Genre – Jazz/Rock Fusion

Ramsey Lewis – Sun Goddess – Reviewed in 2005

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The Sun Goddess

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

Ramsey Lewis meets Earth Wind and Fire.  

This Original CBS pressing has much better sound than the reissues I’ve heard. This is a bright recording and it’s supposed to sound that way, just like EWF’s recordings. The music is full of energy and lots of fun. This isn’t real jazz; it’s pop jazz. It’s produced by Maurice White and it even has Phillip Bailey on vocals. 

You can’t get much more Earth, Wind and Firey than that! (more…)

Return to Forever – Romantic Warrior – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Romantic Warrior

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

This White Hot Stamper Romantic Warrior has a side one that will blow your mind. It’s 100% guaranteed to bring any stereo to its knees! Turn this one up and prepare yourself for the kind of sound that perhaps one out of a hundred records has to offer, with cymbal crashes that really crash, bass that threatens to move your house off its foundation and energy that is hard to believe was encoded into a thin piece of vinyl decades ago. But here it is! This copy is all that and more. 

Romantic Warrior is MY FAVORITE JAZZ/ROCK FUSION ALBUM of all time! As good as the music is, the sound is even BETTER! This is the Jazz/Rock Demo Disc that stands head and shoulders above the rest. In my experience, no record of this kind is more DYNAMIC or has better BASS. Not one. Demo Disc doesn’t begin to do these kind of sonics justice.

Simply put, not only is this one of the greatest MUSICAL statements of all time, it’s one of the great RECORDING STATEMENTS. Few albums in the history of the world can lay claim to this kind of POWER and ENERGY. (more…)

Miles Davis – Filles de Kilimanjaro

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Filles de Kilimanjaro

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  • A KILLER sounding stereo pressing with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish, just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This Columbia 360 Label LP boasts rich, full-bodied, clear sound with the space and three-dimensionality that was difficult to find on the later pressings we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this middle ground between the adventurous bop of the mid-’60s and the fusion of the late ’60s is rewarding in its own right, since it’s possible to hear great musicians find the foundation of a new form. For that alone, Filles de Kilimanjaro is necessary listening.” 

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

This is one of the all-time classic progressive jazz albums, and a copy like this allows you to appreciate the contributions of Miles and his top-notch band (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Tony Williams and the great Ron Carter on most of the songs). This one’s not as “out there” as Bitches Brew, but it gives you a taste of the various directions these guys would take in the years to come. (more…)

Weather Report – Heavy Weather – Finding the Rare Pressing with an Actual Top End

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

It has been our experience that the copies with high frequency extension and the clarity, space and percussive energy that results from it are consistently the best sounding. You may have read elsewhere on the site that what separates many of the best Columbia LPs from their competition is an open, extended top end. For some reason Columbia, more than most labels, had a habit of making slightly dull records. Dull does not work for this album.   

When the highs on the record are right, it all comes together. Unfortunately, most copies don’t have those highs. There’s more to it than that of course: some copies lack bass, some are a bit grainy and gritty sounding — the normal problems associated with vinyl records are all here.

But when you have good highs you are about 80 to 85% of the way toward a Hot Stamper. Complete the picture with bass, dynamics, etc. (and a big speaker system) and there’s a good chance the sound will blow your mind.


Heavy Weather is a classic case of yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is music that doesn’t make any sense unless you play it LOUD. This is a BIG SPEAKER recording. I know this because I was playing it too quietly, which is to say at normal listening volumes, and it just wasn’t thrilling me. As soon as I turned it up, it really started to work, both as a piece of music and as a recording. So much gets lost in a mix as dense as this one at moderate levels. Everything comes out into the open when you give it the volume it needs. Trust me on this one; without a big dynamic speaker this music is never going to do what it wants to do — which is to ROCK YOUR WORLD. (more…)

Santana – Welcome

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Welcome

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  • Santana’s fifth studio album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is big and rich, yet still wonderfully clean, clear and open with fantastic energy – you will not believe all the space and ambience here
  • An ambitious follow-up to Caravanserai, Welcome continued Carlos Santana’s foray into Jazz-Rock Fusion with music that remains powerful and intriguing even today
  • “Welcome was merely ahead of its time as a musical journey and is one of the more enduring recordings the band ever made. This is a record that pushes the envelope even today and is one of the most inspired recordings in the voluminous Santana oeuvre.” 

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Airto – Fingers – Top End Extension Is Key to the Best Pressings

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Fingers.

The best copies have the highs that are missing from so many of the CTI originals. When you play them against most copies there is an extension to the top end that you won’t hear elsewhere. Since this album is heavy on percussion, that difference is critical. The HARMONICS of the percussion are critically important to the music. When they go missing it’s as if the music seems to slow down, a strange effect but a fairly common one with rhythmically dense arrangements such as these. 

With an extended top end the sound is SWEET, not HARSH. Believe us when we tell you, the last thing you want is a harsh sounding pressing of a Rudy Van Gelder recording. (Not unless you have a dull, dull, deadly dull stereo. Those “Old School” stereos are practically the only way one can tolerate some of his early recordings.) (more…)

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

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  • An outstanding copy of Hancock’s 1973 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • If you’ve been disappointed by the sound of the album in the past, here’s a copy that can show you a whole new Head Hunters
  • Described as “a key release in Hancock’s career and a defining moment in the genre of jazz” and a member of Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time
  • 5 stars: “It had all of the sensibilities of jazz, particularly in the way it wound off into long improvisations, but its rhythms were firmly planted in funk, soul, and R&B, giving it a mass appeal that made it the biggest-selling jazz album of all time (a record which was later broken).”

Jazz-fusion fans are going to have themselves a funky good time with this Hot Stamper copy of Head Hunters! Let me tell you, it is no mean feat to find a copy of this album with this kind of sound. This copy is dynamic and lively with the kind of extension up top that brings this music to life. The bottom end has the kind of weight that these funky tunes demand, and the percussion sounds right on the money. (more…)

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

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Miles In The Sky

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

WONDERFUL SOUND on both sides of this Columbia 360 Label pressing! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than most. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of tubey magic. The music is wonderful, Miles with his classic ’60s quintet (Hancock, Shorter, Carter, Williams) with the addition of George Benson on one song.

Miles is backed by his classic ’60s crew — Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams. (more…)

Miles Davis – Bitches Brew – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Bitches Brew

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

STUNNING MASTER TAPE A+++ SOUND ON SIDES ONE AND FOUR. We had no idea this music could sound anywhere near this good; every Hot Stamper shootout we had tried before this week was a complete bust. It’s not an easy album to find in clean condition, let alone a copy that sounds like this and plays quietly throughout! If jazz-fusion is your bag, sides one and four of this copy will take you on a trip like few other records could. You can hear right in to the soundfield, and you can be sure that there’s a whole lot going on in there.

Our favorite track on this album, Miles Runs The Voodoo Down, is found on the A+++ side four, which means the sound for it is OFF THE CHARTS.

The incredible musicianship and Teo Macero’s innovative production each help take these jazz-fusion soundscapes to places most folks had never imagined before. And a copy like this one takes the entire production to a whole new level. I can’t begin to tell you how many crappy copies have hit our table over the years, but after finding this one I’m really glad we never gave up on this album. It’s the copy that finally made the music work for us. (more…)