Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus
- One of the best sounding copies of this quintessential Heart album to ever hit the site - Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on BOTH sides
- Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end, nothing else in our shootout could compare to this bad boy
- There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through
- A Better Records Top 100 album, 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic: "Aggressive yet melodic rockers like 'Sing Child,' 'White Lightning & Wine,' and the rock radio staples 'Magic Man' and 'Crazy on You' led to the tag 'the female Led Zeppelin.'"
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Not many records have this kind of big, rockin' sound, that's for sure! Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end. If you're an audiophile who loves classic rock, you just haven't lived until you've heard side one of this album on a Hot Stamper pressing.
We’re pretty fond of these ladies here at Better Records. Their second album, Little Queen, has been a favorite test disc around here for years. When Heart is at their best, the music is wonderful. If you're lucky enough to own the right pressing, this band can ROCK with the best of them.
What A Hot Copy Gets You
For one thing, the music just JUMPS out of the speakers. There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through. In a nutshell, those are the ones that earn the name Hot Stamper.
What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- 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 1976
- 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
Live Rock and Roll Sound
This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It's also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you've got the big room, big speakers, and the power to drive them, you can have a live rock and roll concert in your very own house! When the boys behind Heart (superb musicians all) let loose with some of those Zep-like monster power chords -- which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and "safe" mixes -- I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don't like the sound of horns, so there you go.)
What We Listen For
For Big Production Rock Albums such as this there are some obvious problem areas that are often heard on at least one or two sides of practically any copy of this album.
With so many heavily-produced instruments crammed into the soundfield, if the overall sound is at all veiled, recessed or smeared -- problems common to 90+% of the records we play in our shootouts -- the mix quickly becomes opaque, forcing the listener to work too hard to separate out the elements of interest. Exhaustion, especially on this album, soon follows.
Transparency, clarity and presence are key. Note that none of the British copies we played was thin and anemic. (The domestic copies are made from dubs and can't begin to compete.) Almost all had plenty of Tubey Magic and bottom end, so thankfully that was almost never a problem. They did however tend to lack top end extension and transparency, and many were overly compressed.
The sides that had sound that jumped out of the speakers, with driving rhythmic energy, worked the best for us. They really brought this complex music to life and allowed us to make sense of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper -- it's the copy that lets the music work as music.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don't talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record's presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small -- they don't extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don't seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.
Other copies -- my notes for these copies often read "BIG and BOLD" -- create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They're not brighter, they're not more aggressive, they're not hyped-up in any way, they're just bigger and clearer.
We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn't, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation.
Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded that open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one of two clean original copies with which to do a shootout? These records are expensive and hard to come by in good shape. Believe us, we know whereof we speak when it comes to getting hold of original pressings of Classic Rock albums.
One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it's an entirely different - and dare I say unforgettable -- listening experience.
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 originals.
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.
Dreamboat Annie (Fantasy Child)
Crazy On You
Soul of the Sea
White Lightning & Wine
Love Me Like Music
How Deep It Goes
Dreamboat Annie (Reprise)
In the 1980s and '90s, numerous women recorded blistering rock, but things were quite different in 1976 — when female singers tended to be pigeonholed as soft rockers and singer/songwriters and were encouraged to take after Carly Simon, Melissa Manchester, or Joni Mitchell rather than Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath.
Greatly influenced by Zep, Heart did its part to help open doors for ladies of loudness with the excellent Dreamboat Annie. Aggressive yet melodic rockers like "Sing Child," "White Lightning & Wine," and the rock radio staples "Magic Man" and "Crazy on You" led to the tag "the female Led Zeppelin." And in fact, Robert Plant did have a strong influence on Ann Wilson.
But those numbers and caressing, folk-ish ballads like "How Deep It Goes" and the title song also make it clear that the Nancy and Ann Wilson had their own identity and vision early on.
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