Desert Island Discs

What to Listen For on this Classic EMI with the Music of Prokofiev

An Amazing White Hot Stamper Copy

 

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See all our pressings of Prokofiev’s music in stock

 

This pressing contains one of my favorite performances of the Classical Symphony. There is a recording by Previn and the LA Phil from 1986 with a performance To Die For. Unfortunately it comes with the kind of mid-’80s tear-your-head-off-digital shrillness that makes the CD medium the worn out joke we analog lovers have long known it to be.

The First Symphony happens to be one of my favorite classical works of all time, right up there with The Planets and Pictures at an Exhibition. I wouldn’t want to go to my desert island without all three.

This is truly a sublime recording that belongs in any music collection, whether you’re a fan of classical music or not. It’s a work of such joy that I’ve never failed to be uplifted by it — except when the performance is too slow, which it much too often is.

This is a difficult piece to pull off. Most of the time either the orchestra is not up to the task or the conductor misunderstands the work. Previn has a spritely take on the piece, which is precisely what it needs and, every bit as important, the London Symphony has the chops to bring his vision to life.

What to Listen for

That’s an easy one: The all-too-common ’70s EMI harshness and shrillness. We could never understand why audiophiles revered EMI as a label the way they did back the day. I chalk it up — as I do most of the mistaken judgments audiophiles make about the sound of records, my own included — we do have a We Was Wrong section right here on the site — to the limitations of the equipment, bad rooms and poor record cleaning. (more…)

Stevie Wonder’s Second Masterpiece

More Stevie Wonder

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In my opinion this is clearly the second of Stevie Wonder’s two MASTERPIECES.

It could also be one of the Great Albums You May Not Know.

Over the course of the last year or two, for the first time in my life I’ve really gotten to know the album well, having found a CD at a local store to play in the car. I’ve listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale scores of times and now see that is some of the best work Stevie Wonder ever did, right up there with Innervisions and miles ahead of any other Stevie Wonder album.

To my mind the best songs on the album are the quieter, more heartfelt and emotional ones, not the rockers or funky workouts. My personal favorites on side one are: Smile Please. Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away, Too Shy to Say and Creepin’, which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, are all the songs that weren’t hits.

On side two the two slowest songs are the ones I now like best: It Ain’t No Use & They Won’t Go When I Go (famously and brilliantly covered by George Michael on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 in 1990).

If you take one of our Hot Stampers home see if you don’t find something very special about the tracks I have noted above.

Balance (more…)

The Glorious Sound of the SYL Pressing of On The Border

This killer copy just went up on the site

 

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  • An incredible Top Copy: Triple Plus (A+++) on side one, Double Plus (A++) on side two
  • The sound is incredibly big, lively, open, rich and present with real extension both up top and down low
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love have Glyn Johns DEMO DISC Sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot
See all or our Eagles albums in stock

‘You Never Cry Like A Lover’ is breathtaking on this copy — Glyn Johns is a genius I tell you!

We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot. Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind sound you’ll hear on this Super Hot Stamper LP!

You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love have SUPERB Glyn Johns Demo Disc Sound on this copy. The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume!

Let’s talk about the Eagles’ records from an audiophile perspective.

The Last Of The Glyn Johns Eagles Records

For their debut the Eagles recorded what we consider to be one of the Ten Best Sounding Rock Records in the history of recorded media. Wait a minute, the Eagles didn’t record anything, Glyn Johns did. He deserves all the credit for turning that first album into a Demo Disc of the highest order. Partway through this album, their third, they fired him. (The British ran Winston Churchill out of office after the war, so go figure.) Johns is credited with only two tracks, and as would be expected, those two are the real Demo Disc tracks on the album. (more…)

The Typical Domestic Pressing of On The Border Sucks, and Here’s Why

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity on some songs.

The domestic copies of On The Border have many tracks in reversed absolute phase, including and especially Midnight Flyer, a lifelong favorite of mine. The front and center banjo will positively tear your head off; it’s bright, sour, shrill, aggressive and full of distortion. Don’t look at me — that’s what reverse phase sounds like!

More of The Eagles

I’ve known for some time that domestic pressings of On The Border have their phase reversed — just hadn’t gotten around to discussing the issue because I wasn’t ready to list the record and describe the phenomenon. A while back [January 2005, time flies] I happened to play a copy of One Of These Nights and was appalled by the dismal quality of the sound. Last night I put two and two together. I pulled out both Eagles records and listened to them with the phase reversed. Voila! (On The Border is a favorite record of mine, dismissed by everyone else, but loved by yours truly.)I’m of the opinion that a very small percentage of records have their absolute phase reversed. Once you’ve learned to recognize the kind of distortion reversed absolute phase causes, you will hear recordings that may make you suspicious, and the only way to know for sure is to switch the positive and negative, wherever you choose to do so. Some of that story is also told in the link entitled Thoughts On Absolute Polarity.

With the help of our EAR 324 Phono Stage the phase is reversible with the mere touch of a button, a wonderful convenience that we have grown to love, along with the amazingly transparent sound of course. (Hard to imagine living without either at this point.)

The Last Of The Glyn Johns Eagles Records

For their debut the Eagles recorded what we consider to be one of the Five Best Sounding Rock Records in the history of the art form. Of course the Eagles didn’t record anything, Glyn Johns did, and he deserves all the credit for turning that first album into a Demo Disc of the highest order. Halfway through this album, their third, they fired him. (The British ran Winston Churchill out of office after the war, so go figure.) Johns is credited with only two tracks on the album, and of course those two are the real Demo Disc tracks here.

But as I way playing various copies of these original British SYL pressings (the SYL of Desperado is the one on the TAS List, don’t you know), I could easily recognize the fully-extended, harmonically-rich, super-low distortion, Tubey Magical, Unbelievably Sweet Glyn Johns Sound everywhere in the soundfield I looked. Every track has some of it.

Maybe not the full measure you hear on You Never Cry Like a Lover, the standout track from side one, but enough to make you realize that even half of a Glyn Johns recording is head and shoulders better than what was to follow. One of These Nights, recorded by Bill Szymczyk, his replacement, is a step down in quality — if that step is off the edge of cliff. Say what you want about Hotel California — an FM radio staple that wore out its welcome decades ago, but not a bad recording by any means — it can’t begin to compete sonically with the likes of the first three Eagles albums that Johns did.

(And now that you’re familiar with the two main guys who recorded this band, check the dead wax of your Eagles Greatest Hits pressings for a laugh)


This is the band’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson memorably noted, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, said record:

1) Must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio hobbyist been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music;”
2) My sixty-something-year-old self must currently respect the album, and;
3) I must think I will want to listen to the music on the album fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles are constantly being added, time permitting.

Here are some Hot Stamper pressings of Desert Island Discs you can actually buy.