Month: June 2018

The Mehta Planets – Sealed with the Pioneer Booklet

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

Reviews and Commentaries for The Planets

Factory Sealed CS 6734 with the super rare Pioneer spacecraft booklet inside the shrink!

There’s a very good chance this is the last such copy on the planet. I have never seen one before, and I remember when this record came out, so probably few were made with this special booklet included.

I’m guessing it has about a dozen pages or so, and probably talks about the Pioneer mission to Jupiter.

“Launched on 2 March 1972, Pioneer 10 was the first spacecraft to travel through the Asteroid belt, and the first spacecraft to make direct observations and obtain close-up images of Jupiter. Famed as the most remote object ever made by man through most of its mission, Pioneer 10 is now over 8 billion miles away.” 

The Three – Liner Notes and a Rave Review

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Three Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Three

Excerpts from the Liner Notes

On a windy and unusually cold night in Los Angeles, each of the three musicians arrived before the session start time of 10 PM on November 28, 1975. At exactly 10 PM, The Doobie Brothers session that was going on since morning ended. Two assistants immediately started setting up for the session. The Steinway concert grand piano, delivered the previous day, was wheeled in to the center of the room and got tuned. Shelly Manne’s drum kit was assembled in a makeshift “booth.” Microphones were set up, checked and positions adjusted.

Initially, Telefunken microphones were positioned on the piano, but later were replaced by two Neumann U87s. The piano lid was opened to the concert position and microphones were centered relative to the keys and placed a foot (30 centimeters) inward from the hammer and a foot (30 centimeters) away from the stings. One mic was pointed toward the bottom notes and the other pointed toward the top.

To record Ray Brown’s bass, a Shure SM56 and a Sony 38A were pointed at the bridge of the bass, two inches above it. The Shure was used to capture the attack and the Sony mic was used to capture the rich low tones.

Seven microphones were used to capture the sounds of the drum set. Two U87’s were placed overhead, roughly 16-inches above the cymbals facing down. The bottom quarter of the kick drum was dampened with a blanket on the outside and was mic’ed with a Shure SM56. SM56’s were also used for toms and bass toms. Sony 38A was used on the snare and Sennheiser’s Syncrhon on the high-hat.

Each mic was placed 2 inches away from the instruments in a close mic set up. Mr. Itoh got involved with fine tuning mic positioning for tone, stereo placement and balance. Meanwhile, final adjustments were being made on the cutting machine set up.

Within the hour, the set up was done and all preparations were completed. The musicians finished warming up and were ready for Take One. The usual banter subsided and everyone put on their “game face.” Even Ray Brown, who usually cracked jokes in a loud voice, looked serious as he turned his attention to Mr. Itoh, waiting for his cue. As soon as he was notified through the intercom that the cutting needle was put down, Mr. Itoh gave the signal with his hand, and the recording started. In 16 minutes, three tracks were recorded in rapid succession.

Relieved that the initial take was over, the musicians joined the producer and engineer in the control room to listen back from the 2-track tape that was used as back up. With the initial tension gone, all three excitedly made comments and evaluated their own performance and the sounds they got. The thumbs-up was given by the cutting engineer for take one and the musicians went back to the live room for the next take. This process was repeated until 4 AM the following morning, resulting in a total of three takes per track.

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Johnny Hodges & Wild Bill Davis – Blue Rabbit from 1964

  • This KILLER jazz pressing boasts shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • The sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that goes deep and fills the listening room from wall to wall
  • This copy plays on relatively quiet vinyl, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “One of altoist Johnny Hodges’ many solo records in the 1960s… Tasty and swinging music.” – Allmusic

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963-64 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Steely Dan – Donald Gets Dynamic on Rikki

This is one knockout recording.

Having done shootouts for every Steely Dan title, I can say that sonically this one has no equal in their canon. 

Which is really saying something, since Becker and Fagen are known to be audiophiles themselves and real sticklers for sound. No effort in the recording of this album was spared, that I can tell you without fear of contradiction.

They sweated the details on this one. The mix is PERFECTION.  (more…)

Dexter Gordon – One Flight Up

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of this vintage Blue Note pressing
  • With its presence, clarity, space and timbral accuracy, this is guaranteed to be one of the best sounding jazz records you’ve heard in a very long time
  • One of our very favorite Blue Note recordings for both music and sound, a Dexter Gordon Classic of soulful hard bop
  • Turn it up good and loud and it’s as if you are right up front at one of the best ’60s jazz concerts imaginable

Both the sax and the trumpet sound unbelievably good — airy and breathy with lots of body and clearly audible leading edge transients.

It’s hard to find a Blue Note where the horns aren’t either too smooth or too edgy, but here they have just the right amount of bite. The overall sound is open, spacious, tonally correct from top to bottom and totally free from distortion. (more…)

Roxy Music – A Heavy Vinyl Winner!

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Roxy Music

Sonic Grade: B-

Hey, this is a good sounding pressing! I had to pull out my best imports to beat it, which they did handily of course, but the typical audiophile trying to find a pressing superior to this one will have to do a fair bit of homework in order to succeed. We had multiple copies of Islands, Polydors, Atcos, Reprises and one copy of the Heavy Vinyl import I used to like. This pressing trounced most of them, and it’s cheap. 

I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Art Rock from the ’70s and is never going to lay out the kind of bread our Hot Stamper pressings command. For around $20 you just can’t beat it.

Free / The Free Story – Another Dubby Compilation

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Free

Hot Stamper Pressings of British Blues Rock Albums Available Now

This is a Limited Edition Black Label Island Numbered Import 2-LP set.

The sound is passable at best. Unfortunately, like many of the compilations done over the years, this is a very dubby sounding album. It’s smearyveiled, and lacks space.

The good vintage pressings just kill it. 

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review!

Although record sales never went along with it, Free were British rock at its pinnacle. Their studio albums were superb through and through, while the one live release perhaps represented the band at their peak.

This best-of features the cream of Free’s releases up to 1973. Extending past the easily accessible rock tracks into the realms of the bands quieter acoustic moments, as well as the more experimental areas of Free’s material, The Free Story gives the whole picture of what Rogers, Kirke, Fraser, and Kossoff were about.

The track selection well shows off the bands musical ability, from Paul Kossoff’s vibrato-laden guitar to Andy Fraser’s captivating bass playing. Indeed, few bands come close to the overall musicianship of Free.

“Free left a legacy of enduring music which became a role model for much of which followed…The Free Story is testament to that heritage,” declares the album notes. Few would disagree with that statement.


Since 1987 we’ve been helping music loving audiophiles the world over avoid bad sounding records.

To see the records with bad sound or bad music we’ve reviewed, click here.

Mostly we write about good sounding records, and there are thousands that can be found here.

It’s yet another public service from Better Records, the home of the best sounding records ever made. Our Hot Stamper pressings will sound better on your system than any other records you’ve ever played or you get your money back.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

Important Lessons We Learned from Record Experiments 

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

King Crimson – In The Wake Of Poseidon – Heavy on the Mellotron

  • King Crimson’s second studio album debuts on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This pressing is Big and Tubey, with clear, breathy vocals, especially critical to the success of the a capella opening track, “Peace – A Beginning”
  • This lovely original Island Pink Label British Import LP has a beautiful textured cover and plays as quiet as we can find them, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The record…, however, has made an impressive show of transmuting material that worked on stage (“Mars” aka “The Devil’s Triangle”) into viable studio creations, and “Cadence and Cascade” may be the prettiest song the group ever cut.”

If you love the sound of a vintage All Tube recording of the mellotron — whether by Led Zeppelin or The Moody Blues — you will find that Robin Thompson has got hold of a very good sounding one here. Thompson is of course the engineer for the first King Crimson album, so his recording skills as regards the instrument are well established.

Note that the British Island pressings for this album as well as the first are by far the best sounding, assuming you have a good one. What is interesting about early Island LPs is just how bad some of them are. And let me tell you, we’ve paid the price in time and money to find out just how bad some Island Pink Labels can sound. (more…)

King Crimson / Lizard – Heavy on the Mellotron

More of the Music of King Crimson

More Hot Stamper Pressings of Prog Rock Albums

Every bit the sonic equal of the first album, if you love colorful Big Production Jazzy Prog Rock (with mellotron!) is your thing you can’t go wrong here

Standard Operating Procedures

What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and so on down through the list.

When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side we provisionally award it a grade of “contender.” Once we’ve been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides matched up.

It may not be rocket science, but it is a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we’ve developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them. 

The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing — or your money back.

AMG 4 Star Review

Lizard is very consciously jazz-oriented — the influence of Miles Davis (particularly Sketches of Spain) being especially prominent — and very progressive, even compared with the two preceding albums. The pieces are longer and have extensive developmental sections, reminiscent of classical music, and the lyrics are more ornate, while the subject matter is more exotic and rarified — epic, Ragnarok-like battles between good and evil that run cyclically.

The doom-laden mood of the first two albums is just as strong, except that the music is prettier; the only thing missing is a sense of humor… At the time of its release, some critics praised Lizard for finally breaking with the formula and structure that shaped the two preceding albums, but overall it’s an acquired taste.

The Knack / Get The Knack – If You Like Power Pop, This Is a Must Own Album from 1979

More of The Knack

  • This outstanding pressing of the Knack’s debut finally returns to the site with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it – extremely quiet vinyl too
  • With plenty of punchy low end, the music comes to life on this pressing like you’ve never heard before
  • Wall to Wall Live-in-the-Studio Rock Sound to rival Back in Black and Nevermind – My Sharona is on this killer side two, and it rocks
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Get the Knack is at once sleazy, sexist, hook-filled, and endlessly catchy — above all, it’s a guilty pleasure and an exercise in simple fun.”
  • If you’re a Punchy Bass and Drums fan, this title from 1979 belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1980 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

This Monster Power Pop Debut by the Knack is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with the kind of Wall to Wall Big Beat Live Rock Sound that rivals Back in Black and Nevermind — if you’re lucky enough to have a copy that sounds like this! (If you’re not then it doesn’t.)

My Sharona is simply STUNNING here. You just can’t record drums and bass any better!

And let’s not forget the song Lucinda. It’s got exactly the same incredibly meaty, grungy, ballsy sound that Back in Black does, but it managed to do it in 1979, a year earlier!

Mike Chapman produced this album and clearly he is an audiophile production genius. With a pair of Number One charting, amazing sounding Pop albums back to back — Blondie’s Parallel Lines in 1978 and this album early the next year — how much better could he get? The answer is: None more better.

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