Five Star Albums at Better Records

The Dynamic Energy of Neil Young and His Crazy Horse Pals – They’re LIVE in the Studio

More Neil Young

More Crazy Horse

xxxxx

Another in our series of Random Thoughts and observations on recording-related issues.

Hot Stampers are all about finding those rare and very special pressings that manage to represent the master tape at its best.

Notice I did not say ACCURATELY represent the master tape, because the master tape may have faults that need to be corrected, and the only way to do that is in the mastering phase. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that fidelity to the master tape should never be, and rarely is, the goal of the mastering engineer.

Which, as a practical matter, means that flat transfers are usually a mistake.

Chesky is famous for boasting that their early remasterings of the Living Stereo catalog were flat transfers. They sure sound flat all right. If there is a more clueless bunch of audiophiles on the planet than the people running Chesky you would have a hard time proving it to me. But I digress.

Whether we like or dislike the presentation of any given recording is of course a matter of taste. When listening we constantly make judgments about the way we think the recording at any moment “ought” to sound, based on what we like or don’t like about the sound of recordings in general and how our stereos deal with them. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

More Cat Stevens

More Mona Bone Jakon

xxxxx

  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, this copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you are now revealed as never before 
  • When you play I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This one has it ALL going on — all the tubey magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high resolution yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings. (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie – Our Mono Shootout Winner from 2009

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the  Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Folks, this record came as a SHOCK — the first and ONLY mono pressing we have ever played that not only was competitive with the best stereo copies, but actually bettered them in some ways. Some IMPORTANT ways I might add. We’ve only played a handful of mono pressings of Clap Hands over the years, and for good reason — they’re exceedingly mediocre. On almost every one we’ve ever played Ella was distant, dull and lifeless. Feh! Who wants to play a record the sounds like that?

(Side two is pretty much what you would expect from a good mono, A to A+, better than average but hardly competitive with the best, or with this side one for that matter.)

What’s So Special About This Mono Side One Anyway? (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – Ella and Louis (2005)

 

More Ella Fitzgerald

More Louis Armstrong

More Ella and Louis

xxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This original Verve Black Label LP plays M-. Top recommendation! One of the greatest duet albums of all time, if not THE GREATEST.    

TRACK LISTING

1. Can’t We Be Friends
2. Isn’t This a Lovely Day
3. Moonlight in Vermont
4. They Can’t Take That Away From Me
5. Under a Blanket of Blue
6. Tenderly
7. A Foggy Day
8. Stars Fell on Alabama
9. Cheek to Cheek
10. The Nearness of You

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (2nd)

More Peter Gabriel

More Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (2nd)

xxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from Peter Gabriel. 

This British Charisma Pink Label original has As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) White Hot Stamper sound for side one! And mostly quiet vinyl on both sides. Man, does it ever ROCK. The sound just jumps out of the speakers. 

The overall sound is rich, warm, and full-bodied with incredibly punchy drums. We just could not believe how right this copy sounded — we rated it A+++ for its tonally correct, super-low distortion Master Tape Sound. (more…)

Eno – Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy

More Brian Eno

More Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy

xxxxx

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

This is Eno’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly. On the right pressing this is a Twisted Pop Demo Disc like nothing you have ever heard. If you have a big speaker and the kind of high quality playback that is capable of unraveling the most complicated musical creations, with all the weight and power of live music, this is the record that will make all your audio effort and expense worthwhile.

That’s the kind of stereo I’ve been working on for forty years and this album just plain KILLS over here.

Art Rock

That being said, it may not be the kind of thing most music loving audiophiles will be able to make much sense of if they have no history with this kind of Art Rock from the ’70s. I grew up on Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, The Talking Heads, Ambrosia, Supertramp, Yes and the like, bands that wanted to play rock music but felt shackled by the chains of the conventional pop song. This was and still is my favorite kind of music. (more…)

Steely Dan – The Royal Scam – Turning Aggressive Energy into Pure Excitement

More Steely Dan

The Royal Scam

xxxxx

Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

We really went overboard with the track commentary for this one. This should make it easy for you to compare what we say about the sound of these songs with what they sound like to you on your system, using the copy you own or, better yet, one of our Hot Stampers. 

If you end up with one of our Hot Stampers, listen carefully for the effects we describe below. This is a very tough record to reproduce — everything has to be working in tip-top form to even begin to get this complicated music sounding the way it should — but if you’ve done your homework and gotten your system really cooking, you are in for the time of your Steely Dan life. (more…)

Peter Frampton – Wind of Change

More Peter Frampton

More Wind of Change

xxxxx

  • Incredible Demo Disc sound throughout: Triple Plus (A+++) on side two and close to that (A++ to A+++) on side one 
  • This British original is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC, with sound so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash (now that record stores don’t even want them anymore)
  • The best copies like this one keep what’s good about the recording while letting us hear into the soundfield with glorious transparency
  • “The sound is crisp, the melodies catchy, and Frampton’s distinctive, elliptical Gibson Les Paul guitar leads soar throughout… “

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd, Elton John and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

The best song Peter Frampton ever wrote (and performed) is on this very record, in White Hot Stamper sound no less: All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side). It has the Tubey Magical sound WE LOVE here at Better Records. (more…)

The Band – Rock Of Ages (2009)

More The Band

More Rock Of Ages

xxxxx


A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

White Hot Stampers for side two — WOW! Check out the track listing for that side: Stage Fright / The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down / Across the Great Divide / This Wheel’s on Fire / Rag Mama Rag

Pretty hard to beat that batch of Band songs; practically every one is a classic. And considering how difficult it is to get a good sounding copy of the albums those songs are taken from, this double album is a great way to go if you love The Band. The performances are uniformly excellent, and the live horn section adds a lot to the fun and energy of the music.

(The same can be said for Little Feat’s live album, Waiting for Columbus. We’ve been trying to find Hot Stampers on that one for years with little luck. Guess we’ll just have to keep trying.) (more…)

Airto – Fingers – Truly a Desert Island Disc

More Airto

More Fingers

airtofinge_

A distinguished member of the Better Records Jazz Hall of Fame.

Fingers is one of our all time favorite records, a Desert Island disc to be sure. I’ve been playing this album for more than thirty years and it just keeps getting better and better. Truthfully it’s the only Airto record I like. I can’t stand Dafos, and most of the other Airto titles leave me cold. I think a lot of the credit for the brilliance of this album has to go to the Fattoruso brothers, who play keyboards, drums, and take part in the large vocal groupings that sing along with Airto. 

At times this record really sounds like what it is: a bunch of guys in a big room beating the hell out of their drums and singing at the the top of their lungs. You gotta give RVG credit for capturing so much of that energy on tape and transferring that energy onto a slab of vinyl. (Of course this assumes that the record in question actually does have the energy of the best copies. It’s also hard to know who or what is to blame when it doesn’t, since even the good stampers sound mediocre most of the time. Bad vinyl, worn out stampers, poor pressing cycle, it could be practically anything.) (more…)