Month: September 2019

Howard McGhee – Maggie’s Back In Town – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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More from 1961 – It Was a Very Good Year

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

This Contemporary LP has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC! It’s rich and full a very extended, very natural top end. The cymbals on this record sound AMAZING! Roy DuNann sure knew how to record this kind of jazz. Just listen to the leading edge transients of the trumpet or the punchiness of the drums. There’s no trace of phony EQ or bad mastering whatsoever. (more…)

Stephen Stills – Bill Halverson’s Engineering Masterpiece?

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

When all the elements are working together as they do here, the music on Steve Stills’ first album is postively AMAZING. Until I hear something better, I’m going to have to call this BILL HALVERSON‘s Engineering Masterpiece.* Yes, on the best copies it’s that good.

*We have now heard something even better, an album from earlier in the same year in fact, Deja Vu.

We’ve had an unbelievably hard time finding copies that lived up to our expectations, prompting much of my crew to argue that it just could not be done. We didn’t find copies that sounded just as good as I remembered — no, we found copies that went BEYOND what I had hoped for.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Both sides are rich and full-bodied, as well as transparent, with lots of separation between the parts. Most copies tend to be murky, thick, and veiled. The overall sound here is airy, open, and spacious, with TONS of ambience. (more…)

Traffic – The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

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The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys

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  • This is an outstanding Island Sunray domestic pressing offering spacious Tubey Magical Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Low Spark is clearly one of the best sounding Proggy/Arty Rock records ever made – the space it recreates in your listening room is HUGE 
  • A Better Records Top 100 album and a real Demo Disc on a pressing that sounds as good as this one does
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The commercial and artistic apex of the second coming of Traffic… The standout was the 12-minute title track, with its distinctive piano riff and its lyrics of weary disillusionment with the music business. “

After doing the shootout for John Barleycorn recently, a record we love in spite of its problematic sound, this album was truly a breath of fresh air. I can honestly and enthusiastically say that the sound we heard on the best pressings was OUT OF THIS WORLD. This album is a permanent member of our Rock And Jazz Top 100, that’s how good it is. (more…)

You Know What’s Shocking About a Record Like This?

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What’s shocking about a record like this is the fact that the instruments you hear behind and to the side of Dionne Warwick are REAL instruments, and for the most part they are not really being processed much, they are simply being recorded. How many times do you hear a pop album with sound like that? Rarely in our case, and we play them by the hundreds.

Just played a Linda Ronstadt album that she did with Nelson Riddle — you know the one —  and I can tell you one thing, the sound of that album and this one are on opposite sides of the recording spectrum in terms of naturalness. On a scale of one to a hundred, Linda scores about a two, and Dionne scores 90, maybe more. It’s a JOY to hear a record with this kind of sound.

Play this one for your audiophile friends who own and respect the recordings of Dianna Krall, Patricia Barber and the like. Be sure to squeeze in the phrase “Boy, they don’t make ’em like they used to…” whenever there is a pause in the music or conversation.

You might also want to ask them if they think the invention of digital reverb was such a good idea after all.

If they’re good analog buddies, ones that you want to keep being your buddies, you might not want to say anything at all. Just keep quiet and let their own ears shame them. This is the kind of record that can do it.

 

 

Billy Joel – Songs in the Attic- Listening in Depth

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More Songs in the Attic

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

You know how you can tell when you have a Hot Stamper? It’s the side you play through to the end. When the sound is right you want to hear more. Since the opening track of this record is one of the keys to knowing whether it’s mastered and pressed properly, once you get past the sibilance hurdle on track one, the next step is to find out how the challenges presented by the rest of the tracks are handled on any given LP. Some advice follows.  (more…)

Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here

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

This kind of recording quality was abandoned decades ago, but there was a time — I’m old, I remember it — when engineers actually tried to produce recordings with this kind of rich, sweet, thoroughly analog sound. 1979, the year of this album’s release, is right at the tail end of it. Why do you think so much of our Hot Stamper output covers the decade that stretched from the late ’60s to the late ’70s? Only one reason — that’s where some of the best sound can be found. (It’s a bit like Willie Sutton’s famous answer to why he robbed banks: “because that’s where the money is.”)

Which is taking the long way round in saying that this recording has a healthy dose of analog Tubey Magic, in places maybe even a bit too much, as the sound can sometimes get too thick and overly rich, like a cake with too much frosting.

The best copies keep that wonderful analog smoothness and freedom from artificiality, adding to it the life and energy of classic rock and roll. Yes, you can have it all — rich analog sound that jumps out of the speakers! Just listen to those horns on Honest Man — that is the sound we are looking for on an album like this. (more…)

The Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This Warner Bros. Green Label LP has a STUNNING SIDE ONE backed with MASTER TAPE SOUND ON SIDE TWO! If you like your hard rock dirty and bluesy, you can’t do much better than this record. You’re going to freak out over the meaty guitars, the HUGE bass, and the ROTM (Right On The Money) vocals. We played a ton of copies and most of them couldn’t hold a candle to this one. 

  • This album was produced by one of our very favorite engineers around here, Mr. Glyn Johns. He’s the man behind tons of Better Records faves — Sticky Fingers, Eagles 1st, Joan Armatrading’s self-titled, Who’s Next, and many more.

But no Faces album — Glyn Johns-produced or not — will ever have Demo Disc Sound. It’s just not what the band was going for. The proper sound for a band like this is RAW AND ROCKIN’. Any phony EQ or overproduction would really make a mess of what the band does here, which put simply is kickin’ out the jams. It would be fair to call these guys a bar band, but they’re the best darn bar band I’ve ever heard!

The best Faces pressings have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that completely conveys the power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. What more can you ask for? (more…)

Borodin / Symphony No. 2 – Martinon

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More Symphony No. 2 – Martinon 

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

This Minty looking RCA Living Stereo LP has AMAZING SOUND. It’s everything a Living Stereo record should be — warm and rich with lots of depth and silky highs. The lower strings on this record are hands down some of the best I’ve ever heard. They’re so rich and textured. Out of all the Decca recorded RCAs I’ve had the pleasure (or misfortune as the case may be!) of listening to, this is definitely one of the top dogs.

If this record were quiet it would easily fetch $300; unfortunately that ain’t the case. The only reason we’re offering this copy for sale is because the sound — and the music — are OUT OF THIS WORLD!

Bob Dylan – Empire Burlesque

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Empire Burlesque

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  • With Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side one and a solid Double Plus (A++) side two, this is an excellent copy of Empire Burlesque
  • Incredibly big and rich, with correct tonality from top to bottom, tons of bass and plenty of space, this copy sounded right to us
  • About as quiet as we can find them — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “… it’s the most consistent record Bob Dylan has made since Blood on the Tracks” – All Music

This is one of the better sounding Dylan records from the ’80s. It’s not exactly Blood on the Tracks, the only Dylan album we think is qualified to be on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, but it sounds good for a record from this era. (more…)

Paul McCartney / Wings – London Town

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London Town

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  • This MPL import pressing has incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Clean, clear, and dynamic with lots of Tubey Magic and a huge bottom end — this copy was doing it all right! 
  • “… it’s certainly stronger than Speed and, in its own way, as satisfying as Venus and Mars… It’s a laid-back, almost effortless collection of professional pop and, as such, it’s one of his strongest albums.” – All Music

(more…)