Debut Albums of Interest

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66 on Speakers Corner Heavy Vinyl

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Speakers Corner did a very good version of this album on Heavy Vinyl back in 2002, which we recommended at the time.

Our Hot Stamper pressings will of course be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings fall short, with very few exceptions. (more…)

Michael McDonald – If That’s What It Takes

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish for Michael McDonald’s Masterpiece and on fairly quiet vinyl to boot
  • Both of these sides are incredibly clean, clear, spacious and dynamic with excellent clarity, tons of energy and a big punchy bottom end
  • One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records (with the equally amazing Steve Gadd handling the other tracks)
  • Some of the best Pop Rock engineering of all time, courtesy of Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic – more importantly, this is a dramatically better album than anything the Doobies ever released

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Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here

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  • An amazing sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years; Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • We’re huge fans of this album and a copy like this lets the natural quality of the recording shine through
  • “Lowell’s style is so distinctive and his performances so soulful, it’s hard not to like this record if you’ve ever had a fondness for Little Feat.” — All Music, 4 1/2 stars

This kind of recording quality was abandoned decades ago, but there was a time — I’m old, I remember it — when engineers actually tried to produce recordings with this kind of rich, sweet, thoroughly analog sound. 1979, the year of this album’s release, is right at the tail end of it. Why do you think so much of our Hot Stamper output covers the decade that stretched from the late ’60s to the late ’70s? Only one reason — that’s where some of the best sound can be found. (It’s a bit like Willie Sutton’s famous answer to why he robbed banks: “because that’s where the money is”.)

Which is taking the long way round in saying that this recording has a healthy dose of analog Tubey Magic, in places maybe even a bit too much, as the sound can sometimes get too thick and overly rich, like a cake with too much frosting.

The best copies keep that wonderful analog smoothness and freedom from artificiality, adding to it the life and energy of classic rock and roll. Yes, you can have it all — rich analog sound that jumps out of the speakers! Just listen to those horns on Honest Man — that is the sound we are looking for on an album like this. (more…)

Neil Young – Neil Young – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

WOW! This copy has a KILLER A+++ side one backed with a strong A+ side two, both on unusually quiet vinyl! We just finished our first shootout in years for this great album and we came out with very little to show for it. It is INSANELY difficult to find great copies of this album, which is why we never have them available. 

The Loser and The Old Laughing Lady sound EXCELLENT on this copy.

Why is it so tough for us to find these? There’s a lot at play here, but one of the biggest issues is bad vinyl. Of the more than two dozen copies we identified as having the most potential (read: cleanest with good stampers), well over half of them had defective vinyl on side two that made at least the first song completely unlistenable. Again, those were our CLEANEST copies. And they were too noisy to play. What a mess!

Beyond that, the sound of most copies leaves a LOT to be desired. You get copies where Neil’s voice is so forward that it quickly becomes fatiguing and unpleasant. Many later pressings are just the opposite — Neil’s voice is so muffled, he is practically underwater. It’s the rare copy that puts him in the right place, and even then there’s still plenty of ways in which a copy can fail. (more…)

Roberta Flack – First Take

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  • Roberta Flack’s stunning debut album finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish 
  • The sound here is richer, fuller, more musical and more natural – Flack’s breathy voice is reproduced with a solidity and immediacy that’s not easy to find on vinyl
  • 5 stars: “Roberta Flack’s debut album, titled First Take in true underachiever fashion, introduced a singer who’d assimilated the powerful interpretive talents of Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan, the earthy power of Aretha Franklin, and the crystal purity and emotional resonance of folksingers like Judy Collins… one of the most fascinating soul debuts of the era.”

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Barbra Streisand – The Barbra Streisand Album

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

A killer 360 original stereo pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – the first copy to hit the site in many years. We recently did a shootout for this album and were thrilled at how natural and immediate the sound on the best copies can be. Good Ol’ Babs (actually, a very young Babs here) sounds LOVELY on this pressing — her voice is rich, breathy and textured with stellar presence. The orchestra backing her sounds wonderful and there’s plenty of bass to set a nice foundation for the music.

Excellent, natural, unprocessed sound. And she does a very nice job with this set of standards. This, and the album Guilty, are the two Streisand records I’m most likely to play. (more…)

Shawn Colvin – Steady On

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 stars: “Steady On is a triumph, with its emotional intimacy captured with smooth precision. Vocally, Colvin’s tender, sometimes whisper-like performances are astonishing and haunting, provocative and seductive all at once. Then there are the songs that flow so effortlessly into one another that to remove even one would seemingly upset the entire balance of the cosmos as we know it.”

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The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery & Imagination – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

Alan Parsons’ concept album based on the stories of Edgar Allen Poe was a TAS Super Disc for a while back in the day, and one can easily see why. The sound on the better pressings is big, solid and full-bodied with amazing resolving power and dynamics.

The best copies usually have exceptionally extended top ends. The best top ends are difficult to come by but they sure make a difference in the sound, revealing three-dimensional space that most copies do no better than to hint at. 

The upper harmonics of the instruments are reproduced beautifully here, and there’s ambience and air that are simply not audible on the average original pressing.

This was the first Alan Parsons Project album, and it features songs based on the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. It’s crazy music for sure, certainly not for everyone, but the recording is excellent, as you might expect from the man who engineered Dark Side Of The Moon, Abbey Road and mixed the first Ambrosia album.

The Raven is a highlight, featuring vocoder-enhanced vocals, a boy’s choir, big rock guitars and crazy synthesizers. Click the “AMG Review” tab above to learn more — they do an excellent job communicating what’s interesting about the music on this album. Those of you who like the first Ambrosia album may get a kick out of this one, as all four members participate in the festivities. (more…)

John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band

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  • Incredible sound for this early UK pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, an excellent way to hear these amazing songs
  • Working Man’s Hero, Love, Mother — these are immortal Lennon tracks, all with stunning sound on these White Hot sides
  • 5 stars: “It’s an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon’s catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.”

Incredible sound for this John Lennon classic! I would be hard pressed to tell you whether this or Imagine is his best sounding recording, because on the very best copies they can both be killer. Our first White Hot copy only made it to the site in 2016 — it took us a long time to find the right pressings of this album, and then years more to get enough in stock to do a major shootout. As you can imagine, clean early UK pressings of Lennon’s albums are hard to come by and pricey when you find them. (more…)

Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77 – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES of this White Hot Stamper LP. Side two rates A+++ and side one is not far behind at A++ – A+++. This copy murdered the typical pressings in an incredibly enjoyable shootout.We couldn’t believe how amazing this album can sound on a top copy. I’d even say that it’s a sonic step up from More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear Of Music and Remain In Light, probably tying with Little Creatures for top Talking Heads honors.

We’re huge Talking Heads fans at Better Records, but we’ve never tried to shoot out this album before this year because the copies we had played to this point were no great shakes. Regular copies of this album are now getting priced up to $17.99 at our local stores, so we just hadn’t bothered to pick up too many until we heard a surprisingly good copy earlier this year. We started stocking up on them and we ended needing a big stack, because only a few of them were able to show us what this album can really do. (more…)