Month: May 2018

Here’s How You Know You Have a Hot Stamper of Songs in the Attic

joelsongs600More of the Music of Billy Joel

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Billy Joel

It’s the side you play through to the end.

When the sound is right you want to hear more.

Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it’s mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled on any given LP. Some advice follows.

Actually, what you really want to know is how good each song can sound — what it sounds like when it’s right. Once the quality of the mastering has been established, the fun part is to play the rest of the album, to hear it really come alive.


The Cars – Listening in Depth

More of the Music of The Cars

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

This is one of our favorite recordings — a former member of our Top 100 — for one very simple reason: it’s got Big Rock Sound in spades! Drop the needle on Let’s Go and check out the sound of the big floor tom. When the drummer bangs on that thing, you will FEEL it! It’s similar to the effect of being in the room with live musicians — the difference between just hearing music and also feeling it. That’s what you get from a Hot Stamper copy.

What other New Wave band ever recorded an album with this kind of DEMONSTRATION QUALITY sound? It positively JUMPS out of the speakers. No album by Blondie, Television, The Pretenders or ANY of their contemporaries can begin to compete with this kind of sound, with the exception of the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures. The Cars very own first album is excellent, but it doesn’t have this kind of LIFE and ENERGY. No way, no how.  (more…)

Sarah Vaughan / Self-Titled – A Winner from Speakers Corner

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sarah Vaughan

Hot Stamper Pressings of Outstanding Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

Sonic Grade: B

A TOP TITLE from Speakers Corner on 180 gram. This is an outstanding Sarah Vaughan album with very good sound and top players like Clifford Brown on trumpet, Paul Quinichette on tenor sax and Herbie Mann on flute. 

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. (more…)

Nilsson / A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night – The Video


For those of you who’ve never chanced upon it, here is the ‘live’ version of the album in five parts.

More of the Music of Harry Nilsson

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Harry Nilsson

Nilsson was apparently too far ahead of his time. Rod Stewart recently [2002, twenty years ago!] made an album of classic popular music that went to number one and jump-started his second career.

Harry Nilsson understands this music so much better and sings it so much better than Rod Stewart ever could that it’s hard to understand the relatively poor sales of this much superior album.

Either that or the rest of the world doesn’t appreciate Nilsson as much as I do. Probably both I guess. Too bad. This album is better than all the “also rans” albums put together. (McCartney’s Kisses on the Bottom was truly unlistenable, but what person of taste can take any of these albums seriously?)

Arrangements by Gordon Jenkins add to the sublime character of the music. Jenkins arranged many of the greatest albums of this kind ever recorded, including top titles by the likes of Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, and perhaps most famously for us audiophiles, Nat King Cole (the Number One album Love Is the Thing and three others).

The original CD, by the way, is so bright and thin it will make your ears bleed. The new one may be better, but it’s doubtful. If you like Harry Nilsson and you don’t have a turntable, you are pretty much out of luck my friend.

Derek Taylor, Producer

About two years ago [circa 1971], Harry and I were talking about songs, swapping titles, and testing memories. You know that game? Who wrote ‘Miss Otis’ and what year did Al Jolson die, and what else besides ‘As Time Goes By’ did Herman Hupfeld … write? We found a lot of marvelous songs with fine words. And what melodies! ‘You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want To Do It),’ ‘I Wonder Who’s Kissing Her Now.’ Brilliant stuff, constructed with style and flair. One day Harry suggested ‘Why don’t we do an album of the old songs?’ and it was the best idea I’d heard since God only knows when. ‘You produce and I’ll sing,’ he said. And two years later – it’s November 1972 – he says it again, and this time it’s on.

— Derek Taylor

Bach / The Goldberg Variations – Glenn Gould

Interesting record. The first side sounds about like what one would expect from an old Columbia six-eye mono piano recording — not bad but not particularly good either, with a tonally correct but rather small and distant piano in the middle of a big room.

Imagine our surprise and delight when we flipped the record over and heard a shockingly ROBUST, CLEAR and PRESENT piano, sounding pretty much — if one were to close one’s eyes — like a real piano in a practice hall. We call it at least Super Hot Stamper sound. Without more copies to compare it to, this may be for all practical purposes As Good As It Gets.

We are not always enamored of original vintage pressings, but in this case, on at least side two, we heard the sound we were looking for. It’s doubtful we would hear that sound on many of the reissues. We’ve played a few and they sure never sounded like this! (more…)

Chicago III – We Give Up, For Now Anyway

Don’t hold your breath for a Hot copy of this album — we just attempted a shootout and came up empty-handed. I doubt we’ll ever find a copy that does what we want it to.

AMG Review

Chicago’s third effort, much like the preceding two, was initially issued as a double LP, and is packed with a combination of extended jams as well as progressive and equally challenging pop songs. Their innovative sound was the result of augmenting the powerful rock & roll quartet with a three-piece brass section — the members of whom are all consummate soloists. Once again, the group couples that with material worthy of its formidable skills.


Sing a Mean Tune Kid
Loneliness Is Just a Word
What Else Can I Say
I Don’t Want Your Money
Travel Suite: Flight 602
Travel Suite: Motorboat to Mars
Travel Suite: Free
Travel Suite: Free Country
Travel Suite: At the Sunrise
Travel Suite: Happy ‘Cause I’m Going Home
An Hour in the Shower: A Hard Risin’ Morning Without Breakfast
An Hour in the Shower: Off to Work
An Hour in the Shower: Fallin’ Out
An Hour in the Shower: Dreamin’ Home
An Hour in the Shower: Morning Blues Again
Elegy: When All the Laughter Dies in Sorrow
Elegy: Canon
Elegy: Once Upon a Time
Elegy: Progress?
Elegy: The Approaching Storm
Man vs. Man: The End

Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde and Some Bad Side Fours

More of the Music of Bob Dylan

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Bob Dylan

It takes a well-mastered copy to get the vocals and the harmonica — key elements of course — to sound smooth, full-bodied and clear. Any “pinched” quality will be obvious to the listener. You lose a lot of points for that shortcoming here at Better Records.

We Noticed, But Has Anyone Else?

Here’s a little something that you may have come across on your own, but since we’ve never seen it mentioned anywhere else, perhaps this will come as news to you the way it came as news to us about ten years ago.

There is a stamper used on some Blonde on Blonde side fours that is so ridiculously bad, you might as well be listening to a warped cassette that’s playing underwater.

To be sure, we pick up plenty of mediocre copies all the time, but these side fours are so beyond terrible it’s clear someone was asleep at the wheel.

They’re almost fascinating to hear in a way, because it’s simply shocking that a good recording could sound THAT bad. Like the best pressings of our favorites (but in a VERY different way), words don’t do it justice. Its awfulness has to be heard to be believed.


Side One

Rainy Day Women #12 & 35 
Pledging My Time 
Visions of Johanna 
One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)

Side Two

I Want You 
Stuck Inside of Mobile With the Memphis Blues Again 
Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat 
Just Like a Woman

Side Three

Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine
Temporary Like Achilles
Absolutely Sweet Marie
4th Time Around
Obviously 5 Believers

Side Four

Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands

AMG 5 Star Rave Review!

Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play. Leavening the edginess of Highway 61 with a sense of the absurd, Blonde on Blonde is comprised entirely of songs driven by inventive, surreal, and witty wordplay, not only on the rockers but also on winding, moving ballads like “Visions of Johanna,” “Just Like a Woman,” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.” Throughout the record, the music matches the inventiveness of the songs, filled with cutting guitar riffs, liquid organ riffs, crisp pianos, and even woozy brass bands (“Rainy Day Women #12 & 35”). It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.

Cannonball Adderley In San Francisco in 1959

More Cannonball Adderley

  • Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second for this groundbreaking live jazz album 
  • The sound of this wonderful reissue pressing is big and full-bodied with good live club space and plenty of Tubey Magic
  • Cannonball joins forces here with his brother, cornetist Nat Adderley, at The Jazz Workshop in San Francisco to create an album Orrin Keepnews lauded as, “the birth of contemporary live recording”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Both Cannonball and Nat Adderley play with stunning, bluesy brilliance here… Outside of Somethin’ Else, Adderley’s 1958 masterpiece, In San Francisco may be the saxophonist’s defining moment.”

Classic Jazz – How Can You Go Wrong?

What the best sides of this Classic Jazz Album have to offer is clear for all to hear: (more…)

Paul Desmond / Take Ten – Living Stereo Tubey Magical Sound from 1963

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

  • Paul Desmond’s 1963 Cool Jazz Classic arrives with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one, mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The brilliant Ray Hall engineered – anyone hearing this copy will understand exactly why we love to find his fabulous ’60s recordings here at Better Records
  • Desmond joins forces here with Jim Hall, whose guitar stylings perfectly complement Paul’s velvety sax tone 
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Everyone wanted Desmond to come up with a sequel to the monster hit “Take Five”; and so he did, reworking the tune and playfully designating the meter as 10/8. Hence “Take Ten,” a worthy sequel… There is not a single track here that isn’t loaded with ingeniously worked out, always melodic ideas.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick.

This vintage pressing is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Chet Baker / Plays The Best Of Lerner And Loewe

More Chet Baker

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy is one of the BEST we have ever heard
  • Big, rich, smooth, open, natural, with plenty of tight bass – what’s not to like? This copy is killin’ it
  • Some of the best jazz guys of the day back up Chet on this one: Zoot Sims, Pepper Adams, Bill Evans, Herbie Mann and more
  • “…the timelessness of the melodies, coupled with the assembled backing aggregate, make Chet Baker Plays the Best of Lerner and Loewe (1959) a memorable concept album.”

This is a wonderful Chet Baker record that doesn’t seem to be getting the respect it deserves in the wider jazz world. You may just like it every bit as much as the Chet album, and that is one helluva record to compare any album to. In our estimation it’s about as good as it get. (more…)