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Super Hot Stamper - James Taylor - Mud Slide Slim

The copy we are selling is similar to the one pictured above.

Super Hot Stamper

James Taylor
Mud Slide Slim

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Sonic Grade

Side One:

Side Two:

Vinyl Grade

Side One: Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

Side Two: Mint Minus Minus

  • A wonderful copy of JT's classic followup to Sweet Baby James, boasting outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades for sound on both of its sides - fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This original WB Green Label pressing demonstrates the Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records almost never reproduce
  • Some of old JT's strongest material: You've Got a Friend; You Can Close Your Eyes; Hey Mister, That's Me up on the Jukebox and more
  • 4 stars on Allmusic - it destroys the recent reissue, which lacks the texture and warmth you get in abundance on these killer originals
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This vintage Green Label original has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn't showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real James Taylor singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it -- not often, and certainly not always -- but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we've played over the years can serve as a guide.

What superb sides such as these 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 (and effects!) 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 Listened For on Mudslide Slim

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a '70s Singer Songwriter album, in this case from the man who invented the concept. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this simple but sophisticated recording.

Midrange Presence and Sibilance Issues

Midrange Presence is tough to come by on Mud Slide; most of the time JT's voice is recessed, dark, veiled and has a slightly hollow quality. To find a copy where his vocals are front and center -- which of course is exactly where they should be -- but still rich, sweet and tonally correct is no mean feat. Only the best copies manage to pull it off. Out of the dozens of copies we played few had the midrange we were looking for and knew was possible.

Distortions that are common to the other good original pressings simply don't seem to be much of a problem on this one. This is especially true in the case of sibilance, which can be a major problem on some of these Green Label James Taylor records. No copies won't have some spit, but this one doesn't have much, a clear sign that the cutter head was doing a bang up job. (The opposite is of course true for Mobile Fidelity records, which tend to be quite spitty, an indication that their cutting system was not nearly as good as it should have been. It's old news to us but a fact that the average audiophile record collector still to this day has not caught onto.)

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 later 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.

Track Commentary

The Track Listing tab above will take you to a select song breakdown for each side, with plenty of What to Listen For (WTLF) advice.

Side One

Love Has Brought Me Around

One of my all-time favorite James Taylor tracks. When you get a good copy, this music comes ALIVE! This is not your typical sad sack, touchy feely James Taylor song. This song ROCKS!

You've Got a Friend

Listen to Carole King's piano. On the best copies the transparency allows her playing to be heard so clearly. Her style is unmistakable.

Places in My Past
Riding on a Railroad
Mud Slide Slim

Side Two

Hey Mister, That's Me up on the Jukebox

As good as any James Taylor song ever written.

You Can Close Your Eyes

Again, one of his best. When the vocals are clear and present, the emotional power of the story really hits home.

Machine Gun Kelly

Another song that really rocks. On the best copies, you'll hear a room around the kick drum. When you have a copy with an extended top end the tambourine will jump right out of the speakers.

Long Ago and Far Away

Joni Mitchell's duet here with James is one of the highlights of this album. You need a really transparent copy to appreciate how much she contributes to this song. Notice the subtlety of the cymbals. The overall delicacy of the track is what makes it work so well.

Let Me Ride
Highway Song
Isn't It Nice to Be Home Again

AMG Review

The confessional songwriter was now, necessarily, writing about what it was like to be a confessional songwriter: Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon served the valuable function of beginning to move James Taylor away from the genre he had defined, which ultimately would give him a more long-lasting appeal.