Month: November 2019

Alan Parsons Project – I Robot – A MoFi Disaster, on UHQR too

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Sonic Grade: MoFi Regular LP: F / UHQR: D 

Hall of Shame pressings and two more MoFi Half-Speed Mastered Audiophile LPs debunked.

The MoFi is a textbook example of their ridiculous affinity for boosted top end, not to mention the extra kick they put in the kick drum, great for mid-fi but a serious distraction on a high end system with good low end reproduction.

If you like the album –and that’s a big if — try the Simply Vinyl or the Classic LP. Even the UHQR sucks. Don’t kid yourself. They’re still mastered by SR, and he likes plenty of high end. Like the old saying goes, if it’s worth doing it’s worth overdoing.

Bill Evans – The Paris Concert: Edition One

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  • An outstanding copy of this live album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – reasonably quiet vinyl for this kind of quiet piano music
  • These sides are doing pretty much everything right – as befits a live concert, there’s an overall unprocessed quality to the sound and good space around all three players
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joe La Barbera, Evans had one of the strongest trios of his career… The close communication between the players is reminiscent of Evans’ 1961 unit with Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian.”

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Benny Carter – Further Definitions

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this original Impulse stereo pressing with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides are clean, clear, spacious and natural, yet overflowing with the rich, Tubey Magical sound of vintage ANALOG
  • There’s not a chance in the world the current 180 gram reissue can hold a candle to this early stereo pressing 
  • 5 stars: “The all-star group (which also includes Hawkins, altoist Phil Woods, Charlie Rouse on second tenor, pianist Dick Katz, guitarist John Collins, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Jo Jones) performs a particularly inspired repertoire. Carter’s charts, which allow Hawkins to stretch out on “Body and Soul,” give everyone a chance to shine. …Very highly recommended.”

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Oscar Peterson Trio – The Trio – Live From Chicago – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Boy, these original Strobe Label (and T label) Verve pressings are sure all over the map. If there’s one jazz label that gets an F for consistency, it’s Verve. And they typically get an F (or at best a D) for mastering as well, since good sounding Verve pressings are few and far between. I guess that should not come as much of a surprise to many of our long time customers, but to hear how bad some of these pressings are mastered is nevertheless pretty shocking. One of the Strobe label copies we played had such a boosted top end it was positively distorted. (The RIAA curve does not allow that kind of top end boost without causing serious problems.)  

Lucky for you, dear reader, we found a copy that had the tubey magic and transparency that really lets this live jazz album transport you back in time to a small club in Chicago in the ’60s. (Some of the talking patrons won’t even shut up for the likes of Oscar Peterson!)

As we mentioned above, some copies are poorly mastered, so poorly that Ray Brown’s bass all but disappears from the trio! Other copies made Thigpen’s snare sound hard and too forward in the mix. This is obviously just a mastering EQ problem, since the good copies, such as this one, get all those elements to balance beautifully. (more…)

The Grateful Dead – American Beauty – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND AND MOSTLY QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES, BABY! We went through all of 2008 without finding a single Hot Stamper copy of this great album, but today I am pleased to report that American Beauty Hot Stampers are back in stock at Better Records! Drop the needle on any track on either side — I guarantee you’ve never heard this band sound so good, or your money back. 

If you’re looking for a mindblowingly good copy of the Grateful Dead’s masterpiece, you’re going to have to act quickly, because our supply is extremely limited. I understand if you want to write the Dead off based on their later output, but you just can’t deny the power of this album. (more…)

Brahms / Variations And Fugue On A Theme By Handel / Katchen – Reviewed in 2008

More of the music of Johannes Brahms 

More Variations And Fugue On A Theme By Handel / Katchen 

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

Near Mint copy with excellent sound! Superb piano tone for these solo pieces and very quiet vinyl add up to a wonderful listening experience. This surprisingly quiet British vinyl is going to be hard to beat by other Golden Age labels. (Finding solo piano recordings on RCA or Mercury from this era that play quietly is practically impossible.)

Side one is super TRANSPARENT — the piano is so clear! It lacks a bit of weight on the first side; perhaps that’s the way it is actually supposed to sound, who can say? On side two it sounds a little better to my ear, big and dark and very solid. It’s pretty amazing in its own way. And Katchen’s performance is of course superb. All in all a very find piano recording.

This lovely album also includes Variations on a Theme by Paganini. (more…)

Mahler / Symphony No. 1 / Solti – Speakers Corner (Reviewed in the ’90s)

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Sonic Grade: C+

A fairly good Speakers Corner Decca. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “C+” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. The right “real” pressing should be dramatically better sounding in every way. They almost always are. 

Art Pepper – …The Way It Was – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Art Pepper

…The Way It Was (2010)

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

This Contemporary Yellow Label LP has WONDERFUL SOUND AND MUSIC ON BOTH SIDES! It’s airy, open, and spacious with superb clarity and an extended top end. The beautiful reading of Autumn Leaves on side two is DEMO DISC QUALITY!

Side one of this album is made up of unreleased material Art recorded with Warne Marsh, the tenor It’s great to hear Art play against another sax man. Fans of straight ahead mainstream jazz will find much to enjoy here. Of course the Contemporary studio sound is wonderful — it’s yet another triumph for one of our favorite engineers, Roy DuNann. (more…)

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

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  • An insanely good 360 Label pressing of this Simon & Garfunkel classic, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound is here is As Good As It Gets — big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness that only these good early pressings can show you
  • The toughest Simon & Garfunkel album to find with excellent sound and reasonable surfaces — no contest 
  • 5 stars: “Perhaps the most delicately textured album to close out the 1960s from any major rock act… the songs matched the standard of craftsmanship that had been established on the duo’s two prior albums”

Both sides here KILLED every other copy we played. The overall sound is tubey and lush with a strong bottom end. The strings on the title track actually have some texture, and Cecilia really comes to life. There’s not as much spit or grit as you’d get on most copies, and the sound is far more musical and enjoyable than you would expect to hear, especially if you own a reissue on the red label or an audiophile reissue of any kind. These sides have an extra measure of presence and an extra degree of clarity, the kind of thing that makes them White Hot.

So many copies of this album sound wrong in so many ways, it would be impossible to list them all here. Suffice it to say, a Hot Stamper copy has to pass a lot of tests before we’re willing to vouch for it, and this copy passed those tests with flying colors. For starters, the vocals aren’t too spitty, the guitars don’t sound grainy, and the bottom end isn’t lean. Add in some of the silkiest, breathiest voices we’ve heard for this album and this Super Hot Stamper is sure to please. (more…)

Donald Byrd – Blackjack

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  • KILLER sound throughout for this later Blue Note pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first 
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “One can sense that Byrd wanted to break through the boundaries and rules of hard bop but had not yet decided on his future directions… Byrd and Red in particular are in excellent form throughout the date.” – All Music

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