Month: May 2019

Letter of the Week – London Calling “I was blown away by the energy captured on this double set…”

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

Hey Tom, 

Thanks so much for London Calling. Despite having a fair few brilliant records with magic ability to release prodigious amounts of energy (Led Zeppelin, Chicago, BST etc.) I was blown away by the energy captured on this double set and I never thought it would sound soooo good sonically.

I was living in London from 1978 and remember well what a noise this album made. I had it on double cassette and played it constantly, never bought the vinyl at the time but did buy the CD later. I never got the same buzz from the CD and to be honest they didn’t really sound all that good which I put down to the recording. One of my mates at the time was Nick Simonon, the bass player’s younger brother, so I knew they could play really well when they wanted to.

You get to thinking that you’re just getting old and things like London Calling were heard through the heightened emotions of youth and, well, sex and drugs and rock and roll as Mr Dury said. The absolutely brilliant, and I imagine rare, White Hot Stamper has put paid to that, witness a 58 year old singing badly at the top of his lungs as he pogos around the living room! (more…)

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

  • This WB Green Label pressing has STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides for Van The Man’s 1968 groundbreaking, introspective classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This record lives or dies by the quality of its Tubey Magical Midrange, a sound modern records rarely begin to reproduce
  • It takes us years to find enough clean copies to do a shootout – these originals are not sitting in the bins at your local store anymore, they’re displayed behind the counter for a hundred bucks or more a pop 
  • 5 stars: “Astral Weeks is a justified entry in pop music’s pantheon. It is unlike any record before or since; it mixes together the very best of postwar popular music in an emotional outpouring cast in delicate, subtle musical structures.”

The original cover is actually in the original shrink!

I don’t think there’s too much I can tell you about Astral Weeks that’s going to convince you to buy it or not. It’s obviously one of the man’s (many) masterpieces, his most unique and original contribution to the music of his time, and one of the most beloved albums in his canon. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Blood on the Tracks – What To Listen For

Many copies have no bass, while other copies are bright, a combination which ruins the sound of the acoustic guitars that dominate the album. On the better Hot Stamper pressings the bass will be deep and well-defined and the tonal balance will be correct.

The copies that fared the best in our shootouts were rich, warm, tubey and full-bodied — in other words, analog sounding. 

What To Listen For

It’s nice when the copy in hand has all the transparency, space, layered depth and three-dimensionality that makes listening to records such a fundamentally different experience than listening to digitally-sourced material, but it’s not nearly as important as having that rich, relaxed tonal balance. A little smear and a lack of resolution is not the end of the world on this album. Brightness, along with too much grain and grit, can be. 

What To Listen For — Side Two

The harmonica on the second track is devilishly difficult to get right. If there is any aggressiveness or grit in the sound of your copy, you will have no trouble recognizing it when that harmonica starts to play. (more…)

Roxy Music – Manifesto

More Bryan Ferry

More Roxy Music

  • A killer copy of Manifesto, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • Big, rich and lively throughout – the Tubey Magic on this early UK pressing will show you just how good this Rhett Davies’ recording can sound
  • This one may have won our shootout, but it has some minor condition issues, so we’re keeping the price down  
  • “The songs ending each side fade out with real grace and leave you hanging, wanting more — drenched in a romance out of reach.” Rolling Stone

(more…)

Frank Zappa / Waka/Jawaka – Transparency Is Key

More of the Music of Frank Zappa

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Frank Zappa

Problems? 

Not long ago we discovered the secret to separating the men from the boys on side one: TRANSPARENCY.

On the lively, punchy, dynamic copies — which are of course the best ones — you can follow the drumming at the beginning of ‘Big Swifty’ note for note: every beat, every kick of the kick drum, every fill, every roll. (more…)

The Blues… A Real Summit Meeting

More B.B. King

More Electric Blues

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all four sides of this wonderful double album collection from 1973 
  • This copy is surprisingly spacious, full-bodied and natural, with a nice extended top end, plenty of space around the instruments and few of the problems that plagued most of the pressings we played
  • Features B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Big Mama Thornton, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and more
  • Recorded live at Newport in New York, this is an OUTSTANDING blues album

This is an excellent sounding Buddah Brown & Pink Label Double LP. Listen to ’Big Mama’ Thorton’s voice on this record — it sounds like somebody forgot to put a limiter on her mic. It is without a doubt one of the most dynamic vocals I have ever heard on any record in my entire life. You feel like you are sitting front row center.

This record sounds JUST RIGHT to me. It doesn’t sound like there’s anything you could do to it to make it sound better. It’s tonally correct from top to bottom and very transparent. If you want a great introduction to the blues, I can’t think of a better one than this. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “These prices are insane- but then so is the quality. And you notice I keep buying more.”

More of the Music of Fleetwood Mac

Reviews and Commentaries for Rumours

Hey Tom, 

Please let me know if you have a better copy on hand. Being Rumours and all you will probably want a fortune for it I’m sure, but please let me know anyway. These prices are insane- but then so is the quality. And you notice I keep buying more. Thanks!

Charles M.

Bola Sete – At The Monterey Jazz Festival

More Bola Sete

More Bossa Nova

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  • Sete’s superb trio album from 1967 makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • We are big fans of Bola Sete here – his Tour De Force has been a favorite of ours for more than twenty years (if only we could find clean, good sounding copies to sell)
  • Recorded in 1966, this vintage stereo pressing boasts exceptionally natural guitar sound, as well as note-like bass and the kind of energy you rarely get outside of a live performance
  • “Soulful, unpretentious, unaffected, intimate, candid, organic Afro-Brazilian jazz.”

This original Verve T-Label Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the audience, live at the Monterey Jazz Festival, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Mussorgsky – Pictures At An Exhibition – Ozawa – A Good Record (Potentially), Not a Great One

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

This Chicago Symphony recording by RCA in 1968 has that BIG HALL SOUND we love here at Better Records. Multi-miking is kept to a minimum, which allows the listener to visualize the orchestra from a more natural perspective than other recordings of the work you may have heard. 

The sound is open and spacious, with lovely texture to the strings. The larger horns are especially well-captured here, Their dark and powerful sound, coupled with the fact that the recording is so dynamic and full-bodied, can really be quite moving. It might just send some shivers up your spine. (more…)

AC/DC / Back In Black – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

Musically Back In Black has everything you’d want from this kind of hard rock — a tight, punchy rhythm section; raging guitar riffs; and deliciously decadent lyrics screamed to perfection. What surprised us is how amazing this music sounds on the right copy. You’ve probably heard these songs a million times, but we bet you haven’t heard them sound like this. This is the kind of record that you’ll want to keep turning up. The louder you play it, the better it gets — but only if you’ve got a great pressing like this.

Side two earned our rare A++++ grade. Our sonic grade graphics only go up to three pluses, but this side two took it all the way to four!

We awarded this copy our very special Four Plus A++++ grade on side two, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea could even exist. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

Note that we no longer give out the A++++ Beyond White Hot Stamper grade for the kinds of pressings, like this one, that blew our minds, with sound so far superior to any copy we had ever heard that they actually broke our grading scale.

(more…)