A List of Personal Favorites

Peter Frampton – Where I Should Be – A Personal Favorite

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One of my personal Records to Die For. This album presents a more mature Peter Frampton doing some of the most consistently inspired material of his career, including R&B covers like May I Baby and You Don’t Know Like I Know, with horn charts that really cook — in other words, a great album.

One of my personal Records to Die For. This album presents a more mature Peter Frampton doing some of the most consistently inspired material of his career, including R&B covers like May I Baby and You Don’t Know Like I Know, with horn charts that really cook — in other words, a great album. (more…)

Graham Nash – Songs for Beginners – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you go about critically evaluating your copies of Songs for Beginners.

This is one helluva well recorded album. Most of the credit must go to the team of recording engineers, led here by the esteemed Bill Halverson, the man behind all of the Crosby Stills Nash and Young albums. Nash was clearly influenced by his work with his gifted bandmates, proving with this album that he can hold his own with the best of the best.

Some songs (We Can Change The World, Be Yourself) are grandly scaled productions with the kind of studio polish that would make Supertramp envious. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better.

Others (Sleep Song, Wounded Bird) are quiet and intimate. Their subtlely is highlighted by the big productions surrounding them. This is that rare album in which every aspect of the production, from the arrangements to the final mix, serves to bring out the best qualities in the songs, regardless of scale.

The recording is of course superb throughout, in the best tradition of Crosby Stills and Nash’s classic early albums: transparent, smooth and sweet vocals, with loads of midrange magic ; deep punchy bass; lovely extension on the top to capture the shimmer of the cymbals and harmonic trails of the acoustic guitars; with the whole balanced superbly by one of our all-time heroes, Glyn Johns. (more…)

Crowded House – Woodface – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

This WHITE HOT STAMPER Woodface fulfills the promise of this extraordinarily well-recorded album beyond all expectations. We have an expression that we reserve for this kind of record — Master Tape Sound. When you drop the needle on a record this good you feel like you just threaded up the master tape and hit play. The effect so totally immerses you in the musical experience that you forget you’re listening to a record at all.

In your mind you have the sense that you’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians, producers and engineers intended it to sound. It’s perfection. The sound is everything you want it to be as you experience every element of the music seemingly without limitation. It only happens when the right record meets the right stereo, and that means rarely, but when it does the memory of the sound becomes fixed in the mind like no other, and it never leaves.  (more…)

Peter Frampton – Wind of Change

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  • Incredible Demo Disc sound throughout: Triple Plus (A+++) on side two and close to that (A++ to A+++) on side one 
  • This British original is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC, with sound so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash (now that record stores don’t even want them anymore)
  • The best copies like this one keep what’s good about the recording while letting us hear into the soundfield with glorious transparency
  • “The sound is crisp, the melodies catchy, and Frampton’s distinctive, elliptical Gibson Les Paul guitar leads soar throughout… “

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd, Elton John and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

The best song Peter Frampton ever wrote (and performed) is on this very record, in White Hot Stamper sound no less: All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side). It has the Tubey Magical sound WE LOVE here at Better Records. (more…)

Liszt / Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter

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Piano Concertos No. 1 and 2 / Kondrashin / Richter

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  • This pressing has Beyond White Hot Stamper (A++++) sound on both sides – sound that must be experienced to be believed! – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • The finest Liszt 1st and 2nd Piano Concertos we know of for their performances, and unquestionably for sonics (when the sonics are this good!)
  • More like LIVE MUSIC than any classical recording I have played in longer than I care to remember
  • So big, rich and transparent we guarantee you have never heard a better piano concerto recording – this is a game changer, the first time a single pressing of the album has earned grades these high on both sides

NOTE: *Unlike Concerto No. 1, The Second Piano Concerto opens very quietly, so there will likely never be a vintage pressing of the album that will get that opening to play like a CD. Expect to hear some random ticks, a small price to pay to hear this wonderful performance on top quality analog.

Please note: we award the Four Plus (A++++) grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. We rarely find records with this kind of sound, just a few times a year at most — this is the only one on the site at this time.  (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – The Pious Bird Of Good Omen

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

If you’re a fan of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac — and who in his right mind wouldn’t be — then you can’t go wrong with this record. Need Your Love So Bad, Albratross and Black Magic Woman are all featured here.

Speaking of Black Magic Woman, the best copies of Pious Bird reproduce the bass-heavy drumming on that track much better than the Greatest Hits album we also recommend. It’s very unlikely that you can find better sound for that classic than right here on this very copy.

Side One

White Hot shootout winning sound. Big and rich, with correct tonality, this is the way early Fleetwood Mac is supposed to sound. No smear at all, which is rare on these pressings.

Side Two

Nearly as good, with rich vocals and plenty of punchy energy to drive the music. Good space too. (more…)

Ten Years After – A Space In Time – A Thrill on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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A Space In Time

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A Space in Time is just one of the recordings that made me pursue Big Stereo Systems driving Big Speakers, right from my earliest days in audio. You need large dynamic drivers with plenty of piston area – the kind that can move a lot of air – in order to bring the power of the music to life.  

If you have big speakers and a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better than A Space in Time. (more…)

Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot

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  • This outstanding pressing of Clear Spot boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • One of the better copies of Clear Spot to hit the site in recent years – no question about it, this is his Masterpiece!
  • Produced by Ted Templeman, Clear Spot is one of Beefheart’s most accessible albums and, IMHO, his best
  • 4 stars: “The sound is great throughout, and the feeling is of the coolest bar-band in town, not to mention one that could eat all the patrons for breakfast if it felt like it.”

Two outstanding sides for this masterpiece of bent rock. It’s not easy to find great sound for this album — that’s why you so seldom see it up on our site. There are a whole lot of problematic pressings out there, but when you find one that really gets it right the sound is nothing short of SUPERB. (more…)

Peter Frampton – Frampton – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This is a shootout we’d been trying to do for years, but the copies we’d been playing off and on hadn’t been especially cooperative, and onto the back burner our plans would go. Maybe next year…

A bit of background: Both his first solo album and this, his fourth, were recorded by the well-known engineer Chris Kimsey, who famously worked with the Stones and others too numerous to mention. To say that the sound of his albums varies considerably would be the understatement of the year. The first album (British only, fyi) is rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical as practically anything you’ve ever heard (as well as overly tube compressed, its biggest fault).

Sonically this album tends to be none of those things. However, if you play enough copies you are sure to run into at least some that sound right.

I unashamedly confess to being a huge Frampton fan to this very day. His first album, Wind of Change, has been a Desert Island Disc for me ever since I picked up my first copy while still in high school in 1972. I’m a Big Production Rock Guy, as you may have guessed from looking at the records we rave about the most, and Frampton’s first album is a classic of Big Production Rock, in the style of Abbey Road, Dark Side of the Moon, Songs for Beginners and fifty others I could name. Make that a hundred others. Or two hundred. (more…)

Crowded House – Crowded House

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

This original domestic pressing offers killer Hot Stamper sound for both sides of Crowded House’s wonderful debut. 

Musically side one is absolutely brilliant from first note to last. Crowded House may have wanted to be the New Beatles, but those are some pretty big shoes to fill. They fell a bit short — who can compete with The Beatles? — but in their heyday, 1985-1993, they were better at making intelligent, original, melody-driven pop than practically any other group I was listening to. If you like the Art Rock of the ’70s, this album shows that smart, adult rock music could still be made a decade or more later. (more…)