Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (American)

Ry Cooder Plays Jazz (of a Sort)

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See all of our Ry Cooder albums in stock

 

We’re big fans of Ry here at Better Records, and it’s always a lot of fun to hear the eccentric instruments and arrangements he and his cohorts cook up. Of course, it’s even more fun when you get a great sounding pressing like this one!

Far Beyond Your Average Rock or Jazz Record

The instrumentation here goes far beyond your average rock or jazz record. Rounding up a panoply of relatively exotic instruments for an album doesn’t make it especially noteworthy. Thankfully Cooder’s up to more than that. Using an ensemble of seriously talented musicians, as well as studio engineers who really understand how to capture these instruments, with Jazz Cooder succeeds in giving the audiophile public a full course spread of new and unusual sounds, all the while staying true to these popular songs from days long gone. (more…)

Simon & Garfunkel’s Wednesday Morning, 3 AM – The Right 360 Pressing Is King

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

We played a big stack of copies recently and ran into all kinds of problems. Some were dull, some were spitty, many were smeared, and far too many were gritty.

The later pressings didn’t solve any of these problems. In fact, none of the Red Label copies we’ve ever played sounded good enough on either side to merit a Hot Stamper grade. If you want good sound for this album, 360 stereo pressings seem to be the only way to go. The mono pressings we played were painfully bad. (more…)

Leonard Cohen – Songs From A Room

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  • This outstanding Red Label pressing earned Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides
  • Yes, it’s true, the later labels often have better sound – with even more Tubey Magic (!) – than many of the better 360 pressings
  • This copy plays on relatively quiet vinyl, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout – they rarely come quieter
  • 4 stars: “Songs from a Room’s strongest moments convey a naked intimacy and fearless emotional honesty that’s every bit as powerful as the debut, and it left no doubt that Cohen was a major creative force in contemporary songwriting.”

This ’70s pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

Simon & Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme – A Demo Disc for Tubey Magical Voices and Guitars

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  • A stunning Triple Plus (A+++) side two backed with a solid Double Plus (A++) side one – a remarkably good sounding early pressing
  • This Columbia 360 is incredibly big and present, with excellent clarity, wonderfully breathy vocals and low levels of spit (the result of clean cutting)
  • A Demo Disc for Tubey Magical voices and guitars, as well as a longtime Better Records Top 100 album
  • 4 1/2 stars Allmusic: “[I]t is an achievement akin to the Beatles’ Revolver or the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album, and just as personal and pointed as either of those records at their respective bests.”

More superb sound from the legendary CBS 30th street studios in New York!

Turn up the volume, turn down the lights, and you’ll have one of the best — if not THE best — folk duos of All Time performing right there in your listening room for you. The sound is open, spacious, and transparent with breathy vocals and unusually low levels of spit. The strings are more dynamic than we’re used to hearing and the bottom end has a really nice weight to it. (more…)

Joan Baez – Diamonds and Rust – We Broke Through in 2016

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  • A great copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finishi
  • If all you know are the originals you will be surprised at just how rich, natural and Tubey Magical the sound here can be
  • Guaranteed to handily beat the Nautilus Half-Speed as well as the TAS List-approved MoFi (which is awful by the way)
  • Five Stars: “…the real hit was the title track, a self-penned masterpiece and… her finest moment as a songwriter…”

Wonderful sound — rich, full, warm, and sweet. The vocals are full-bodied and breathy. The acoustic guitars are fairly natural for a pop recording from 1975.

Play Jesse on side two to hear the lovely space of the studio, as well as more harmonic extension on the acoustic instruments. Watch out for track two; the EQ on the vocal is always a problem.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Singer Songwriter album. A few qualities to listen for:

Immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant);

Natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule);

Good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful);

Spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space);

And last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated Folkie Pop recording from 1975.

The sound varies quite a bit from track to track, no doubt a result of each recording having to be tailored to the different groups of studio cats and the necessity for various overdubs — strings, pedal steel guitars, even some tasteful(!) synths. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Blonde On Blonde and Some Bad Side Fours

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on all four sides, this was one of the better copies we heard in our most recent shootout – quiet vinyl too!
  • You won’t believe how big, rich and full this album can sound on a copy this good
  • Includes tons of quintessential Dylan classics: Rainy Day Women, I Want You, Just Like A Woman, and more – they all sound phenomenal
  • 5 stars: “Blonde on Blonde is an album of enormous depth, providing endless lyrical and musical revelations on each play. It’s the culmination of Dylan’s electric rock & roll period — he would never release a studio record that rocked this hard, or had such bizarre imagery, ever again.” 

This album is an essential addition to any Dylan collection, and we work hard to find worthy copies. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s tough to find great pressings of any of Dylan’s 60’s albums, really. It takes a well-mastered copy to get the vocals and the harmonica — key elements of course — to sound smooth, full-bodied and clear. Any pinched quality will be obvious to the listener. You lose a lot of points for that shortcoming here at Better Records. (more…)

America – Homecoming – Their Second Best Album

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  • An outstanding copy of America’s second album, boasting Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • This is a simply wonderful Green Label original pressing – big and rich with excellent transparency and breathy vocals
  • Some of the most tubey, warm acoustic guitar reproduction you could ever ask for – this is the sound of real analog!
  • Ventura Highway sounds amazing here, as does everything else; it’s a Demo Disc for acoustic guitars and vocals

The guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction quality. Most of the pressings of this record do not get the guitars to sound right. And when the guitars are perfection, the voices and all the other instruments are right as well. Let’s face it: they just don’t know how to make acoustic guitars sound like this anymore. You have to go back to 40+ year old records like this one to find that sound.  

Warner Brothers Green Labels

Green label Warner Brothers originals are sonically all over the map. The biggest problem these pressings suffer from is a lack of extreme top end to provide harmonics for the guitars. The guitars on this copy sound just right, really sweet and open. On the average copy, they sound veiled and dull. (more…)

Simon and Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water – Classic Records Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: C

Not Bad, But Hot Stampers Rule 

What do the best copies give you? They’re the ones with textured strings in the orchestral arrangements. The string tone on the average copy is hard and steely. (The Classic 200 gram pressing suffers from a case of slightly steely strings. Play it yourself and see.) When the strings are blasting away at the end of the title song, you want to be able to hear the texture without the strings sounding shrill and edgy. This is no mean feat, for the record or the stereo. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme

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Listening in Depth

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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 Simon & Garfunkel’s groundbreaking third album (from 1966 no less!).

TRACK COMMENTARY

Side One

Scarborough Fair/Canticle

Listen carefully to the voices on this track, one of our favorites to test with. On the best copies they sound exceptionally delicate yet full-bodied. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Joni Mitchell – Blue

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Listening in Depth

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The main reason it’s so difficult to find a good sounding pressing of this record is that most copies have a tendency towards hardness, shrillness and aggressiveness. There is a great deal of mid- to high-frequency information in this recording, and the problems arise when you take all that energy and try to stamp it into a piece of domestic vinyl.

If the vinyl wasn’t good on the day they pressed the record, it doesn’t matter how good the mastering is. The result is grain and grunge. Since Joni pushes her voice hard into her higher registers on many of these songs it’s often enough to make you leave the room. At the very least you would have to turn down the volume.

That’s on the copies that are mastered right! The copies that are mastered with thin and aggressive sound to start with can only get worse. Those are the rule, not the exception.

Breathy Vocals and Hot Stampers (more…)