A List of Personal Favorites

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name… – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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If I Could Only Remember My Name

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

THE ULTIMATE PSYCH ROCK DEMO DISC! Both sides are shockingly transparent with tight bass, silky highs, full-bodied vocals and TONS of Tubey Magic. 

No CD ever made could compete with the amazing analog sound of a record like this, and after twenty five years of that technology failing to do its job I’m pretty sure no CD (or SACD, or any other digital media for that matter) ever will.

These stampers are different from the ones I used to think were the best about ten or twelve years ago. For a long time I didn’t play this record, and then a while back, when this whole Hot Stamper thing took off, I grabbed my personal hot copy and a bunch of others, cleaned them up and did a big shootout.

As is so often the case, I discovered that my previous conclusions had to be reexamined in the light of contrary evidence. (This is, after all, a science. Or is it an art? I can never keep those two straight.) The stampers I used to like were still wonderful, but these “new” stampers were even more magical. These particular pressings have a transparency and delicacy that my old system, as good as it was, simply wasn’t capable of resolving.

After even more upgrades to the room and the stereo (including the amazing EAR 324 phono stage that resolves at a much higher level than anything I had owned before), we couldn’t be sure that these magical stampers would still be the best. After shooting out nearly a score of top contenders, we checked out the dead wax on the champions and saw that our most recent favorite stampers were still the king. (As we noted before, the person listening to the record never knows which actual pressing is playing, which we feel helps to keep everybody honest. In audio you can convince yourself of anything if you want it to be true badly enough.)

You Don’t Have to Be High to Hear It

Side one here has INSANELY GOOD SOUND! This copy has it all — amazing transparency, breathtaking clarity, super low distortion, breathy vocals, uncanny immediacy and lots of life. Master Tape Sound is the phrase we reserve for A+++ sides like this. When you drop the needle on this record, all barriers between you and the musicians are removed. You’ll feel as though you’re sitting at the studio console while Crosby and his no-doubt-stoned-out-of-their-minds Bay Area pals (mostly Jefferson Airplaners and Grateful Deads) are laying down this emotionally powerful, heartfelt music. Laughing has OUT OF THIS WORLD sound — warm, sweet, rich, and full-bodied… that’s some real ’60s tubey magic, baby! And the best part is, you don’t have to be high to hear it. You just need a good stereo and the right pressing.

By the way, the first track has that “home recording” sound and always sounds weak compared to the rest of this album. Don’t expect any wonders, even from a copy like this. By one minute into track two, you’ll understand why we freaked out over this copy.

Side Two Is Right Up There With It

Side two is nearly as amazing! The highs are PERFECTION — silky, delicate, airy and sweet. The vocals are breathy with amazing presence and lots of texture. The acoustic guitars are super clean and clear with just the right balance of pluck and body. The overall sound is exceptionally dynamic and lively with tons of tubey magic. It’s so transparent, so spacious, and incredibly clear. We rate side two A++ – A+++, making this a knockout copy from start to finish.

Barncard’s Masterpiece

(We all owe a debt of gratitude to the superbly talented recording engineer on this project, Stephen Barncard. We like his work so much we created a whole bundle for him, which you can see on the left. This album is probably his masterpiece. It fully deserves its standing as one of our Top Five Best Rock Recordings of All Time, which can also be seen on the left.)

Your Reward Awaits You

As you may have read elsewhere on the site, records like this are the reward for owning the right stereo equipment and having it properly tweaked. There is no way in the world I could have played this album 10 years ago remotely as well as I can now. It only makes me appreciate the music even more.

Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy

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

This is Eno’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly. On the right pressing this is a Twisted Pop Demo Disc like nothing you have ever heard. If you have a big speaker and the kind of high quality playback that is capable of unraveling the most complicated musical creations, with all the weight and power of live music, this is the record that will make all your audio effort and expense worthwhile.

That’s the kind of stereo I’ve been working on for forty years and this album just plain KILLS over here.

Art Rock

That being said, it may not be the kind of thing most music loving audiophiles will be able to make much sense of if they have no history with this kind of Art Rock from the ’70s. I grew up on Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, The Talking Heads, Ambrosia, Supertramp, Yes and the like, bands that wanted to play rock music but felt shackled by the chains of the conventional pop song. This was and still is my favorite kind of music. (more…)

Michel Legrand – After the Rain – A Personal Favorite

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Michel Legrand – After the Rain

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

This album is PURE MAGIC! I know of no other jazz album like it. It’s lyrical and moody, yet comes to life at a moment’s notice when the horn players start to feel the spirit. If you’re familiar with the music he wrote for The Thomas Crown Affair (he won an Academy Award for “Windmills of Your Mind”), you may have a good feel for subtle, impressionistic, often moody quality of After the Rain . Or check it out on youtube (while trying to imagine the sound being at least one million times better).

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Michel’s idea was to assemble a group of his favorite musicians, especially those who were ordained in the lyrical persuasion, to record his next album.

With Zoot Sims and Phil Woods trading off stylistically opposed solos within the gentle, subtly “French” atmosphere, aided by guitar, trumpet, Michel’s piano, and rhythm, you have something new, even unique.

Phil Woods doubles on clarinet, and his lead work on Martina is the one of the finest examples of jazz clarinet I’ve ever heard. (Art Pepper is another guy who can really swing on the clarinet without sounding dated.) (more…)

Jules and the Polar Bears – Got No Breeding – A Long Forgotten Classic

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We dropped the needle on this one and heard EXCELLENT SOUND, which is not always what you hear when you play the average copy of this album.

And the music is GREAT. I’m a giant fan of this band, which never got the public acclaim they deserved although they were critic’s darlings from day one. If you like adventurous pop, this should be right up your alley. If you’re the kind of person that was into the Talking Heads in the ’70s, this band is every bit as original and compelling.  (more…)

Mel Torme With The Marty Paich Dek-tette

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  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides here are incredibly rich and smooth with wonderfully breathy vocals and a solid bottom end
  • “Mel Tormé with the Marty Paich Dek-tette is a vocal masterpiece, an extremely satisfying record achieved only by a fusion of an excellent voice, an excellent band, and excellent material.” – All Music, 5 Stars

This vintage Bethlehem 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…)

Carole King – Tapestry

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  • This KILLER copy of King’s beloved Tapestry earned top honors — Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides are big, full and Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and open – you will hear that the dark veils of most copies have finally been lifted
  • This album is clearly Carole’s masterpiece – it’s loaded with great songs, and they all sound fantastic here
  • 5 stars: “…an intensely emotional record, the songs confessional and direct; in its time it connected with listeners like few records before it, and it remains an illuminating experience decades later.”

Audiophile sound is not easy to find on Tapestry. As we’ve been saying for twenty years, most copies are either dull and murky or edgy and thin, and on half the ones that DO sound good the vinyl is noisy. On a copy like this, though, the sound gets out of the way and lets you focus on the MUSIC — and make no mistake, the music on this album is as good as it gets from Carole King. (more…)

James Taylor – Sweet Baby James

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • Just listen to all that lovely echo – it’s a dead giveaway that both sides have resolving power far beyond the other copies you may have heard 
  • A Top 100 Title, inarguably a Masterpiece – Fire and Rain and Suite for 20 G (one of JT’s All Time Best) are out of this world here
  • 5 Stars: “Sweet Baby James launched not only Taylor’s career as a pop superstar but also the entire singer/songwriter movement of the early ’70s that included Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, and others…”

Vocal reproduction is key to the best sounding copies of Sweet Baby James as it is on so many Folkie Pop Rock albums from the era.

To find a copy where Taylor’s vocals are front and center — which is exactly where they should be — but still rich, sweet, tonally correct and Tubey Magical is no mean feat. Only the best copies manage to pull it off. (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…)

David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name…

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If I Could Only Remember My Name

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

BEYOND TRIPLE TRIPLE! This Top Copy had a side one that blew us away enough to earn FOUR Pluses!

Here it is, folks… a TRUE ROCK DEMO DISC! A White Hot Stamper copy such as this will show you why we’ve long considered it one of the All Time Top Ten Rock Albums for Sound and Music. You will not believe how Tubey Magical and three-dimensional this album can be when you have a pressing with this kind of sound. The harmonic complexity and extension on the acoustic guitars are absolutely stunning!

Please note that the grading scale pictured above only goes up to three pluses, as that is our standard top grade. Every now and then we’ll hear a side of an album we know well that goes beyond our expectations and our ref copies to earn a fourth plus. This side one did just that! (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Let No Man Write My Epitaph – Reviewed in 2006

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Let No Man Write My Epitaph

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

This very nice looking Verve T Label original Mono LP with the early pink cover has lovely sound. Ella’s voice is present, smooth and sweet. Since this recording only involves voice and piano, the loss of stereo information presents no problem for the listener. Ella and her accompanist are dead center and tonally correct. Many Verve Ella records are a disaster sonically – this is one of the exceptions.