Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (American)

Neil Diamond – Hot August Night

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

Our two White Hot sides here are bigger, richer, clearer, livelier and more tonally correct than the two others — two others which are guaranteed to be bigger, richer, clearer, etc. than any sides of any copy you own or even any copy you have ever heard .

In fact, the sound here presents a textbook case of just what the basic elements we listen for would be, for Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening to lots of copies played on top quality equipment — no more, no less. 

The sound here presents a textbook case of the basic elements we listen for, on Hot August Night as well as practically any other Classic Live Rock Album we might be playing. As we’ve said for years, none of this is rocket science. It all boils down to critical listening of lots of copies played on top-quality equipment, no more, no less. (more…)

The Dillards – Wheatstraw Suite

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  • Stunning sound for this original Elektra Gold Label pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades and playing as quietly as these early pressings ever do
  • This is a SHOCKINGLY well recorded album, full of Tubey Magic and as relaxed, smooth and natural as any record from 1968 has a right to be
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It never got any better than this… 13 all-but-perfect tracks… this is a finer rural/rock fusion album than Sweetheart of the Rodeo, the first Flying Burrito Brothers album, or the Beau Brummels’ efforts during this same period, and an indispensable part of any collection of ’60s music.”

This vintage Elektra Gold Label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water

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  • An insanely good 360 Label pressing of this Simon & Garfunkel classic, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound is here is As Good As It Gets — big, lively, open and clear with Tubey Magical richness that only these good early pressings can show you
  • The toughest Simon & Garfunkel album to find with excellent sound and reasonable surfaces — no contest 
  • 5 stars: “Perhaps the most delicately textured album to close out the 1960s from any major rock act… the songs matched the standard of craftsmanship that had been established on the duo’s two prior albums”

Both sides here KILLED every other copy we played. The overall sound is tubey and lush with a strong bottom end. The strings on the title track actually have some texture, and Cecilia really comes to life. There’s not as much spit or grit as you’d get on most copies, and the sound is far more musical and enjoyable than you would expect to hear, especially if you own a reissue on the red label or an audiophile reissue of any kind. These sides have an extra measure of presence and an extra degree of clarity, the kind of thing that makes them White Hot.

So many copies of this album sound wrong in so many ways, it would be impossible to list them all here. Suffice it to say, a Hot Stamper copy has to pass a lot of tests before we’re willing to vouch for it, and this copy passed those tests with flying colors. For starters, the vocals aren’t too spitty, the guitars don’t sound grainy, and the bottom end isn’t lean. Add in some of the silkiest, breathiest voices we’ve heard for this album and this Super Hot Stamper is sure to please. (more…)

Bread – Manna – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

Presented for your listening pleasure, an original pressing of Manna, Bread’s third album, with Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides. Side one rocks with the best of them — yes, Bread can rock; just play Let Your Love Go to see what I mean.

Side two boasts sweet and rich 1971 ANALOG sound, a credit to engineer ARMIN STEINER (who was also one of the engineers on Spirit’s first album, assisted on Ram and has more than a hundred other engineering credits).

That big rich bottom end and the volume of space that surrounds all the instruments and singers are the purest and most delightful form of Audiophile Candy of which we know.

The acoustic guitars? To die for. Talk about Tubey Magical Analog, this copy will show you just what’s missing from modern remastered records (and modern music generally). Whatever became of that sound?

This record put Bread’s heavily Beatles-inflected Pure Pop back on the charts after their the single from their previous album, On The Waters, made it to Number One, that song of course being Make It With You. “If”, the big hit off this album, went to number five, but we like it every bit as much as that earlier chart topper. Both represent the perfect melding of consummate songcraft and pure emotion.

We used to think that only the Best of Bread album could get those two songs to sound as luscious and Tubey Magical as they do when they’re playing in our heads, but it seems we were wrong — the latter sounds positively amazing on the best copies of Manna, and this is a VERY good copy indeed: A++ on both sides. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This 360 Label pressing has a SUPERB A+++ SIDE ONE backed with a strong A++ side two. We had a big stack of 360s and Red Labels with good stampers to compare, and this copy had a side one that could not be beat. It’s got big time immediacy, tons of energy, loads of tubey magic and exceptional clarity. The bottom end is punchy with real weight and the soundfield is open, spacious and so transparent. 

Side two has amazing clarity and transparency as well. Compared to side one it’s just a bit dry — those of you with tubey systems will probably go crazy for this sound. This was the best side two we heard this time around, but since side one was clearly more impressive we topped off the grade for the second side at A++. (more…)

Jonathan Edwards – Jonathan Edwards

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  • Incredible sound for this pink label Capricorn pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Both sides are killer — clean, clear, full-bodied and present with a huge bottom end
  • A 4 1/12 star album in the All Music Guide — :His brand of homespun tunes were perfectly matched to his emotive and soaring tenor… The acoustic and optimistic “Sunshine” struck a chord with listeners in the fall of 1971, climbing all the way to a lofty number four on the Pop Singles survey before ultimately becoming a staple of oldies radio…”
  • For folky, acoustic guitar pop (James Taylor-Cat Stevens), this record has the sound and music you want 

TWO KILLER SIDES for this underappreciated gem! This is a longtime Better Records favorite for both music and sound. It’s not one of the more popular titles we do our unique shootouts for; to be sure, few records can compete with Classic Albums the likes of Abbey Road or Dark Side of the Moon, our bread and butter. 

But for those of you who love folky, acoustic guitar pop along the lines of early James Taylor and Cat Stevens, this record delivers (on the better copies) spectacular sound and excellent music throughout. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

We played a bunch of these this week and only a very small handful of sides had enough magic to be considered Hot Stampers. The typical pressing loses its steam in (at least) one of two ways: honky mids and veiled vocals. The copies with the honk can be nearly unlistenable when Dylan starts blowing his harmonica, and the copies with veiled vocals and no real immediacy bored us to tears. 

This copy has the magic on side two. The sound is full-bodied, natural, and rich with excellent presence and real depth to the soundfield. (more…)

Various Artists – A Tribute To Steve Goodman (2 LPs)

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

This is a famous record here at Better Records. I’ve been raving about this album for close to 15 years. There was a time when albums like this could be found sealed in my catalog for $15 or $20. Those were the days.  

This All-Star tribute to Steve Goodman has some wonderful music on it. The high point for me is the duet between Bonnie Rait and John Prine on Angel From Montgomery. It’s one of my favorite Bonnie Rait songs, and hearing it live with John Prine singing takes it to another level. It’s followed by John Prine singing My Old Man, which is also a classic. (more…)

The Everly Brothers – The Everly Brothers Best – Reviewed in 2015

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

This is only the second Everly Brothers Hot Stamper to make it to the site, and I’m sure the reasons for that are not hard to fathom. I must look at fifty EB records for every one I buy, and even with a good scrubbing most of those are not going to pass muster. 

Side One

Present and breathy vocals are the key to this side’s high rating. Note how dynamic the boys’ voices are on the second track; maybe a little bright but it sounds like that’s the right sound for the music. The third track has much the same sound.

Side Two

Tonally fine in its way, which is to say rich on the first track, thinner on the second, and correct for the third; in other words, overall it’s right. (more…)

Bob Dylan & The Band – Before The Flood

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Before The Flood

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  • An outstanding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on sides one and four and Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Dylan and The Band team up for exuberant versions of many classics from each of their repertoires – a copy like this lets you appreciate just how wonderful the performances are  
  • “Dylan reworks, rearranges, reinterprets these songs in ways that are still disarming, years after its initial release… “
  • “Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat.”

One of the great Live Classic Rock albums of all time in Hot Stamper form! We played a ton of these and found that most copies bored us to death. Some lacked energy, even more never opened up, and most of them were too thin-sounding. We had to play a HUGE stack of copies to come up with a few good ones, and on a double album like this, that’s a TON of work. (more…)