Demo Discs for Energy

Jethro Tull – Aqualung

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

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  • Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • The vinyl is quite good on side one, but side two is its usual crackly self in the quieter passages — at least no marks play
  • The sound is KILLER from start to finish – big, punchy, present, tubey and bursting with Rock and Roll energy
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that still floors us on the better copies, with sound that will jump right out of your speakers (which is exactly the sound the modern Heavy Vinyl pressings cannot give you)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the most astonishing progressions in rock history… the degree to which Tull upped the ante here is remarkable… Varied but cohesive, Aqualung is widely regarded as Tull’s finest hour.”

Folks, for hard-rockin’, Tubey Magical, ’70s Arty Proggy Rock in ANALOG, it just does not get much better than Aqualung. You need the right pressing to bring it to life though, and this one is certainly up to the task. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin IV

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Letters and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin IV

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  • Insane Rock and Roll ENERGY like nothing you have ever heard – the sound is exceptionally full-bodied, smooth and solid, making it possible to get the volume up good and high where it belongs
  • Here are the Rock and Roll Classics that reign supreme to this very day – Black Dog, Rock & Roll, Stairway to Heaven, When the Levee Breaks, every one sounding better than you’ve ever heard them or your money back
  • 5 stars: “Encompassing heavy metal, folk, pure rock & roll, and blues, Led Zeppelin’s untitled fourth album is a monolithic record, defining not only Led Zeppelin but the sound and style of ’70s hard rock.”

It is a positive THRILL to hear this record rock the way it was meant to. If you have big speakers and the power to drive them, your neighbors are going to be very upset with you when you play this copy at the listening levels it was meant to be heard at.

You’d better be ready to rock, because this copy has the ENERGY and WHOMP that will make you want to. Zep IV demands loud levels, but practically any copy will punish you mercilessly if you try to play it at anything even approaching live levels.

I never met John Bonham, and it’s probably too late now, but I imagine he would feel more than a little disrespected if he found out people were playing his music at the polite listening levels many audiophiles prefer. The term “hi-fidelity” loses its meaning if the instruments are playing at impossibly low levels. If the instruments could never be heard that way live, where exactly is the fidelity? (more…)

Supertramp – Breakfast In America

  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for this classic Supertramp album – both sides earned our top grade of A+++
  • A truly superb recording with huge, powerful, dynamic sound – the Tubey Magical richness of these sides will have your jaw on the floor
  • A Top 100 title and True Demo Disc – turn it up and this recording gets LOUD like few rock records we’ve ever played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The majority of the album consisted of tightly written, catchy, well-constructed pop songs, like the hits ‘The Logical Song,’ ‘Take the Long Way Home,’ and ‘Goodbye Stranger.'”

We’ve just concluded another big shootout for Breakfast, the band’s biggest charting success, and once again we were blown away by just how good the best copies can sound – huge, spacious, punchy sound we can never get enough of around here. If you have big speakers a great copy will blow your mind, and it will probably blow your mind even if you don’t.

We are not the least bit ashamed to say that we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and a copy like this will certainly help to show you why. Drop the needle on Gone Hollywood, The Logical Song or Take The Long Way Home to hear how powerful this music can sound when you have a great pressing.

Most copies of this record are grainy, thin, shrill and aggressive. When you get a Hot Stamper like this one the highs are sweet and silky. This recording has plenty of top end, so if the highs aren’t correct it pretty much ruins the sound of the record. (more…)

Casino Royale Can Be Amazing on the Right Copy, If You’ve Got the System For It…

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

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This is a record that has its share of problems, but if you’ve got the system for it (huge, heavily tweaked, fast, free from obvious colorations and capable of tremendous resolution), the best pressings are sure to impress.

Having heard the best sounding pressings I now understand why this has been such a highly regarded long-term resident of the TAS Superdisc List. The best copies are SUPERDISCS… while the average copy of this album is anything but. Who could take such harsh, grainy, thin, veiled, compressed sound seriously? What was Harry Pearson smokin’?

I can honestly and truthfully say that until we discovered the Hot Stampers for this album, I never thought this record deserved the praise Harry heaped upon it. Now I do. I once was blind but now I see, or something like that.

And by the way, does his copy sound as good as this one? Let’s face it: the late Harry Pearson was simply not the kind of guy who would sit down with five or ten copies and shoot them out.

When you listen to the average pressing of Casino Royale, you get the feeling that you’re hearing a standard-issue, boxy, lightweight, blary ’60s soundtrack. Perhaps you hear some promise in the recording, but it’s a promise that’s unfulfilled by the record on your turntable. This copy will completely redefine what you know about the sound of this music.

The space is big and the sound relatively rich (although the sound does vary quite a bit from track to track). The vocals have notably less hardness than most and the orchestra is not as brash as it can be on so many of the copies we audition. Huge amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies, and critical to The Look of Love.

The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD. (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – The Sky Is Crying

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A Top 100 Title

  • This STUNNING pressing boasts insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, which means the nearly seven minutes of Little Wing on this side one is guaranteed to present you with some of the most amazing sound you’ve ever heard
  • Some of the most blistering performances of electric blues we have ever had the pleasure of rocking out to
  • Hands down the best sounding SRV recording — Little Wing is an absolute monster on this side one and a Demo track to beat them all
  • 4 stars: “Doing away with vocals, Vaughan augments Hendrix’s concise two-and-a-half minute original, turning the track into a nearly seven-minute-long electric tour de force. The cover would earn Vaughan his sixth Grammy, for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, in 1992.”

This is one of the most blistering recordings of electric blues we’ve ever played. Few other records recorded in the ’80s have this kind of BIG, BOLD sound. Maybe none. The sheer impact and wallop of this music is a real treat, but only if you have the right pressing (and the right kind of stereo to play it on, of course).

Stevie’s take on Jimi’s Little Wing is the surest proof that SRV was one of the greatest Electric Blues Guitarists of All Time. I know of no other guitar showcase to compete with it.

Turn it up good and loud and you will be amazed at how dynamic the guitar solos are.

Sonically it’s a knockout, with one of the tallest, widest, and deepest soundstages I have ever heard on record. It brings to mind Gilmore’s multiple solos on Money from the hottest Dark Side of the Moon pressings, high praise indeed.

Little Wing deservedly won SRV the Grammy in ’92 for Best Rock Instrumental.

And, if you want to hear Stevie channel Wes Montgomery instead of Jimi Hendrix, take a listen to Chitlins Con Carne. (more…)

David Lindley / El Rayo-X – The Last Days of Analog

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The sound on this record is so punchy and dynamic, the rest of your rock records should seem positively anemic in comparison. Most of it sounds live in the studio, and live in the studio is how you get a bunch of guys to play with this kind of enthusiasm and energy.

Engineered in 1981 by Greg Ladanyi, the very next year he would take home the Best Engineering Grammy for Toto IV (one helluva good sounding album and a former member of our Top 100).

Fortunately for us audiophiles, this album catches him before the overly-processed, digital drums and digital echo “sound of the ’80s” had gotten into his blood. (Just play any of the awful Don Henley records he made to hear what we mean.) This record still sounds ANALOG, and even though it may be 1981 and mostly transistorized, the better copies display strong evidence of TUBES in the recording chain. (more…)

Carlos Santana Knows: The Louder His Guitar Gets, the Better It Sounds

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Reviews and Commentaries for Abraxas

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Abraxas is yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

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 than Abraxas.

This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It’s also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you’ve got the the big room, big speakers, and plenty of power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own home.

When Santana lets loose with some of those legendary monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so the point is moot.)

You may have heard me say this before, but it’s important to make something clear about this music. It doesn’t even make sense at moderate listening levels. Normal listening levels suck the life right out of it. You can tell by the way it was recorded — this music is designed to be played back at LOUD levels, and anything less does a disservice to the musicians, not to mention the listener, you.

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Jimi Hendrix / The Jimi Hendrix Concerts – Huge, Powerful Live Rock Sound

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This live album, taken from concerts recorded from 1968 to 1970, is wonderful sounding on the best tracks. If you’re in the market for live Hendrix on a Hot Stamper, you’ll be hard pressed to do any better. The bass on this recording is huge, which is exactly what this kind of music needs most. At the levels we were playing this album it was really rockin’.

That’s the true test of a good live rock record — the louder you play it the better it sounds! (more…)

The Doors – Self-Titled

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More Top 100 Rock and Pop Albums

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s debut with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – we guarantee you’ve never experienced The Doors like this!
  • The sound is incredibly big, rich and spacious, with a rock solid bottom end and energy that puts the lie to the modern veiled, lifeless reissue
  • Only the right Gold Label originals can win a shootout, and few of them are not going to have condition issues, but the two here are fairly minor all things considered
  • A must-own album “whose nonstop melodicism and dynamic tension would never be equaled by the group again, let alone bettered.”
  • 5 stars: “A tremendous debut album, and indeed one of the best first-time outings in rock history, introducing the band’s fusion of rock, blues, classical, jazz and poetry with a knockout punch.”

Superb sound on this copy of the Doors self-titled classic! You won’t believe how good the sound is here — big and rich with plenty of bottom end and an energy level that’s really something to hear! Thanks, Bruce Botnick, you da man!

Honestly, we must return or reject 80% of the copies that come through the door, which should go a long way towards explaining why they hit the site with such irregularity. We know what the best stampers are and have for quite a while. What we have a devil of a time doing is finding anyone selling the album who knows how to grade it properly, especially when it comes to the kind of groove damage that’s common to records played on turntables that lack anti-skate. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / 1812 – A Must Own Performance by Alwyn on Decca

More of the music of Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)

Reviews and Commentaries for the 1812 Overture

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Years ago we found a very special copy of this album in a shootout and gave it a grade of A++++. We don’t give out that grade anymore, but we gave it out to this side one back in the day. We describe what let this copy earn that grade below.

A BEYOND White Hot Quadruple Plus side one – hear Tchaikovsky’s 1812 in Demo Disc sound. This is the most exciting and beautifully played 1812 we know of, with the best sound ever to boot on this copy. This is an exceptional Decca remastering of a superb Golden Age recording on very good vinyl.

The WHOMP FACTOR on this side one has to be heard to be believed. If you’ve got the woofers for it this record is going to rock your world!

Side One (1812 Overture)

Off the charts, the best we have ever heard this work sound. Big, rich, clean and clear barely begins to do this side justice. The strings are wonderfully textured and not screechy in the slightest.

The brass is big and clear and weighty, just the way it should be, as that is precisely the sound you hear in the concert hall, especially that part about being clear: live music is more than anything else completely clear. We should all strive for that sound in our reproduction of orchestral music.

Not many recordings capture the brass this well. (Ansermet on London comes to mind of course but many of his performances leave much to be desired. Here Alwyn is on top of his game with performances that are definitive.)

Here’s what you get on this side one:

The most dynamic sound we have ever heard for any side of this album.

The most weight and power we have ever heard for the 1812, and as you can imagine, for this work to have the kind of power this pressing has was nothing less than a THRILL to hear. Who knew? Until we played this copy, not us!

The most depth and space we have ever heard on this album.

To earn our coveted Three Plus (OR BETTER) rating here at Better Records all you have to do is be the best copy we’ve ever played. Just be right in every way (or almost every way; no record can be perfect, but some, such as this one, seem to us to get pretty darn close). (more…)