Thick As A Brick is quite possibly the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever made. It’s dynamic; has really solid, deep punchy bass; transparency and sweetness in the midrange; tubey-magical acoustic guitars and flutes; in other words, the record has EVERYTHING that we go crazy for here at Better Records. I can guarantee you there is no CD on the planet that could ever do this recording justice. The Hot Stamper pressings have a kind of MAGIC that just can’t be captured on one of them there silvery discs.
We play quite a few original British and domestic copies of this record when we do these shootouts and let me tell you, the sound and the music are so good I can’t get enough of it. Until about 2007 this was the undiscovered gem (by me, anyway) in the Tull catalog. The pressings I had heard up until then were nothing special, and of course the average pressing of this album is exactly that: no great shakes. But with the advent of better record cleaning fluids and much better tables, phono stages and the like, some copies of Thick As A Brick have shown themselves to be AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUNDING. Even the All Music Guide could hear how well-engineered it was.
Frampton’s first solo album, Wind of Change, was recorded by the well-known engineer Chris Kimsey, who worked with the Stones and others too numerous to mention. To say that the sound of his albums varies considerably would be the understatement of the year. The first album (British only, FYI) is as rich, sweet, and Tubey Magical as practically anything you’ve ever heard (as well as overly tube compressed, its biggest fault).
I unashamedly confess to being a huge Frampton fan to this very day. Wind of Change has been a Desert Island Disc for me ever since I picked up my first copy while still in high school. I bought the first Frampton album as soon as it came out, probably based on a magazine review. Think I paid $3.08 for it; that was the discount price for an album at the little record store I frequented back in those days. It was in Leucadia, CA, not far from where I went to high school. (more…)
The good copies REALLY ROCK on a song like Honey Don’t Leave L.A. or I Was Only Telling A Lie, yet have lovely, sweet transparency and delicacy on the ballads such as Another Grey Morning or There We Are.
Just turn up the volume and play the opening to Honey Don’t Leave L.A. — this is James Taylor and his super tight studio band at the peak of their powers. Russ Kunkel hits the drum twice, then clicks his sticks together so quickly you can hardly notice it, then goes back to the drums for the rest of the intro. On a superb copy like this one, the subtleties of his performance are clearly on display. (Until copies like this one came along, we had never even noticed that stick trick. Now it’s the high point of the whole intro!)
Sound Equals Music
As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not. As with any pop album there are always some songs that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material.
The most important of all these Musical Values is ENERGY, and boy do the best copies have it! (more…)
With two Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning sides, this original stereo World Pacific copy simply could not be beat
Huge and rich, here is the kind of Tubey Magical presentation that lets this big group of musicians (four trombones!) come alive
The engineering by none other than Bruce Botnick is brilliant in all respects, as good as his work with The Doors
This is FUN West Coast Pop Jazz built around the superb arrangements of Bob Florence and the great songs of the Stones
We’re so sure you’ll like this music that if for any reason you are unhappy the domestic return shipping is on us!
Another undiscovered gem, brought to you by the folks at Better Records who know a good sounding record when they hear one. And the music is interesting and fun from first song to last. With Joe Pass on guitar how could it not be – the guy’s a genius.
This copy is 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. Someday there may well be a CD of this album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.
Engineering by Bruce Botnick
Botnick is of course the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention.
When you get a good side one of Goodbye you’ll have no trouble hearing why we think it’s one of the Best Sounding Live Rock Albums of all time.
Goodbye has the Big Rock Sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records. The best pressings, the ones that are full-bodied and smooth, let you crank the levels and reproduce the album good and loud the way live rock music is meant to be heard.
It’s clearly one of BILL HALVERSON‘s Engineering Triumphs, along with Deja Vu and Steve Stills’ first album (now that’s a trio!). Live Rock Music on record just does not sound better than a White Hot Stamper side one of Goodbye.
How many engineers get their picture on the artists’ 45 sleeve? This is the only one I know of!
ROY HALEE is one of our favorite producers and recording / mixing engineers. Check out our supply of Roy Halee engineered or produced albums, along with some of our famous commentaries.
Many can be found in our Rock and Pop Top 100 List of Best Sounding Albums with the Best Music (limited to titles that we can actually find sufficient copies of with which to do our Hot Stamper shootouts).
These two sides offer bigger brass, more transparency and more presence than every other side we played save one!
This may become one of your favorite big band albums to demo or test with. Or you can just enjoy the hell out of it if you prefer. So transparent and tonally correct, this is a killer sounding copy. We put this one right up there with the best of the Verve jazz titles we’ve done to date.
This album sounds like a big room full of musicians playing live, which it surely was. The Tubey Magical richness of the 1962 recording is breathtaking – no modern record can touch it.
The best copies recreate a live studio space the size of which you will not believe.(more…)
This AMAZING side one with the complete Tsar Saltan was so good we gave it our rare Four Plus (A++++) grade
We freaked out when we heard this side – it took the sound beyond anything we had ever experienced for the work
It’s so rich and real, with huge WHOMP factor down low, as well as clear, uncolored brass and robust lower strings – wow!
We figure about one out of a hundred sides earn our Four Plus grade – you can’t get much more rare than that
We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus (A++++) grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade.
This London pressing contains a stunningly BEAUTIFUL Tale of the Tsar Saltan Suite. It’s clearly one of the great Demo Disc Quality recordings from the Golden Age (or any age for that matter), with everything that a top Golden Age Orchestral recording should have: all the magic; all the timbral and harmonic subtlety; all the sweetness and warmth; all the Tubey Magical richness.
All that and more. Folks, this is the kind of record that makes you sit up and take notice. Finally, HERE is the kind of sound that can bring an orchestra to life in your very own listening room. (more…)
We’ve been wandering around in the dark for more than a decade with Bridge of Sighs — that is, until we found a clean early UK Chrysalis pressing. Now we know just how good this album can sound, and that means ASTOUNDINGLY good. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any Geoff Emerick album that sounds as big and clear as this one. The three dimensional space is really something else on the better UK copies.
There is a substantial amount of Tubey Magic and liquidity on the tape, recalling the kind of hi-rez vintage analog sound that makes the luminous A Space in Time such a mind-expanding experience. Recorded a few years earlier, both albums have the kind of High Production Value sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records. You can find many of our favorites in our Rock and Pop Top 100, and if we can find more of this title, it will surely be on the list as well.
No domestic pressing could touch our better British imports I’m sorry to say, and I’m sorry to say it because finding the right Brit copies in good condition is going to be a very expensive proposition going forward. I expect I shall be paying much too much to get a fairly high percentage of noisy, heavily played old records shipped to me. But that’s the business we’re in.
Fortunately for our Rock Guitar loving customers, when the sound and the music are this good, it’s more than worth all the effort and expense.
Size and Space
One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center. (more…)
This 1960 Saxophone Ballad session has to be seen as yet another recording triumph for Rudy Van Gelder. The best pressings of these OJC reissues from 1989 sound like the vintage jazz albums they emulate, and sometimes they even beat the originals at their own Tubey Magical game. They can be every bit as rich, sweet and spacious as their earlier-pressed brethren in our experience.
In the case of At Ease with Coleman Hawkins, we simply have never seen an original copy clean enough to buy, so we have no reference for what an original would sound like.