Month: February 2019

Airto – Fingers – Truly a Desert Island Disc

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Fingers is one of our all time favorite records, a Desert Island disc to be sure. I’ve been playing this album for more than thirty years and it just keeps getting better and better. Truthfully it’s the only Airto record I like. I can’t stand Dafos, and most of the other Airto titles leave me cold. I think a lot of the credit for the brilliance of this album has to go to the Fattoruso brothers, who play keyboards, drums, and take part in the large vocal groupings that sing along with Airto. 

At times this record really sounds like what it is: a bunch of guys in a big room beating the hell out of their drums and singing at the the top of their lungs. You gotta give RVG credit for capturing so much of that energy on tape and transferring that energy onto a slab of vinyl. (Of course this assumes that the record in question actually does have the energy of the best copies. It’s also hard to know who or what is to blame when it doesn’t, since even the good stampers sound mediocre most of the time. Bad vinyl, worn out stampers, poor pressing cycle, it could be practically anything.) (more…)

JS Bach / Mozart – Two Violin Concertos

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This original plum label Victrola pressing from 1965 has SUPERB sound on both sides. The Bach piece is a rich tapestry of strings spread across the stage and clearly separated left to right. There’s not much depth but that seems of little consequence; all the instruments are heard in their proper space and location. The tonality is right on the money throughout.

The Mozart concerto starts out sounding a bit opaque, but about an inch or so into the side it opens up wonderfully, with sweet, spacious, natural sound from there on out. Jaime Laredo plays both works superbly, and the Living Stereo quality sound brings his playing to life in a way that few recordings can.

Although never released as a real LSC, this Victrola pressing is every bit the equal of most of the better Living Stereo pressings. (more…)

Badfinger – Straight Up

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This relatively quiet WHITE HOT STAMPER Straight Up is KILLER, with a A++ side one and an A+++ side two — you can’t do much better than that! Side two has Master Tape Sound, the kind that we like to call AGAIG — As Good As It Gets. Both sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can’t begin to compete with. The sound here just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies of the album are supposed to (but rarely) do. For fans of the band — and Power Pop in general — this is the Straight Up you have been waiting for!

Our last shootout was in 2007, not because we don’t like the record or have customers for it; rather it’s the fact that clean copies of the album just aren’t out there in the bins the way they used to be. Two or three a year is all we can find, and that’s with hitting the stores every week.

2007 vs 2010

In 2007 we wrote: “Having played more than half a dozen copies of this record during the shootout I can tell you that the most common problem with Straight Up is grainy, gritty sound. Most copies of this record are painfully aggressive and transistory.” (more…)

Mike Auldridge – Dobro

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This is practically the only Bluegrass album we can honestly say we enjoy listening to. The sound is superb, with lots of picked instruments of every description, but what really sets this one apart is that the music is relaxed, not frenetic, drawing you in, not pushing you away. This is a great album, folks, one that belongs in your collection. If you’re a fan of Chet Atkins this is probably a Must Own, and we are big fans of Chet here at Better Records.

Looking for something a bit different? Here’s a wonderful Super Hot Stamper copy of Mike Auldridge’s highly enjoyable Dobro album, giving you wonderfully enjoyable Bluegrass music and sound. We pulled together a bunch of copies from various eras, and this one delighted us with an A++ side one and an almost White Hot A++ to A+++ side two.

We had a lot of fun hearing how good banjos, mandolins, dobros and fiddles can sound when recorded and mastered properly. Anyone who follows the site knows that rock & roll music is our bread and butter, but it’s great fun to hear other styles of music around here sometimes, especially when it sounds like this. (more…)

Anderson / Fiddle-Faddle / Fiedler

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

This famous Fiedler / Boston Pops recording of Leroy Anderson’s music has Super Hot Stamper sound on both sides! I frankly admit to never having taken this title seriously. I imagine few hard core Shaded Dog collectors have ever bothered to play it, which is their loss, not ours. It’s very well recorded, with tons of Golden Age Living Stereo magic. Talk about BIG and RICH, both sides will show you exactly why modern audiophiles drool over these recordings. You simply cannot find this sound anywhere else.

Side One

A++. It’s dynamic and lively, with huge size and scope and lovely transparency (a quality we find virtually non-existent on modern pressings by the way). Bells up top, rich lower strings, tons of Tubey Magic — it’s all here folks.

There is however some smear, heard most clearly on the strings. A++ is about right we think.

Side Two

A++, so transparent, with spaciousness, depth and 3-D that really draws you in and lets you forget you’re listening to a record at all. You will have a very hard time finding a Golden Age classical record that sounds better.

Listen to the horns on the second track — man do they ever sound REAL.

Track three has some pizzicato playing that you can demo your stereo with.

Like side one, a bit of smear holds it back from out top grade. (more…)

Ambrosia – One Eighty

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This is smooth, rich ANALOG at its best, easy on the ears as we like to say.

This is clearly the poppier side of Ambrosia, containing as it does two of their highest-charting mainstream hits, Biggest Part of Me (#3) and You’re the Only Woman (#13). I myself of course prefer the proggy first two albums, falling as they do into the broad category of Art Rock where my favorite albums by Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Roxy Music, Supertramp, 10cc, later-period Beatles, Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Traffic and so many others from the last forty-plus years can be found.

These artists’ recordings tend to be big, powerful and exceedingly hard to reproduce, which, probably more than anything else, accounts for my becoming a serious stereo enthusiast while still in my teens. (My mother had to co-sign the loan I needed to purchase the currently-state-of-the-art ARC SP3A-1 preamp I coveted. I remember it being $600+ at a time when I was earning roughly $2 an hour. That had to hurt, but I did it. Bought a D-75 amp after I paid it off too.)

The Music

One Eighty (recorded on 1/80, get it?) kicks off with a real rocker: Ready, which is a great name for an opening track and really gets the album off to a high-energy start. Side two opens with my favorite track on the album, Livin’ On My Own. I actually used to demonstrate my system with it: the bass is huge, way up in the mix and really punchy. Additionally there are powerful multi-tracked vocal harmonies in the chorus that are wall-to-wall, surprisingly dynamic, yet sweet (all things considered; this is a modern recording after all).

One Eighty has an excellent mix of rock and softer pop ballads. The last track, Biggest Part Of Me, no matter how many times you’ve heard it, on the radio or elsewhere, is an exceptionally well-produced (designed?) piece of songcraft that will tug at anyone’s heartstrings, anyone who has a heart that is (if I may quote the title of the best song Burt Bacharach ever wrote). On a big audiophile system it should be both powerful and emotional. (more…)

The B-52s Debut

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

TWO STUNNING A+++ SIDES for this amazingly well-recorded album! We think some of you will bo shocked at just how good the sound can be. And you may or may not be surprised at just how FUN the music is! It’s sure to be a future member of our Rock and Pop Top 100. (UPDATE: It has officially made the list.)

Who knew that good sounding records were still being recorded in 1979? Candy-O comes to mind, but the B-52s’ first album has virtually none of the grit and Roy Thomas Baker heavy-processing of that one, and a lot more tubey magic to boot — when you get a pressing like this of course.

As Good As It Gets!

Both of these sides are superb, with the kind of huge, spacious soundstage and amazingly rich, full-bodied tonality that earned this recording its place in our Top 100. Talk about jumpin’ out of the speakers! Every instrument is clear and present, laid out right there in the listening room. It doesn’t get any better than this!

The Best of ’79

This recording reminded me of a really good Don Landee / Ted Templeman production, the kind you hear on JT or Simple Dreams or the better Doobie Brothers albums. Everything is laid out clearly: there’s a space created for every part of the frequency spectrum from the lowest lows to the highest highs, with nothing crowding or interfering with anything else. The production is professional, clean, clear and REAL sounding everywhere you look.

Chris Blackwell of Island Records produced the album, recorded it in Nassau, with engineering by a fellow named Robert Ash, whose work I was not familiar with. Turns out he’s worked with none other than Rhett Davies and Eno, two individuals we have nothing but the utmost respect for. Ash did a great job on this album. Until we hear something better we would have to say this is the Best Sounding Album of 1979.

Tubey Magic in 1979? Somehow they managed to pull it off! (more…)

Level 42 – World Machine


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A Top Copy: Triple Plus (A+++) on side one, where the biggest hits are and a solid Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound is HUGE — far RICHER, bigger, clearer and more open than other copies we played
  • A Better Records favorite for more than thirty years, the rare ’80s album that holds up today
  • The big hit Something About You ROCKS on this copy – only these British originals let you turn it up and hear it right
  • “World Machine pushes their newfound radio-friendly sound into the forefront, and the result is one of the finest pop albums of the mid-’80s. “Something About You” exemplifies Level 42’s sound at the peak of its success.”

See all of our Level 42 albums in stock

This British Polydor pressing of Level 42’s BEST ALBUM makes a mockery of most of what’s out there — who knew the sound could be this good? Punchy bass, breathy vocals, snappy drums; it’s all here and it reallyl comes JUMPIN’ out of the speakers on this pressing.

What was striking this time around was just how smooth, rich and tubey the sound was on the best copies. It’s been a few years since we last did this shootout and it’s amazing to us how much better this title has gotten in that short span of time.

Of course, the recording very likely got no better at all, but our system, set-up, room, electricity and who-know-what-else sure did. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Led Zeppelin IV, Rumours and But Seriously, Folks…

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Wanted to drop You a note and let you know you have me now not a skeptic any more. Case in point, over the 12 days of Christmas I acquired a Led Zeppelin Pecko IV from you. I also received one from a family Member. You are absolutely correct in that not all pressings sound the same. I played both copies in a shootout and yours hands down was the better of the two.

The most recent purchase has me sitting staring at my speakers in amazement. Both the Rumors and the But Seriously Folks are AMAZING!

Kevin

 

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Chet Atkins In Hollywood

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

This Minty looking RCA Victor LP has an AMAZING SIDE TWO backed with a great side one. Side two is full of the tubey magic that’s missing from the Classic Records version and it has a wonderfully extended top end. Side one lacks some of the top end extension found on side two but the first track has that tubey Nashville sound that we love here at Better Records. The rest of the side is pretty damn good as well.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs. (more…)