Genre – Rock – Art Rock

Brian Eno – Before And After Science

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides have that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end that make any record magical
  • 5 stars: “Ranks alongside the most essential Eno material.”

 Side one, the rock side, strongly relies on its deep punchy bass to make its material come to life and rock (or should we say art rock?). Eno’s vocals are clear and present with virtually no strain. Phil Collins’ drumming is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work.

Common Problems

This album typically suffers from a severe case of rolled-off highs, compounding the problems in the midrange: veiled and smeary vocals. The average copy is thick, muddy and congested, lacking the kind of transparency and clarity that makes it possible for the listener to hear into Eno’s dense mixes and make musical sense of them.

Partly this is Eno’s fault. He overloads his recordings. Played The Joshua Tree lately? It has some of the same sonic shortcomings, (exacerbated by Direct Metal Mastering). (more…)

David Bowie – Heroes – Skip the Brit Originals

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More Heroes

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  • The first copy to ever hit the site and boy is it KILLER — Triple Plus (A+++) on both sides 
  • “Repeating the formula of Low’s half-vocal/half-instrumental structure, Heroes develops and strengthens the sonic innovations David Bowie and Brian Eno explored on their first collaboration. The vocal songs are fuller, boasting harder rhythms and deeper layers of sound.” – All Music

It has taken us years to get this shootout going. The reason for the long delay is simple. The domestic pressings we had on hand to play were not exactly thrilling us and even the best of them are no better than acceptable, and not likely to win a shootout.

Even worse, our intuition that the British originals would sound the best also turned out to be incorrect. (In the audiophile record collecting world intuitions have a bad track record, but more than a few audiophiles — many of whom seem to be addicted to sharing their “record knowledge” on audiophile forums — seem to be unaware of this unassailably true fact.) The original UK Orange Label pressings did not sound especially good to us, so we kept looking. (more…)

Roxy Music – Avalon – A Simply Vinyl Mastering Success ? Or Is It?

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Sonic Grade: B (I’m guessing)

[These notes were written many years ago, which means that we ourselves may not agree with some or all of the commentary.] 

This version just plain KILLS most domestic copies and probably quite a few Brit ones too. Simply Vinyl did a superb job here.

Correction: an unnamed mastering engineer at the label did a superb job. Simply Vinyl isn’t in the business of mastering ANYTHING. They leave that up to the pros at the record labels. Sometimes those guys screw it up and sometimes they get it right. (more…)

Sowing The Seeds Of Love for Psych

The Seeds Of Love

 

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This Tears for Fears album is a real desert island disc for me. When you get a big, rich, smooth copy such as this one, the short list of problems with the recording don’t interfere with the music. Like good stereo equipment, a good record lets you forget all that audio stuff and just listen to the music as music.

The Seeds Of Love is the band’s masterpiece, and hearing it this way is nothing short of a THRILL.

The sound of most copies is aggressive, hard, harsh and thin. What do you expect? The album is recorded digitally and direct metal mastered at Masterdisk. Most of us analog types put up with the limitations of the sound because we love the music, some of the most powerfully moving, brilliantly written and orchestrated psychedelic pop of the last thirty years. Imagine if the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper/ Magical Mystery Tour phase kept going in that direction. They very well might have ended up in the neighborhood of Sowing the Seeds of Love. (more…)

Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • An incredible Shootout Winning pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both side – this is absolutely As Good As It Gets
  • Like the recordings of Floyd, the sound is BIG, with lots of energy, excellent presence and real weight down low
  • The first copy to hit the site in years, this is a tough one to come by and few indeed sound the way this one does
  • “The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking continues to showcase Waters’ unprecedented knack of addressing his darkest thoughts and conceptions in a most extraordinary fashion. ” – Allmusic, 4 stars

See all of our Pink Floyd albums in stock

Let me tell you, it is no walk in the park to find a copy of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking that sounds as good as this one and plays as quietly. Those of you who like Floyd’s The Final Cut will probably get a lot out of the album. (more…)

Making Progress in Audio with Supertramp

Even in the Quietest Moments

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The story behind this record is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

We wrote up this album in 2005 as a Hot Stamper Stalled listing; we just couldn’t find anything that really sounded right to us. The imports were a smeary mess, the half-speed was and is a complete joke (we used to like it but that just goes to show how wrong you can be), and the domestic copies were so grainy and phony-sounding we knew there was no way to make the case that this was some sort of audiophile recording.

Could it be that when Geoff Emerick took over the recording duties from his friend Ken Scott, who had engineered the two previous albums, both of which are stunning — Crime of the Century and Crisis? What Crisis? — he had simply dropped the ball and done a bad job? How could that be possible? (more…)

David Bowie – Hunky Dory – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • An outstanding copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • The best sounding tracks are Demo Quality — Oh You Pretty Things is a KNOCKOUT here
  • Relatively quiet vinyl (M- to M–), most copies we find don’t play nearly this well
  • “A touchstone for reinterpreting pop’s traditions into fresh, postmodern pop music.” 5 stars

See all of our David Bowie albums in stock

The sound is rich, spacious and sweet with a HUGE soundstage. Drop the needle on Changes and check out how dynamic it is. Side one is where the most popular material for this album is found (Changes, Life On Mars, Oh! You Pretty Things) so this copy definitely a great way to go on Hunky Dory.

What to Listen For (WTLF) (more…)

Ambrosia and Its Elusive Hot Stamper Pressings

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Sage Advice from Calvin Coolidge

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”Calvin Coolidge

If you substitute “finding Hot Stamper pressings” for the words “the human race” you will surely appreciate the point of this commentary.

Our story today revolves around the first Hot Stamper listing we have ever done for Ambrosia’s second — and second best — album. It took us a long time to find the right pressing. Do you, or any of the other audiophiles you know, keep buying the same album over and over again year after year in hopes of finding a better sounding copy? We do — have been for more than twenty years as a matter of fact — and here’s why.
(more…)

Peter Gabriel – The First Album – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A stunning sounding copy with shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Killer throughout – bigger, bolder, more bass, more energy and presence, and the list goes on
  • Clearly the hardest of the first five PG records to find with good sound and decent vinyl, which is why these rarely make the site
  • “…much of the record teems with invigorating energy (as on Slowburn, or the orchestral-disco pulse of Down the Dolce Vita), and the closer “Here Comes the Flood” burns with an anthemic intensity that would later become his signature in the ’80s.”

See all of our Peter Gabriel albums in stock

Tubey Magical Richness and breathy vocals are the hallmarks of a good British PG 1.

Unlike any that follow, the sound varies greatly from track to track on the first PG album, as does the music. You know you have a good copy when the best sounding tracks sound their best. That may seem like a tautology but is in fact the only way to judge a side when the songs sound this different from one another.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

On side one the fourth track, Excuse Me, with its barbershop quartet harmonies, has (potentially — it depends on how good your copy is) Demo Disc Quality Sound.

On side two of the best copies Waiting for the Big One will indeed be big, as well as powerful and above all dynamic.

(more…)

Roxy Music – Stranded – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • Outstanding sound with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound on this British original Island pressing is wonderful throughout – rich, smooth and oh-so-analog
  • One of the group’s best sounding recordings, the Tubey Magic on their early albums is off the scale, especially here
  • “The operative adjective for Roxy’s first true masterpiece is gorgeous (it’s the same adjective for their final one, too) – The centerpiece, “Mother Of Pearl”, might be Roxy’s finest seven minutes.”

More Roxy Music / More Bryan Ferry

Stranded is one of the better recordings by the band, coming in second for sonics only to the first album, which is really saying something considering that the first album is a Better Records Top 100 title. The Tubey Magic on the early albums has to be heard to be believed!

These British pressings give you the richest, fullest, biggest sound with the least amount of sibilance on the vocals, grain or grunge. It’s the rich, full-bodied ANALOG sound we adore here at Better Records, although it’s worth noting that the sound on some tracks is noticeably better than on others.

We thank Chris Thomas for his production and John Punter for his engineering work at AIR Studio. This album and the first one are without question the two best sounding Roxy albums, and that’s true for any incarnation of the band.

Both belong in any serious rock and pop collection, and if you are a fan of Art Rock, every Roxy album should be on your shelf, along with your Bowie, Pink Floyd, Supertramp, Eno, Peter Gabriel, 10cc and so many others (most of which are personal favorites of mine, albums I have played hundreds of times over the last 30 years and plan to play hundreds of times in the next). (more…)