A List of Personal Favorites

Fleetwood Mac – Mystery To Me – Whomp Factor on “Why”

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

That bass drum tells you a lot about your deep bass reproduction, but we prize a little something called whomp here at Better Records every bit as much. It’s the WEIGHT and POWER you sense happening down below that translates into whomp factor. (This is the frequency area that screens and small dynamic drivers have the most trouble with. You need to be able to move lots of air under, say, 200 cycles to give the music a sense of real power down below. Few systems I’ve run into over the last thirty years can really pull it off.) 

That bass drum tells you a lot about your deep bass reproduction, but we prize a little something called whomp here at Better Records every bit as much. It’s the WEIGHT and POWER you sense happening down below that translates into whomp factor.

“Why”

Speaking of the song “Why,” I have to confess that it’s my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time. Considering how many great songs this band has recorded over the last thirty plus years, that’s really saying something. (“Need Your Love So Bad” off Pious Bird is right up there with it.) (more…)

Yes – The Yes Album

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The Yes Album

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  • A Big As Life copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides – I’ve Seen All Good People is mindblowing on this side one
  • You haven’t begun to hear the power and size of Yes’s brilliant third album until you’ve played one of our Shootout Winning early domestic pressings
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record if you ask us (although Fragile can sound absolutely amazing too, just not as smooth and rich)
  • “Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other’s work as a knowledgeable band should.”

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl, as is the case on this side two. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the imperfections of this pressing you are in for some amazing Yes music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers who like to play their records loud.

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it. (more…)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It!

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You’re Gonna Get It!

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  • A solidly hard rockin’ copy with seriously good grades of Double Plus (A++) or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich and open with a killer bottom end, musically it’s surely the best record Tom Petty ever made – a late ’70s Rock Classic 
  • Three of Petty’s best songs are on this one – Restless, I Need To Know and Listen To Her Heart – and they sound amazing
  • “Overall, the current LP boasts an impressive stylistic cohesiveness with its predecessor, but what makes the album exciting are the fresh hints of openness and expansion just beneath the surface. The rhythms are a bit looser, and there’s a new emphasis on Petty’s rough, driving, rock & roll guitar in the mix.” Rolling Stone

Sweetly textured guitars, breathy vocals — all the subtleties of a High Quality Recording are here, along with prodigious amounts of bass and powerful dynamics. Check out that drum sound! If you can play this one at the levels it demands you might just be shocked at how good it sounds. (more…)

Nat “King” Cole’s – Love Is The Thing

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Love Is The Thing

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  • A lovely pressing of this audiophile favorite, with Double Plus (A++) sound and fairly quiet vinyl on both sides to rival the best pop vocal recordings we know of
  • Nat himself sounds especially immediate and real, and the strings are much less of a problem here than they are on most pressings
  • If all you know of this album is the weirdly unnatural remix DCC did (on Analogue Productions vinyl too) this pressing will be nothing less than a revelation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Nat King Cole’s collaborations with Gordon Jenkins rank among the finest from either artist or arranger. 1957’s Love Is the Thing remains the epitome of the pair’s undeniable compatibility, and it topped the album charts for eight weeks.”

Love Is The Thing has always been one of the better Nat “King” Cole recordings we play. The music is sublime, and on the right copy the sound can be superb. Armed with a much larger variety of pressings to play, including some interesting “finds” among them, our recent shootout convinced us that it actually is The Best. We have never heard the man sound better than he does on the best copies of this very recording.

One of the key elements we noticed on the best of the best was the quality of relaxation in Nat’s performance. He sings so effortlessly on the good sounding pressings. On some pressings that casual quality is not nearly as noticeable. (more…)

Yes – Close To The Edge

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Close To The Edge

  • An amazing copy of this Prog Blockbuster, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second – super quiet vinyl too, as quiet as any copy we have ever listed
  • An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts   
  • A recording that will push even the highest quality, most heavily tweaked stereo to its limits – if you can play this record good and loud, you can play anything
  • 5 stars: “Close to the Edge represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years. In 1972, Close to the Edge was a flawless masterpiece.”

This vintage Atlantic pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs 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 studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Bonnie Raitt – Nine Lives – Our Shootout Winner from 2006

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Nine Lives

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

I did a little shootout today (7/3/06) with a few copies of this album and this one was CLEARLY SUPERIOR. The others were a bit smeared and thick sounding. This copy has the LIFE of the recording preserved in the grooves. With George Massenburg involved, there’s no way this record could sound “natural”. This copy does sound the way it’s supposed to and that’s the most we can hope for. If you have an aggressive or thin sounding stereo this is not the record for you.  

Side One COOKS from start to finish, with some of her best work — far better (IMHO) than anything she did for Capitol.

Of course the rest of the world disagreed with me about that, as after this album the label dropped her, and her first album for Capitol outsold all the records she ever made put together. But that’s sales. I’m talking about musical quality. Her Capitol albums are much too mellow for my taste. I discovered Bonnie with Home Plate and saw her live numerous times, where she proved she can rock with the best of them (like on this album).

Mellow isn’t the Bonnie I like. If you want an album with more energy, try this one. If you want something to play in the background while you sip wine and engage in polite conversation, both the DCC titles are perfect for that. (more…)

David Bowie – Let’s Dance

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Let’s Dance

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  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, this copy is one of the best we have ever heard
  • It’s all here: huge amounts of rock solid bass, clear guitar transients, breathy, natural vocals, and jump out of the speakers presence and energy
  • A real Demo Disc at high volumes on the right system – Modern Love, China Girl and the title track are knockouts when you play them good and loud
  • Top 100 of course – Let’s Dance is one of the best sounding Bowie albums ever recorded – this superb pressing is proof!

Bowie is without question one of the all-time great frontmen and producers. This is his last good album and a Must Own for audiophiles, especially if you have big dynamic speakers. Like we say, with this one you are in for a treat.

Hearing a top copy of Let’s Dance is truly a special experience; the damn thing is amazingly well recorded, especially considering it came along well after the Golden Age of Rock Recording (the ’60s and ’70s, don’t you know). The sound is analog at its best; rich, full and super-punchy. (more…)

Bloomfield-Kooper-Stills – Super Session – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Man’s Temptation, track 3 on side one, has got some seriously bright EQ happening (reminiscent of the first BS&T album), so if that song even sounds tolerable in the midrange you are doing better than expected.

Clean Cutting

What you get with this copy is some of the most transparent, lowest distortion, cleanest cutting we’ve ever heard. This copy is high-rez like you will not believe, with an unusually extended top end on both sides.

Turn It Up

Most copies are far too bright and phony sounding to turn up loud; the distortion and grit are just too much at higher volumes. On a copy like this, with more correct tonality and an overall freedom from distortion, you can TURN IT UP and LET IT ROCK.

Season of the Witch sounds amazing at loud levels on this copy, with its big build-ups and quiet breakdowns. It is nothing less than a thrill to just let it blast away at the levels we were listening at. The band is RIGHT THERE.

Side One

A++, big and clear with absolutely ZERO smear! The bass is solid and tight, and there’s more transparency here than on the typical pressing. So good!

Side Two

We awarded this side a rare A++++ grade, reserved for the kind of sound that makes us completely rethink the possibilities of a recording! Super spacious and three-dimensional with an amazingly extended top end, this absolutely blew away everything else in our shootout. Rich and Tubey Magical with incredible energy and no smear at all, this is doing everything we want it to. AMAZING! (more…)

Bloomfield / Kooper / Stills – Super Session – A MoFi Winner

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Sonic Grade: B

Another MoFi LP reviewed.

Super Session is one of the best-sounding MoFi pressings. The midrange sounds wonderful — silky sweet and transparent. Not having been cut by Stan Ricker, the top end doesn’t have that SR/2 boost. Overall it’s a very nice sounding record, and the music just can’t be beat. 

Crack The Sky – Crack The Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This White Hot Stamper pressing of the first and best album by the legendary-but-now-mostly-forgotten American Prog band Crack The Sky shows just how amazingly well recorded their debut really was.

This is Big Production rock that pulls out all the stops and then some, with a massive Beatlesque string section, horns, synths, backward guitars and every other kind of studio effect that they could work out.

Much like Ambrosia’s debut (another unknown band on a small label), such an ambitious project was clearly an effort to make a Grand Musical Statement along the lines of Sgt. Pepper, Crime of the Century, Close to the Edge, The Original Soundtrack and Dark Side of the Moon, all albums I suspect this band revered, having played them countless times.

In the ’70s I was a huge fan of those albums too. (Still am of course; check out ouTop 100 if you don’t believe me. They’re all in there.) I played them more times than I can remember, with Crack The Sky’s albums spending plenty of time — heavy rotation you could say — on the turntable in those days. To my mind, speaking as a fan and an audiophile, the first Crack the Sky album succeeds brilliantly on every level: production, originality, songwriting, technical virtuosity, musical consistency and, perhaps most importantly for those of you who have managed to make it this far, Top Quality Audiophile Sound.

This is simply a great album of adventurous, highly melodic proggy rock. If you like the well known bands that made the classic albums cited above, there’s a very good chance you will like this much less well known band’s first album also. (more…)