusion

Bruce Springsteen - Darkness On The Edge of Town

Written by: Joe Taylor

Darkness on the Edge of Town has long been my favorite-sounding Springsteen album. This reissue is the best version to own on vinyl, but I won’t be surprised if I occasionally play the original to hear the slightly grittier versions of “Adam Raised a Cain” and “Candy’s Room.”

Snail Mail - Lush

Written by: Todd Martens

While Lush isn’t an album that will knock you over with instantly irresistible melodies, it does something even better: Putting the listener inside an artist’s head, and showing how every shifting thought has a guitar note to match.

Low - Double Negative

Written by: Todd Martens

Like everything on the album, it presents itself as a puzzle that deserves to be unwrapped.

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Doug MacLeod - Break The Chain

Written by: Dennis Davis

Recorded live to a half-speed mastering deck at Skywalker Sound in Marin County by Engineer Keith O. Johnson, the album sounds stunning. Instruments and vocal deliveries are well placed in space and emerge from a quiet backdrop that defines blackness. On the acoustic-based numbers, when MacLeod takes a breath, if you hear anything in the background, it’s almost certainly noise from the phono section of your stereo. The aural trait makes the excellent dynamic range of the recording seem all the more potent. 

Parquet Courts - Wide Awaaaaake!

Written by: Todd Martens

What impresses relates to how the band throws differing and conflicting genres at the wall and makes it all feel a part of the same loose, aggressive piece. Perhaps the consistency comes by way or the shaggy, unrefined guitars of Savage and Brown. Or maybe it’s the rhythm, courtesy of bassist Sean Yeaton and drummer Max Savage, that locks in tight like a puzzle. Wide Awaaaaake! knows a soundtrack to a 2018 protest march should revel in diversity.

The Band - Music From Big Pink

Written by: Vance Hiner

The Band’s debut is not a recording for casual listeners. Like all great works of art, it requires repeated examination and suspended judgment before its full measure can be appreciated. In the half century since the songs on Music from Big Pink were conceived in the solitude of New York’s Hudson Valley, a library of words have been devoted to the music’s impact and importance as a sacred text in the genre now known as Americana.

Gillian Welch - Soul Journey

Written by: Shane Buettner

Sonically, the CD serves as the only apt comparison but it’s really no contest. While the disc sounds good, the increase in musical information, instrumental detail, and vocal textures on the vinyl LP prove nothing short of startling. It delivers a whole new experience, and one that’s much more visceral and emotionally impactful.

The Allman Brothers Band - At Fillmore East

Written by: Dennis Davis

Mobile Fidelity’s RTI-pressed set is dead quiet and dispenses with the record-changer song order. Bass and dynamics are improved, but the biggest upgrade pertains to the significantly extended high end, which immensely adds to the impact of the guitars and percussion.

Matthew Sweet - Altered Beast

Written by: Todd Martens

By giving the 52 minutes of original-album material the groove space it’s always deserved across three vinyl sides, the music finally enjoys room to breathe and registers a fullness, depth, and vivacity entirely lacking from the thin, constrained-sounding Zoo/Classic Records LP. Altered Beast quite literally sounds like a new record.

Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis - Wild! Wild! Wild!

Written by: Todd Martens

Linda Gail Lewis isn’t shy about her lineage, referencing her more famous—or infamous—brother throughout Wild! Wild! Wild! The old-school rock n’ roll of the album will doubtlessly remind plenty of Jerry Lee Lewis, but that’s just one jumping-off point for Fulks and the younger sister of the so-called Killer. Much of the album is written by Fulks, a Chicago-based multi-instrumentalist whose career has spanned the breadth of roots-focused genres.

Matthew Sweet - 100% Fun

Written by: Todd Martens

Intervention’s pressing reveals a run of aces when it comes to sonics. While many A-to-B comparisons yield a few points in favor of the original pressing, 100% Fun is not one of them. Intervention’s copy slays the Classic Records-licensed 1995 release.

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Mitski - Be The Cowboy

Written by: Todd Martens

Be the Cowboy emerges as Mitski’s boldest and most playfully lively album to date, but at its core, it remains a thoughtful work about the games our head can play on us.

Janis Joplin - Pearl

Written by: Dennis Davis

I searched for years to find a good-sounding pressing of Pearl, even shelling out for a “hot stamper” copy to wring the most feeling from Joplin’s lyrics. Mobile Fidelity’s version now takes pride of place. “That’s it!” (Joplin’s cackling laugh fades to black.)

Bruce Springsteen - Born To Run

Written by: Joe Taylor

Sony Legacy’s reissue stands as the definitive, well-balanced version of Springsteen’s iconic LP. When I want to hear Born to Run, this is the LP I’ll spin.

The White Stripes - White Blood Cells

Written by: Vance Hiner

Given Third Man Records’ commitment to analog, it surprised me when my review disc had two identical Side B labels. Things didn’t improve when I dropped the needle and discovered each side marred by nasty pops. A clearly visible divot (bubble) also appears on the beginning of side one.

Charles Lloyd and the Marvels - Vanished Gardens

Written by: Dennis Davis

As jazz meets Americana, the album succeeds brilliantly, with Lloyd’s longing riffs always sounding like jazz yet never seeming out of place with the rock and country material injected throughout. The closing song, with Williams singing Jimi Hendrix’s “Angel” as Lloyd’s saxophone soars above and around her, feels sublime and stands as the work’s highlight.

Father John Misty - God’s Favorite Customer

Written by: Todd Martens

Josh Tillman’s fourth album as Father John Misty is his most palatable. Whereas 2017’s Pure Comedy shows the singer shifting the focus from himself—or, rather, a caricature of himself—to offer thoughts on our technology-obsessed culture, God’s Favorite Customer finds him in a reflective mood.

Rickie Lee Jones - Rickie Lee Jones

Written by: Dennis Davis

The newer,  45RPM 2LP box set from Mobile Fidelity features a wider soundstage. And the texture is off the charts. Listen to the vocal sibilants and you can hear Jones’ breath slowly fade away. The richness added by the 45RPM treatment makes the Rhino LP sound a tad dry by comparison.

Various - Newvelle Records Season Three

Written by: Dennis Davis

Newvelle Records is releasing subscription LPs employing a very different direct sales approach. Rather than shoot for high sales volume, Newvelle LPs are intended to be collectible—a physical object that begs to be handled with attention. The imprint’s artist roster is phenomenal—you’d think you were buying from Blue Note or ECM rather than a start-up. And the physical presentation is as good as it gets. 

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The Beatles - Mono Masters

Written by: Dennis Davis

... even if you own every LP issued by the Beatles, Mono Masters remains indispensable. The original U.K. albums don’t have these tracks and the U.S. albums tend to wreck the sound. And while earlier Beatles singles compilations exist, they don’t present all the music in proper mono and did not receive the level of mastering on display here.

Buffalo Springfield - What’s That Sound? Complete Albums Collection

Written by: Joe Taylor

What’s That Sound? Complete Albums Collection delivers the best, most revealing versions of Buffalo Springfield’s music I’ve ever heard.

The Cure - Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me

Written by: Vance Hiner

Alas, the 2013 Rhino edition of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me serves as a prime example of how the soul of a recording can get lost in the reissue process. Compared to the original U.K. pressing (direct metal-mastered at the Town House), Rhino’s 2LP set sounds compressed and one-dimensional.

Jacintha - Fire & Rain

Written by: Dennis Davis

Compare this 45 RPM set to most any other album on vinylreviews.com with a sound rating of five and add another point—the sonics are literally off-the-charts good. It was recorded at the Henson Recording Studio, the former A & M Studios in Los Angeles where Joni Mitchell recorded Blue. Yet Fire & Rain far exceeds the recording quality of Mitchell’s iconic record—and, I’d venture to say, surpasses the sonics of any recording of a female vocalist not issued by Groove Note. Take that, Diana Krall.

David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Written by: Vance Hiner

This 2015 Parlophone LP shares the same dead wax information and the vinyl appears to be the same as the 100% analog-mastered 2012 40th Anniversary EMI edition. On both pressings upper-register detail boasts greater clarity, and the bass is improved, but the overall presentation is slightly flatter and less emotionally engaging than on the U.K. original.

The James Gang - The Best of the James Gang

Written by: Dennis Davis

As the liner notes of James Gang Rides Again dictate, these tracks are “Made Loud To Be Played Loud” and you don’t expect, and won’t find, much in the way of stage depth or air around the instruments. What you do get is the sound of a power trio sounding more powerful than ever. The drums, bass, and guitar are never buried in the mix and everything is clearly recorded.

Frank Zappa - Burnt Weeny Sandwich

Written by: Joe Taylor

Bernie Grundman’s all-analog master for the new Zappa Records reissue, cut from a 1970 analog safety master, retains much of the low-frequency energy of the original but presents a cleaner top end that renders horns, keyboards, and drums more clearly and with added realism and accuracy.

Various - The Wonderful Sounds of Female Vocals

Written by: Dennis Davis

The compilation was assembled from digital high-resolution files produced from the all-analog tapes (when available). Gray has few peers and the two-LP set is as sharp a calling card as exists for experiencing how good older recordings can be made to sound when the care and skill of an exceptional mastering engineer is at the helm. If this album doesn’t make your stereo sound fantastic, don’t blame it on the LPs!

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The White Stripes - Elephant

Written by: Vance Hiner

Third Man Records’ reissue removes some of the XL LP’s graininess and places the listener a couple of rows away from the stage. I listened to the Third Man Records pressing all the way through without pausing, but needed to take breaks with the XL edition. Both versions rock, so which is “better” comes down to personal taste.

Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline

Written by: Dennis Davis

The original pressing possesses immediacy and impact, but lacks any real depth of stage or instrumental texture. Unlike some of the other Mobile Fidelity Dylan reissues, the label’s 45RPM reissue of Nashville Skyline is produced from something other than the original master tapes. Nevertheless, it registers an improvement over the original.

The Beatles - Let It Be

Written by: Dennis Davis

Plentiful and cheap, most any U.K. or U.S. original will sound superior to Apple’s 2012 version, which should be avoided.

The Band - The Band

Written by: Vance Hiner

While there’s a tad less low-end transparency in the presentation of Helm’s kick drum compared to the “RL” original, Mobile Fidelity’s treatment clearly bests Capitol’s 2015 decent albeit considerably flatter digital remaster. Listeners who can find a rare copy of Ludwig’s version may find it difficult to persuade others that the Mobile Fidelity edition isn’t as good in its own right, especially when you factor in the ultra-flat, dead-quiet pressing.

David Bowie - Aladdin Sane

Written by: Vance Hiner

Anyone who’s only heard an original U.S. pressing of Aladdin Sane can be excused for walking away unimpressed. The pressing is decidedly anemic, and a number of tracks sound downright shrill and unpleasant. EMI’s all-analog Millennium U.K. remaster by Peter Mew addresses a number of the upper-register issues but still lacks punch.

The Allman Brothers Band - Eat A Peach

Written by: Joe Taylor

On balance, there are things to like about both pressings. I’ve played my Capricorn copy of Eat a Peach many times over the last 46 years—and far more than I’ve played the CD—as it powerfully conveys the liveliness and conviction of the music. The MoFi version lets you hear more of what’s going on, but occasionally loses some of the original pressing’s excitement and drive in order to clean up the sound. I like it the more I play it, but I will probably more often turn to the original.

The Steve Miller Band - Ultimate Hits

Written by: Vance Hiner

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: This set reminds me of great late 50s and early 60s rock n’ roll singles: short, sweet, and to the point. I would listen to this album while: This collection is made for an outdoor party. Music from this album would be a […]

The Dave Brubeck Quartet - Time Out

Written by: Dennis Davis

AP’s 45RPM 2LP edition is 100% analog mastered by Bernie Grundman  from the original tapes and sounds like it. Of all the choices, this reissue most authoritatively nails the piano and bass sound. At times with an original, you have to remind yourself the bassist is there. The piano’s left-hand part is also much better fleshed out on the AP reissue than elsewhere.

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Johnny Cash - American IV: Man Comes Around

Written by: Robert Baird

The 87th album of Johnny Cash’s long career, the last released during his lifetime, and his first gold album in 30 years, American IV: The Man Comes Around is most renowned for his rendition of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

Bruce Springsteen - The Album Collection Vol. 1 1973-1984

Written by: Joe Taylor

The Album Collection Vol. 1: 1973-1984 traces Springsteen’s career from the aforementioned albums through the enormous commercial success of 1984’s Born in the U.S.A. Bob Ludwig remastered the recordings for vinyl using the Plangent Process, which corrects anomalies (such as wow and flutter and distortion) in tape playback. It all results in a high-resolution digital file, which Chris Bellman used as the source for cutting the lacquers for the set. 

The Beatles - Revolver (Mono)

Written by: Dennis Davis

Compared to a very early U.K. original pressing, the reissue brings out greater detail—instrumental parts you likely don’t remember being there before are fleshed out and seemingly step forward from the mist. Such enhancement does not sound like the result of frequency adjustment. Rather, improvements in the mastering chain are likely responsible.

The Steve Miller Band - Brave New World

Written by: Joe Taylor

The sound on the original is expansive and comes out into the room. If you can find one, buy it. (Avoid later pressings, such as those from the mid-70s, which sound bloated and dark). In the meantime, the newer pressing features enough likeable qualities to recommend it.

Ruth Brown - Miss Rhythm

Written by: Dennis Davis

Ruth Brown was a rhythm-and-blues trailblazer with a rich, expressive voice known to knock down some pretty racy lyrics. Nicknamed the Queen of R&B, she recorded her biggest sides for Atlantic Records, itself sometimes called the “House That Ruth Built.”

The Sex Pistols - Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

Written by: Vance Hiner

Compared to the appropriately grungy, roiling energy heard on the 1977 U.S. pressing, the 2016 remaster sounds like a flat, antiseptic MP3 emanating from cheap micro speakers. The red-label 1978 U.K. repress on Virgin sounds decidedly less muddy than the U.S. version yet still manages to preserve the original recording’s bass and midrange impact. So never mind buying this bungled reissue. Even the mid-80s compact disc sounds closer to the real thing.

The Beatles - The Beatles (The White Album, Mono)

Written by: Dennis Davis

Apple’s 2014 100% analog reissue is the first release to challenge the primacy of an original U.K. pressing. Even if you’ve only heard the album in stereo, forget the Japanese and out-of-print Mobile Fidelity reissues. This mono reissue will win you over.

Johnny Cash - American III: Solitary Man

Written by: Robert Baird

Along with the aforementioned “Nobody” and “I See a Darkness,” “The Mercy Seat” stands as the finest expression of the passion and intelligence Cash and Rubin brought to their wonderous project—and repeatedly confirms Cash’s everlasting status as a virtuoso vocal interpreter.

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The Rolling Stones - The Rolling Stones in Mono

Written by: Dennis Davis

However, the pressings are immaculate, flat, and quiet.  At the end of the day, that’s what counts. As a result, The Rolling Stones in Mono should make a lot of people ecstatic.

Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain

Written by: Dennis Davis

" ... the Mobile Fidelity pressing checks all the boxes. The soundstage has never sounded so coherent, and it’s absolutely clear the musicians were all in the room at the same time ... Indeed, the sound is so convincing that you’ll some day find yourself wondering why your favorite performance venue never sounded as good as the dearly departed 30thStreet Studio."

The Beatles - Abbey Road

Written by: Dennis Davis

The vinyl, pressed in Germany, looks beautiful, heavy, and flat. Unfortunately, the sound doesn’t measure up. “Come Together” is all about timing, and the digital remaster destroys the sense of drive, with the bass sounding a bit flabby and disconnected. Or, compare the harmony of Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison on “Because,” which features gorgeous depth and bloom on the original U.K. Those elements die here.

Johnny Cash - American II: Unchained

Written by: Robert Baird

... the Rubin-supervised remaster of American II:Unchained also sounds more confident and forward, extending frequencies both high and low. If the original domestic pressing and European edition are timid buds on a vine, the newer pressing is a fuller, looser flowering—particularly when it comes to a warmer bottom end.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Electric Ladyland

Written by: Joe Taylor

Marino gives listeners a more transparent picture of what Hendrix and his collaborators were doing in the studio. I have an affection for my earlier pressings of Hendrix’s LPs after more than 40 years of listening to them, but the pressings cut from Marino’s 2010 masters are sonically more exciting and are the ones to which I now turn.

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue

Written by: Dennis Davis

For now, when I want a close listen to Kind of Blue, I’ll leave my original on the shelf and queue up the Mobile Fidelity.

Jefferson Airplane - Surrealistic Pillow

Written by: Joe Taylor

" ... as soon as I played “Somebody to Love” on the Mobile Fidelity and could more clearly visualize where Paul Kantner’s voice is placed in relation to Slick’s, just behind and in support, I knew it’s the version everyone should own—as well as more transparent, dynamic, full, and musical. Don’t miss it."

David Bowie - Hunky Dory

Written by: Vance Hiner

Bottom line: The 2015 remaster of Hunky Dory emerges as the version to buy unless you’re lucky enough to find a pricey U.K. original in good shape.

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Superorganism - Superorganism

Written by: Vance Hiner

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: Superorganism brings to mind Tom Tom Club’s debut, the B-52s’ “Rock Lobster,” and early Beck. I would listen to this album while: Pushing through an all-nighter or kickstarting a flagging party. Music from this album would be a great soundtrack to this movie: […]

Fleetwood Mac - Rumours

Written by: Vance Hiner

When it comes to the analog magic all vinyl fans crave, there’s no finer example of Rumours. It is the gold standard.

Kamasi Washington - Heaven and Earth

Written by: Robert Baird

To those worried jazz is not what it once was, Washington offers hope. Not a Fletcher Henderson, nor a Charlie Parker, he champions new flavors, young energies, and a much-needed connection with a younger hip-hop-centric universe of listeners.

Johnny Cash - American Recordings

Written by: Robert Baird

On the original LP pressing, the low end of Cash’s voice possesses a warm surrounding presence, an effect heightened on the 2014 remaster and repress, both supervised by Rubin.

Neko Case - Hell-On

Written by: Robert Baird

My peach-colored copy—beautifully packaged with a 32-page full-colored, LP-sized booklet—had numerous clicks and pops even after a VPI cleaning and was not particularly quiet.

Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore - Downey to Lubbock

Written by: Robert Baird

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: I think of the Blasters, X, and Los Lobos and the rest of the 80s LA roots rock movement crossed with second-generation Austin, Texas-based cosmic cowboys such as Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. I would listen to this album while: […]

Joni Mitchell - Blue

Written by: Vance Hiner

RTI’s flawless pressing delivers the full measure of Gray and Hoffman’s restoration so that fans can finally hear an analog version of Blue that matches Mitchell’s monumental achievement.

Stealers Wheel - Ferguslie Park

Written by: Vance Hiner

Remastering engineer Kevin Gray took a half-inch 30 ips safety copy of the original stereo master tape and produced a full-throated, emotionally engaging version of Egan and Rafferty’s vision.

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Elton John - Honky Chateau

Written by: Vance Hiner

Ludwig’s decision to bring greater clarity to the recording benefits cuts like “Mona Lisas and Madhatters” but causes others (such as “Honky Cat”) to sound forward and bright. The original U.K. pressing gets the balance just right. However, if you’re looking for a clean, flat copy that still possesses plenty of flesh and blood, the Mercury reissue will do the trick.

Max Richter - Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons

Written by: Danny Kaey

Richter sustains and advances Vivaldi’s original to a level at once home in a classical music context as well as a more modern, coming-of-age cinematic experience. Brilliantly produced and engineered, this set is most highly recommended.

Courtney Barnett - Tell Me How You Really Feel

Written by: Todd Martens

No-so-hidden reference points abound in Courtney Barnett’s music. But rather than rattling off bands or artists she clearly admires—here, Kim and Kelley Deal of the Breeders make an appearance, for instance—it helps first to explain why Barnett rises above reference points. Her observations and scenarios are relatable to the point of feeling rather common.

Sonny Rollins - Saxophone Colossus

Written by: Dennis Davis

Analogue Productions’ 33RPM mastering produces an even larger soundstage with better depth. Add to that the fact that the new packaging is far superior to the 45RPM issue, and this one-disc package is Sonny Rollins nirvana.

Old Crow Medicine Show - Volunteer

Written by: Vance Hiner

The 180-gram LP is ruler flat and dead quiet. Cobb’s production sounds even better on vinyl than on the very respectable CD version. Because Old Crow Medicine Show doesn’t employ a drummer, accurately capturing Morgan Jahnig’s bass is critical to the presentation. Engineer Eddie Spear has done a fine job of integrating the full dynamic range of Jahnig’s work with the forceful playing of his five bandmates.

Arctic Monkeys - Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino

Written by: Todd Martens

Listeners may miss the band’s hooks and aggression, but the album feels brave. Not just for the risks it takes, but because the abstract structures and relaxed pace seem out to slow the world down even as Turner wonders if he’s still part of it.

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks - Sparkle Hard

Written by: Todd Martens

The songs of Sparkle Hard feel like miniature vignettes—some character sketches, and some scenes of modern life, but all viewed with Malkmus’ cynicism, which only gets more to the point with age.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Axis: Bold As Love

Written by: Joe Taylor

In contrast to my earlier Reprise pressing, the newer reissue has more space, depth, and transparency.

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Joshua Hedley - Mr. Jukebox

Written by: Vance Hiner

Sonically, Mr. Jukebox ranks as one of most rewarding new vinyl releases I’ve heard in 2018. The pressing is absolutely quiet, the dynamics lively, and the imaging sumptuously holographic.

Elton John - Madman Across the Water

Written by: Vance Hiner

It is a vast improvement over the flawed sonics of the original U.K. pressing. Although working in the digital domain, Ludwig cleans up the murkiness while preserving the analog warmth of the master tapes. The LP places John’s vocals more forward in the mix than Hoffman’s release, and Ludwig gives the bass frequencies more gravitas.

Beach House - 7

Written by: Todd Martens

Indeed, if Beach House songs were photographs, they’d all be taken in long exposure, which can lend a slightly magical heft to images grounded in reality.

Dusty Springfield - Dusty In Memphis

Written by: Dennis Davis

Fail to take it seriously at your own risk. Dusty in Memphis was, and remains, one of the great albums of the classic-rock era. Dusty Springfield was keeping up with the fast-moving times of 1968—she had a string of hits in the U.K. and U.S. unrivaled by any other female singer—but songs like “You Don’t Own Me” sounded old-fashioned by the late 60s. 

Bob Dylan - Blood on the Tracks

Written by: Joe Taylor

Kreig Wunderlich’s remaster of Blood on the Tracks for Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is sonically richer than the original Columbia Records release and presents a clearer picture of the music. The acoustic guitars have a more natural tone. Details in the original pressing that were somewhat masked are also now more apparent. It’s easier, for example, to hear each of the three guitars that accompany Dylan on “Tangled up in Blue” and to visualize them in your listening room.

Bob Dylan - Bringing It All Back Home

Written by: Joe Taylor

Bob Dylan’s acoustic guitar opens “Subterranean Homesick Blues” on Bringing It All Back Home. But as soon as Bruce Langhorne’s electric guitar and Bobby Gregg’s drums enter, Dylan effectively announces he’s making a rock n’ roll record. Mobile Fidelity’s reissue of the album, cut at 45RPM and pressed on two LPs, lets you hear the three guitars backing Dylan more clearly than the original Columbia Records version and brings other instruments into the open.  

The Black Keys - El Camino

Written by: Vance Hiner

Recorded at Auerbach’s Nashville studio on a 1969 Quad-8 mixing console, El Camino turns on a dime. Each track offers a unique experience. “Lonely Boy” is lean, mean, and bright, while “Gold on the Ceiling” brings to life a glam-rock giant stomping through a sprawling soundscape. Elsewhere, the metal crunch of tunes such as “Money Maker” abet punky, soul-inflected cuts like “Hell of a Season.”

Elton John - Tumbleweed Connection

Written by: Vance Hiner

Bob Ludwig remastered the 2017 reissue in the digital domain from files sourced from the original analog master tapes. Sean Magee cut from Ludwig's mastered files at Abby Road. It sounds more dynamic and less murky than the original U.S. release. Compared with the outstanding U.K. original pressing, Ludwig’s edition also features greater clarity and instrumental separation but lacks a bit of the original’s warmth and seductive midrange.

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The Flying Burrito Brothers - The Gilded Palace of Sin

Written by: Vance Hiner

In the early 60s, the amalgamation of traditional country music and rock n’ roll represented a bridge too far. Hippies playing pedal-steel guitars seemed as unlikely as hearing Marshall stacks playing in the Vatican. Gram Parsons, Chris Hillman, and Roger McGuinn deserve the credit for busting such taboos on the Byrds’ 1968 landmark Sweetheart of the Rodeo.

Foo Fighters - Concrete and Gold

Written by: Todd Martens

The knock on Foo Fighters is that they always make the same record. But the accusation is far from true. Dave Grohl has led the band through a period of slight experimentation in recent years. While Concrete and Gold feels more direct than 2014’s Sonic Highways, several psychedelic and orchestral flourishes illustrate the Foo Fighters continue to branch out from 90s alt-rock and into 70-influenced classic rock.

Mary Gauthier - Rifles and Rosary Beads

Written by: Vance Hiner

Rifles and Rosary Beads is the fruit of Americana icon Mary Gauthier’s years-long work for the non-profit group SongwritingWith:Soldiers. Penned by military veterans and their families, the album’s lyrics serve as a jolting reminder of war’s devastating toll on the men and women who serve and fight. Pain and struggle can produce powerful art, and the work here is no exception.

Grateful Dead - Workingman’s Dead

Written by: Dennis Davis

Flash back to 1970. Things are crumbling all around. Small-scale music heads out of favor for stadium rock and tuneful word craft is trading in for metal. The Summer of Love, a foundation of the Grateful Dead vibe, seems a distant memory. And the Dead are broke and in need of a fix. Workingman’s Dead became a brilliant solution to this dilemma.

George Harrison - All Things Must Pass

Written by: Joe Taylor

The 2017 vinyl reissue of All Things Must Pass replicates the original cover art, including the inner sleeves and full-color poster of George Harrison. Ron McMaster cut the vinyl from 24-bit/96kHz files remastered at Abbey Road Studios. The remaster uses less compression than what’s on the original U.K. pressing of the album.

George Harrison - Early Takes Volume 1

Written by: Vance Hiner

While the Beatles’ legacy is pretty much settled for most music lovers, some still argue about which member was the best. While The Early Takes Volume 1 likely won’t move those needles, it is essential for fans of the late singer/guitarist. Initially released as a companion piece to Martin Scorsese’s archive-mining documentary Living in the Material World, the archival set presents an intimate portrait of Harrison’s pure talents.

Freddie Hubbard - First Light

Written by: Dennis Davis

If you are an aficionado of jazz LPs, your collection likely includes a healthy dose of Freddie Hubbard vinyl. For starters, Hubbard has stuck around longer than many other great trumpet players and amassed a healthy stockpile of recordings. Others were not so lucky. Clifford Brown died in an auto accident at the age of 25. Lee Morgan was shot to death at 33. Fats Navarro expired at 26. Chet Baker held on to the ripe old age of 58, when he fell out of a window. 

Hüsker Dü - Savage Young Du

Written by: Bob Gendron

No artist bridged the worlds of aggressive rock, American punk, hook-ridden pop, and shag-carpeted psychedelia more definitively and decisively than Husker Du. Separating itself from equally loud and noisy contemporaries, the Minnesota-based trio held its hardcore ferocity, without-abandon fury, and land-speed-record tempos together with a tautness and virtuosity that improved as time went on.

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Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls: Live Chapter

Written by: Bob Gendron

Yet another live album from Iron Maiden? If you’re keeping score, The Book of Souls: Live Chapter marks the English septet’s fifth such release since 1985’s quintessential Live After Death—and sixth if the soundtrack to Flight 666 gets factored into the equation. Few artists enjoy the luxury of issuing a live record to coincide with every-other jaunt on which they embark.

Iron & Wine - Beast Epic

Written by: Todd Martens

At first listen, this lovingly composed collection of folk-pop seems to recall Sam Beam’s earliest work as Iron & Wine. Beast Epic strays from the pastoral and more complicated arrangements that have marked recent albums. Yet impeccably crafted adornments permeate the songs, be they the finely plucked strings of “About A Bruise,” which knot around each other as if woven by a tailor, or the forlorn Western feel of “Claim Your Ghost,” where the guitar shadows Beam’s compassionate vocals.

Joe Jackson - Night and Day

Written by: Vance Hiner

Like those of many talented musicians, Joe Jackson’s greatest strengths as a songwriter intertwine with his musical shortcomings. It’s difficult to find a better example of such a paradox than Night and Day. While Jackson’s well-known ability to tap into cultural zeitgeists is on full display, so is his occasional tendency to mimic the authentic article. Night and Day contains enough flash to justify the price of admission, but it could’ve been more memorable.

Joe Jackson - Look Sharp

Written by: Vance Hiner

On Joe Jackson’s personal website, he writes that Look Sharp “positively reeks of London 1978-79.” He’s absolutely right, but that’s what a classic record does— captures a slice of history and allows listeners to dive deep inside the instant when the music was made. From the cynical media takedown “Sunday Papers” to the rock-steady ska of “Fools in Love,” Look Sharp is a quintessential example of new-wave, a genre for folks bored with the mainstream...

Joe Jackson - Summer in the City: Live in New York

Written by: Joe Taylor

Ted Jensen’s mastering on the CD release of Summer in the City, Joe Jackson’s live album from 2000, has long been a sonic favorite of mine. But Kevin Gray’s remaster for the recording’s first release on vinyl brings out details that put you at a table close to the bandstand. In the initial moments, the audience applauds as Jackson, bassist Graham Maby, and drummer Gary Burke take the stage in a small club—and you are in the midst of the crowd.

Judas Priest - Painkiller

Written by: Bob Gendron

Recorded in the months leading up to the groundbreaking trial in which Judas Priest was accused of including a subliminal message in its cover of Spooky Tooth’s “Better by You, Better Than Me” on 1978’s Stained Class - a track the parents of two young men who attempted suicide claimed led their offspring to shoot themselves - Painkiller remains the heaviest, fastest, and most aggressive album the metal legends ever made.

Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Written by: Todd Martens

When Lamar toured in support of DAMN., he did so with a staged outfitted with nothing. Flanked by a giant screen, the bare platform often encouraged audience members to look down—or squint, depending on how far back in the arena guests were seated. The design served two key purposes: It forced fans to grapple with Lamar as a human being rather a superstar and underscored the songs of DAMN. needn’t any stage show trickery to heighten the drama.

Diana Krall - Quiet Nights

Written by: Vance Hiner

Diana Krall’s Quiet Nights is an assortment of bossa nova classics and Great American Songbook selections encased in a luxurious studio-production package. On Carlos Antonio Jobim’s “Boy From Ipanema” and  Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye,” her honeyed vocals, closed mic’d pianos’ rich tonality, and longtime rhythm section’s solid backbone have never sounded better.

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LCD Soundsystem - American Dream

Written by: Todd Martens

While Murphy and cohorts—keyboardist Nancy Whang and multi-instrumentalists Pat Mahoney and Tyler Pope, among others—often remixed vintage dance rock with cutting-edge club gloss, the group always fretted the future and celebrated the here and now, not the yesterday and nostalgic.

Lana Del Rey - Lust For Life

Written by: Todd Martens

Lana Del Rey (real name: Elizabeth Woolridge Grant) has always been playing a character. That’s no criticism. Much of pop remains centered on outsized personalities. With the expansive Lust for Life, she flips the script a little, shifting from the look-what-you-made-me-do role of a femme fatale to a brasher, outspoken personality.

Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy

Written by: Dennis Davis

Led Zeppelin’s fifth studio album was released in March 1973 after a hiatus of 16 months, an eternity for the band and anxious fans. The set (for the first time) contains only original material, and the production reflects the group’s emphasis on layering sound more than ever before. While better than the albums that followed, it lacks the coherence and excitement of the quartet’s first four efforts.

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin III

Written by: Dennis Davis

Led Zeppelin III is an anomaly—an undisputed classic that lacks the respect of the two other classics between which it’s sandwiched. The band isn’t the first musical genius to have merely great music stuck amidst mega-hits. Beethoven’s odd-numbered symphonies (Nos. 3, 5, 7, and 9) remain some of the greatest pieces composed, while his even-numbered lot is merely great. Caught betwixt Led Zeppelin II and Led Zeppelin IV, Led Zeppelin III often gets overlooked as a work simply not up to the group’s expected level of illustriousness.

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin I

Written by: Dennis Davis

The “New Yardbirds”, as they briefly presented themselves, came roaring out of the box with a monster hit called Led Zeppelin I. Side one shakes you upside the behind like few LPs had done at the time and alone ensures the work’s classic status. Other than Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin albums, no LP issued in the late 1960s seemed quite so rebellious, so loud, and so utterly wild.

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin IV

Written by: Dennis Davis

Led Zeppelin’s peak: How else do you describe an LP on which side one opens with “Black Dog” and closes with “Stairway to Heaven”? In between resides “Rock and Roll” (a song that became a concert staple, and for good reason) and “The Battle of Evermore,” one of the band’s most beautiful creations. Led Zeppelin IV is not just Led Zeppelin’s finest album but one of rock’s all-time best LPs. The group’s movement towards acoustic and British folk reaches its apex here, and this considering the quartet had only started releasing albums two years prior. 

Loma - Loma

Written by: Todd Martens

While it isn’t necessary to appreciate Loma, an interesting backstory enlightens and enhances the work—especially as you may start to long for the group to more often vary the pace. Jonathan Meiburg’s band Shearwater was touring with Cross Records. Ultimately, Meiburg asked the duo, who doubled as a married couple, to collaborate on a record. Throughout the course of making the self-titled collection, Emily Cross and Dan Duszynski’s union unraveled. Loma then unexpectedly became a break-up effort, albeit an unconventional one.

Lydia Loveless - Boy Crazy and Single(s)

Written by: Todd Martens

For those who haven’t heard Loveless’ Boy Crazy EP, this collection is a must. The title cut, a jangly and chipper ditty, introduces us to a woman seemingly eternally possessed with a penchant for junior high-like crushes. “I wish I was his wife, not really though,” she sings as a rush of feverishly strummed guitars bolt by her. The aforementioned “Lover’s Spat” masks its menacing nature with an idealistic tone. “All the Time,” bolstered by a circular melody and winning harmonies, dials into the sense of addiction that comes from an affair.

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Bob Marley and the Wailers - Exodus

Written by: Vance Hiner

The power of Bob Marley and the Wailer’s ninth studio album is rooted in suffering and a need for change. Released just six months after Marley and his wife Rita were wounded in an assassination attempt in his native Jamaica, much of the material was written in London, where Marley had gone to escape political violence. The iconic title track’s pulsing beats and churning drive come courtesy of a newly formed Wailers lineup that included brothers Carlton and Aston “Family Man” Barnett on drums and bass, respectively.

Mavis Staples - If All I Was Was Black

Written by: Todd Martens

Since linking with Los Angeles-based indie label Anti for 2007’s We’ll Never Turn Back, Staples has enjoyed a resurgence. It’s a shame she even needed one. Over the decades, Staples crossed paths with everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Bob Dylan to Prince and Barack Obama. By linking her with taste-making producers such as composer/songwriter Ry Cooder and Wilco’s Tweedy, Anti helped give Staples a modern sheen and sought to connect the dots between her work in the Civil Rights era with modern culture.

Joni Mitchell - Court and Spark

Written by: Vance Hiner

Unless you’re a hipster looking back through a particularly ironic rearview mirror, you’ll likely concede 1974 was a very silly time for pop culture. For every Diamond Dogs or Band on the Run, hundreds of songs such as “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” as well as some of the most awful television shows ever produced appeared. All of which helps make Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark an important album.

Ashley Monroe - Sparrow

Written by: Vance Hiner

Ashley Monroe’s fourth studio effort firmly places the singer/songwriter in a small constellation of country stars who are producing new music likely to stand the test of time. She accomplishes the challenging feat with a set of vivid portraits of real people struggling with ordinary problems.

Murray Head - Nigel Lived

Written by: Danny Kaey

With Nigel Lived, Intervention Records continues its streak of focusing on remarkable titles most other audiophile labels wouldn’t likely consider for reissue. Drawing from the best-possible source material, Kevin Gray cut Nigel Lived from original engineer Phill Brown’s ¼-inch 15ips analog master tapes at 45RPM over two LPs. The sound is fantastically dynamic, open, and full-range, and the packaging—from the super-thick, high-gloss gatefold sleeve to the eight-page insert book printed by Stoughton—as good as it gets.

Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

Written by: Todd Martens

Since her MCA Nashville debut, 2013’s Same Trailer, Different Park, Kasey Musgraves has been hailed as a maverick—a progressive voice in a musical landscape known for its conservatism. Older songs such as “Follow Your Arrow” and “Merry Go Round” take a critical look at the small-town life that many of her other songs hold so dear. The approach made Musgraves seem as something of country outsider, a modern inheritor to Waylon Jennings or Roseanne Cash.

The National - Sleep Well Beast

Written by: Bob Gendron

Few bands manage the art of the slow-burn with the control, drama, and scope mastered by the National. The group continues to practice such strengths on its seventh album but also adds a few variations on its proven low-key approach. Electronics currents, abrupt volume shifts, and the more prevalent use of classically oriented strings and horns suggest a creative evolution partially based in its members’ recent involvement with Grateful Dead tribute projects as well as a desire to welcome added mystery, innovation, and surprise into the mix.

Neil Young - Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

Written by: Joe Taylor

With his second album Young firmly established himself as one of the key musicians and songwriters of the 60s and beyond. Everything he would accomplish over the long span of his creative life took seed on the album, whether it’s the proto punk of “Cinnamon Girl” or the country rock distinguishing the title tune. The guitar wrangling on “Down by the River” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” anticipates his later experiments with noise and dissonance.

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Neil Young - After the Gold Rush

Written by: Joe Taylor

Neil Young’s second LP, Everybody Knows This is Nowhere, fulfilled the promise he had shown in his work with Buffalo Springfield and on his first solo album. Ye the record that followed, After the Gold Rush, not only solidified his reputation, it showed he could sell records. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart” became an AM radio hit and reached #33 on the Billboard charts. Many other songs enjoyed steady play on FM, including “Southern Man,” still in rotation on classic-rock stations. 

Neil Young - Tonight’s The Night

Written by: Joe Taylor

Neil Young recorded Tonight’s the Night in 1973 after losing two close friends, Danny Whitten of Crazy Horse and roadie Bruce Berry, to heroin overdoses. Along with guitarist/pianist Nils Lofgren and steel guitarist Ben Keith, drummer Ralph Molina and bassist Billy Talbot formed the Santa Monica Flyers as the band that accompanies Young on most of the album. Molina and Talbot had been with Whitten in Crazy Horse.

Neil Young - Neil Young

Written by: Joe Taylor

For the first release of Neil Young’s eponymous debut, Reprise Records used the Haeco-CSG encoding system, which some record labels employed in the late 60s to make stereo LPs more compatible with mono record players. Young disliked the sound and ordered the album remixed and reissued later in the year. 

Pink Floyd - Animals

Written by: Joe Taylor

With Animals, Roger Waters’ cynicism and dark view of Western (especially English) industrial culture becomes more focused and begins to define Pink Floyd’s worldview. What could have been tiresome and preachy—and, lyrically, still is at times—becomes listenable because of the band’s inspired playing.

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

Written by: Joe Taylor

Like all of Pink Floyd’s 2016 vinyl reissues, Wish You Were Here was very likely cut by Bernie Grundman from high-resolution 24-bit/96kHz digital masters done by James Guthrie and Joel Plante. The 1975 set followed the enormously popular Dark Side of the Moon and takes as one of its subjects the inspiration and abiding spirit of co-founder Syd Barrett, by then no longer a member of the group. The album also criticizes the exploitative nature of the music business.

Robert Plant - Carry Fire

Written by: Danny Kaey

Carry Fire can be divided in two sections: The more upbeat, rocky side of Robert Plant and the more serene, peaceful side of the same artist. Indeed, half of the work—generally, the more downtempo songs—feels reflective. Plant sings of sadness and intimacy, and frequently wraps up such emotions in melancholy devices. That the record serves as a soulful reminder of how inimitable Plant remains shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Protomartyr - Relatives In Descent

Written by: Todd Martens

Protomartyr can get wordy. The opening track on Relatives in Descent features the following lines: “The night is an accumulation of dark air/The scholar will be forever poor/Gross gold runs headlong to boor/I don't want to hear those vile trumpets anymore/Call me Heraclitus The Obscure.” And did we mention this is an example of the band at its most topical?

The Pretenders - The Pretenders

Written by: Joe Taylor

Mobile Fidelity’s pressing of The Pretenders retains much of the fire of the original Sire Records US pressing while adding space around the instruments and a deeper soundstage. Chrissy Hynde’s voice comes out into the room with the instruments layered behind her in support. Small details, such as the touch of reverb that Chris Thomas added to Hynde’s singing, are easier to hear and Chris Farndon’s bass lines are larger and have even greater impact.

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Tom Waits - Mule Variations

Written by: Vance Hiner

Tom Waits’ 12th studio album and most commercially successful work since 1985’s Rain Dogs sounds like a front-porch jam session on a sweaty night in the Delta that also sees Captain Beefheart and Harold Arlen drop on by for a visit. The vocalist’s ability to sell more than a million copies of a double album that spans the expanse of American popular music all the way to early 20th-century German avant-garde epitomizes his genius.

Willie Nelson - Stardust

Written by: Dennis Davis

Pop standards from Willie Nelson? Back in 1978 when the artist released Stardust, Columbia Records thought he had lost it. But there was no second-guessing Nelson and boy, was he right. His recording of the most standard of standards—"Blue Skies,” “Stardust,” “Georgia on My Mind,” “All of Me” (and that’s just side one of the disc)—seemed a little odd for a marijuana-loving country-western singer.

Led Zeppelin - Led Zeppelin II

Written by: Dennis Davis

It was 1969 and Led Zeppelin was changing the rules. Sure, the Rolling Stones had covered the blues before, but their early albums shoot a slight, sly sideways wink whereas Led Zeppelin II combines brutal, in-your-face proto-metal instrumental delivery with raunchy lyrics cut and pasted from the best blues singers dating back a generation and two.

Bob Dylan - Blonde on Blonde

Written by: Joe Taylor

Upon release in 1966, Blonde on Blonde signified Bob Dylan’s third rock n’ roll album in less than 18 months. He recorded both Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited in 1965, and returned midway through the following year with this masterwork. The three aforementioned works not only inspired and liberated Dylan but had a profound impact on popular music.

Laurie Anderson and Kronos Quartet - Landfall

Written by: Todd Martens

Landfall teems with contrasts. The opening tracks, which unfold largely sans Anderson and focus on the violin work of Kronos Quartet, immediately put the listener on edge. They are sharp, piercing numbers, on which strings are quickly struck and notes become drawn out.

Queens of the Stone Age - Villains

Written by: Bob Gendron

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: Since emerging more than two decades ago, Queens of the Stone Age have never stood still and long ago outgrew any limiting “stoner” categorizations. The group’s shape-shifting proclivities—as well as leader Joshua Homme’s sensual voice—evoke different phases of David Bowie, who shared a […]

Radiohead - The Bends

Written by: Vance Hiner

Not surprisingly, the record’s stature has steadily ascended over the past two decades. Songs like “High and Dry” and “Fake Plastic Trees” helped shape a generation of British bands.

Radiohead - Kid A

Written by: Vance Hiner

Kid A also demands to be heard on vinyl. No digital converter I’ve encountered and no download I’ve sampled conveys the natural quality present on both the original 10-inch Parlophone release and current XL Records version.

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Radiohead - OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997-2017

Written by: Vance Hiner

Too bad XL Records didn’t contract with a pressing plant with quality control worthy of Radiohead’s watershed work.

David Rawlings - Poor David’s Almanack

Written by: Vance Hiner

Mastered by Stephen Marcussen and pressed on quiet, flat discs, Poor David’s Almanack has vocal-chorus swells that sound muddy when compared to the nuances heard on the digital copy. Bass notes on the digital edition are also considerably punchier.

Run the Jewels - Run the Jewels 3

Written by: Todd Martens

Collaborators and touring partners prior to releasing 2013’s self-titled debut as Run the Jewels, El-P and Killer Mike have become more potent, more pointed, and more explosive with each subsequent release. The trajectory strongly suggests the two veteran and resolutely independent hip-hop artists may be stronger together.

Cécile McLorin Salvant - Dreams and Daggers

Written by: Dennis Davis

While her first two Mack Avenue efforts stand among the best jazz releases of their respective years, you need to reach back decades for anything as original and captivating as Dreams and Daggers.

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band Deluxe Edition

Written by: Joe Taylor

The original release of Sgt. Pepper’s forms part of our cultural DNA ... this deluxe 2LP release exists as a model of how technology can improve a great recording without compromising its original intent.

Sarah Shook & the Disarmers - Years

Written by: Todd Martens

Bloodshot Records’ 180-gram pressing is relatively clean, with the only audible pops in the grooves between the individual tracks. It also sounds fairly good for an indie album, with Shook’s voice coming across with pleasing clarity and balance.

Paul Simon - Graceland

Written by: Danny Kaey

Sonically, Legacy’s 25thAnniversary Edition shines on several fronts. Bettering the original pressing—a mint copy, at that—by several times over, its bass lines are tighter, deeper, and funkier.

Stealers Wheel - Stealers Wheel

Written by: Vance Hiner

The glory of Intervention Records’ reissue of Stealers Wheel owes to the recovered depth of Tony Williams’ bass lines, renewed heft in Rod Coombes’ drumming, and a more realistic presentation of Egan and Rafferty’s vocal interplay. By comparison, the midrange and upper register on an original U.K. pressing and a white-label promotional disc sound pushed forward with the bass dialed back.

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Superchunk - What A Time To Be Alive

Written by: Todd Martens

For all the loudness, muscle, and wrath on display, an underlying sense of optimism prevails. What a Time to Be Alive trumpets it’s never too late to speak out and always okay to crank up the guitars.

Tune-Yards - I Can Feel You Creep into My Private Life

Written by: Todd Martens

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: The music of Merrill Garbus, who records as Tune-Yards, increasingly seems built on contradictions. Lyrically, Garbus’ worldview remains distinctly American, but musically, she remains the artist who studied abroad in Kenya and brought a host of worldly beats back her with her to […]

U2 - Songs of Experience

Written by: Todd Martens

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: The tragedy of much of U2’s recent output is that it’s vaguely reminiscent of the band’s more adventurous younger era. Yet the quartet continues here to add less-than-flattering sounds—namely, the over-produced trappings of modern rock. Working with One Republic’s Ryan Tedder proves again […]

Van Morrison - Astral Weeks

Written by: Joe Taylor

Kevin Gray’s all-analog remaster of the album, pressed by RTI on 180-gram vinyl, greatly improves what was a very good-sounding LP.

Van Morrison - Moondance

Written by: Joe Taylor

Kevin Gray and Steve Hoffman collaborated on an all-analog master of Moondance for Rhino, and RTI pressed the LP on 180-gram vinyl. The updated version expands the soundstage and lets instruments and voices come out into the open more than they do on the original, olive-label Warner Brothers pressings.

Sarah Vaughan - After Hours With Sarah Vaughn

Written by: Dennis Davis

... the recording shows off just how good mono recording technology, and Columbia’s version of that technology, happened to be in the late 1940s. Vaughan’s vocal delivery is well captured and the (uncredited) band fills a wide space around her.

Tom Waits - Closing Time

Written by: Vance Hiner

Anti-’s 2018 reissue of Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan’s remaster is simply the worst version of the album I’ve ever heard.

Tom Waits - The Heart Of A Saturday Night

Written by: Vance Hiner

The Heart of Saturday Night is equal to and in some ways superior to a comparison 1976 U.S. analog pressing.

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The War on Drugs - A Deeper Understanding

Written by: Vance Hiner

The production ... glows with an analog warmth absent from many of the early 80s albums that inspired the project. It doesn’t hurt that Greg Calbi mastered the album at Sterling Sound.

Gillian Welch - The Harrow And The Harvest

Written by: Vance Hiner

The result is an LP whose sonics are now as transparent and organic as the material deserves. The Harrow and the Harvest ranks asone of the most relaxed and natural recordings I’ve heard.

Jack White - Boarding House Reach

Written by: Todd Martens

Above all, the biggest misstep here isn’t White’s desire to experiment but the hostile nature in which it’s compiled. White isn’t giving us different. Rather, he’s shoving different down our throats.

Yo La Tengo - There’s A Riot Going On

Written by: Todd Martens

”Dream Dream Away” feels weightless and fragile, its simple guitar strums giving way to spacey electronic effects and quiet, indiscernible vocals.

Neil Young - On The Beach

Written by: Joe Taylor

Thankfully, this pressing atones for past errors and makes the album’s genius apparent.  

Neil Young - Harvest Moon

Written by: Bob Gendron

The CD doesn’t hold a candle to the overall presence, halos of air that ring background vocals by the likes of Linda Ronstadt and Nicolette Larson, rhythmic thrump of the acoustic guitars, or broom-sweep brush of the individual chords experienced on the 2LP version.

Neil Young - Zuma

Written by: Joe Taylor

Bellman’s mastering on Young’s Archive Series brings out more of the music without changing its feel or impact.

Led Zeppelin - How the West Was Won

Written by: Bob Gendron

Led Zeppelin’s chemistry and hammer-of-the-gods prowess don’t come any better.

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Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms

Written by: Dennis Davis

Brothers in Arms was digitally recorded on a Sony 24-track digital tape machine. Nonetheless, the sound quality overcame its digital roots. The original LP features such good sound you’d be forgiven for never expecting it to be bettered.

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon

Written by: Joe Taylor

If you can track down the 30th anniversary edition, it’s the one to have. Good luck finding one at a reasonable price. The same thought applies to clean original U.K. pressings. If you don’t have either of these, or you have the abysmal U.S. pressing, the new pressing of Dark Side of the Moon is worth picking up.

The Decemberists - I’ll Be Your Girl

Written by: Bob Gendron

Capitol’s delightfully quiet pressing comes housed in a relatively thick, colorfully appointed gatefold sleeve.

Lucy Dacus - Historian

Written by: Todd Martens

While the orchestrations come across with a slight professional gloss, Dacus manages to make the work feel intimate—as if its contents are spruced-up bedroom recordings.

Eric Clapton - Unplugged

Written by: Joe Taylor

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: Unplugged presents the full spectrum of Eric Clapton’s playing, so it sounds like him. Still, when he plays an old blues tune such as “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” or “Malted Milk,” he conjures up the spirt of his heroes, […]

Eric Clapton - Slowhand

Written by: Joe Taylor

Pulling the volume up a tad on the new pressing, however, brings things into sharper relief and reveals the music as more layered and carefully assembled. Slowhand ranks among Clapton’s best records. Polydor’s reissue presents it with more warmth and subtlety than the original.

Brandi Carlile - By The Way, I Forgive You

Written by: Todd Martens

By the Way, I Forgive You is a big, beautiful-sounding album on vinyl, with Carlile’s massive voice occasionally coming across as if captured in a cathedral.

David Byrne - American Utopia

Written by: Todd Martens

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: Often offbeat and wildly experimental, David Byrne’s American Utopia stands as his first proper solo album in more than a decade. Yet he’s been far from missing in action, having collaborated with the likes of guitar sorceress St. Vincent and dance artist Fatboy […]

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The Breeders - All Nerve

Written by: Todd Martens

All Nerve, then, barely avoids the nostalgia trap, as it represents a chance to remember the 90s but not live in them.

The Black Keys - Turn Blue

Written by: Vance Hiner

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: Turn Blue reminds me of bands like the Zombies and Blue Cheer. I would listen to this album while: I would use this album to wind down from a night of partying. Music from this album would be a great soundtrack to: Music […]

The Black Keys - Brothers

Written by: Vance Hiner

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: Brothers reminds me of the best Howlin’ Wolf records as well as Tom Waits’ Island releases. I would listen to this album while: Put Brothers on for late-night drinking, smoking, and, well,…you know. Music from this album would be a great soundtrack to […]

The Beatles - Rubber Soul (Mono)

Written by: Joe Taylor

The 2014 mono pressings of the Beatles’ albums compare favorably to the originals. By extension, the ’14 edition of Rubber Soul sounds very much like the original mono Parlophone pressing, and features a bit more low-frequency energy and better high-frequency focus. The mastering engineers, Sean Magee and Steve Berkowitz, were able cut the new LPs without worrying about the limitations older turntables imposed on their predecessors.

The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds

Written by: Dennis Davis

Analogue Productions’ 45RPM edition makes the mono spread more seamless, slightly wider and deeper, and the instrumental texture more lifelike.

Arcade Fire - Everything Now

Written by: Todd Martens

When listening to this album I think of this band or music: Much has been made of Arcade Fire’s recent love of dance and disco, in particular ABBA, a band referenced on the title track. Yet Everything Now owes a heavy debt to the Clash’s sprawling Sandinista! This is a work that touches on rock, […]

Angel Olsen - Phases

Written by: Todd Martens

Phases encompasses the past seven years of Olsen’s career, a wide-ranging sweep of a fast-evolving artist.

Grateful Dead - American Beauty

Written by: Dennis Davis

The Grateful Dead remains one of those bands people tend to either love or dislike—few music lovers are indifferent. Having spent the last 30 years living in the heart of Dead country in Marin County, California, I know true fans largely recoil at the idea of elevating a studio album over any number of extended Dick’s Picks jams. American Beauty is the Dead album, however, I’d carry out of a fire.

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