The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.
Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
- Two stunning sides each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades - a big step up over every other copy from our recent shootout
- Richer, clearer and more tonally correct, with more energy and presence, all qualities that help to bring this music to life
- Janis's vocals sound right on the money here - smooth enough to let you crank this one up good and loud without the sound getting hard and edgy
- 5 stars: "Janis Joplin's second masterpiece (after Cheap Thrills), Pearl was designed as a showcase for her powerhouse vocals, stripping down the arrangements that had often previously cluttered her music or threatened to drown her out."
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Most everything that we look for in a Hot Stamper Pearl is happening on this copy: presence to the vocals; weight to the piano; texture and definition to the bass; a Tubey Magical midrange; freedom from grit and grain and so forth.
It's not a perfect record -- no copy of Pearl will ever be -- but it's better in all the ways that make the music really work. That's what a Hot Stamper is all about!
None of this is to say that you’ll put this one on your top shelf with your Ajas and your Tea for the Tillermans, but this copy has the kind of sound you'd never guess was possible if all you know is the average copy. (Which is simply to say, if you didn't go through five or ten copies to find the one you now own, you are likely to have an average copy.)
What the Best Sides of Pearl Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We're Listening For on Pearl
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, lost in the mix. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass -- which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Learning the Record
For our shootout for Pearl we had at our disposal a variety of pressings that had the potential for Hot Stamper sound. We cleaned them carefully, then unplugged everything in the house we could, warmed up the system, Talisman'd it, found the right
VTA for our Triplanar arm (by ear of course) and proceeded to spend the next hour or so playing copy after copy on side one, after which we repeated the process for side two.
If you have five or more copies of a record and play them over and over against each other, the process itself teaches you what's right and what's wrong with the sound of the album. Once your ears are completely tuned to what the best pressings do well that the other pressings do not do as well, using a few carefully chosen passages of music, it quickly becomes obvious how well a given copy can reproduce those passages. You'll hear what's better and worse -- right and wrong would be another way of putting it -- about the sound.
This approach is simplicity itself. First, you go deep into the sound. There you find a critically important passage in the music, one which most copies struggle -- or fail -- to reproduce as well as the best. Now, with the hard-won knowledge of precisely what to
listen for, you are perfectly positioned to critique any and all pressings that come your way.
It may be a lot of work but it sure ain't rocket science, and we've never pretended otherwise. Just the opposite: from day one we've explained step by step precisely how to go about finding the Hot Stampers in your own collection. Not the good sounding pressings you happen to own -- those may or may not have Hot Stampers -- but the records you actually cleaned, shot out, and declared victorious.
Mobile Fidelity famously attempted to do a version of this album that (thankfully) never made it past the test pressing phase.
There's a Sony 180g reissue from Germany that's godawful, and the current Columbia versions are a mess as well.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Pop Record
We consider this Janis Joplin album her Masterpiece.
This recording should be part of any serious Popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
- Move Over
- Cry Baby
- A Woman Left Lonely
- Half Moon
- Buried Alive in the Blues
- My Baby
- Me and Bobby McGee
- Mercedes Benz
- Trust Me
- Get It While You Can
AMG 5 Star Rave Review
Janis Joplin's second masterpiece (after Cheap Thrills), Pearl was designed as a showcase for her powerhouse vocals, stripping down the arrangements that had often previously cluttered her music or threatened to drown her out.
Thanks also to a more consistent set of songs, the results are magnificent — given room to breathe, Joplin's trademark rasp conveys an aching, desperate passion on funked-up, bluesy rockers, ballads both dramatic and tender, and her signature song, the posthumous number one hit "Me and Bobby McGee"...
Pearl's power leaves the listener to wonder what else Joplin could have accomplished, but few artists could ask for a better final statement.