Genre – Rock – Big Production Rock

Harry Nilsson – Son of Schmilsson – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

We had a great time shooting out a big stack of these, as we’re just wild about Harry here at Better Records. Unfortunately, most copies out there are too dark and grainy to get all that excited about. Here’s a copy that tells a much different story —both sides have good energy, smooth and sweet vocals, and nice extension up top. Drop the needle on Turn On Your Radio or The Lottery Song and we bet you fall in love with this one!

What Shootout Winning sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above

Ken Is The Man

It’s yet another triumph from one of our favorite engineers, KEN SCOTT (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century and many more).

This is one of Nilsson’s best albums, sonically and musically. (With Ken Scott at the board at Trident Studios the sound has to be good, doesn’t it?) Side one is amazingly good from start to finish. On the two CD set of Nilsson’s greatest hits (which is excellent, by the way) almost all of side one from this album is used, as well as the best material on side two here, which includes Spaceman and The Most Beautiful World In The World. In other words, this album has more than half a dozen of the best songs Nilsson ever wrote.

Nilsson Schmilsson and the album simply titled Harry are the other two superb Nilsson records that I highly recommend. Harry is my favorite of all his albums, maybe because it was so different from anything that I’d ever heard up to that point. A Little Touch… is also a personal favorite — standards done in the Nilsson style — is wonderful.

By the way, if the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) is on the box, you should definitely check it out. Most of us here have seen it by now and it’s a ton of fun. (more…)

Queen – Queen

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  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two and a side one that’s close to it, this original pressing has the analog magic in its grooves
  • Both sides here are big, full-bodied, clear and spacious with a nice bottom end and plenty of rock energy
  • “Almost every one of Queen’s signatures are already present, from Freddie Mercury’s operatic harmonies to Brian May’s rich, orchestral guitar overdubs and the suite-like structures of “Great King Rat”… It showcases the band in all their ornate splendor yet it’s strangely lean and hard, revealing just how good the band was in their early days as a hard rock band.”
  • Plays with surfaces as quiet as any we can find on both sides – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

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Supertramp – Crime of the Century – Loud Levels and Big Woofers

More Supertramp

More Crime of the Century

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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

The bass on the best copies is AWESOME. Playing a Hot Stamper copy at loud levels with big woofers will have your house quaking. Add to that the kind of ENERGY that the better pressings have in their grooves and the result is an album guaranteed to bring most audiophile systems to their knees, begging for mercy. 

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, don’t expect to hear Crime of the Century the way Ken and the boys wanted you to. The album wants to rock your world, and that’s exactly what our Hot Stamper pressings are capable of doing.

The typical Brit copy is dull, and that quality just takes all the magic out of the recording. The three dimensional space and clarity of the recording rely heavily on the quality of the top end. The MoFi, on the best copies, shows you what is missing from the typical Brit, domestic or other import LP. This is what impressed me back in the ’70s when I bought my MoFi. It was only years later that I realized what was missing and what was wrong. (more…)

Queen – News Of The World – Stomping and Clapping with the Fans

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

Side one starts out with Queen’s back-to-back anthemic classics, “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. Does it get any better for a Queen fan? Hell no! 

The stomps and claps that introduce the former should make you feel like you are in a stadium full of people with a single goal – to rock you. Those stomps and claps need weight and clarity, an unusual combination. One without the other is not going to cut it.

The record needs to be able to reproduce the room everybody is in, while still conveying the tremendous impact and power. Most domestic pressings are severely lacking in these areas. This kind of anemia can be frustrating — you want to rock but the sound won’t let you.

Another quality our best copies excelled in was the sound of Brian May’s guitar during his solo toward the end of the song. Here his tone is very boxy with no real highs or lows, but when that sound is exaggerated by bad mastering, it sounds like there are mattresses sitting in front of his amplifiers. The best copies had extension on the high end, restoring the clarity and complimenting his distinctive technique. (more…)

Traffic – Best of Traffic – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

More Traffic

Best of Traffic

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

This Island British Pink Label pressing has SOME OF THE BEST TRAFFIC SOUND YOU’LL EVER HEAR! We’ve been flipping out over Hot Stamper copies of this greatest hits comp for ages for a very simple, yet likely shocking, reason — the sound on the best copies can be BETTER than the best original pressings! How can that be you ask, dumbfounded by the sheer ridiculousness of such a statement? Well, dear reader, I’ll tell you. Follow me over the jump to find out. 

It’s a dirty little secret in the record biz that sometimes the master for the anticipated Hit Single (or singles) is pulled from the album’s final two track master and used to make the 45, the thinking being that the 45 is what people are going to buy, or, having heard it sound so good on the radio, cause them to buy the album. One way or another, it’s the single that will do the selling of Traffic’s music. (more…)

John Lennon – Imagine

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

This is the highest rated copy of Imagine to ever hit the site! As crazy as that sounds, it’s true — these are next to impossible to find, they tend to cost big bucks when you do track them down, they’re almost always noisy, and they very rarely sound very good. If it wasn’t ridiculously difficult to find Hot Stamper pressings of Imagine, it certainly would not have taken us until 2015 to offer one.

This is the highest rated copy of Imagine to ever hit the site! As crazy as that sounds, it’s true — these are next to impossible to find, they tend to cost big bucks when you do track them down, they’re almost always noisy, and they very rarely sound very good. If it wasn’t ridiculously difficult to find Hot Stamper pressings of Imagine, it certainly would not have taken us until 2015 to offer one.

Both sides here are excellent. capturing the essence of what Lennon and Phil Spector (and let’s not forget Yoko, who also gets a producer credit here) were going for. The sound is big, lively and very open — most copies aren’t nearly this transparent. It’s also very rich and full-bodied (especially on side one) with excellent presence. The bottom end is solid and punchy and Lennon’s vocals sound natural and clear throughout. (more…)

Kansas – Point of Know Return – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

TWO STUNNING SIDES, both clocking in at or just shy of our top grade of A+++! It takes a special pressing to do this music justice, and this one really nails it. Rich, full and tonally balanced from top to bottom, it’s hard to imagine how this music could sound any better. The bass is solid and textured, the vocals are full and clear and there’s tons of space around all the instruments! From the grungy guitars of the title track to the delicate acoustics of “Dust in the Wind”, this one gets it right.

The sound is big and bold and dynamic, all in a way that no other copy you have ever heard will be (or your money back of course). Just listen to those cymbal crashes — this copy is cut super clean, with almost no smear or veiling to speak of. (more…)

Electric Light Orchestra – Eldorado

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  • An outstanding vintage pressing of Eldorado with solid Double Plus (A++) sound and vinyl that’s about as quiet as can be found
  • This pressing showed us a big, lively, musically involving Eldorado, one of the toughest nuts to crack in the entire ELO canon
  • There are some really awful UK pressings out there (and lots of bad domestics to be sure), so if you like the thrill of the hunt, make sure you have plenty of time and money to spend
  • 5 stars: “Eldorado was strongly reminiscent in some ways of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Not that it could ever have the same impact or be as distinctive, but it had its feet planted in so many richly melodic and varied musical traditions, yet made it all work in a rock context, that it did recall the Beatles classic.”

As a result of Jeff Lynne’s everything-but-the-kitchen-sink production approach, it’s the rare copy that provides enough transparency and resolution to bring out all the elements in the incredibly dense mixes — with strings! – that Lynne favors. But when you find a copy that does, what a THRILL it is. (more…)

Queen – Jazz – Rockin’ Out with Fat Bottomed Girls

More Queen

More Jazz

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

There is a tendency in the recording to be a little “hot” tonally on the vocals and snare. The better copies like this one keep it under control, with the lesser copies getting much too lean and gritty to play loudly. What good is a raver like Fat Bottomed Girls if you can’t turn it up and really rock out with it? 

Roy Thomas Baker is back on the scene here for Jazz, his first production with the band since 1975’s A Night at the Opera, and the last time he would work with Freddie and the boys.

On side one check out the low harmony vocal on the first track. The big kick drum is also a treat. RTB loves his bass, that’s for sure.

Both sides should have an open, extended top end and a solid, rich bottom. Our best copies were big and clear with plenty of rock bottom end and Whomp Factor.

We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that dramatically changes levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many its songs, especially the anthemic Fat Bottomed Girls. Mustapha, the first track on side one, has a huge finish as well. It can take a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically every rock album you own is.

The sad fact of the matter is that most mixes for rock and pop recordings are just too safe. The engineers and producers believe that the mixes have to be safe for the average (read: crap) stereo to play the record.

We like when music gets loud. It gets loud in live performance — why shouldn’t most of that wonderful energy make it to the record? (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2014

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

It’s hard to imagine any copy beating this one! The vinyl is Mint Minus throughout, and the sound is INSANELY GOOD! The chances of finding these surfaces with this sound — we’ll let you do the math. If you’re a fan of this album – and who isn’t – this is the copy you want. Side one blew our minds and earned a grade of A++++!

  • A truly stunning copy, with top grades and exceptionally quiet vinyl
  • We gave side one here a Four Plus grade, going way beyond what we were expecting – the soundstage is absolutely huge
  • Triple Plus sound for side two, incredible in its own right with super high resolution and plenty sweet, rich Tubey Magic
  • A 5 star album in the AMG, and a true classic 

More A++++ Hot Stamper Pressings. (more…)