Genre – Rock – Big Production Rock

Bryan Ferry – The Bride Stripped Bare – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

It’s been years since I last played this album, and I’m happy, ecstatic even, to report that it sounds far better than I remember it sounding. In the old days I recall it as somewhat dry, flat and transistory. Now it’s BIG and BOLD, revealing a band that’s on fire in the studio. 

This White Hot side two had by far the most energy of any side we played, showing us just what a monster rocker this album can be when it’s mastered and pressed right. The reviews were mixed when the album was released in 1978 but time has been kind to it — after hearing the killer copies I would rank it up at the top with the best of Ferry’s and Roxy’s work.

The first three tracks are uptempo barn burners sure to get you out of any funk you may find yourself in, day or night.

With a sonic grade of A++ side one was nearly as good! The Tubey Magic on this side is much more pronounced than it is on side two, which has more of a clean, spacious sound, a better mix to be sure.

We were a bit surprised to find that the domestic copies we played were clearly better sounding than the UK imports. It may be counterintuitive but these are the kinds of things you find out when doing shootouts. We have little use for intuitions (UK recording, UK pressing) and rules of thumb (original equals better). Hard data — the kind you get from actually playing the records — trumps them all.

AGAIG Side Two

This side two has it all: the kind of transparency that allows you to hear into the soundfield like never before; presence and immediacy in Ferry’s breathy, emotional vocals; air and ambience around all the instruments; and especially Rick Marotta’s super-punchy drums, so high up in the mix. That front and center snare is the sound we love here at Better Records!

This side one also had REAL ENERGY and dynamics not found on other pressings. With dynamics AND the warmth and richness found here, we’re pretty sure this copy can’t be beat. (more…)

Boston – Boston

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  • Both Double Plus (A++) sides of this Top 100 Title offer superb Demo Disc Analog sound 
  • The multi-tracked multi-layered guitars are as big as life on this copy and are guaranteed to rock your world
  • Top sound for all the hits: More Than a Feeling, Long Time/Foreplay, Rock & Roll Band, Peace Of Mind…
  • “Boston is essential for any fan of classic rock, and the album marks the re-emergence of the genre in the 1970s.” — Allmusic, 4 1/2 stars

Boston’s first (and only good) album is a long-time member of our Top 100, and on a great pressing like this it’s easy to see why. It’s an incredible recording when you can hear it right, and this is about as right as it gets!

It’s obvious why the first Boston album became a Multi-Platinum Record. Practically every one of its songs still gets heavy radio play on every rock station in town. Consummately well-crafted music like this is almost impossible to find nowadays. I guess that’s why they call it Classic Rock. (more…)

Queen – A Day At the Races

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • Tie Your Mother Down and Somebody to Love are both wonderful sounding on this EARLY British pressing
  • It’s incredibly difficult to find big, bold, lively sound like this for Queen – it takes us years to do the shootout
  • “Its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they’re globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.”

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U2 – Boy

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  • We here present the best sounding copy of U2’s debit we’ve ever played, our Shootout Winner with Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides
  • The sound is bigger and richer, as well as more present and lively, than any other copy that’s ever hit our turntable
  • The vinyl is quiet for an Island pressing from 1980, with each side playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “From the outset, U2 went for the big message — every song on their debut album Boy sounds huge, with oceans of processed guitars cascading around Bono’s impassioned wail. It was an inspired combination of large, stadium-rock beats and post-punk textures.”

Recordings from the ’80s are always a bit tricky in terms of sound quality, and U2 is not a band we have ever associated with the highest audiophile-quality sonics. We’ve been through quite a number of their albums now, including War, The Unforgettable Fire and The Joshua Tree.

While Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, over the years we’ve stumbled upon (stumbling being the only way to go about it) pressings that are much better at communicating their music than others, and certainly a great deal better than any Heavy Vinyl reissue or digital source. (more…)

Queen – The Game – What to Listen For

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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 the album.

The best sounding side ones were rarely as good as the best sounding side twos.

Even the good side ones tended to have a trace of harmonic distortion and compression that is simply nowhere to be found on the good side twos. How and why this is we have no idea. Since every copy had the same sonic issues we discounted it in our grading. Only the better copies bring the hits on side one to life and give them the size and power we know they can have.  (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Wild Things Run Fast

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this copy has Joni rockin’ like you will not believe
  • Her last great record – fortunately for us audiophiles it’s spacious, open and powerful with present vocals and solid bass
  • Relatively quiet, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout – they don’t come any quieter in our experience
  • “On her first new studio album of original material in five years, Joni Mitchell achieved more of a balance between her pop abilities and her jazz aspirations, meanwhile rediscovering a more direct, emotional lyric approach. The result was her best album since the mid-’70s.”

One of our favorite Joni Mitchell albums and one of the few good reasons to listen to new music in the ’80s. (more…)

The Turn Up Your Volume Test – Almost Cut My Hair

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

The only time Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young actually sound like a real rock and roll band is on the track Almost Cut My Hair. According to Stephen Barncard, one of the engineers on Deja Vu, the track was actually recorded live in the studio. Boy, it sure sounds like it. The amount of energy the band generates on this one song exceeds the energy of the entire first album put together. 

The reason this song presents such a tough test is that it has to be mastered properly in order to make you want to turn it up, not just louder, but as loud as your stereo will play. This song is not to be used as background music whilst sipping wine and smoking cigars. It positively cries out to be played at serious volume levels on monstrously large speakers. Nothing else will do justice to the power of the band’s one and only live performance. (more…)

The Best Sounding Tom Petty Record We’ve Ever Played

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Damn the Torpedoes is the best sounding Tom Petty album we have ever played.

Credit must go to SHELLY YAKUS, someone who we freely admit, now with a sense of embarrassment, has never been one of our favorite engineers. After hearing this beyond-White Hot Stamper side two and a killer copy of Animal Notes we realize that we have seriously underestimated the man, and for that we deeply apologize.

If your Damn the Torpedoes doesn’t sound good (and it probably doesn’t), you sure can’t blame him — the master tape is mind-boggling in its size, weight, power and rock n’ roll energy.

Our 2014 better than White Hot Stamper copy had the kind of sound we never expected to hear on Damn The Torpedoes, an album that’s typically bright, thin, pinched and transistory — radio friendly but not especially audiophile friendly.

Well folks, all that’s changed, and by “all” I don’t necessarily mean all to include the records themselves. This may very well be a record that sounded gritty and pinched before it was cleaned. And our stereo has come a long way in the last five or ten years, as I hope yours has too.

One sign that you’re making progress in this hobby is that at least some of the records you’ve played recently, records that had never sounded especially good before, are now sounding very good indeed. In our case Damn the Torpedoes is one of those records. It’s the best sounding Tom Petty album we have ever played.

See all of our Tom Petty pressings in stock
 

Mindblowing On Both Sides

Side two is OFF THE CHARTS! It’s big and rich with excellent presence and tons of energy. I could go on and on here but all you have to know is that it is BY FAR the best sounding side two we have ever heard.

Side one is almost as good, with lots of space around all of the instruments, tons of energy and less congestion than the average copy. The sound is positively jumpin’ out of the speakers.

The First Two Albums

His first two albums are also classics, IMHO, and we’ve done Hot Stamper shootouts for both. You’re Gonna Get It, his second release, is my personal favorite. After “Damn” I kind of gave up on him as an album artist: a few tracks here and there sparkle but mostly what I hear is variations of his earlier and better material, with brighter and brighter, thinner and thinner sound.


Further Reading

…along these lines can be found below. See more entries in our Favorite Engineers series.

This listing will help you to get The Most Out Of Your Records .

Here’s a link with advice for setting up your Table, Arm and Cartridge that can be found in a section containing Audio Advice of all kinds.

We have a large number of entries in our new Listening in Depth series.

You can find your very own Hot Stamper pressings by using the techniques we lay out in The Four Pillars of Success.

Record shootouts are the fastest and easiest way to hone your listening skills, a subject we discuss often on the site and directly address in this commentary from way back in 2005.

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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  • To say that this one has been a long time coming would be an understatement! FINALLY, an incredible sounding copy of All Things Must Pass
  • Superb Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the fifth side and Double Plus (A++) sound on the remaining five sides — wonderfully big, full and Tubey Magical yet still clean and clear with tons of space and a lovely bottom end
  • “Without a doubt, Harrison’s first solo recording, originally issued as a triple album, is his best.” – All Music

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

The Five Men and Women Who Recorded My Favorite Fleetwood Mac Album

Mystery to Me

 

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The album is Mystery to Me, and it contains  my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time, “Why”, written by the lovely Christine McVie. Considering how many great songs this band has recorded over the last thirty plus years, that’s really saying something. (“Need Your Love So Bad” off Pious Bird is right up there with it. “Beautiful Child’ from Tusk would be in the Top Five, as would “Oh Well Parts 1 and 2” from Then Play On.)

Bob Weston, I learned recently, did the arrangement. He plays the lap guitar you see pictured below. His guitar work throughout the album, along with the wonderfully complex arrangements he provided for both Why and other songs on the album, make this music a powerful and engaging listening experience forty years on.

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The fold-open cover looks like this. You figure out what they were going for because I sure can’t.

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From Bob Weston’s Bio (not sure where I found it)

The band recorded another album, the inspiring “Mystery To Me”. It contained such Mac classics as “Hypnotized”, “Emerald Eyes”, and the song “Why” which was a Bob Weston arrangement (a fact sadly left off the album’s liner notes). It is also interesting to note that Bob Welch’s song, “Good Things (Come To Those Who Wait)” was dropped at the last minute (but not before thousands of record sleeves and lyric inserts had been printed) in favor of a song suggested by Weston, the Yardbird’s “For Your Love”, which was also released as a single.

Eager to support the promise of “Mystery To Me”, the band scheduled a tour of the States. The tour had already begun, when Mick Fleetwood noticed something was awry. Bob Weston, always the ladies’ man, was spending a whole lot of time with Mick’s wife, Jenny. Not surprisingly, it became increasingly difficult, as the tour progressed, for the two musicians to appear on stage together. And Jenny did nothing to dispel his worst suspicions. Mick toughed it out as long as he could, but by the end of October it was clear someone had to go. Road Manager John Courage did the deed: Bob Weston was fired on October 26, 1973. And so ended one of the most magical lineups the band ever produced.