Month: August 2018

Laurindo Almeida / Virtuoso Guitar – It Is, Or Can Be, An Awesome Direct to Disc

More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Direct to Disc Recordings

This recording has very little processing or EQ boost, and the studio is somewhat dead sounding (all too common in the late ’70s). That combination can mean only one thing: If you don’t play this record loud, it will not sound right. The famous Sheffield S9 is exactly the same way. It sounds dead and dull until you turn it up good and loud. When you do, lookout — it really comes alive. The best pressings can sound shockingly like live music, something one just does not hear all that often, even when one plays records all day long as we do.

The snare drum on this copy represents one of the most realistic and dynamic sounding snares I have ever heard. Talk about jumping out of the speakers! If you have plenty of large, fast, powerful dynamic drivers like we do, you are in for a real treat. Track one, side one — lookout!

What to Listen For

What typically separates the killer copies from the merely good ones are two qualities that we often look for in the records we play: transparency and lack of smear. Transparency allows you to hear into the recording, reproducing the ambience and subtle musical cues and details that are the hallmark of high-resolution analog. (more…)

Shelly Manne – Another Analogue Productions Disaster

More of the Music of Shelly Manne

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

Remember the ’90s Acoustic Sounds Analog Revival series mastered by Stan Ricker? This was one of the titles they did, and completely ruined of course. Ricker boosted the hell out of the top end, as is his wont, so all the percussion had the phony MoFi exaggerated spit and tizziness that we dislike so much around here at Better Records, the phony top that many audiophiles do not seem bothered by to this day. 

The whole series was an audio disaster, but funnily enough, I cannot remember reading a single word of criticism in the audiophile press discussing the shortcomings of that series of (badly) half-speed mastered LPs — outside of my own reviews of course. Has anything in audio really changed?  (more…)

Supertramp / Crime of the Century on MoFi – What to Listen For

This commentary was written about 2000, when the Speakers Corner pressing had just come out.

Listen to the vocals at the end of Dreamer. If they are bright, the bells at the end of the song sound super-extended and harmonically rich. But at what price? The vocals are TOO BRIGHT. Which is more important, good vocals or good bells? There has to be a balance. This is something audiophiles and audiophile labels, who should obviously know better, often have trouble understanding.

We get these MoFis in on a regular basis, and they usually sound as phony and wrong as can be. They’re the perfect example of a hyped-up audiophile record that appeals to people with lifeless stereos, the kind that need amped-up records to get them going.

I’ve been telling people for years that the MoFi was junk, and that they should get rid of their copy and replace it with a tonally correct version, easily done since there is a very good sounding Speakers Corner 180g reissue currently in print which does not suffer from the ridiculously boosted top end and bloated bass that characterizes the typical MoFi COTC pressing. (more…)

Miles Davis and Gil Evans – Porgy and Bess

  • Insanely good sound on both sides of this original Columbia Six-Eye pressing with each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Both sides are full of that old-school Columbia jazz tubey magic – the brass is full-bodied with lots of air, the bass is surprisingly well-defined, the top end is extended and sweet, and the soundfield is HUGE and three-dimensional
  • The music is a classic example of the partnership between Davis and arranger Gil Evans, and a must-own for serious jazz fans
  • “It was Evans’ intimate knowledge of the composition as well as the performer that allowed him to so definitively capture the essence of both… No observation or collection of American jazz can be deemed complete without this recording.” – All Music, 5 Stars

The music is a classic example of the partnership between Davis and arranger Gil Evans, and a must-own for serious jazz fans. Those of you who have marveled at the sound of our Hot Stamper copies of Sketches Of Spain are sure to get a lot out of this one. (more…)

Lee Ritenour / Rit – Nautilus Half-Speed

More of the Music of Lee Ritenour

Hot Stamper Pressings of Jazz Fusion Albums in Stock

This review was written in 2010 or so, before we had done much work with the album. Even though the best Elektra pressings are sure to be much better than this half-speed, we haven’t been impressed enough with any of the copies we’ve played to get a shootout going.

This very nice Nautilus Half-Speed Mastered LP has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND.

We played this pressing against the 180g Discovery reissue that Doug Sax remastered and it SMOKED it.

What a piece of muddy trash that Discovery pressing is. 

Members of both Toto and Chicago play on this album, so fans of either might get a kick out of this music. 

AMG Review

Lee Ritenour has long been the perfect studio musician, one who can melt into the background without making any impact. While he possesses impressive technique, Ritenour has mostly played instrumental pop throughout his career, sometimes with a Brazilian flavor. His few jazz efforts have found him essentially imitating Wes Montgomery, but despite that he has been consistently popular since the mid-’70s. After touring with Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’77 in 1973, Ritenour became a very busy studio guitarist in Los Angeles, taking time off for occasional tours with his groups and in the mid-’90s with Bob James in Fourplay. He also recorded many albums as a leader.

Muddy Waters / Folk Singer – Classic Records Reviewed

Sonic Grade: C+

Kills that muddy MOFI, which I must confess I used to like.

Things have changed, that’s for sure.

The Mobile Fidelity is thick and fat sounding, like most of their awful Anadisq releases, with much less transparency than this Classic Records pressing.

 

 

Muddy Waters / Folk Singer – Another Muddy MoFi

Sonic Grade: F

A Hall of Shame pressing and another MoFi LP debunked.

The MoFi is thick, fat and murky, with much less transparency than the Classic release (which is no award winner either).

Muddy Waters – Folk Singer

  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound, or close to it, on both sides – quiet vinyl too 
  • Folk Singer is an exceptional live-in-the-studio recording, with some of the best sound Muddy Waters ever managed
  • This ’80s reissue is guaranteed to trounce any heavy vinyl pressing you’ve heard of it or we’ll give you your money back!
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Muddy’s “unplugged” album was cut in September of 1963 and still sounds fresh and vital today. It was Muddy simply returning to his original style on a plain acoustic guitar in a well-tuned room…”

This 1963 recording pressed on ’80s vinyl has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot 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.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real person singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije at 45 RPM – An Audiophile Pressing to Shame Them All

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

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Sergei Prokofiev

This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly. 

Most of what’s “bad” about a DG recording from 1978 is ameliorated with this pressing. The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this.

The drum is clearly and precisely located at the back of the stage; even better, it’s as huge and powerful and room-filling as it would have been had you attended the session yourself. That’s our idea of hi-fidelity here at Better Records. (more…)

Nat “King” Cole’s Love Is The Thing – The Breatkthrough We Were Waiting For

Love Is The Thing has long been one of the best sounding Nat “King” Cole recordings we had auditioned over the years. With a large variety of copies to play, including some interesting “finds” among them, we now know it actually is The Best. We have never heard the man sound better than he does on the hottest copies of this very album.

Of course we’re always on the lookout for Nat King Cole albums with good sound. In our experience that is not nearly as easy as one might expect. Far too many of his recordings are drenched in bad reverb and can’t be taken seriously. At least one we know of has his voice out of phase with the orchestra on most of the copies we played, putting a quick end to that shootout.  (more…)