Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (American)

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

The best copies bring out the breathy quality to Joni’s voice, and she never sounds strained. They are sweet and open, with good bass foundation and transparency throughout the frequency range.

The best pressings (and our better playback equipment) have revealed nuances to this recording — and of course the performances of all the players along with it — that made us fall in love with the music all over again. Of all the tough nuts to crack, this was the toughest, yet somehow copies emerged from our shootouts that made it easy to appreciate the sonic merits of Blue and ignore its shortcomings.

Hot Stampers have a way of doing that. You forget it’s a record; it’s now just Music. The right record and the right playback will bring this music to life in a way that you cannot imagine until you hear it. That is our guarantee on Blue — better than you ever thought possible or your money back. (more…)

Neil Young – Old Ways – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A surprisingly good sounding album, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides here are incredibly big, full-bodied and energetic, with wonderfully present vocals and a huge bottom end – not bad for 1985
  • Neil’s unabashed country album (hello Waylon Jennings!) has been a long time coming; it’s the first copy to hit the site in over five years
  • We guarantee this one will make your MoFI pressing sound like the bad joke it was back in 1996 or your money back and then some

See all of our Neil Young albums in stock

We just finished a major shootout for Neil’s country-fried album from the mid-’80s and this was one of the best copies to hit our table. Most of the pressings we played were too gritty and grainy to hold our interest, but this one was sweeter and smoother by a country mile!

This is Neil heading out to the sticks with his buddies, authentic country greats such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and others (nice friends to have), doing what Neil loves to do — making the music that HE wants to make, not the music that anyone else wants him to, including David Geffen and his lawyers. Old friend Ben Keith (a huge part behind the sound of Harvest) shows up with his pedal steel guitar on a couple tracks. (more…)

Neil Diamond – Stones – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • A Shootout Winner – Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – this is the way to hear Neil Diamond!
  • Armin Steiner engineered the album, and it’s Neil’s best recorded release (that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers)
  • Stones and I Am… I Said are killer on the A+++ side one, but both sides have outstanding sonics
  • 4 Stars: “Stones is a stronger album than most of Neil Diamond’s late-’60s records. An engaging collection of mainstream pop.”

See all of our Neil Diamond albums in stock

I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and not many held our interest.

 

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Neil Young – After The Gold Rush – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A KILLER copy with a Triple Plus (A+++) side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Stunning classic rock sound: rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and clear
  • One of our favorite classic rock albums for music and sound, arguably Neil’s best
  • Allmusic 5 Stars, A Top 100 title, and a Demo Disc that is guaranteed to knock your socks off
  • “It’s a magnificent, style-setting album which saw the Canadian’s elevation to rock hero. For those who like their emotion raw.”

More Neil Young / More After the Gold Rush

Folks, a Hot Stamper collection of the Greatest Records of All Time would not be complete without a knockout copy this album, that’s why it’s been a Better Records All Time Top Ten Rock Title right from the start. (more…)

The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Out of this world Triple Triple (A+++) sound – sure to be one of the best sounding Byrds albums you’ll ever hear
  • Both of these shootout winning sides are rich, clear and present – they just don’t get any better than this!
  • One of the better sounding Byrds recordings, with a number of their best songs including the chart topping title track
  • “…more Bob Dylan covers were included, as well, and “Satisfied Mind” was their first foray into country-rock, a direction they would explore in much greater depth throughout the rest of the ’60s.”

More Byrds / More Hippie Folk Rock

This Columbia 360 label pressing has KILLER sound on both sides and the vinyl is about as quiet as any of these 360 Label pressings can be found.

It took us a long time, but we pulled together enough clean copies for a big shootout, and these two great sides were head and shoulders above the competition. The sound is natural, lifelike and realistic with serious immediacy and plenty of rock and roll energy.

That 60’s analog magic is alive and well here. This copy is far richer and fuller than the average copy and the silky sweet vocals are a sure sign that the top end was cut correctly. Jim McGuinn’s 12-string electric guitar sounds wonderful, free of that tear-your-head-off aggressive quality you normally hear on Byrds vinyl.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Here are some of the things we specifically listen for in a vintage Folk Rock record such as Turn! Turn! Turn!

Our hottest Hot Stamper copies are simply doing more of these things better than the other copies we played in our shootout. (more…)

Listening in Depth to Brewer & Shipley – Down In L.A.

 

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Listening in Depth

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This has long been one of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums here at Better Records. If you like Crosby, Stills and Nash’s first album or Rubber Soul — and who doesn’t love those two albums — you should much to like on Down in L.A.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Truly Right

The drumming on this first track is out of this world — it relentlessly propels this track forward, and you can thank top studio drummers for bringing this kind of energy to the song. Also the fuzzed out guitar that comes in toward the end is pure ’60s pop, exactly the kind of thing we love.

She Thinks She’s A Woman

I love the studio chatter at the opening of this song. The transparency should be striking. When the vocals come in they should be smooth and sweet, better than the first track by a wide margin. And I love this song — it’s one of the strongest on the album.

Time And Changes

Another one of the better sounding songs. This one has exceptionally nice bass. (more…)