A List of Personal Favorites

Prokofiev’s Lt. Kije at 45 RPM – An Audiophile Pressing to Shame Them All

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

This Japanese 45 RPM remastering of our favorite recording of Prokofiev’s wonderful Lt. Kije Suite has DEMONSTRATION QUALITY SOUND. For starters, there are very few records with dynamics comparable to these. Since this is my favorite performance of all time, I can’t recommend the record any more highly. 

Most of what’s “bad” about a DG recording from 1978 is ameliorated with this pressing. The bass drum (drums?) here must be heard to be believed. We know of no Golden Age recording with as believable a presentation of the instrument as this.

The drum is clearly and precisely located at the back of the stage; even better, it’s as huge and powerful and room-filling as it would have been had you attended the session yourself. That’s our idea of hi-fidelity here at Better Records. (more…)

Ray Charles – All Time Great Country and Western Hits

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  • A killer sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound or better on all four sides!
  • What was especially shocking about this shootout is that in some ways the best sounding copies of the reissue not just equal but best their original album counterparts 
  • Twenty-two songs on two LPs, including huge hits like I Can’t Stop Loving You, You Don’t Know Me, Oh Lonesome Me, Bye Bye Love, and much more – no wonder AMG gave both discs 5 stars
  • This is some big, bold, absolutely glorious Tubey Magical analog – the tape to disc transfer is Hard To Fault (HTF), making a mockery of the audiophile remasters to come

The music is wonderful. Just listen to that swingin’ horn section behind Ray on Hey, Good Lookin’. They are hot! And Bye Bye Love just plain ROCKS. (more…)

Nat “King” Cole’s Love Is The Thing – The Breatkthrough We Were Waiting For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

Love Is The Thing has long been one of the best sounding Nat “King” Cole recordings we had auditioned over the years. With a large variety of copies to play, including some interesting “finds” among them, we now know it actually is The Best. We have never heard the man sound better than he does on the hottest copies of this very album.

Of course we’re always on the lookout for Nat King Cole albums with good sound. In our experience that is not nearly as easy as one might expect. Far too many of his recordings are drenched in bad reverb and can’t be taken seriously. At least one we know of has his voice out of phase with the orchestra on most of the copies we played, putting a quick end to that shootout.  (more…)

Ray Charles – Ingredients In A Recipe For Soul

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  • Insanely good sound throughout with both sides earning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • These sides are doing it all right — richer, fuller, better bass, more Tubey Magic, and the list goes on!  
  • “The high points are very high — “Busted,” his hit reworking of a composition by country songwriter Harlan Howard, is jazzy and tough, and one of his best early-’60s singles…” – All Music

What the best sides of this Rhythm and Blues album from 1963 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl import pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1963
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Busted 
Where Can I Go? 
Born To Be Blue 
That Lucky Old Sun 
Ol’ Man River

Side Two

In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down) 
A Stranger In Town 
Ol’ Man Time 
Over The Rainbow 
You’ll Never Walk Alone

AMG  4 Star Review

Although it was a big commercial success, reaching number two on the LP charts, this record would typify the erratic nature of much of Charles’ ’60s output. It’s too eclectic for its own good, really, encompassing pop standards, lowdown blues, Mel Tormé songs, and after-hours ballads. The high points are very high — “Busted,” his hit reworking of a composition by country songwriter Harlan Howard, is jazzy and tough, and one of his best early-’60s singles, and the low points are pretty low, especially when he adds the backup vocals of the Jack Halloran Singers to “Over the Rainbow” and “Ol’ Man River.” A number of the remaining cuts are pretty respectable, like the tight big band arrangement of “Ol’ Man Time” and the ominously urbane “Where Can I Go?

The Yes Album – What a Recording!

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  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – the sound is huge and powerful
  • Plenty of Prog Rock Power is on display here – Eddie Offord’s engineering is Hard To Fault throughout 
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record – quiet too, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “It was the addition of Steve Howe’s guitar pyrotechnics that finally allowed Yes to find their true identity. The Yes Album is a giant leap forward.” 

At its best, this album is a Big Speaker Prog-Rock opus with tremendous power and dynamic range, but it takes a special pressing like this one to really bring it to life. 

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.

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! (more…)

Roxy Music – Avalon

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  • A stunning early UK pressing of this Roxy classic: Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first 
  • Superb sound from start to finish — full-bodied and warm with wonderfully sweet vocals
  • Copies that are exceptionally open, clear and big present this music the way it was meant to be heard
  • Credit Rhett Davies with creating the sonic space that clearly displays so many singers, instruments and sounds
  • “Ferry was never this romantic or seductive, either with Roxy or as a solo artist, and Avalon shimmers with elegance in both its music and its lyrics.” – Allmusic, 5 stars

It is records like Avalon that get people (often known as audiophiles) to spend wads and wads of money in pursuit of expensive analog equipment good enough to bring this wonderful music to life. (more…)

Dave Mason – Alone Together on MCA Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing. I confess I actually used to like and recommend the Heavy Vinyl MCA pressing. Rest assured that is no longer the case. Nowadays it sounds as opaque, ambience-challenged, lifeless and pointless as the rest of its 180 gram brethren.

We struggled for years with the bad vinyl and the murky sound of this album. Finally, with dozens of advances in playback quality and dramatically better cleaning techniques, we have now managed to overcome the problems which we assumed were baked into the recording. I haven’t heard the master tape, but I have heard scores of pressings made from it over the years.  (more…)

The Doors – The Soft Parade on Rhino Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Heavy Vinyl LP debunked.

A Gold Label original pressing blew out minds not long ago, after whichwe wrote “Need I even mention how much better this copy sounds than the 180g version from the Rhino Box Set, digitally remastered by Bernie Grundman? That thing is just awful, possibly the worst sounding pressing I have ever heard.” 

The Gold CD Hoffman did for Audio Fidelity is very likely to be night and day better. So much for the concept of vinyl superiority. Not with Bernie at the helm anyway. (more…)

Crowded House – Woodface

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  • This killer original British import copy of Woodface boasts nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A++) sound from start to finish
  • Thankfully the care and effort that went into every aspect of the production of Woodface more than justifies the effort we put into finding this copy
  • Some of the most original, melodic, hook-laden, sophisticated popular music recorded in the last twenty seven years 
  • “The songs are easily their finest to date, combining flawless melodies and the outstanding harmonies of the brothers’ perfectly matched voices.” – All Music

This excellent copy of Woodface fulfills the promise of this extraordinarily well-recorded album beyond all expectations. 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. The sound is everything you want it to be as you experience every element of the music without limitation. (more…)

Bola Sete – Tour De Force – Analogue Productions Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Analogue Productions LP debunked.

Acoustic Sounds had Stan Ricker remaster this record a number of years ago, and of course they (he) ruined it. A twinkly top end and flabby bass were just two of the major shortcomings of their version. Nothing surprising there, as Stan Ricker is famous for his “smile” curve, boosting both ends of the audio spectrum whether they need boosting or not.

When you add too much top end to a guitar record and ruin the sound of the guitar, what exactly are you left with?

Please note that not a single title from the Analog Revival series is any good, to the best of my knowledge, and all should be avoided. The same is true for all the 180 gram jazz titles on Analogue Productions mastered by Doug Sax, as you may have read elsewhere on the site. Those records received rave reviews in the audiophile press when they came out, but you won’t find too many audiophile reviewers sticking up for them now, as they are, without exception, murky, compressed disasters of the worst kind. I guess these reviewers eventually acquired equipment accurate enough to notice how bad those pressings are, which I guess goes to show there is hope for practically anyone!

This pressing, which I believe is mastered by George Horn, is tonally correct from top to bottom. As the old saying goes, it wasn’t broke so don’t try to fix it. Afficionados of the guitar or Latin music will find this record very satisfying in all respects. A top recommendation from Better Records.