Five Star Albums at Better Records

Frank Zappa – Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

More Frank Zappa

More Ruben & The Jets

xxxxx
xxxxx

  • An excellent copy with both sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or better
  • Both sides here are killing it — big, full and solid with a big bottom end and tons of energy 
  • It’s a classic of twisted Doo-Wop that belongs in your collection. At least we think you should give it a chance anyway; hearing it sound this good might just make a believer out of you
  • The new CD – with its modernized sound and wrong-headed re-recorded rhythm tracks – is a bad joke next to the top early pressings

Is the thought bubble on the cover the real story behind the album?

Is this the Mothers of Invention recording under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?

This was one of the best copies we heard in our most recent shootout, our first since 2013! At this rate you should expect the next top copies to show up on the site sometime in 2021, a thought that should give everyone (including us) pause to say the least. (more…)

Mona Bone Jakon – A Forgotten Classic

More Cat Stevens

More Mona Bone Jakon

xxxxx

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this original copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album 
  • The sound is so transparent, open, and spacious that nuances and subtleties that escaped you before are now front and center 
  • When you hear I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light here you will understand why we say that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world 
  • The original A&M LPs we like are nearly impossible to find with good sound and quiet vinyl – this copy plays quieter than any we currently have in stock
  • “Mona Bone Jakon is a delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

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 Folk Pop recordings that are as good but we know of none that are better. (more…)

Setup Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

Setup Discs, Part Two – Dialing in the Anti-Skate

xxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises

This is a superb Demonstration disc, but it is also an excellent Test disc. The sound of the best copies is rich, full-bodied, incredibly spacious, and exceptionally extended up top. There is a prodigious amount of musical information spread across the soundstage, much of it difficult to reproduce. Musicians are banging on so many different percussive devices (often at the back of the stage, exactly where they should be) that getting each one’s sonic character to clearly come through is a challenge — and when you’ve met it, a thrill.

If you’ve done your homework with VTA, Azimuth, Anti-Skate and Tracking Weight, this is the record that will make clear just how much you’ve accomplished.

More of the music of Georges Bizet

But boy is it a difficult record to reproduce! You better have everything working right when you play this one — it’s guaranteed to bring practically any audiophile system to its knees. And if you have any peaky audiophile wire in your system, the kind that is full of detail but calls attention to itself, you are in big trouble with a record like this. More than anything this is a record that rewards your system’s neutrality.

On the best copies the strings have wonderful texture and sheen. If your system isn’t up to it (or you have a copy with a problem in this area), the strings might sound a little shrill and possibly grainy as well, but I’m here to tell you that the sound on the best copies is just fine with respect to string tone and timbre. You will need to look elsewhere for the problem. (more…)

Chabrier Orchestral Music – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner

More Emmanual Chabrier

xxxxx

xxxxx

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

The Espana side earned our rare and coveted Four Plus (A++++) Sonic Grade – Wow! Monstrous size and dynamic power thanks to the brilliant Decca engineering of Roy Wallace. Without a doubt the most spectacular sound we’ve ever heard from CS 6438.

This Beyond White Hot Stamper London pressing has some of the loveliest orchestral music reproduction we’ve ever heard. Man, this copy sure has it going on: it’s super clean and clear, tonally correct from top to bottom, with all of the weight of the orchestra down low on side one which is very, very hard to come by on this record!

And all that weight and energy down low is what really makes Espana magical. You won’t believe the sound!  (more…)

Who’s Next – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

More The Who

More Who’s Next

xxxxx

WHO’S NEXT is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.  

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries.

Maximum Volume

Now if you like to play records at 70 db, little of the following discussion will make much sense. There are some dumb ideas floating out there in Audiophile land, but playing music at quiet levels surely has to be one of the dumbest. You Want to Turn The Volume DOWN? Are You Out of Your Mind?

Anybody who plays a record like Who’s Next at moderate levels should be taken out and hosed down. How do you think Townsend went deaf, by playing his music too softly? He played his music LOUD because that’s the way he wanted you to hear it. Moon beats the hell out of his drums because he likes the sound of drums beaten HARD. If you don’t have the stereo to play this record right, don’t make excuses and DON’T make up bizarre theories about volume levels in the home. You’re not fooling anybody with those kinds of rationalizations. If your speaker distorts that’s your problem, pal. Don’t lay that trip on me.

Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Who’s Next and Aqualung for thirty years. We know how good these records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them. If you’re not going to turn up the volume, don’t waste your money on a good Track pressing. Buy the Classic; at 70 db it will probably sound good enough for you. Spend the money you save on wine and cigars.

The Tony Bennett / Bill Evans Album – The Best Male Vocal Recording of the Era

More Bill Evans

More Tony Bennett

 

xxxxx

This album, when heard on the best Hot Stamper pressings, ranks right up at the top of the All Time Great Male Vocal Recordings from any era. Bennett’s voice sounds wonderfully rich, BREATHY, and above all REAL.

For a Popular/Jazz Vocal album produced in 1975, or, to be honest, the entire decade of the Seventies, we can think of no other that is its sonic equal.

The soundstage is open and spacious, the piano full-bodied and clear, and the vocals have the clarity and fullness missing from most pressings. It’s incredible to hear these two top-notch musicians interacting and responding to each other in this kind of huge, open and natural space.

The Acoustic

This is a studio recording in a fairly dead acoustic, worlds away from the echo-drenched sound of his Columbia releases, so for practically the first time on record you can really hear the man’s voice, not the echo chamber they used to process it. (more…)

Beethoven Violin Concerto with Heifetz (LSC 1992)

More of the music of Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

More on Beethoven / Violin Concerto / Heifetz

xxxxx

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

The reproduction of the violin here is superb — harmonically rich, natural, clean, clear, resolving. What sets the truly killer pressings apart is the depth, width and three-dimensional quality of the sound, as well as the fact that they become less congested in the louder passages and don’t get shrill or blary. The best copies display a Tubey Magical richness — especially evident in the basses and celli — that is to die for.

Big space, a solid bottom, and plenty of dynamic energy are strongly in evidence throughout. Practically zero smear, exceptional resolution, transparency, tremendous dynamics, a violin that is present and solid — this copy takes the sound of the recording right to the limits of what we thought possible.

In fact, side one of this very pressing was the one that allowed me to hear how good the 1959 recording with Heifetz could be. I marked it as a “ref copy” so that in preparing the shootout we would use this side one to dial in the VTA, knowing that the sound I had heard was tonally right on the money.

If we found one in the shootout with superior sonic qualities, so much the better — it happens all the time — but at least we knew we had one copy that really sounded right. (more…)

Lou Rawls – Live! – His Masterpiece

More Lou Rawls

More Live!

xxxx

  • Excellent Double Plus (A++) grades, or close to it, grace both sides of this Lous Rawls masterpiece 
  • A recent addition to our Top 100, Lou Rawls Live! is an outstanding recording that really comes to life on this original pressing
  • The songs are fantastic, the musicians are brilliant, the sound is amazing — Stormy Monday & Tobacco Road are highlights of the set
  • 4 Stars: “Lou Rawls gives a riveting performance on Live!, covering standards from Basie/Rushing’s tambourine-jumpin’ ‘Goin’ to Chicago’ to T-Bone Walker’s foot-stompin’ ‘Stormy Monday,’ and whole lot in between.”

What an album! For live soul-infused vocals, we know of none better.

Lou is live, singing his heart out in a small club that exists between, behind and maybe even around your speakers. If you can reproduce the three-dimensional space of this club you are in for a real treat. (more…)

Van Morrison – His Band And Street Choir – An All But Forgotten Classic

More Van Morrison

More His Band And Street Choir

xxxxx

  • With both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades, this is a killer copy of a wonderful sounding, shockingly underrated album
  • The band is swinging, the material top-notch – Domino, Crazy Face, Blue Money and other classics are all here 
  • We vote this The Best Sounding Van Morrison Album – a classic of 1970 Tubey Magical analog – and his only title to make our Top 100
  • “As ‘Domino’ opens the album with a show of strength, ‘Street Choir’ closes it with a burst of both musical and poetic energy which is not only better than anything else on the album but may well be one of Van’s two or three finest songs.” Rolling Stone

This is the album that came out between Moondance (in the same year in fact, 1970) and Tupelo Honey, but for some reason, it don’t get no respect. We think that’s insane — the material on this album is stellar and the sound on the best pressings is out of this world! (more…)

Another Harry Nilsson Must Own Album (Which Makes Four for Those of You Keeping Score at Home)

More Harry Nilsson

More Son of Schmilsson

xxxxx

  • Amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) As Good As It Gets sound on both sides – maybe the best copy to ever hit the site
  • You can thank Ken Scott for his Tubey Magical engineering and Richard Perry for his Big As Life production approach – this is our kind of sound!
  • It’s one of Harry Nilsson’s four Must Own albums – for both sonics and music this copy is going to be very hard to beat
  • “… a fantastic set of songs that illustrate what a skilled, versatile songsmith Nilsson was… if you appreciate Nilsson’s musicality and weirdo humor, he never got any better.” – All Music

(more…)