Month: March 2018

ELP / Pictures At An Exhibition and its Gigantic Organ Sound

More of the Music of Emerson, Lake and Palmer

Hot Stamper Pressings of Prog Rock Albums Available Now

Listen to that GIGANTIC organ that plays the fanfare opening of the work.

Honestly, I have not EVER heard a rock album with an organ sound that stretched from wall to wall and sounds like it’s seventy five feet tall.

No, I take that back. The first ELP album has an organ that sounds about that big, but that’s a studio album. How did they manage to get that kind of organ sound in a live setting without actually having to build one inside the concert hall?

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Elvis Presley – It Happened At The World’s Fair


  • An insanely good sounding copy: Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side, Double Plus (A++) on the second
  • If you want to know just how rich, spacious, natural and Tubey Magical an Elvis record can sound, here’s your chance to find out
  • Fairly quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus – it’s unlikely any early pressing would ever play as well
  • Elvis’s early albums are rarely in audiophile playing condition, so finding these later pressings with such good sound has been a real ear opener

This pressing has the glorious sound of 1963 in its grooves. It has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Blue

More of the Music of Joni Mitchell

Reviews and Commentaries for Blue

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series with advice on what to listen for as you critically evaluate your copy of Blue. Here are some albums currently on our site with similar Track by Track breakdowns.

The best copies bring out the breathy quality to Joni’s voice, and she never sounds strained. They are sweet and open, with good bass foundation and transparency throughout the frequency range.

The best pressings (and today’s better playback equipment) have revealed nuances in this recording — and of course the performances of all the players along with it — that made us fall in love with the music all over again. Of all the tough nuts to crack, this was the toughest, yet somehow copies emerged from our shootouts that made it easy to appreciate the sonic merits of Blue and ignore its shortcomings.

Hot Stampers have a way of doing that. You forget it’s a record; it’s now just Music. The right record and the right playback will bring this music to life in a way that you cannot imagine until you hear it. That is our guarantee on Blue — better than you ever thought possible or your money back.

TRACK COMMENTARY

Side One

All I Want

This is a do-or-die song for side one. When Joni sings “traveling, traveling, traveling, traveling” she really pushes on the last couple, and even the best copies have a hard time dealing with it. When a copy of this record comes in, that first line often tells me that there is no hope for side one. If an LP can get through that first line properly, it’s at least a ‘B’ and often times a Hot Stamper.

My Old Man

The piano on this track needs to be solid and full-bodied. The sound of the piano tells you if there’s any weight to the sound of the pressing you are auditioning.

Notice that Joni’s voice is much smoother on this track as well. If the whole album sounded like this it wouldn’t be so hard to find a good sounding copy.

Little Green
Carey
Blue

This is a tough track for a number of reasons. Joni really pushes her vocal; it’s at the end of the record where inner groove distortion is at its most problematical; and her voice is quite naked. When you add up these three factors, you have some real hurdles to overcome.

The best copies “survive” this track. Everything before this song on side one can sound awfully good. This song we try to do the best we can with, but it’s the rare copy that won’t have problems of one kind or another.

Side Two

California
This Flight Tonight
River
A Case of You

Something happens at the beginning of this track which is interesting from an audiophile/ recording point of view. See if you can hear it on the copy you own. If you think you know what it is, drop me an email. It takes an exceptionally good copy and exceptionally good equipment to bring it out. You can be sure that no one in the control room ever heard it.

The Last Time I Saw Richard

Tim Buckley – Goodbye And Hello


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • An insanely good sounding Gold Label original with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The overall sound here is super big, full and dynamic with excellent bass and a nice extended top end
  • Fairly quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • 4 1/2 Stars on All Music: “Often cited as the ultimate Tim Buckley statement, Goodbye and Hello is indeed a fabulous album…”  

See all of our Tim Buckley albums in stock (more…)

Prince – Around The World In A Day – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • Stunning sound throughout with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two
  • This copy was just BIGGER and RICHER than any other we played, with rock solid energy to beat them all
  • Clean and clear and open are nice qualities to have, but rich and full are harder to come by on this record – but here they are!
  • “… a brave and deeply personal project, exploring sounds and ideas that were almost shocking coming from a pop icon at his peak.” – Pitchfork

See all of our Prince albums in stock

The shootout winner for this album earned top grades and showed us an Around The World In A Day we had never heard before.

The best copies sound pretty much the way the best copies of most Classic Rock records sound: tonally correct, rich, clear, sweet, smooth, open, present, lively, big, spacious, Tubey Magical, with breathy vocals and little to no spit, grit, grain or grunge.

That’s the sound of analog, and the best copies of this title have that sound. (more…)

Miles Davis – Workin’ And Steamin’ – Right On the Money Tonality

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To the Jazz Fans of the World, we here present one of the BEST sounding jazz recordings we have ever had the PRIVILEGE to place on a turntable. I cannot ever recall hearing a better sounding Rudy Van Gelder recording, and I have a theory as to why this tape is as good as it is: it’s MONO. It also sounds like it’s recorded completely LIVE in the studio, direct to one track you might say. As good a recording as Kind of Blue is, I think the best parts of this album are more immediate and more real than anything on KOB.

See all of our Miles Davis albums in stock

Better than the Originals?

The record combines two Miles Davis albums recorded in 1956: Workin’ and Steamin’. The 1974 remastering here by Brian Gardner is excellent. Since RVG probably would have mastered these tapes himself for the original pressings, I’m going to guess that this album sounds better than any original, for two reasons.
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Roxy Music – Stranded

More Bryan Ferry

More Roxy Music

  • Outstanding sound with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound on this British original Island pressing is wonderful throughout – rich, smooth and oh-so-analog
  • One of the group’s best sounding recordings, the Tubey Magic on their early albums is off the scale, especially here
  • “The operative adjective for Roxy’s first true masterpiece is gorgeous (it’s the same adjective for their final one, too) – The centerpiece, “Mother Of Pearl”, might be Roxy’s finest seven minutes.”

Stranded is one of the better recordings by the band, coming in second for sonics only to the first album, which is really saying something considering that the first album is a Better Records Top 100 title. The Tubey Magic on the early albums has to be heard to be believed!

These British pressings give you the richest, fullest, biggest sound with the least amount of sibilance on the vocals, grain or grunge. It’s the rich, full-bodied ANALOG sound we adore here at Better Records, although it’s worth noting that the sound on some tracks is noticeably better than on others.

We thank Chris Thomas for his production and John Punter for his engineering work at AIR Studio. This album and the first one are without question the two best sounding Roxy albums, and that’s true for any incarnation of the band.

Both belong in any serious rock and pop collection, and if you are a fan of Art Rock, every Roxy album should be on your shelf, along with your Bowie, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Eno, Peter Gabriel, 10cc and so many others (most of which are personal favorites of mine, albums I have played hundreds of times over the last 30 years and plan to play hundreds of times in the next). (more…)

Della Reese – Della in Living Stereo

 

  • Both sides here are rich and smooth with a big bottom end and a lovely musical quality that’s missing from the average copy
  • Plays Mint Minus Minus on side one and even quieter on side two — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Recorded in 1959, this excellent album finds Reese backed by an orchestra that Neal Hefti arranged and conducted.” – All Music

If you’re a fan of vintage female vocals – the kind with no trace of digital reverb – you may get quite a kick out of this one.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This early Living Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

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 maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Copies with rich lower mids and nice extension up top did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we heard them all. (more…)

EMI’s Wonderful Prokofiev Symphony No. 1 with Previn

More of the music of Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953)

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

That’s an easy one: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label to the extent that they did back in the day.

I chalk it up, as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles make about the sound of records, my own included (check out our We Was Wrong section, the only one of its kind), to limited equipment, bad rooms and poor record cleaning.

If you had vintage tube equipment back in the ’70s — McIntosh, Marantz, etc. (I had an Audio Research D-75a and later a D-76a) — the flaws heard on most copies of this record wouldn’t be nearly as offensive as they are to those of us playing them on the much more revealing systems of today.

Working in impossibly complicated and unpredictable combination, today’s modern systems, painstakingly set-up through trial and error, in heavily treated rooms, using only records that have been subjected to the most advanced cleaning technologies — these are what make it possible to know what your records really sound like.

These are what make it possible for us to do our job. You, of course, have the option of hearing our records any way you like on your system and in your room; the cleaning and evaluation of the sound has been done.
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