Month: January 2020

Nat King Cole – Just One Of Those Things

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  • This outstanding vintage Stereo Capitol pressing earned solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides
  • Here is the sound we love at Better Records – these sides are full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with especially smooth, present vocals
  • “Cole gives an assured, unhurried performance. And that’s the point: that Cole has tamed the rambunctious May does not mean he doesn’t give wonderful interpretations to some wonderful songs: ‘Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,’ ‘Just One of Those Things,’ ‘The Song Is Ended (But the Melody Lingers On).’ And the light-handed swing supports those efforts well.” – All Music

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David Bowie – Space Oddity – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

One of the reasons the song “Space Oddity” sounds so amazing is that it was produced by none other than Gus Dudgeon, the man behind all the best Elton John records. It has Paul Buckmaster doing the string arrangements as well. His work on Elton’s self-titled album is awe-inspiring; we know of none better. (more…)

Art Pepper – Saturday Night At The Village Vanguard

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  • KILLER sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too  
  • This is Art Pepper at its best, and if anyone can capture the realism of a live jazz club, it’s the engineers and producers at Contemporary, in this case Bob Simpson and Lester Koenig
  • One of the man’s most enjoyable albums – the sound here was bigger and livelier than any other – above all it’s balanced, avoiding many of the problems we heard on other pressings
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The great altoist was clearly excited to be playing at the famous New York club, and his rhythm section — pianist George Cables, bassist George Mraz and drummer Elvin Jones — consistently stimulates his imagination.”

This album features the great Elvin Jones on drums, plus Geoge Cables on piano and George Mraz on bass.

We played all four volumes of Art Pepper’s Village Vanguard series recently, and this copy was one of the best of the bunch. It features an intense live version of Pepper’s tune The Trip, from the wonderful album of the same title, as well as extended versions of the tunes You Go To My Head and Cherokee. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Mirage

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  • An outstanding copy of Mirage, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Most copies are washed-out, recessed, and lack weight, but this one will show you just how right this music can sound
  • The producing-engineering team of Ken Caillat and Richard Dashut return to provide top quality Rumours-like production
  • The album spent five weeks at Number One, probably on the strength of the amazingly fun single “Hold Me.”

It’s a surprisingly good album if you can find the right copy, with mids and highs that are really silky and sweet. The whole album has that glossy sound, clearly the influence of Lindsay Buckingham and his production team. The sound of Fleetwood Mac in this period is their doing, and with a phenomenal run of success that’s rarely been seen in pop history, it’s hard to argue with either their approach to the material or the sound. It sounds like they used every track on the multi-track recorder and then some. (more…)

Pink Floyd / Dark Side of the Moon – “NEVER would I have thought a single record could make this kind of difference…”

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Dan, our letter writer, is a new convert to the world of Hot Stampers. Although his system is modest by his own admission, the sound he was able to conjure up in his living room was “…a revelation…”
A good Dark Side can have that effect on you.

Hi Tom,
I received this DSOTM yesterday…

First I played the 180gm 25th anniversary release, so I listened to the first side. While it didn’t necessarily ‘grab’ me, I sat through and listened, with the assumption that I really needed to get a feel for this to do a somewhat critical A/B listening experience.

Then I put this Hot Stamper on.

From the very beginning, I heard vocals I never heard before, in my 12 years of listening to this album. There was such a dramatically engaging ‘dreamlike’ flow to the music, that I have never experienced before! The soundstage was so 3-dimensional, the speakers disappeared, and moment after moment, I completely forgot I was sitting in my living room!

NEVER would I have thought a single record could make this kind of difference… it was TRULY one of those rare experiences – a revelation, of recreating an actual concert in one’s listening room.

While my system is quite modest by most accounts, this is a new chapter in the music playback book, to hear/ listen to something that is so lifelike, everything else disappears.

I look forward to enjoying this for a lifetime.

Sincerely,
Dan E.

Dan started out by emailing me about having some records cleaned, especially a copy of the Dark Side on Heavy Vinyl remastered for the 25th Anniversary of its release, by Doug Sax with the assistance of Kevin Gray (basically just using Kevin’s mastering chain).

My less-than-artful reply:

Dan, this is not a good sounding record. Cleaning it won’t help it much. Boosted top, zero ambience, it’s a dog on most levels.

My excuse for being curt? Simply this: Who has time to waste talking about a bad sounding record? The world is full of them. Their shortcomings are obvious to anyone with even a halfway-decent stereo. (Apparently such stereos are in shorter supply than one would think.) But everything is relative; the Heavy Vinyl beat Dan’s SACD, so he naturally concluded that it must be pretty good, since SACD is widely considered the latest and greatest digital software around.

But we here at Better Records think all this digital foolishness is a load of crap, a dead end. The reason we think that is that we have access to amazing sounding pressings of records like Dark Side, and they have the kind of sound no CD or digital media of any kind has — in our experience — ever had. We call them – you guessed it — Hot Stampers.

When Dan asked if we had a Hot Stamper that would blow his mind and blow that Heavy Vinyl version right out of the water, I said “Hell Yeah!”

The rest is history I guess. (more…)

Julie Is Her Name – A Boxstar Bomb

 

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A Hall of Shame pressing from Cisco / Impex / Boxstar.

One question: Where’s the Tubey Magic?

We would never have pointed you in the direction of this awful Boxstar 45 of Julie Is Her Name, cut by Bernie Grundman, supposedly on tube equipment. I regret to say that we actually sold some copies, but in my defense I can honestly and truthfully claim that we never wrote a single nice thing about the sound of the record. That has to count for something, right? (more…)

Oscar Peterson – Plays The Jimmy McHugh Song Book

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  • This superb Oscar Peterson album boasts a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The piano has heft, the drums are big, and everything is relaxed and natural – this copy is doing pretty much what we want a top quality ’50s Peterson album to do
  • Songs you know well – I’m In The Mood For Love; On The Sunny Side Of The Street; I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, etc.
  • The last in the “Oscar Peterson Plays” series – Oscar puts his sublime touches to these timeless Jimmy McHugh classics
  • “[Peterson’s] sound was consistently classy and first rate here, as it was for his entire career… impeccable taste and technique and the best songs out there…”

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Sibelius / Violin Concerto / Heifetz – Classic Records Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records LP debunked.

Classic remastered this title in the ’90s — of course they did, it’s clearly one of the better Heifetz recordings.

As expected, their version was awful, as bad as LSC 1903, 1992, 2129 and others too numerous to list.  

It’s both aggressive and lacking in texture at the same time, the worst of both worlds. Bernie’s cutting system is what I would call Low Resolution — the harmonics and subtleties of the sound simply disappear. If you have the Classic, do your own shootout. We guarantee any Hot Stamper pressing will murder theirs.

Harry Belafonte – Sings The Blues – Superb Living Stereo Sound from 1958

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

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

Naturally the vocals have to be the main focus on a Harry Belafonte record. He should sound rich and tubey, yet clear, breathy and transparent. To qualify as a Hot Stamper the pressings we offer must be highly resolving, not crude and ambience-challenged the way so many modern LPs seem to be. You should be able to hear every element of the recording, with the voice and instruments surrounded by the natural space of the studios in which the recording was made.

This Copy

This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against. Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need it.

THIS is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There actually IS a CD of this album, and youtube videos of it too, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

Truly a Spectacular Demo Disc in its own right. (more…)

Mott The Hoople – Mott

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides, this copy will blow the doors off anything you’ve played
  • Both of these sides are rich and musical, solid down low, with Tubey Magic for days – forget the dubby domestic pressings, this is the sound you want for Mott
  • Bill Price engineered in 1973 – he’s the man behind The Clash’s Best Sounding Album, London Calling
  • AMG raves “This sounds better, looser, than All the Young Dudes, as the band jives through “All the Way From Memphis” and “Honaloochie Boogie,” beats the living hell outta “Violence,” swaggers on “Whizz Kid,” and simply drives it home on “Drivin’ Sister.”

This CBS Orange Label early British LP has the big British Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Phenomenally rich and sweet, with meaty bass and a smooth top, it’s the kind of sound you find on the best Ken Scott recordings from the early ’70s.

Bill Price engineered this one as he did for many of Mott’s albums. His claim to fame in these parts is London Calling, but his credits run into the hundreds for classic rock records starting in the ’60s right through to the ’80s.

We were surprised (although we shouldn’t be by now) that so many copies were slightly thin and dry. The first track on side one, the big hit All the Way From Memphis, tends to have a problem in that area more than the tracks that follow. (more…)