Month: September 2018

Albert King – Live Wire – Blues Power

  • An outstanding copy of this Must Own Live Blues album, with Double Plus (A++) sound for both sides
  • Accept no substitutes – no reissue of the album can ever give you the energy, size and you-are-there presence that’s on this disc
  • Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus – finding these originals with top quality sound and surfaces this quiet is not getting any easier
  • “Live Wire/Blues Power is one of Albert King’s definitive albums. Recorded live at the Fillmore Auditorium in 1968, the guitarist is at the top of his form throughout the record — his solos are intense and piercing… he makes Herbie Hancock’s “Watermelon Man” dirty and funky and wrings out all the emotion from “Blues at Sunrise.””

This is one of the all time great live Blues albums. THIS IS BLUES POWER! (more…)

Shelly Manne & His Men – More Swinging Sounds

This Contemporary Yellow Label MONO LP is West Coast Jazz at its best! 

One quality of this side one that really took us by surprise was how DYNAMIC it is. The second track gets loud in a way that only one or two out of a hundred records does.

This is about the number of records we play in a week and I would have to say that no other record this week was more dynamic, hence the rough estimate above.

Side One

A+ to A++, with rich, smooth, lovely West Coast jazz sound. The horns can get a bit hard when loud.

Check out the dynamics on track two — Wow!

Side Two

A+ to A++, clean and lively. Zero smear and nearly as dynamic as side one. Track two, more than fifteen minutes long, is richer than track one by the way.

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The Band Music From Big Pink – EMI Centennial Reviewed

Sonic Grade: At the time: B?

Now: C or D

[I believe this review is from the mid to late ’90s.]

This is the EMI Centennial version we sold years ago for close to thirty bucks. I thought at the time the MFSL gold CD was better. Now, after many stereo changes, I realize the gold CD is actually fat in the midbass and a little thick and sucked out in the midrange. (MFSL’s, and quite a few others’, standard audiophile EQ.)

I know this because the EMI LP is correct in those areas and shows you how truly wonderful the recording is. If only it had more bass. Who knows? Between the music and the sound you may not even miss it.

Above 100 hertz this album is magic. Below 100 it’s tragic. (Ouch.)

 

Jimmy Smith – Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

More Jimmy Smith

More Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf

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  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and one of the better copies from our most recent shootout
  • If you dig Oliver’s Nelson’s swingin’ BIG BRASS as much as we do you are in for a treat with this stereo pressing
  • The best sides have the kind of analog richness, warmth, and smoothness that make listening to records so involving 
  • Slaughter On Tenth Avenue is the monster track leading off here, and it swings the way Walk on the Wild Side does – like crazy, man!

This is some of the BEST SOUND we have ever heard for any RVG recording of Jimmy Smith with arrangements by Oliver Nelson (Claus Ogerman also took on some of the arranging duties; his work with Antonio Carlos Jobim is superb in all respects). (more…)

David Bowie / Young Americans – What to Listen For

More of the Music of David Bowie

The average RCA copy of this album is bright, grainy and hard to some degree, like most RCA pressings I come across. If you’ve been stuck with an average copy, you’re not going to believe how smooth and sweet the best ones sound. 

This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.

Both sides here are AGAIG — As Good As It Gets, Master Tape Sound. The overall sound is open, spacious, and transparent with lots of DEEP bass. You can easily pick out all the background vocals, and Bowie’s voice sounds just right. The strings have amazing amounts of texture — you can really hear the sound of the rosin on the bow. The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is punchy and powerful. You won’t believe how superb the cymbal crashes sound — you’re right there in the room with these guys! (more…)

Art Pepper – Living Legend – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Art Pepper

More Jazz Recordings featuring the Saxophone

SUPERB SOUND AND MUSIC! Art Pepper’s saxophone sound is Right On The Money, breathy and airy with clearly audible leading edge transients. The lineup on this LP is stellar, with Hampton Hawes on piano and keys, Shelly Manne on drums, and the great Charlie Haden on bass guitar.   

We’ve mentioned plenty of times what big fans we are of Contemporary Label Jazz LP’s and this record is another sonic triumph for engineer Roy DuNann. The sound is warm and lively, with superb clarity and virtually no distortion. The top end is wonderfully extended, allowing you to really appreciate some fantastic cymbal work by Shelly Manne.

Hampton Hawes is wonderful on this album. On the track “What Laurie Likes,” he switches over to an electric piano, giving the sound a very cool ’70s jazz-rock feel. It’s too bad these guys didn’t record more material in this vein — they really nail it. 

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Miles Davis – Seven Steps to Heaven

More Miles Davis

More of Our Best Jazz Trumpet Recordings

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This Original Miles Davis record has DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND! Columbia jazz records from this period are some of the best sounding jazz records ever made, and this is a perfect example of what is right with their recordings. The sound is rich, full, sweet, tonally right on the money, and lively as can be. 

This is an interesting album because half of it is recorded in Hollywood and half of it in New York, with the songs in each location interspersed on the sides. Victor Feldman handles the piano duties in California; Herbie Hancock in New York. I actually prefer Victor Feldman’s playing on this record. We don’t get to hear his piano work often — he’s really quite good. (Cal Tjader started out on the drums but it’s tough to find records with him drumming.)

Anyway, one of the thoughts that occurred to me when I was playing this record is this: Why is there no audiophile reissue on any label that sounds like this? There’s something about the sound of these old records, these original pressings, that’s impossible to recapture with modern equipment. It may not be impossible, but until somebody manages to do it, it might as well be.

When you drop the needle at the beginning of side one and hear Miles’ muted trumpet come jumping out of your speakers, I guarantee you will be amazed or your money back!

Neil Young / Self-Titled – The Original Mix Is King

  • Amazing sound throughout for Neil’s self-titled debut – shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Both sides are rich, full and Tubey Magical with a big bottom end and excellent resolution 
  • Surely one of Neil’s toughest to find with top quality sound – and only these early pressings with the original mix have the potential to sound as good as this one does
  • “…a flowing tributary from the over-all Springfield river of twangs, breathless vocals and slim yet stout instrumentation. Especially vivid is Young’s sense of melancholy and the ingenious clusters of images he employs in his lyrics (printed in full).”

The Old Mix Beats the New Mix

We’ve always felt that this album was not nearly as well recorded as the albums that followed. Why that would be we would never pretend to know. It was a long time ago. Who on earth has the arrogance to think they know precisely what went wrong? (I could actually name a few people but the less said about them the better.)

It turns out the remixed pressings we’d been selling for years were not the way to hear this album at its best. Neil wanted his voice to sound clearer and more present than the first mix, but the approach the engineers took to increase the clarity and presence was simply to boost the middle and upper midrange, a boost that seriously compromises the wonderful Tubey Magic found in the rich lower midrange of the original mix.

Neil may have liked the sound of his voice better on the new mix, played back on whatever mediocre-at-best stereo he was using at the time, but we here at Better Records are of a decidedly different opinion. On a modern, highly-resolving system Neil’s voice will not sound the least bit “buried” on the original mix, not on the best pressings anyway. Of course, the best ones are the only ones we sell.

If you want to hear this album sound right, we strongly believe that the original mix is the only way to go. And if you want to hear this album sound really right, better-than-you-ever-thought-possible right, you need a copy that was mastered, pressed and cleaned properly, and that means a Hot Stamper from Better Records. (more…)

Detail on Crosby Stills and Nash’s First Album – Holy Grail or Audio Trap?

More of the Music of Crosby, Stills and Nash

Reviews and Commentaries for Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Debut

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash

Detail may be the Holy Grail to most audiophiles, but detail can be a trap we all too easily fall into if we are not careful.

Tonal balance is the key. Without it no judgments about detail have any real value. 

One example: As good as the Classic Heavy Vinyl pressing is, the guitar at the opening of Helplessly Hoping tells you everything you need to know about what’s missing. The guitar on the better Hot Stamper domestic copies has a transparency that cannot be found on Classic’s version.

The Classic gets the tonal balance right, but their guitar doesn’t have the subtlety and harmonic resolution of the real thing.

I’m laboring here to avoid the word detail, since many audiophiles like bright, phony sounding records because of all their wonderful “detail.”

The MoFi guys and the CD guys often fall into this trap.

Get the sound tonally balanced first, then see how much detail you have left.

Detail is not the end-all and be-all of audio. Those who think it is usually have systems that make my head hurt.

But most people will never know what they’re missing on Helplessly Hoping, because they will never have an amazing sounding copy of this album. The hot copies are just too rare.


THIS RECORD IS GOOD FOR TESTING

Midrange Congestion 

Midrange Presence 

Midrange Tonality

Transparency 

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars 

Miles Davis – E.S.P.

More Miles Davis

More of Our Best Jazz Trumpet Recordings

  • This pressing boasts insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides, a huge step up from most copies
  • There’s plenty of 1965 Columbia 360 Label Tubey Magic in Stereo – the analog sound is real, tonally correct, and above all, natural
  • Miles fronts his second classic quintet here – saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Tony Williams
  • “They created a unique sound that came to define the very sound of modern jazz … ESP remains one of their very best albums.” — 4 1/2 stars

This Columbia 360 Label pressing is one of the better copies of E.S.P. we’ve  heard.

It’s richer and fuller, with more ambience, and the trumpet and piano are just amazing sounding. You’re going to have a fairly tough time finding a copy that is anywhere near as impressive as this one. Trust me — we know whereof we speak. We’re always trying and all too often coming up short. Not here though!  (more…)