Demo Discs for Tubey Magic

Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this UK copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for over ten years – here is one of the better copies we have to show for our effort
  • 5 Stars: “… another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting.”
  • If you’re a Roxy fan, For Your Pleasure has to be considered a Must Own Title of theirs from 1973.
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Spacious, dynamic, present, with HUGE MEATY BASS and tons of energy, the sound is every bit as good as the music. (At least on this copy it is. That’s precisely what Hot Stampers are all about.)

Strictly in terms of recording quality, For Your Pleasure is on the same plane as the other best sounding record the band ever made, their self-titled debut.

Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album and this one are the only two with the kind of dynamic, energetic, powerful sound that Roxy’s other records simply cannot show us (with the exception of Country Life, was is powerful but a bit too aggressive).

The super-tubey keyboards that anchor practically every song on the first two albums are only found there. If you want to know what Tubey Magic sounds like in 1972-73, play one of our better Hot Stamper Roxy albums.

Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums that few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to. I love the band’s later albums, but none of them sound like these two. The closest one can get is Stranded, their third, but it’s still a bit of a step down. (more…)

Listening for Harmonically Correct Acoustic Guitars on America’s Debut

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of America

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo fidelity. As it says below, most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. They often sound veiled and dull, and on a copy with a bit too much top end they will have an unnatural hi-fi-ish sparkle.

This kind of sparkle can be heard on many records Mobile Fidelity made in the ’70s and ’80s. Tea for the Tillerman, Sundown, Year of the Cat, Finger Paintings, Byrd at the Gate, Quarter Moon in a 10 Cent Town — the list of MoFis with sparkling acoustic guitars would be very long indeed, and these are just the records with prominent acoustic guitars!

Three Roses and Rainy Day

The key song on side one that we use to test is Three Roses. There are three sonically-separated individuals each playing six string acoustic guitars, and when this side is cut right the guitars sound just gorgeous: sweet, with all their harmonic structures intact. (It’s also my favorite song on side one.)

The real test on side two is the song Rainy Day. Lots of guitars, and when the close-miked descending guitar figure comes in after the first few couplets, if it’s too bright, you’re going to know it. This song is the hardest one to cut and almost never sounds right. Some copies are cut JUST RIGHT. The vocals are breathy, the guitars are full-bodied, and the overall sound is airy, open, and spacious.

On the best copies Rainy Day is Demo Disc material — they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like that anymore. You have to go back to 50-year-old records like this one to find that sound.

Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency, all the things that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

Of course, many 50 year old records are beat to death, and many of them don’t sound any good anyway. It’s no mean feat to find quiet, superb pressings of albums like this, but you can be sure that Better Records is up to the task.

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Dave Brubeck – Time Out

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Reviews and Commentaries for Time Out

  • This Six-Eye Stereo pressing boasts out of this world Demo Disc Sound – Time Out captures the ambience and huge space of Columbia’s studio like no other record has (with a little reverb thrown in for good measure)
  • A knockout pressing of Brubeck’s astonishingly well recorded Jazz Classic, a record that belongs in every audiophile’s collection
  • Early stereo LPs in clean condition like this one are getting awfully tough to find nowadays…
  • “Buoyed by a hit single in Desmond’s ubiquitous Take Five, Time Out became an unexpectedly huge success, and still ranks as one of the most popular jazz albums ever. That’s a testament to Brubeck and Desmond’s abilities as composers, because Time Out is full of challenges both subtle and overt — it’s just that they’re not jarring.”
  • If you’re a fan of Brubeck and company, this 1959 album belongs in your collection, along with quite a few others from the classic jazz era
  • The complete list of titles from 1959 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Roxy Music / Self-Titled

  • An excellent UK pressing of Roxy Music’s debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – this is some of the most dynamic sound the band achieved
  • Andy Hendriksen’s engineering (over the course of a week!) is superb in all respects – we think the best pressings of this first album reveal a recording that is superior to any other by the band
  • A Top 100 album, Roxy’s Masterpiece, and a Must Own Desert Island Disc of Glamorous Arty Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Falling halfway between musical primitivism and art rock ambition, Roxy Music’s eponymous debut remains a startling redefinition of rock’s boundaries. Simultaneously embracing kitschy glamour and avant-pop, Roxy Music shimmers with seductive style and pulsates with disturbing synthetic textures.”

Folks, this is a true Demo Disc in the world of Art Rock. It’s rare to find a recording of popular music with DYNAMICS like these.

The guitar solo at the end of “Ladytron” rocks like you will not believe.

In both music and sound, this is arguably the best record the band ever made. Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album has the kind of dynamic, energetic, POWERFUL sound that their other records simply fail to show us. And we’ve played them by the dozens, so there’s a pretty good chance we will never find copies with the abundant richness and power we find here.

We hope you will agree with us that it was entirely worth the wait, as this album is a MASTERPIECE of Art Rock, Glam Rock and Bent Rock all rolled into one.

AMG calls Roxy Music the “most adventurous rock band of the early ’70s” and I’m inclined to agree with them. Roxy is certainly one of the most influential and important bands in my growth as a listener and audiophile, along with the likes of Supertramp, Ambrosia, 10cc, Steely Dan, Yes, Bowie and others, groups of musicians dedicated to exploring and exploding the conventions of popular music.

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Charles Mingus – Mingus Dynasty

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More Jazz Recordings

  • An original 6-Eye Stereo copy with superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This pressing is rich and tubey, yet still clear and spacious, with a notably solid and articulate bottom end that does a superb job of captureing the beauty of Mingus’s double bass
  • Bucketfuls of studio ambience, and Tubey Magic to die for – this 30th Street recording shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • Be careful though – a record with this kind of sound will make all your Heavy Vinyl pressing sound as washed out, lifeless and veiled as we know them to be, news that may come as quite a shock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Mingus Dynasty is still an excellent album; in fact, it’s a testament to just how high a level Mingus was working on that an album of this caliber could have gotten lost in the shuffle.”

This is a wonderful example of the kind of record that makes record collecting FUN.

If innovative Large Group Jazz is your thing, you should get a big kick out of this one. If you like the sound of relaxed, tube-mastered jazz — and what red blooded audiophile doesn’t — you can’t do much better than the Mingus recordings on Columbia from this era. (We’ve now done shootouts for the album before this one and the one to follow. Both are amazing, musically and sonically.) The warmth and immediacy of the sound here are guaranteed to blow practically any record of this kind you own right out of the water.

Both sides of this very special pressing are huge, rich, tubey and clear. As soon as the band got going we knew that this was absolutely the right sound for this music. There was practically nothing that could beat it, in any area of reproduction.

Amazing Tubey Magic

For we audiophiles, both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1960 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy should be just the record for you.

It’s spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of the album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

We played a handful of later pressings that didn’t really do it for us. They offer improved clarity, but can’t deliver the tubey goodness that you’ll hear on the best early pressings. We won’t be bothering with them anymore. It’s tubes or nothing on this album.

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Chet Atkins – Caribbean Guitar

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  • This famous TAS Super Disc RCA Living Stereo LP boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last and plays about as quietly as any RCA pressing from the early ’60s ever will
  • If you have ever heard one of our luscious Living Stereo Chet Atkins records, you know what to expect – off the charts Tubey Magic unlike anything made in the last fifty years, or more!
  • This album is a little more lively than some of his other recordings, which can be criticized for being a little too laid back. For example, try side 2, cut 2 where Chet actually jams.
  • Engineer Bill Porter just doesn’t know how not to make an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording – everything the guy touches is GOLD!

This is one of Chet Atkins’ best albums. Sonically, it’s right up there with The Other Chet Atkins and the Hollywood album. It seems like Bill Porter just doesn’t know how not to make an amazing sounding Living Stereo recording. He knocked this out of the park.

I suppose we owe a debt of gratitude to Harry Pearson for pointing out to us with his TAS List what a great record this is, although I’m pretty sure anybody playing this album can tell after a minute or two that it’s in that very special class of great recordings.

The last track on side 2 where Chet is joined by a trumpet player is my favorite on the album. That guitar-trumpet combination is pretty magical on that song. And you’ve got to love the kind of sound Bill Porter gets from a trumpet. That’s the kind of sound we audiophiles drool over. I do anyway.

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Duke Ellington – Blues In Orbit

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More Jazz Recordings

  • A STUNNING original Columbia Six Eye stereo pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Huge amounts of three-dimensional space and ambience, and Tubey Magic by the boatload – this amazing 30th Street recording from 1960 shows just how good Columbia’s engineers were back then
  • “…an album worth tracking down, if only to hear the band run through a lighter side of its sound — indeed, it captures the essence of a late-night recording date that was as much a loose jam as a formal studio date, balancing the spontaneity of the former and the technical polish of the latter.”

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Steeleye Span / Commoners Crown – We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing!

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Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs . The second track on side two, Demon Lover, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is.

The sad fact of the matter is that most mixes for rock and pop recordings are much too safe. The engineers believe that the mixes have to be for the average (read: crap) stereo to be able to play the record.

We like when music gets loud. It gets loud in live performance. Why shouldn’t some of that energy make it to the record? It does of course, especially in classical music, but all too rarely even then.

We happened to do the shootout for Thick as a Brick the same week as Commoner’s Crown, and let us tell you, those are two records with shockingly real dynamics in the grooves of the best copies. If you like your music loud — which is just another way of saying you like it to sound LIVE — then the better copies of either album are guaranteed to blow your mind with their dynamic energy and power.

It’s the Engineer?

That can’t be a coincidence, can it? Well, it can, but in the case of these two albums it seems it isn’t. The engineering for both records was done by none other than Robin Black at Morgan Studios. Robin co-produced Commoner’s, takes the main engineering credit, and is solely credited with the mix. He is the sole engineer on TAAB (along with lots of other Tull albums, including Benefit and Aqualung).

Apparently he has no problem putting the dynamic contrasts and powerful energy of the live performance into his recordings and preserving them all the way through to the final mix. God bless him for it.

Thrills

We admit to being thrillseekers here at Better Records, and make no apologies for it. The better the system and the hotter the stamper, the bigger the thrill. It’s precisely the dynamic sound found on these two albums that rocks our world and makes our job fun. It makes us want to play records all day, sifting through the crap to find the few — too few — pressings with truly serious Hot Stamper sound. (There is, of course, no other way to find such sound, and, of course, probably never will be.)

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Mary Hopkin – Post Card

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More Recordings Engineered by Ken Scott

  • This original Apple import boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • Rich, smooth, Tubey Magical and spacious, with wonderfully breathy vocals, this is the kind of sound you hope to get from properly mastered vinyl made using fresh master tapes, and here you do!
  • Engineered by Ken Scott, Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” is simply amazing on this copy
  • A very difficult record to find on original UK vinyl in audiophile playing condition – I would not expect to see another one of this quality soon
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Paul McCartney produced this debut album of twee but pretty, romantic pop-folk… the highlights are Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” and “The Honeymoon Song,” which McCartney himself had sung with the Beatles way back in 1963 on the BBC…”

The domestic pressings can sound very good but they can’t sound like this Brit original! This is clearly the master tape; all veils have been lifted, and the ambience and transparency of the soundstage are sublime on both sides. (more…)

The Poll Winners – Self-Titled

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  • A Contemporary stereo pressing with INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Roy DuNann always seems to get The Real Sound out of the sessions he recorded — amazingly realistic drums in a big room; Tubey Magical guitar tone; deep, note-like bass, and on and on
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The choice of material, the interplay between the three players, and the lead work all meld together beautifully on The Poll Winners, making it a classic guitar album in a small-group setting.”

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