Month: October 2021

Bernard Herrmann – Listening in Depth to The Fantasy Film World of Bernard Herrmann

More Bernard Herrmann

Bernard Herrmann Recordings We’ve Reviewed

xxxxx

Music like this taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep organ notes (listen for the famous Decca rumble accompanying the organ if you have the deep bass reproduction to hear it); incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects everywhere — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some. (You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can’t even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!)

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Journey to the Center of the Earth

All those lovely harps! You can practically feel the cool air of the cave as you descend into the blackness.

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad

Side one boasts some wonderful material from Jason and the Argonauts, including the fight with the skeletons that we all remember from our Saturday matinee movie days. Who else could have orchestrated such a film?

Side Two

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Astonishingly powerful deep bass and drum sounds!

Fahrenheit 451

One of our key tests for side two is the string tone on the Fire Engine sequence here. The best copies had wonderfully textured and tonally correct strings, with just the right amount of sheen — not glossy, not gritty, not blurry, but just right.

Any orchestral recording without good string tone is a lost cause. (Almost all Classic Records fail miserably in this regard. They may be on the TAS List but that sure doesn’t mean they sound any good!)

(more…)

Dave Mason – It’s Like You Never Left

More Dave Mason

More Folk Rock

xxxxx

  • It’s Like You Never Left finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish on this original Columbia stereo pressing
  • Mason’s comeback got help from Graham Nash, Stevie Wonder and George Harrison
  • There’s good extension up top and down low, with plenty of meaty bass and silky highs
  • “Mason is perhaps one of the most creative forces, lyrically, musically and vocally, in pop today.” — Billboard, 1973

I was a big fan of this album when it came out in 1973. I used to play it all the time in fact. Now I hear why – it’s big and rich with a solid bottom end and a smooth, sweet top, perfect for the big but not especially sophisticated speakers (the Fulton J System) I had back in the day.

This album has the kind of sound that the typical CD just doesn’t want anything to do with. Not that the Compact Disc couldn’t pull it off — there are good sounding CDs in this world, I own hundreds of them — but it doesn’t seem to want to even try.

Graham Nash helps out on vocals on tracks one, two and five on the first side. Stevie Wonder plays a lovely harmonica solo on The Lonely One on side two, and George Harrison guests on guitar on If You’ve Got Love, the third track on side one. (more…)

Miles Davis – Sorcerer

More Miles Davis

More of Our Best Jazz Trumpet Recordings

xxxxx

  • An outstanding pressing of Sorcerer, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Sorcerer demonstrates the big-as-life, spacious and unerringly accurate 30th Street Studio Sound Fred Plaut was justly famous for
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The emphasis is as much on complex, interweaving chords and a coolly relaxed sound as it is on sheer improvisation, though each member tears off thoroughly compelling solos. Still, the individual flights aren’t placed at the forefront the way they were on the two predecessors — it all merges together, pointing toward the dense soundscapes of Miles’ later ’60s work.”

Drop the needle anywhere and listen to how open, transparent and spacious this early pressing is. The soundfield is HUGE — big, wide and deep.

Everything sounds natural, balanced and correct. The bass has good tone, the piano has weight, the brass has the right amount of bite, and so on.

We had a big stack of copies for this shootout, including a bunch of 360 originals and some later Red Label pressings. You can find great sound on either label but it will probably take you quite a few copies to get there, and you’d need a serious stack to have any hope of finding two sides this good on vinyl that plays well.

And by the way, copies of classic Miles Davis albums from the ’60s are neither easy to find nor are they cheap. Hit the jazz bins at your local store and I’m sure you’ll have the same experience we’ve been having — tons of pricey modern reissues but not too many clean vintage pressings. (more…)

The Vaughan Brothers – Family Style

More Stevie Ray Vaughan

More Electric Blues

xxxxx

  • This pressing of Jimmie and Stevie Ray’s 1990 release has superb Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Space, clarity, transparency, and in-the-room immediacy were off the charts on this pressing – it beat every copy we had hands down
  • “Jimmie makes his vocal debut on ‘White Boots’ and ‘Good Texan,’ and the brothers blur the lines between their expected guitar styles — Stevie sometimes going for a less sustainy twang, Jimmie moving into Albert King territory.”

(more…)

Billy Joel / 52nd Street – A Random Copy Tells You What, Exactly?

More Billy Joel

Reviews and Commentaries for 52nd Street

Sonic Grade: Side One: F / Side Two: C+

The Impex (Cisco) 180 gram remastering of 52nd Street was cut by Kevin Gray, under the direction of Robert Pincus (aka Mr Record), at the now defunct AcousTech Mastering in Camarillo. We noted the following in a recent review for a much superior (how could it not be?) Hot Stamper pressing:

Side one is a joke (zero ambience, resolution, energy, etc.) but side two is actually quite good. Side two fixes the biggest problem with the album: hard, honky vocals.

In his review appearing in The Absolute Sound, Neil Gader plucks two songs out of the album’s nine as especially meritorious. Oddly enough they’re both on side two. I wonder why.  (more…)

Dire Straits / Alchemy: Dire Straits Live – How Good Are the Robert Ludwig Pressings?

More Dire Straits

More Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice

The best domestic pressings we heard, the ones cut by Robert Ludwig at Masterdisk, were simply not competitive with the original British LPs.

The evidence is pretty clear that the master tapes stayed in England and that only the British pressings are made from them.

(more…)

Dave Brubeck – Time In from 1966

More Dave Brubeck

xxxxx

  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides of this pressing of Time In, the last album recorded in Brubeck’s “Time” series
  • This 360 Stereo pressing boasts the clean, clear, solid, lively piano sound we love about Brubeck’s records from this era
  • The best vintage pressings of Brubeck’s Columbia albums from the ’50 through the ’60s are exceptionally natural, with unerringly correct sound from top to bottom
  • 4 stars: “The last of pianist and composer Dave Brubeck’s “Time” recordings, and one of his most musically adventurous. Though it is seldom celebrated as such, this is one of Brubeck’s finest moments on Columbia.”

This vintage Columbia 360 stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the audience at the live show, this is the record for you. It’s what Live Jazz Recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Foreigner – 4

More Foreigner

xxxxx

  • You’ll find stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on this Radio Rock Classic 
  • This copy had the best energy, the punchiest bass, and biggest, most immediate presentation in our shootout
  • Rockers like Juke Box Hero and Urgent, along with the heartfelt ballad Waiting For A Girl Like You, are guaranteed to sound better than you ever imagined or your money back
  • “In producer Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange – fresh off his massive success with AC/DC’s Back in Black – guitarist and all-around mastermind Mick Jones found both the catalyst to achieve [a grand slam of a record] and his perfect musical soulmate… All things considered, 4 remains Foreigner’s career peak.”

What’s key to the sound of Foreigner’s records? Obviously, the big one would have to be ENERGY, a subject we have discussed at length here on the site. Next would be punchy ROCK BASS, followed by clear, present vocals.

Those are the big ones, and we are happy to report that this copy had the best Foreigner sound in all three areas. (more…)

Jeff Beck – Truth

More Jeff Beck

More Rod Stewart

xxxxx

  • Easily – and by a wide margin – the best sounding record Jeff Beck ever made – thanks Ken Scott! (And thank you, CBS, for the exceptionally quiet vinyl)
  • This pressing embodies the Big Rock Sound, the kind we go crazy for here at Better Records
  • Really fun music – it’s a blast to hear Rod Stewart fronting such a heavy rock band
  • AMG 5 Stars “…almost as groundbreaking and influential a record as the first Beatles, Rolling Stones, or Who albums.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


This is a SHOCKINGLY good sounding pressing of Truth, Beck’s As-Heavy-As-I-Can-Make-It Rock debut, the kind of record that would define Classic Rock for the next forty plus years.

The soundstage is absolutely HUGE, while the presence and transparency of this copy go way beyond most pressings. Great rock and roll energy too of course — without that you have nothing on this album.

Note how spacious, big, full-bodied and DYNAMIC both sides are. That’s why they’re Super Hot. I am pleased to report that the whomp factor on these sides was nothing short of MASSIVE. With tons of bass these sides have what it takes to make the music ROCK. (more…)

Letter of the Week – “Where should everything be on the ‘stage?'”

Hot Stamper Pressings of Wish You Were Here Available Now

Letters and Commentaries for Wish You Were Here

One of our good customers had some questions about the Hot Stamper pressing he had purchased:

  Hey Tom, 

Hope you are fine! Please let me ask for a bit of help/advice. It may seem to be a stupid question, but it is essential to me to get clarity about my room and treatments.

It is about Wish you were here, the song on side two of the album. Got the white hot and it is sounding phenomenal.

Now my questions: It is about 1) the „huuhh“ followed by the 2) harrumph and the following 3) two tunings of the guitar.

1) Until yesterday the „huuhh“ was coming out between the loudspeaker, with small changes in the room treatment it is now coming from right, which sounds good. The accoustik guitar intro came before and comes after the changes from between the speakers. So my question: Should the „huuhh“ come from the middle or from the right. When coming from right the sound in general sounds more dynamic to me.

Hans,

Let me tell you what I can say without going back into the studio to play the record. These are some things that are generally true.

You are probably correct I am guessing. The reason for that is that the guitar is miked but not the vocal, meaning the vocal may be displaced in the soundstage due to phase issues. It is off-axis to the mic, and therefore “out somewhere,” not where the guitar is, because only the guitar is directionally miked.

2) The harrumph comes from the right side, right?

3) The two guitar tunings: first comes from the upper middle of the stage, the second comes from the right upper side, correct? Especially those two guitar tunings are in my opinion extremely fragile to changes, really minor changes in room acoustic and speaker placement, I would say half of a cm or so are enough for changes where they come from.

Would be great, if you can give me some input here. All in all, if half a year ago somebody would have told me my stereo sounds like it does now, I would have told him, that’s impossible. Now, I want even more, and the more I do, the more I am convinced that the room with the treatments together with speaker placement are the critical point.

All of this gets at the same questions – where should everything be on the “stage?”

The danger is making these judgments with one record is that you never want to optimize one record, only to find out it sounds good but others you own don’t. Here is an old commentary about that:

In 2005, I Fell Into a Common Audiophile Trap

This one is a tough test too:

The Blood, Sweat and Tears Turn Up Your Volume Test

So the best thing to do is get all your hardest test records out and start playing them and making notes as you make changes to your system.

You are correct that speaker placement is very important. Room treatments too. I would add electricity to that list.

I said so in my review of the 45 RPM Tillerman:

Recently I was able to borrow a copy of the new 45 cutting from a customer who had rather liked it. I would have never spent my own money to hear a record put out on the Analogue Productions label, a label that has an unmitigated string of failures to its name. But for free? Count me in!

The offer of the new 45 could not have been more fortuitous. I had just spent a number of weeks playing a White Hot Stamper Pink Label original UK pressing in an attempt to get our new Playback Studio sounding right.

We had a lot of problems. We needed to work on electrical issues. We needed to work on our room treatments. We needed to work on speaker placement.

We initially thought the room was doing everything right, because our Go To setup disc, Bob and Ray, sounded super spacious and clear, bigger and more lively than we’d ever heard it. That’s what a 12 foot high ceiling can do for a large group of musicians playing live in a huge studio, in 1959, on an All Tube Chain Living Stereo recording. The sound just soared.

But Cat Stevens wasn’t sounding right, and if Cat Stevens isn’t sounding right, we knew we had a Very Big Problem. Some stereos play some kinds of records well and others not so well. Our stereo has to play every kind of record well because we sell every kind of record there is. You name the kind of music, we probably sell it. And if we offer it for sale, we had to have played it and liked the sound, because no record makes it to our site without being auditioned and found to have excellent sound.

And as for your stereo being so much better than you thought it could ever be, I wrote about that twenty years ago!

The Myth of Diminishing Returns in Audio

Hope all this helps. Feel free to email me anytime.

Best, TP


FURTHER READING

(more…)