Month: October 2020

AC/DC – Let There Be Rock

xxxxx

  • An outstanding copy with seriously good Double Plus (A++) sound – this is clearly the right sound for this guitar-fueled heavy rock
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout, the sound is big, full, lively and spacious with hard-rockin’ energy to spare
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… as lean and mean as the original lineup ever got… this is a high-voltage, brutal record, filled with “Bad Boy Boogie… It has a bit of a bluesier edge than other AC/DC records, but this is truly the sound of the band reaching its peak… it’s sweaty, dirty, nasty rock, music that is played to the last call and beyond, and they’ve rarely done that kind of rock better than they did here.”

(more…)

The Monkees – The Birds,The Bees and The Monkees

  • KILLER sound throughout for this original Colgems pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • These sides are doing just about everything right — rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with wonderfully sweet and breathy vocals and a huge bottom end
  • “Featuring more than half of its material written by band members, The Birds, the Bees & the Monkees ranks as a favorite among longtime fans… it’s one of the band’s finest records, a great representation of the era and an even better pop album.” – Ultimate Classic Rock

(more…)

Duke Ellington – At the Bal Masque

xxxxx

  • A stunning sounding Six-Eye Columbia pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Here are boatloads of the kind of Tubey Magical richness that make these vintage Columbia recordings the uniquely satisfying listening experience we know them to be
  • More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York – the size and power of a jazz orchestra in glorious all ANALOG sound
  • “Ellington and his all-star orchestra manage to transform what could be a set of tired revival swing into superior dance music and swinging jazz… a surprise success.”

If you want to know what it was like to attend an Ellington supper club concert, this record will do the trick (even though the album was recorded in the studio and the applause added later). Ellington’s magic is on display for everyone to hear. (more…)

Duke Ellington – Jazz Party in Stereo

xxxxx

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This original stereo Six-Eye from 1959 is one of the few copies of this famous album to hit the site in many years, and of course one of the best
  • Many copies of the copies we played would get aggressive or edgy, but this one is smooth in the right way, and for that you can thank CBS’s legendary 30th St. studios
  • 4 stars: “A most unusual Duke Ellington record, two selections feature nine symphonic percussionists on tympani, vibes, marimbas and xylophones.

(more…)

Letter of the Week – Fleetwood Mac – How We Go About Our Shootouts and Lots More Where That Came From

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

Hey Tom, 

  Sorry to say I will be returning this White Hot Stamper. Did a lot of
  research before ordering, understand and fully appreciate what you’re
  doing, seriously sad to not be keeping it. Pretty obviously you are
  crazy dedicated to this so wanted to fully explain why. Especially
  since there’s still good odds I would like to try again.

  First let me say it was quite the experience unpacking and seeing a
  cover still in its original shrink wrap. Probably quite a few would
  consider that alone worth the price. I never even slipped it out of
  the excellent plastic sleeve you shipped it in, that’s how much
  instant respect I have for the unbelievably unlikely existence of this
  thing. It truly is amazing. I bought it for the music not the cover,
  but still….

  The reason I will be returning this is Side 1. Monday Morning was a
  disappointment, but I really think we are kind of at the mercy of the
  master here. Warm Ways is a whole lot better, and yes quite a bit
  better than my copy, with a fair bit more inner detail and palpable
  presence but overall not much more than I have got from some good 45
  or heavy vinyl pressings.

  Just so you know, yes I do follow all your suggestions. Warm up,
  demagnetize, anti-static, all of that and more. Have a demagnetizer
  much more effective than the Talisman. Been doing all this stuff over
  20 years now. Because I hear and appreciate. Cables elevated off the
  floor. Every wire from the breaker to the speaker been cryo’d. Yes I
  pulled the wire out of the house, drove it down to Cryo One, had them
  do it all.

  Part of the problem. I hear how much better Side 1 is, it goes into
  that frame of reference. For over $300 it needs to be at least as
  great an improvement over my copy as I can get from warm-up,
  demagnetize, etc. Its not.

  Well your rating did say Side 2 was a bit better. Frankly, I think you
  could stand to correct that. Side 2 is a whole lot better. Right from
  the first track its just way more lively, present, dynamic, punchy,
  you name it. Not sure why you say Say You Love Me is “rich and sweet
  and tubey” probably that is one of the stock phrases you use
  throughout the site because this track offers, relative to the others
  on this side, less of this.

  Which brings me to Landslide, and World Turning. These two tracks
  totally deserve all the most glowing Better Records accolades! Simply
  superb sonics. Better even in some ways than my MoFi 45 of Brothers in
  Arms. Now this is what I was hoping for! The spellbinding sound of
  these two tracks is almost enough to make me forget Side 1.

  Almost. And its not like the rest of Side 2 is bad. Honestly, when it
  gets to this level (of pressing quality) you can hear so deeply what’s
  going on it becomes inescapable we are at a level where we are at the
  mercy of the mastering engineer. Or if not him then someone even
  further along up the recording chain. You know what I mean. I know you
  know what I mean. Because, in reading one of your glowing reviews was
  the comment, basically, “but get real, its Springsteen.” Because for
  whatever reason he could never be bothered to turn out a good recording.

  So I know. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. It might
  very well be no copy of Fleetwood Mac ever pressed gonna have a Side 1
  that sounds as good all the way across as this Side 2. But I figure if
  anyone would know that it would be you.

  And that’s kind of where I am. The copy I have right now is worth to
  me only a fraction of the price. If the whole thing sounded like Side
  2 though, then I would be a happy camper. The price would still be
  dear, but worth it. Find me a copy like that, same price, don’t bother
  posting it, its sold. Or credit this one down a whole lot. I’d prefer
  the first option. If it even exists.

  Sorry for the email. Guy like you I would love to get on the phone.
  Which with my schedule, no chance until Wed or Thurs, and I didn’t
  want to wait. But I still would like to talk. You know the records and
  now you know a little about me. Maybe you can help me find the few
  select copies I just can’t live without. I got the feeling if anyone
  can, its you.

  Best regards,

  Chuck M.

Chuck,

A few quick thoughts:

Since every stereo plays every record differently, it’s hard to know why
our copy did not sound as good to you as it did to us. When it comes
back I will personally play it against our 3+ ref copy and see how it
holds up.

2.5+ means it came in second in the shootout. Maybe it didn’t deserve
that grade, I will find out!

The other issue is a much more subtle one. We play all the side ones
against all the other side ones, so comparing side one to side two is
something we would never do, it’s apples and oranges in a way, many side
ones of albums simply do not sound as good as their side twos, and vice
versa, and we note that in some of our listings.

We could honestly say that about a great many records if we took the
time to do it.

On F Mac’s self-titled album I am not aware that that is the case, but
it could be!

We play tracks one and four on side one to test with. They are the
hardest tracks to get right in our experience.

Monday Morning has huge amounts of bass and a slightly gritty vocal, so
it’s very difficult to get that song to sound right and easy to spot
when it does sound right.

Warm Ways is a piece of cake and sounds at the very least “good” most of
the time, so it’s not much of a test for us, although richness,
intimacy, space and transparency are obviously better on this track on
the better copies.

Anyway, I will check it out when it comes back and hopefully get back to
you before too long.

Thanks for taking the time to write.

Best, TP

Tom,

Had Fleetwood Mac all packed to send back, couldn’t quite do it. Last
night I pulled it out for a second listen. This time, instead of going
head to head with my other copy I had a more normal listening session of
playing increasingly good SQ records. I have a pretty good memory for
these things which is probably what was bugging me and keeping me from
sending it back. Sure enough, listening again you can clearly hear much
deeper into the recording than probably anything else I have. This is by
far the most I’ve ever paid for any one record, I was actually nervous
handling it, probably just psyched myself out. Plus, and this is still
sinking in, this is a very unusual and highly specialized niche item
we’re talking about. Much as I’d wish for a copy where both sides sound
as good as Side 2 on this one does, I can tell by now you wouldn’t be
selling that one for the same price anyway! (more…)

Tom Waits – Foreign Affairs

xxxxx

  • With Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sound or close to it on both sides, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for the album
  • This early pressing was hard to fault – it will put Tom Waits right between your speakers, with a batch of great session players behind and to the side, all playing live in the studio
  • “The album contains more ballads than most of his records do, but they were the most effective vehicles for the kind of storytelling he was trying to get to. Produced and engineered by Bones Howe, Foreign Affairs was recorded live in studio by a quintet that included West Coast jazzmen Jack Sheldon on trumpet, saxophonist Frank Vicari, bassist Jim Hughart, and drummer Shelly Manne.

(more…)

Cream – Goodbye

xxxxx

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • The low end speed and energy on this copy are crazy good – it’s like a Cream concert in your listening room
  • The best pressings, the ones that are full-bodied and smooth, let you crank the levels and reproduce the album good and loud the way it was meant to be heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • “The live music on the whole is better than that on Wheels of Fire, capturing the trio at an empathetic peak as a band.”

When you get a good copy of this album you’re sure to hear what we heard — that this is truly one of the great live rock albums (with a bit of studio material on side two as well). This copy has the Big Rock Sound that we go crazy for at Better Records. The best pressings, the ones that are full-bodied and smooth, let you crank the levels and reproduce the album good and loud the way it was meant to be heard.

When it’s all working, you’re front and center for a fiery Cream concert with these guys delivering one heckuva performance. And where else are you gonna get that these days? (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Blue Kentucky Girl

xxxxx

  • A superb sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides have the kind of rich, natural sound we found on far too few copies and little of the vocal edginess that many EH albums suffer from
  • Surprisingly full-bodied and not overly detailed for a recording from 1979 – they still knew what they were doing then
  • “In response to criticism that her records weren’t country enough, Harris recorded Blue Kentucky Girl, one of her most traditional outings. Relying on a more acoustic sound, the album largely forsakes contemporary pop songs in favor of standard country fare, including the Louvin Brothers’ “Everytime You Leave” and Leon Payne’s “They’ll Never Take His Love from Me.”

(more…)

Enya – Watermark

xxxxx

  • Two superb sides each rating a solid Double Plus (A++) giving you an excellent pressing of this New Age masterpiece – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Orinoco Flow (aka Sail Away) is the big hit here and it sounds amazing on a copy like this
  • 5 stars: “…the subtlety that characterizes her work at her best dominates Watermark, with the lovely title track, her multi-tracked voice gently swooping among the lead piano, and strings like a softly haunting ghost, as fine an example as any.”

The sound here is airy, open, spacious, and super transparent. This may not be our favorite music in the world, but it’s hard to argue with sonics like this. The instruments all have lovely texture, and it’s easy to pick out and follow them over the course of a song. (more…)

John Coltrane – More Lasting Than Bronze

xxxxx

  • This superb Prestige Two-Fer offer outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Compiled from two nearly complete Classic albums, Lush Life and Coltrane, this collection boasts masterful sound – thanks RVG!
  • Full-bodied, energetic, and tonally correct from top to bottom and, these pressings are guaranteed to bring Coltrane’s music to life
  • “Rarely does a single performance uncover the essence of an artist with such aptness. The well-crafted melody is treated above all with dignity, which may be part of the reason it remains flawless.”

The jackets for these Two-Fers tend to have some ringwear. We will of course put these two discs in the nicest cover we have available.

This is the kind of recording that makes people respect Rudy Van Gelder. Believe me, most of his stuff doesn’t sound this good! And since he mastered these pressings, we have to give him even more credit for doing the transfer exceptionally well. I am on record as saying that many of his own transfers are problematical. Not this one! Since this has two of Coltrane’s greatest albums together, I can’t recommend this record any more highly. (more…)