Month: June 2016

Our Better Records Hall of Fame for Rock and Pop – Now 500 Strong

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 The Better Records Hall of Fame for Rock and Pop

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1962 – A Great Year for Recorded Music

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Classic albums on the site as I write this:

Vince Guaraldi
Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

Ella Fitzgerald
Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book #2

Tony Bennett
I Left My Heart In San Francisco

Gerry Mulligan
Jeru

Shorty Rogers Big Band
Jazz Waltz

John Coltrane
Standard Coltrane

Cannonball Adderley – Bill Evans
Know What I Mean?

Click HERE to see the records we currently have on the site that were (mostly) recorded in 1962.

Click HERE to see the records from 1962 that we’ve done Hot Stamper shootouts for (a substantially larger group as you can imagine).

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Making Progress in Audio with Supertramp

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The story behind this record is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

We wrote up this album in 2005 as a Hot Stamper Stalled listing; we just couldn’t find anything that really sounded right to us. The imports were a smeary mess, the half-speed was and is a complete joke (we used to like it but that just goes to show how wrong you can be), and the domestic copies were so grainy and phony-sounding we knew there was no way to make the case that this was some sort of audiophile recording.

Could it be that when Geoff Emerick took over the recording duties from his friend Ken Scott, who had engineered the two previous albums, both of which are stunning — Crime of the Century and Crisis? What Crisis? — he had simply dropped the ball and done a bad job? How could that be possible?

This is the man responsible for some of the greatest pop recordings ever made — practically the entire Beatles catalog for starters, and plenty more besides.

As is so often the case, it takes two things to show you the error of your ways. One is the right stereo. It has to be able to show you what is really on the record you’re playing, and this means a high quality front end; the best electronics, speakers and all the rest, not to mention a good room, treatments, clean electiricity and too many other things to get into here.

The second is the right record, properly cleaned of course. You may have put together the best stereo in the world but that won’t keep a bad pressing from making this music sound awful, and the world seems to be full of bad pressings of Even in the Quietest Moments. And when we say “the world”, we mean exactly that: every country in the world produced bad pressings of this album. It man come as a big of a shock to most audiophiles, but as far as we can tell only one country produced good ones: the good old U S of A. (For those of you who have purchased a Hot Stamper of Breakfast in America, or done plenty of shootouts with pressings from around the globe, the same is true for that album. Nothing but common, cheap, domestic LPs have any hope of sounding good.)

But this is such wonderful music we had to keep trying. I grew up on this album; the first Supertramp album I even bought was Crisis? What Crisis?, which I quickly fell in love with, and it wasn’t long before this one followed in 1977. It too became a staple of my musical diet. Man I played this record till the grooves were smooth.

I thought the sound was killer at the time too! Crisis was a demo disc at my house and this was right up there with it. Now the obvious question is, did I have a good sounding copy, or did my stereo not reveal to me the shortcomings of my LP? Or maybe my ears were not well enough trained to hear what was wrong. Those of you who have been doing this for a long time know the answer: any or all of the above, and nobody can know which.

And now, with your better stereo and better ears, when you drop the needle on some copy you picked up of Even in the Quietest Moments, expecting to hear the glorious sound you remember from your youth, it’s a huge letdown — so grainy, thin, and edgy, with blurry bass. On top of that the whole sordid mess is stuck somewhere back behind the speakers, like the sound you hear from an old cassette.

It’s not the record you remember, that’s for sure.

So now the half speed sucks when it used to sound good. (Such is the case with practically all audiophile records; the better you get at listening the worse they sound.)

And now, with your better stereo and better ears, when you drop the needle on some copy you picked up of Even in the Quietest Moments, expecting to hear the glorious sound you remember from your youth, it’s a huge let down. It’s so grainy, thin and edgy, with blurry bass, stuck somewhere back there behind the speakers. It’s not the record you remember, that’s for sure.

More Even in the Quietest Moments

One of the Greatest Ninths on Vinyl

 

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The legendary Ansermet recording from 1960 shown above is the best sounding Beethoven 9th we have ever had the pleasure to audition here at Better Records.

Ansermet’s performance is clearly definitive to my ear as well. The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time; more amazing sounding recordings were made there than any other hall we know of.

Both sides are big, rich and clear, and both were showing us pretty much everything that’s good about a vintage symphonic recording.

To get the chorus to play cleanly right to the very end is difficult for any vinyl pressing and this one is no exception. The chorus should play mostly without distortion or congestion even in the loudest parts, but we can’t say there won’t be a trace of one or both.

Production and Engineering

JAMES WALKER was the producer, ROY WALLACE the engineer for these sessions from April of 1959 in Geneva’s glorious sounding VICTORIA HALL. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

The gorgeous hall the Suisse Romande recorded in was possibly the best recording venue of its day, possibly of all time. More amazing sounding recordings were made there than in any other hall we know of. There is a solidity and richness to the sound beyond all others, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least.

It’s as wide, deep and three-dimensional as any, which is of course all to the good, but what makes the sound of these recordings so special is the weight and power of the brass, combined with timbral accuracy of the instruments in every section.

Other Pressings

The best pressings from the Readers Digest set with Leibowitz conducting were passable but no match for Ansermet and the wonderful hall the legendary Orchestre De La Suisse Romande recorded in, with Kenneth Wilkinson running the show no less.

In 1972 the engineering team of Gordon Parry and Kenneth Wilkinson recorded a Ninth with Solti and the CSO for Decca. We have a number of copies and hope to do a shootout with them soon. My initial impression is that they are potentially very good sounding pressings but not quite in the top tier for sound compared to this Ansermet from 1960.

The ’60 Decca/London cycle with Schmidt-Isserstedt and the Vienna Phil has sounded flat and modern to us on every pressing we have played. We no longer bother with them.


Raves for Ansermet and the Suisse Romande

Click on the Review tab above to read more

With the boon of an orchestra of his own creation, Ernest Ansermet enriched DECCA’s legacy not only with groundbreaking recordings of ‘new’ repertory but also with a series of Beethoven’s Symphonies that remains competitive because of the conductor’s uncomplicated but poetic manner. This performance of the Ninth Symphony crowned the superb achievement of that series, and it is impossible to believe when listening to the DECCA [pressing] that the recording is now fifty years old.Maestro Ansermet inspired his players and singers to give a performance for the studio microphones that is redolent of the concert hall, quirks marginalized by the persuasive power of the music. Heart and genuine respect for Beethoven’s coveted score prove more inspiring than oversized musical gestures and Viennese sophistication for conductor, players, and listener.

Joseph Newsome

More Beethoven Recordings

 

 

Which Album by The Who Has the Best Sound?

Tommy

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We Think It’s This One

I don’t know of another Who album with such consistently good sound — song to song, not copy to copy, of course. Just about every song on here can sound wonderful on the right pressing. If you’re lucky enough to get a Hot Stamper copy, you’re going to be blown away by the Tubey Magical Guitars, the rock-solid bottom end, the jumpin’-out-of-the-speakers presence and dynamics, and the silky vocals and top end. Usually the best we can give you for The Who is “Big and Rockin,” but on Tommy, we can give you ’60s analog magic like you will rarely hear in the decades to follow.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is key to this recording, and on the best copies the harmonic coherency, the richness, the body and the phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard in every strum.

What do high grades give you for this album? Silky, sweet vocals; huge weight to the bottom end; “you are there” immediacy; BIG drums, off the charts rock and roll energy, and shocking clarity and transparency.

No other Who album has all these things in such abundance.

The Tubey Magic Top Ten

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The Must Own 10cc Classic You May Not Know

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We’ve long been huge fans of this album both musically and sonically. It’s the kind of recording where the sound JUMPS out of the speakers. It reminds me of Crime Of The Century that way. It’s also one of the most DYNAMIC popular recordings I know of. If this album doesn’t wake up your system, it’s time to scrap it and start over! Musically it’s one of my all time favorite albums, a real Desert Island disc.

Incredible Stereo Separation

One of the many elements that combine to push this album well beyond the bounds of most popular recordings is the thought and care that went into the soundstaging. Listen to the stereo separation on any track — the sound of each instrument has been carefully considered within the context of the arrangement and placed in a specific location within the soundfield for a reason — usually that reason is for MAXIMUM EFFECT.

That’s why we LOVE 10cc. Their recordings from this era are an audiophile dream come true. Compare that to some of the stereo mixes for the Beatles albums, where an instrument or vocal seems to panned to one channel or another not because it SHOULD be, but because it COULD be. With 10cc those hard-left, hard-right effects make the songs JUMP. They call attention to themselves precisely because the band is having a blast in the studio, showing off all the tricks they have up their sleeves. They want you to get as big a kick out of hearing them as they did conjuring them up.

Pop Lunatics
This is no recreation of a live musical event, nor is it trying to be one. It’s a pair of pop lunatics let loose in their own multi-track studio doing whatever the hell they damn well please with songs they wrote and on which they play all the instruments (with the exception of some of the drum parts). That’s why this recording has such energy — it’s two guys in their very own candy store havin’ a ball, with no one around to tell them they can’t.

More Deceptive Bends