Month: June 2019

Aretha Franklin / Lady Soul Can Be Bright

We’ve been playing a ton of Aretha Franklin records around here in recent days, but it’s hard to find pressing that separate themselves from the pack to give you audiophile-friendly sound for her recordings, which (naturally) seem to be optimized more for the radio than for your hi-rez audio rig. Every now and then, however, we’ll luck into a copy that delivers some real soul magic in its grooves, and this was one of those copies. Chain Of Fools and Aretha’s great version of Natural Woman sound JUST RIGHT. 

Most of the Aretha records we’ve played tend to be a bit too bright, which brings out a lot of grit, grain and edge. I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I can’t imagine that’s the sound the Queen Of Soul was going for. A copy like this gives you smoother, sweeter sound with a more natural tonal balance. It makes the music work so much better — the sound is easier on the ears and not nearly as fatiguing, plus it lets you turn up the volume good and loud without giving yourself a headache. When Aretha’s really wailing, you’re going to FEEL it. And man, does it ever feel good.

Bottom line? You’d need either a lot of copies, a lot of luck or both to come up with a pressing that sounds this correct and plays this quietly on both sides.

AMG 5 Star Rave Review

Appearing after a blockbuster debut and a sophomore set that was rather disappointing (in comparison), 1968’s Lady Soul proved Aretha Franklin, the pop sensation, was no fluke. Her performances were more impassioned than on her debut, and the material just as strong, an inspired blend of covers and originals from the best songwriters in soul and pop music… Powered by three hit singles (each nested in the upper reaches of the pop Top Ten), Lady Soul became Aretha Franklin’s second gold LP and remained on the charts for over a year.

David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust – Breaking the Price Barrier in 2007

Reviews and Commentaries for Ziggy Stardust

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

The following is our 2007 commentary for the best Ziggy Stardust we had ever heard up to that time.

This RCA Import has DRAMATICALLY better sound than any Ziggy LP we’ve ever played here at Better Records. Whatever you think you know about the sound of this record, THINK AGAIN. The sound of this copy is so far beyond any expectation I had that hearing it was nothing short of a REVELATION. It’s TWO FULL GRADES better than any copy we played in our shootout.

After hearing this copy we had to lower our grades for every other pressing we had played. This was a completely new standard. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald / Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – We Found the Missing Bass Player in 2009

Hot Stamper Pressings of Ella Fitzgerald’s Albums Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie

Folks, this record came as a SHOCK — the first and ONLY mono pressing we have ever played that not only was competitive with the best stereo copies, but actually bettered them in some ways. Some IMPORTANT ways I might add. We’ve only played a handful of mono pressings of Clap Hands over the years, and for good reason — they’re exceedingly mediocre. On almost every one we’ve ever played Ella was distant, dull and lifeless. Feh! Who wants to play a record the sounds like that?

(Side two is pretty much what you would expect from a good mono, A to A+, better than average but hardly competitive with the best, or with this side one for that matter.)

What’s So Special About This Mono Side One Anyway?

Well I’m more than happy to tell you. It’s simply this: the mono lets you know that there was a bass player at the session in a way that the stereo copies — none of them — do not. The bass player is front and center (in mono where else would he be?) in the mix and he DRIVES the rhythmic elements of the songs so strongly that the songs actually seem to pick up pace compared to the way they sound on the stereo LPs. For the first time you really get the feeling that this is a tightly-knit, swinging jazz combo that Ella is fronting. Everybody is playing together, right there in the center, with the drums and the bass as a unit laying down a super-solid rhythm line behind Ella.

What was surprising, even shocking in a way, was how much better Ella got as a singer. She swings more. She’s more energetic. She’s picked up the tempo, how I don’t know, but that’s the feeling you get when you hear her in mono on this copy.

And every bit as surprising was the fact that the slow songs got better too! Round Midnight and Signing Off aren’t faster, but she seems to somehow be feeling the lyric more, finding more emotion in it. Again, I have no idea how. I just know I heard it and felt it. It’s real.

(more…)

Letter of the Week- “A Drastic Improvement to My Music Collection…”

More of the Music of Carole King

Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

Our good customer Owais purchased our hottest Hot Stamper Tapestry and wrote to tell us that even his wife agreed that the premium that he paid for it was money well-spent.

I am very pleased with all of my purchases from you. In particular, the Carole King ‘Tapestry’ was breathtaking! You weren’t wrong when you claimed that Side One was the world’s best sounding version.

I have had so many different versions of this album, both in analogue and in digital form, and nothing even comes close. This is my wife’s favourite album of all time and even she had to admit that the premium that I paid for it was money well-spent. 

A big thank you for drastically improving the quality of my music collection!! (more…)

Aretha Franklin / Amazing Grace – A Bit of Experimentation with VTA Can Really Pay Off

More of the Music of Aretha Franklin

More VTA Advice

This is a handy record for VTA setup, a subject we discuss at length below.

On the better copies Aretha’s vocals are as dynamic as any you will ever hear, and unlike all the records she did with Tom Dowd, her voice never breaks up on this record. If you have big speakers that can play at loud levels, with the right volume level you can really get Aretha to belt it out like nothing you have ever heard. 

Like most modern churches, the kind that have upholstered pews and lots of carpeting, the natural reverberation of the sound isn’t as pronounced as it would be were the recording taking place in a 16th century cathedral. (more…)

Renaissance – Renaissance

  • A killer copy and the first to hit the sit in three years – Double Plus (A++) or better on both sides
  • The overall sound here rich, smooth and Tubey Magical with huge amounts of energy and presence
  • This is an outstanding recording. And why shouldn’t it be? It’s engineered by Andy Johns (Led Zeppelin II and many more)
  • “The original group’s debut album was a then-groundbreaking meld of progressive rock with classical and jazz influences…” – All Music 

Prog fans take note: this album’s audiophile credentials are more than in order. Some of the best recordings we have ever heard involved one of these guys, and on this one you get them both. That’s almost too much production talent for one album. (more…)

David Bowie / Let’s Dance – Analog Only

I have never heard a CD in my life with this kind of tubey magical richness and sweetness. That medium never does justice to the sound of recordings like this one, in my experience anyway. People who exclusively play CDs have forgotten what that sound is; that’s why they can happily live without it. I sure can’t. At present this sound is exclusively the domain of analog and likely to remain so well into the future.

Hearing a top copy of Let’s Dance is truly a special experience; the damn thing is amazingly well recorded, especially considering it came along well after the Golden Age of Rock Recording (the ’60s and ’70s, don’t you know). The sound is analog at its best; rich, full and super-punchy.

Omar Hakim

In addition, the musicianship is Top Notch and then some. Omar Hakim’s drumming is powerful, energetic, and performed with military precision. The guy is out of his mind on this album.

The combination of Nile Rodgers and the Legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn on guitar makes for a tasty, intricate mix of subtle rhythm work and searing leads. Or is that soaring leads? Hey, on this album it’s both.

More David Bowie

Coleman Hawkins – Hawkins! Alive! (Reviewed in 2005)

More Coleman Hawkins

More Hawkins! Alive!

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

This Verve T Label Mono pressing DESTROYS the Classic Records reissue, hands down. Side one is lively, present, and dynamic, but a bit aggressive — the horn can really bite when Hawk pushes it. Side two, however, sounds LOVELY. It’s much smoother and very natural. This isn’t an easy album to find in such gorgeous condition, and I bet you’d have a really tough time finding one that sounds as good as this one does on side two.

Bad Company – Run With The Pack (2013)

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SUPERB SOUND on Hot Stamper 2-pack! This is not an easy album to find with audiophile sound, and since our best sides were less impressive on their flipsides, we paired up these two copies to give you incredible sound for the album from first note to last.

Side two of the second record is the real deal, with BIG, RICH and ROCKIN’ White Hot Stamper sound. Side one of the first record is nearly as good (A++ to A+++), boasting exceptional transparency, excellent balance and something we didn’t hear on most copies: ENERGY. (more…)

Aretha Franklin – Spirit In The Dark (2012)

More Aretha Franklin

More Spirit In The Dark

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

Two incredible sides — an A+++ side one backed with an A++ to A+++ side two — for one of the best sounding albums Aretha recorded! We’ve done a ton of Aretha shootouts over the years and I’d put this one up with Amazing Grace as her top titles for sound. Everything we wanted from this music, this copy was DOIN’ IT, plain and simple. It’s lively, open, present and natural. The soundfield is big and spacious and the bottom end is killer. Aretha fans, you won’t want to miss out on this one! (more…)