Debut Albums of Interest

Dave Mason – Alone Together

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  • This outstanding copy of Mason’s Masterpiece boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Listen to how big and rich the dynamic chorus gets on the first track, Only You Know and I Know – what a thrill to hear it like that
  • A killer Bruce Botnick recording – Tubey Magical Analog, smooth and natural, with the whole production sitting on a rock solid bottom-end foundation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Alone Together represents Dave Mason at his peak… everything comes together perfectly.”

Before I get too far into the story of the sound, I want to say that this album appears to be criminally underrated as music nowadays, having fallen from favor with the passage of time.

It is a surely a masterpiece that belongs in any Rock Collection worthy of the name. Every track is good, and most are amazingly good. There’s no filler here. (more…)

Queen – Queen

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  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two and a side one that’s close to it, this original pressing has the analog magic in its grooves
  • Both sides here are big, full-bodied, clear and spacious with a nice bottom end and plenty of rock energy
  • “Almost every one of Queen’s signatures are already present, from Freddie Mercury’s operatic harmonies to Brian May’s rich, orchestral guitar overdubs and the suite-like structures of “Great King Rat”… It showcases the band in all their ornate splendor yet it’s strangely lean and hard, revealing just how good the band was in their early days as a hard rock band.”
  • Plays with surfaces as quiet as any we can find on both sides – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

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Paul McCartney – McCartney – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This stunning 2-pack of McCartney’s solo debut has AMAZING A+++ SOUND FROM START TO FINISH! It’s been AGES since we’ve heard a copy like this. Both sides have the kind of clarity, transparency and immediacy you need for this album to sound its best. Those qualities let you hear all the detail, nuance, and texture to the instruments that you just don’t get on the average pressing.

Both of the copies in this 2-pack have one amazing side and one side that just didn’t meet our standards, so we combined them to give you excellent sound for the entire album.

We recently finished another challenging shootout for this Better Records favorite and were thrilled to come up with a copy like this. It’s always been tough to find great sound and quiet vinyl for this album, and this time around was a NIGHTMARE. Most copies just don’t deliver, and most of the ones that do don’t pass our stringent condition check.

The presence and immediacy of this copy on both sides are OFF THE CHARTS! The sound is HUGE — wide, open, and SUPER transparent. There’s tons of ambience, lots of breath to the vocals, real depth to the soundfield and INCREDIBLE amounts of energy.

You don’t find many copies with this much Tubey Magic. Paul’s vocals are rich and full bodied, and the acoustic guitars are warm and sweet. The bass is tight and punchy, just the way we like it. If this copy sounded any better, my head might explode. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Bob Dylan – Our Shootout Winner from 2013 in Mono

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES RATING AT OR NEAR A+++ for this the MONO pressing! It’s beyond difficult to find copies of this album with good sound, but we managed to get a hold of a hot one here. This is a true solo album — guitar, vocals and harmonica — and it’s a lot of fun to hear a young (20!) Dylan playing the way he might have played in the coffee shops and folk clubs of Greenwich Village. 

The sound is richer and fuller than the average pressing; it’s also unusually lively and present. Above all the sound is natural and musical, the qualities that matter the most on a record like this.

And that’s not all! It’s also dynamic, lively, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The clarity is superb and even the harmonica sounds good. There’s tons of ambience — you can really hear the sound of the room around Dylan’s vocals. (more…)

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

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

Over the last five years or so we have been prepping for this shootout by buying and trying lots of different pressings. Right from the start we could hear that no domestic pressing was, or was likely to ever be, remotely competitive with the best Brits.

Most later reissues — domestic or import — were as flat and lifeless as a cassette, although we admit that some were clearly better than others.

The MoFi pressing is one of their best. Unfortunately we have little tolerance for the dynamic compression, overall lifelessness and wonky bass heard on practically every record they ever remastered. One of the reasons your MoFi might not sound wrong to you is that it isn’t really “wrong.” It’s doing most things right, and it probably will beat whatever you can find to throw at it.

But it’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing of In The Court Of The Crimson King, even one as good as MoFi’s.

Side by side the comparison will surely be striking. How much energy, size and power and passion is missing from the record you own? There’s only one way to find out, and it’s by playing a better copy of the album. This one will do nicely. (more…)

Joan Baez – Joan Baez

More Joan Baez

More Joan Baez – Joan Baez

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

This former member of the TAS list is the kind of recording that has everything going for it: Golden Age equipment in a live acoustic with a simple arrangement for voice and guitar (or two).

The purity and complete freedom from distortion allow the listener to imagine himself, to borrow a phrase, in the Living Presence of the performer. With a record this good it takes no effort whatsoever to suspend disbelief and imagine Joan and her guitar directly in front of you, a command performance if you will. (more…)

The Knack – Get The Knack – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This Monster Power Pop Debut by the Knack is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with the kind of Wall to Wall Big Beat Live Rock Sound that rivals Back in Black and Nevermind — if you’re lucky enough to have a copy that sounds like this one! (If you’re not then it doesn’t.)

Side two here has White Hot Stamper sound, and let me be clear: this is a Rock Demo Disc that is very likely to lay waste to whatever rock demo disc you currently treasure. My Sharona is simply OUT OF THIS WORLD here. You just can’t record drums and bass any better!

And let’s not forget the song Lucinda on this side. It’s got exactly the same incredibly meaty, grungy, ballsy sound that Back in Black does, but it managed to do it in 1979, a year earlier!

Mike Chapman produced this album and he is a recording GENIUS. How much better could it get you ask? The answer is: None more better. (more…)

Big Brother & The Holding Company

More Big Brother & The Holding Company

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

This album has got that trippy ’60s San Francisco sound, no doubt about it. Those of you who are familiar with Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow or the early Grateful Dead albums know what I’m talking about. Like you might expect from this mixture of blues and psychedelic rock, the sound can be a bit raw. That’s surely the way the band wanted you to hear it, and this copy gives you, more than anything else, the right sound for this music. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2014

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

It’s hard to imagine any copy beating this one! The vinyl is Mint Minus throughout, and the sound is INSANELY GOOD! The chances of finding these surfaces with this sound — we’ll let you do the math. If you’re a fan of this album – and who isn’t – this is the copy you want. Side one blew our minds and earned a grade of A++++!

  • A truly stunning copy, with top grades and exceptionally quiet vinyl
  • We gave side one here a Four Plus grade, going way beyond what we were expecting – the soundstage is absolutely huge
  • Triple Plus sound for side two, incredible in its own right with super high resolution and plenty sweet, rich Tubey Magic
  • A 5 star album in the AMG, and a true classic 

More A++++ Hot Stamper Pressings. (more…)

Frank Zappa & The Mothers – Freak Out! – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

More Frank Zappa

Freak Out!

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

No Demo Disc by any stretch, this Hot Stamper beat the pants off of what appears to be a true first pressing that we just happened to have on hand. Most pressings of this double album are just awful, if you can even find one that’s clean enough to bother playing. Our copy here earned grades of A Plus on sides one, two and four, and a grade of A Double Plus on side three. No copy in our shootout earned a higher grade than A++, for the simple reason that we just can’t find enough clean original copies with which to do a definitve shootout.  (more…)