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White Hot Stamper - The Mahavishnu Orchestra - Birds of Fire

White Hot Stamper

The Mahavishnu Orchestra
Birds of Fire

Columbia Records
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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • This KILLER import copy has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound throughout- it's so smooth and natural you can just turn up your volume and let it rock
  • The overall sound here is big, bold present and spacious with excellent bass - it's as powerful and captivating as the music itself
  • It's hard to think of another record that rocks as hard, and it's not even a real rock record!
  • Clearly one of the All Time Greats in the world of Jazz/Rock, as well as the band's Masterpiece - 5 stars on Allmusic
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This is the band at the peak of their powers and, no pun intended, ON FIRE. This may be jazz, but it's jazz that wants to rock. And on this copy, it rocks like you will not believe. The louder you play it the better it sounds.

A True Demo Disc

Birds of Fire is one of the top two or three Jazz/Rock Fusion Albums of All Time. In my experience, few recordings within this genre can begin to compete with the Dynamics and Energy of the best pressings of the album -- if you have the Big Dynamic system for it.

Ken Scott, Recording Genius

The amazing engineer Ken Scott (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau) is the man responsible for the sound here, but the explosive dynamics are not just for show. They're here for a reason. This music requires that level of sonic realism; better yet, demands it. In truth, the sound is not only up to the challenge of expressing the life of the music on this album, it positively enhances it.


Those monster Billy Cobham drum rolls that run across the soundstage from wall to wall may be a recording studio trick, but they're there to draw your attention to his amazing powers, and it works! The drums are everywhere on this album, constantly jumping out of the soundfield and taking the energy of the music into the stratosphere where it belongs.

We know of few recordings where the drums are placed so prominently in the mix, almost as if the rest of the band is there to support the drummer. (On Cobham's solo albums that is indeed the case.)

But that's precisely what makes this record such a joy to listen to. The drummer is virtually out of his mind on most of these songs, and the rest of the band have to step up their game just to keep up with the guy.

None More Hard Rocking

It's hard to think of another record that rocks as hard, and it's not even a real rock record! We find ourselves playing albums like Houses of the Holy and Zep II and Dark Side of the Moon for hour upon hour, with dozens of copies to get through, and we do it on a regular basis. If anybody knows Big Rock Sound, it's us. But can we really say that those albums rock any harder than this one? Birds of Fire is to Jazz what Zep II is to Rock -- the ultimate statement by a band at the absolute top of their game.

We tried doing a shootout for this album in 2008 and failed miserably. At that time, not that long ago when you think about it, there was no way we could get this music to play so loud, so cleanly, and with such correct tonality, from the deepest bass to the highest highs, complete with the wild swings in dynamics that the recording captures so well.

The Audio Revolution Is Alive and Well and making progress all the time.

The Average Copy

The main problem with this record is a lack of midrange presence. If the keyboards, drums, and guitars are not right in front of you,, your copy does not have all the presence it should. On the best copies, the musicians are in the room with you. We know this for a fact because we heard the copies that could present them that way, and we heard it more than once.

Which of course gets to the reason shootouts are the only real way to learn about records. The best copies will show you qualities in the sound you had no way of knowing were possible. Without the freakishly good pressings, you run into by chance in a shootout you have no way to know how high is up. On this record up is very high indeed.

Birds of Fire as a recording is not about depth or soundstage or ambience. It's about immediacy, plain and simple. All the lead instruments positively jump out of the speakers -- if you are lucky enough to be playing the right pressing. This is precisely what we want our best Hot Stampers to do. The better they do it, the higher their grade.

Vinyl Condition

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.

Side One

Birds of Fire
Miles Beyond

Listen for the powerful kick drum underneath the music. On the better copies it will kick like a mule.

The snare should sound very clear and very real on this track. If your system is slow, veiled or thick, or you have a mediocre copy, that snare sound will not impress you much. Get a Hot Stamper and work on your system until it sounds impressive, it will be worth it.

Celestial Terrestrial Commuters
Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love
Thousand Island Park

Side Two

One Word

Another track with a brilliantly recorded snare. Ken Scott recorded the super fat drums on Ziggy Stardust, but he knows how to record a snare to sound exactly like the real thing when the music calls for it. This is Fusion, not Glam, and the snare sound on the best copies is about as good as it gets on vinyl.

Open Country Joy

A remarkable example of precisely choreographed, high-speed solo trading — with John McLaughlin, Jerry Goodman, and Jan Hammer all of one mind, supported by Billy Cobham's machine-gun drumming and Rick Laird's dancing bass — can be heard on the aptly named "One Word," and the title track is a defining moment of the group's nearly atonal fury...

This album actually became a major crossover hit, rising to number 15 on the pop album charts, and it remains the key item in the first Mahavishnu Orchestra's slim discography.