We Was Wrong

Traffic / Mr. Fantasy – 25th Anniversary British Pressing

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This Minty looking Island 25th Anniversary British Import LP has SURPRISINGLY GOOD SOUND! I’d have to say it’s the best sounding record from this series I’ve ever heard. (Note that this is the British version and not the Italian one.)

I can’t vouch for other copies of this record — they may not sound as good as this one — but this one has the bass that’s missing from some of the Pink Label copies and is overall tonally Right On The Money (ROTM), with almost none of the transistory grain that you find on domestic pressings. If you don’t want to spend the big bucks for a Hot Stamper, this is probably the next best way to go.

Stan Getz / Getz Au Go Go – Live and Learn

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A classic case of We Was Wrong. Many years ago we had written:

Of course, you would never know this is a good recording by playing the average domestic copy. This Japanese LP is one of the few pressings that can show you that this wonderful smoky night club jazz LP really can have Demo Disc sound.

Ridiculous, right? Well, at the time we believed it. Now our understanding is quite a bit more sophisticated, in the sense that the Japanese pressing is clearly better than most originals, not all of them.

More importantly, there are amazing sounding domestic reissues of the album that we’ve auditioned over the last ten years or so that really blew our minds and helped to set an even higher standard for the sound of Getz Au Go Go.

Our old story:

Way back in 2005 I discussed this very subject when listing a sealed copy:

There are pressing variations for this title on Japanese vinyl, and there’s no way to know what this one sounds like but all of them are better than any other pressing I know of. As I played the open copy we have listed on the site (1/12/05) I couldn’t help but marvel at the quality of the sound.

These days we would crack open a sealed one, clean it up and shoot it out with any others we could lay our hands on, because finding a copy with sound like this is a positive THRILL.

I’m no fan of Japanese pressings as readers of this Web site know very well, but the Japanese sure got this one right!

The domestic copies of this album are mediocre at best — there’s simply no real top end to be found on any Verve pressing I have ever heard. The top end is precisely where the magic is! Astrud Gilberto’s breathy voice needs high frequencies to sound breathy. Gary Burton’s vibes need high frequencies to emerge from the mix, otherwise you can hardly hear them. And Stan Getz’s sax shouldn’t sound like it’s being played under a blanket. The only version of this album that allows you to hear all the players right is a Japanese pressing, and then only when you get a good one.

The Revolutions in Audio of the last twenty years made it possible to get the domestic pressings — originals and reissues — to sound much better than the Japanese imports we used to like.

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon – Live and Learn

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When we said this album was not the sonic equal of Teaser and the Firecat or Tea for the Tillerman, boy, We Was Wrong and then some. Read all about it in this White Hot Stamper copy review below.

It’s been about a year since we last found Hot Stampers of this album, and having made a number of improvements to the stereo over that time, I’m here to report that this album got a WHOLE LOT BETTER, better than I ever imagined it could get. Mona Bone Jakon now ranks as a DEMO DISC of the highest order, every bit the equal of Teaser and Tea.

To think that all three of these records came out in one fifteen month period is astonishing. The only other artists to have produced music of this calibre in so short a time would have to be The Beatles, and it took four of them to do it.

Which is not what we used to think, as evidenced by this paragraph from a previous Hot Stamper listing.

This album is one of Cat’s top four titles both musically and sonically. Tea and Teaser are obviously in a league of their own, but this album and Catch Bull At Four are close behind. The music is WONDERFUL — the best tracks (including I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light) rank right up there with anything from his catalog. Sonically it’s not an epic recording on the scale of Tea or Teaser, but with Paul Samwell-Smith at the helm, you can be sure it’s an excellent sounding album — on the right pressing.

That last line is dead wrong. It IS an epic recording on the scale of Tea and Teaser. This copy proves it! Now that we know just how good this record can sound, I hope you will allow me to borrow some commentary from another classic Cat Stevens album listing, to wit:

Right off the bat I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folk-pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

When you hear I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on a Hot Stamper copy you will be convinced, as I am, that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world. I don’t know of ANY other album that has more LIFE and MUSICAL ENERGY than this one. (more…)

Is the Original Better? Not on this Supertramp Album It Ain’t

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This is an older listing that illustrates how We Was Wrong when we thought the best domestic copies were not competitive with the A&M Half-Speed or better British pressings.

We touch on other much-loved themes in this commentary, such as the myth that the original pressing is going to be better than a reissue or later stamper. On this album that is definitely not the case.

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including an A+++ SIDE ONE! It’s not the A&M Half Speed, and it’s not a British pressing either. It’s domestic folks, your standard plain-as-day A&M pressing, and we’re as shocked as you are. Hearing this copy (as well as an amazing Brit; they can be every bit as good, in their own way of course) was a THRILL, a thrill that’s a step up in “thrillingness” over our previous favorite pressing, the Half Speed.
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Cat Stevens / Tea For The Tillerman – Live and Learn

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A blast from the past from 2006.

I have to admit that I was dead wrong when I said that the best copies of this album were the Brown Label A&M pressings. I see now how I made this error. We played four pink label copies and our best A&M LP is only better than three of them.

But it sure isn’t better than this one! I’ve heard a good dozen or so Pink Labels and this is the first one that ever blew my mind. I thought I knew this record, but this copy changes everything.

Our White Hot Stamper Commentary from 2006 (more…)

John Coltrane – Lush Life – Should You Collect the Original Pressing on this Title?

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No. We was wrong about Lush Life.

Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? No doubt. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league, a league we had no idea even existed until just this year.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album. By far.

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Steely Dan / Katy Lied on Japanese Vinyl – If You Are Serious About Audio, You Cop to Your Mistakes

And to think I used to swear by this pressing — specifically the 2000 Yen reissue, not the 1500 Yen original — another example of just how Wrong one can be.

We happily admit to our mistakes because we know that all this audio stuff and especially the search for Hot Stampers is a matter of trial and error. We do the trials; that’s how we avoid the kinds of errors most audiophiles and audiophile record dealers make when it comes to finding the best sounding records. Of course, being human we can’t help but make our share of mistakes. The difference is that we learn from them. We report the facts to the best of our ability every time out. 

Every record gets a chance to show us what it’s made of, regardless of where it was made, who made it or why they made it. (Like anybody cares.)

If we used to like it and now we don’t, that’s what you will read in our commentary. Our obligation is to only one person: you, the listener. (Even better: you, the customer. Buy something already!) (more…)

After You’ve Played 100 Copies of the Album, What’s Left to Learn?

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A common misconception of many of those visiting the site for the first time is that we think we know it all.

Nothing could be further from the truth. We definitely do not know it all. We learn something new about records with practically every shootout.

Case in point: the record you do NOT see pictured above. (The record we recently learned something new about — this, after having played scores and scores of copies over the years — will remain a secret for the time being. At least until we find another one.)

In 2013 we played a red label Columbia reissue of a famous ’60s rock record (again, not shown) that had the best side two we have ever heard. Up to that point no copy other than the 360 original had ever won a shootout, and we’ve done plenty. Lo and behold here was a reissue that put them all to shame.
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The Science of Hot Stampers – Incomplete, Imperfect, and (Gulp!) Provisional

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We have a section on the website you may have seen called We Was Wrong. This section is devoted to discussing the records we think we got, uh, wrong.

Oh yes, it’s true. But it’s not really a problem for us here at Better Records. We see no need to cover up our mistakes. The process of learning involves recognizing and correcting previous errors. Approached scientifically, all knowledge — in any field, not just record collecting or music reproduction — is incomplete, imperfect, and must be considered provisional.

What seems true today might easily be proven false tomorrow. If you haven’t found that out for yourself firsthand yet, one thing’s for sure, you haven’t been in this hobby for very long.

We’re so used to the conventional wisdom being wrong, and having our own previous findings overturned by new ones, that we gladly go out of way in listing after listing to point out just how wrong we were. (And of course why we think we are correct now.)

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Ambrosia / Life Beyond L.A. – WW, LW, JW? Which Stampers Sound the Best?

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There’s a unique story behind this title, which goes something like this. I recount it because it’s a classic and hopefully instructive case of Live and Learn.

In 2005 we acquired more than a dozen sealed copies. Knowing that no two of them would sound the same we decided to crack them open, clean them up and play them.

All three of the major stamper prefixes for Warners were represented in the various matrix numbers: WW, JW and LW. As we started to play them it quickly became clear that most copies of this record just do not sound good. The typical copy is hard, midrangy, opaque, dull and sour.

Only one of those prefixes — WW, JW, LW — actually has any hope of sounding good, and surprisingly it’s not the one I would normally expect it to be. Live and learn.

Live and learn indeed. This time those stampers did not sound nearly as good as others, another good reason why there will never be a Book of Hot Stampers, not one written by us anyway.

Like we’ve said in the past, if you think the world is in need of such a book, please do us all a favor and write one. We’ll sit back and take potshots at it. There is no chance in the world it won’t be full of misinformation. Hell, if we wrote it would be full of mistakes too, and we think we know as much about stampers as anybody in the world, and probably more. I ask you, under what circumstances would anyone be in a position to know more than we do? (more…)