Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (American)

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

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


  • 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.

This probably wasn’t anyone’s favorite Neil Young album, but when it sounds like it does here it sure makes a lot more sense than it did when we heard it on the more mediocre pressings. The MoFi is a muckfest, as was to be expected from a record mastered during the Anadisq era, the darkest chapter in the dark and disgraceful history of Mobile Fidelity. (more…)

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

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


  • 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.



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

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


  • 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.

We built our reputation on finding Demo Disc Quality recordings like this. Who else can offer you a copy of the album that delivers this kind of ANALOG MAGIC?

Don’t Let It Bring You Down has out of this world Demo Disc Quality Sound — you’ve got to hear it to believe it. The top end is absolute perfection — open and transparent, silky and sweet. The warmth and immediacy of the vocals is going to blow your mind.

Both sides here have freakishly good sound — unbelievably transparent with loads of ambience, detail, and texture. They’re also about as sweet and silky as they come — just listen to how delicate Neil’s voice sounds on a song like Birds.

The bass is deep, tight, and full-bodied, setting the strong foundation this music needs to really rock. The drums are punchy and dynamic with lots of WHOMP. There’s lots of extension on the top end to go along with the meaty bottom end. The overall sound is warm, rich, full, open, spacious — superb in every way. That’s what we call Master Tape Sound, baby! (more…)

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

Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017


  • 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.


More Down in L.A.

More Brewer and Shipley

Listening in Depth


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…)

Listening in Depth to Brewer & Shipley – Tarkio

More Brewer and Shipley

Listening in Depth


This Bay Area Hippie Folk Rock has a lot in common with The Grateful Dead circa Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty (the latter recorded by the same engineer, Stephen Barncard), and like those superbly well-recorded albums, it lives or dies by the reproduction of its acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies.

Analog richness, sweetness and Tubey Magic are elements absolutely indispensable to the sound of these recordings. Without them you might as well be playing a CD. (Some of the reissue pressings actually do sound like CDs and are not part of the shootouts for this album anymore. Who wants a record that sounds like a CD? They may be pressed on vinyl but they’re no less an embarrassment to analog for it. As you can imagine we feel the same way about most of the Heavy Vinyl records being made today. They’re just embarrassing.)

The best pressings, on the other hand, are everything that’s good about the analog medium — smooth, sweet, relaxed and involving. You had best have a fast cartridge and not overly rich electronics to get the most out of this one. The richness on this record is already baked-in; no need to add more.

In-Depth Track Commentary (more…)

Neil Young – Comes A Time

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics


Neil Young – Comes A Time

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours), and a Forgotten Classic from 1978.

So many copies we played just sounded flat, with dull guitars and hard vocals. Some made Neil sound like he was singing from the back of the studio. Still others noticeably lacked leading edge transients of any kind, blunting the attack of the various stringed instruments.

More Neil Young

Believe me, a Neil Young record with dull guitars is not worth playing, owning or writing about. You won’t find one on our site.

But there’s one very special quality that this recording has that few of his others do: lovely female vocal harmonies. Nicolette Larson is all over this record, adding an extra layer of mellow magic to the proceedings. Maybe it’s the woman’s touch that makes this album so relaxed and heartfelt. Neil is completely and utterly in the zone here, so whatever put him in that special state of mind is fine by me. (To quote Mr. Young himself, A Man Needs a Maid.)

As for the music, all of side one is wonderful from start to finish; I wouldn’t change a note. Side two is not as strong musically, but the sound can be every bit as good if you’ve got the right pressing, that’s for sure. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – For The Roses

Joni Mitchell – For The Roses


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

This is probably the most underrated Joni Mitchell album, both in terms of sonics and music. It seems that everyone wants a great copy of Blue or Court And Spark, but this album ranks right up there with them and does not deserve to be overlooked.

More Joni Mitchell

Let’s face it, we love Blue (1971) but most pressings suffer from a raft of sonic problems, as does Ladies of the Canyon (1970).

Court and Spark (1974) is up at the top up the list as well, but Roses (1973) seems to have more recording purity. Perhaps the engineers saw this as an opportunity to address the problems with Blue, the album that preceded it.

By the time Joni had fully indulged her jazzier inclinations with Court and Spark some of the recording quality had been lost in the quest for slicker production values for which that album is known. The complexity of the instrumentation required more multi-tracking and overdubbing, and as good as that record can sound on the best copies, in a head to head matchup with For the Roses the latter would probably win, and probably by no more than a nose.

The White Hot Pressings virtually eliminate the shortcomings of all the titles mentioned above, but boy are they hard to find, which accounts for how rarely they show up on the site. (more…)

The Donovan You Don’t Know – In Concert

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Rock and Pop Classics


The Donovan You Don’t Know – In Concert

A distinguished member of our Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from 1968.

We discovered a while back just what an excellent recording this can be and now we know how magical the best copies can be. Only the very best copies delivered the kind of natural, immediate sound we were looking for.

More Donovan / More Hippie Folk Rock

There are a lot of Donovan records out there, but not a lot of them that sound like this! On top of that you get a great set of songs, including Mellow Yellow, Isle Of Islay, Celeste, and First There Is A Mountain (the song that became the main riff of the Allman Brothers’ famous Mountain Jam).|

Get in touch with your inner flower child and spin a copy of this album full of trippy hippie magic!

AMG Review

Flow in a Donovan concert is important, and here, presented as it occurred, listeners can drift right into the tidepool of magic. The band is a quintet with Harold McNair on flute and saxophones, Loren Newkirk on piano, Andy Tronosco on upright bass, Tony Carr on drums, and John Carr on bongos. Donovan plays acoustic guitar throughout.

The hippy mysticism and flower power poet is everywhere here. This isn’t rock star excess at all, but an organic, drenched-in-sunshine concert full of gentleness with a premium on good vibes… (more…)

Listening in Depth to Jefferson Airplane – Surrealistic Pillow

More Surrealistic Pillow

More Jefferson Airplane

Listening in Depth


Before we get into the sound of Surrealistic Pillow, I’d like to point out that Hot Stampers for this title — and the shootouts that allow us to find them — are becoming increasingly rare. I’d be surprised if we can even find enough clean copies to play once a year nowadays. As unfortunate as it may be it is nevertheless a reality. With clean Led Zeppelin RL pressings frequently commanding $1000 and up on ebay, you can be pretty sure we won’t have many of those to sell you in the months and years to come either.

Same with this record. We love it but we just can’t find copies we can shootout, which are limited to those on the original label, in stereo, and neither heavily played or scratched.

On to the sound.

What’s amazing is how much the harmonic distortion in the choruses of She Has Funny Cars on side one changes from copy to copy, even ones that are tonally similiar and have the same stampers. I must confess it’s all a bit of a mystery to me. The distortion can’t all be on the tape if some copies of the record have so much less of it. When you get one with undistorted vocals, it’s almost shocking how much better it sounds than its competition.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

She Has Funny Cars

This one is almost always too bright and can often be quite aggressive. If this track sounds even halfway decent, you have a pretty darn good copy, better than average at the very least.

What’s amazing is how much the harmonic distortion in the choruses changes from copy to copy, even ones that are tonally very similiar and have the same stampers. I must confess it’s a bit of a mystery to me. The distortion can’t all be on the tape if some copies of the record have much less of it. When you get one with undistorted vocals, it’s almost shocking how much better it sounds than its competition.

As a rocker, this track needs good solid bass to anchor the sound. You can hear it right away in the guitars; they should have plenty of body. Too jangly or thin and you are in trouble.

Somebody to Love
My Best Friend
Today (more…)