Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (British)

Van Morrison – Into The Music – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

Two incredible sounding sides for this great Van Morrison album, one that Allmusic calls one of his best records! Not a lot of casual Van Mo fans are familiar with this album, but after a big shootout we were left very impressed with the sound of the best pressings and the quality of the music throughout. Morrison’s catalog after the early ’70s leaves plenty to be desired, but this one is a real return to form.

Side one is richer and fuller than most copies with much better bass. You get excellent presence and energy that are missing from the typical copy and the overall sound is clean, clear and natural. We gave it an A++ grade.

Side two is even better — A+++ all the way. It’s unusually dynamic with real immediacy, lots of texture to the instruments and amazing separation letting you hear every last detail. Most copies weren’t nearly this rich and practically none of them were this solid down low.

If you need a new Van Morrison album in your life and you want to have one with excellent sound, give this White Hot copy of Into The Music a spin — we think you’ll be as impressed as we were. In fact, we guarantee it… or your money back! (more…)

Steeleye Span – All Around My Hat – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

The best copy to ever hit the site! It ain’t easy to find clean British pressings of this one, which is why it’s taken us so long to get a copy like this up on the site. We played a good sized stack of these recently and only a couple did the job well enough to be considered Hot Stampers. This one is a big step up, with way less of the thick / murky / veiled sound that plagues many copies.

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well-controlled bass will have a tough time with this one. But never fear, it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment. (more…)

Richard & Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

The biggest problems with this record would be obvious to even the casual listener: gritty, spitty vocals; lack of richness; lack of bass; no real space or transparency, etc. etc.

When we came across this copy we knew we had something special as it had very few of the problems above. 

The Carthage pressings did not do well in our shootout, no surprise as these early Island records were mastered at one of our favorite cutting houses here in the Southland. (more…)

Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights – The Best Sounding Record of the Decade?

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Without a doubt this is the best record Richard and Linda Thompson ever made together, possibly the best record Thompson was ever involved with, but it also holds one other important distinction, one of great interest to us audiophiles: it’s the BEST SOUNDING record he (they) ever made as well.

As I was playing the finalists for side two (at ear-splitting levels I might add) an odd thought crossed my mind. Where had I heard this kind of monstrous, punchy bass and these soaring, perfectly distorted guitars, so big and so powerful, before? There was something about the sound – the awesome energy, the freedom from compression or spatial restraint of any kind – that was strangely familiar from another shootout.

After a minute’s deliberation the answer came to me: I was remembering the feeling I got from the White Hot Stamper of Led Zeppelin II we played not long ago.

Yes, that’s the album that it most closely resembles. As outlandish as it may seem, the rock power of Shoot Out the Lights has much more in common with the rock power of Zep II than any other record I can think of.

To be sure, the vast majority of people, including the vast majority of audiophiles, have never heard a top quality RL Zep II played at extremely loud levels on a big speaker system in a dedicated room. Nor in all probability will they ever have the chance.

But I sure have, quite a few in fact. If anyone knows that sound I do. I’ve dedicated the past forty years of my efforts in audio to reproducing records with the Big Rock Sound like Zep II. There’s really none bigger in my opinion. (more…)

Joan Armatrading – Joan Armatrading – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

TWO AMAZING SIDES! We’ve known for quite some time that this can be an amazing sounding record, but until this week we didn’t realize just how stunning the best copies can be! This one’s an absolute knockout — side one earned the high grade of A++ while side two is As Good As It Gets!

The average copy of this album has a tendency to sound a bit too hi-fi for our tastes. Most audiophiles love that kind of sound, but us analog freaks prefer richness and warmth over hyper-detailed, unnatural sound. That’s why most of the heavy vinyl stuff we play around here gets the hook after just moments. We just aren’t interested in records that sound like CDs.

Side one is incredibly airy, open, and transparent. Turn down the lights, drop the needle, and your speakers will practially disapper! The soundfield is spacious and three-dimensional. The top end is silky sweet, the bottom is rich and solid, and the acoustic guitar sounds JUST RIGHT. Listen to how full-bodied and present the vocals sound on Down To Zero — lovely!

Side two has AMAZING MASTER TAPE SOUND! It’s big and lively with unbelievable immediacy to the vocals. The acoustic guitar has just the right amount of pluck and twang. Most copies don’t have this degree of clarity and transparency. There’s lots of ambience and room around the drums that weren’t nearly as clear on other pressings. We gave this side our top grade of A+++.

Our Man Glyn Johns At The Helm

This album was produced and engineered by Glyn Johns and recorded at Olympic Studios in London. Glyn, of course, is one of our all-time favorite engineers. If you like the sound of Who’s Next, Let It Bleed, On The Border (my personal favorite Eagles album), Led Zeppelin’s debut, and Sticky Fingers, you have Glyn Johns to thank for that.

 

Pentangle – Basket Of Light – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This is only the second Transatlantic British pressing of Pentangle’s third album to hit the site, and it’s an exceptionally good one, with Super Hot Stamper sound or something close to it on both sides. It’s also the quietest copy we have ever offered, with impossibly-rare mostly Mint Minus surfaces.

The British Tubey Magic you would expect is here, of course, along with what sounds like Gregorian chant and what is definitely a sitar. Now I ask you, how can you go wrong with a mix of English Folk Rock, Gregorian chant and sitar?

The true foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn. With Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them, this album presents the classic 1969 lineup at its best, with superior

Sweet Child, the followup, does not seem to be as well-recorded for some reason. The first album is positively amazing but we have not seen a clean British copy in years and don’t expect to any time soon. (more…)

Donovan – Sunshine Superman – Painting with Too Broad a Brush

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Back in 2009 we wrote: “Donovan’s albums are never well recorded so if you’re looking for audiophile sound this is not the record for you. Although the sound varies here from track to track, some tracks do sound quite nice.” 

Although we have yet to play a copy of this particular album that sounds any good to us, we couldn’t have been more Wrong about the rest of his catalog. Since 2009 we have found a number of superb sounding Donovan records, the best of which to date is The Hurdy Gurdy Man, surely the man’s masterpiece. (more…)

Steeleye Span – Commoners Crown – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This original Porky/Pecko mastered British Chrysalis pressing has Superb Demo Disc Sound — Side Two is OFF THE CHARTS — and, even more importantly, the best English Folk Rock Music ever recorded. I grew to love this album back in the ’70s; the stereo store I worked at used it as a Demo Disc, so I heard it on a regular basis. Rather than getting sick of it, I actually bought a copy for my own collection to play at home. (Not sure if I managed to get an import, not sure if I would even have been able to hear the difference.)

Things have changed as we never tire of saying here at Better Records, but in a way you could say they have stayed the same. This used to be a demo disc, and now it’s REALLY a Demo Disc.

You will have a very hard time finding a record with a punchier, richer, fuller, better-defined, dare I say fatter bottom.

But that’s just the start. Side two defeated all comers in our shootout, earning our top grade of A+++. It’s got everything we look for in a Hot Stamper British Folk Rock Album — it’s dynamic; has really solid, deep punchy bass; transparency and incredible sweetness in the midrange; tubey-magical acoustic guitars; you name it, this copy had it. It had it all. (more…)

Gerry Rafferty – City To City – Our First White Hot Stamper

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

The BEST SOUNDING City to City to EVER hit our site — White Hot on side one backed with a nearly White Hot side two, which means that the chances of finding an overall better sounding copy than this are vanishingly small, even for us.

In addition, we are especially delighted to report that not only is the sound better than ever, the music is too. The album as a whole, unlike so much of what came out in 1978 (Do Ya Think I’m Sexy asks Rod Stewart, followed by stony silence) does not seem to have dated in the least, with the possible exception of the big hit Baker Street, which is arguably somewhat over the top but still works for what it is — a radio-friendly folk pop song with a compelling narrative. Both sides come with the kind of rich, sweet, classically British Tubey Magical sound that we love here at Better Records.

In case you have never had the misfortune to play one, the original domestic pressings, mastered at the usually reliable-for-sonics Artisan, are an absolute disaster. From an audiophile point of view they are all but unlistenable. (more…)

Fairport Convention – The Bonny Bunch of Roses

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  • Superb Super Hot or better sound for both sides
  • Quiet vinyl too – a true Mint Minus with one minor issue
  • This British Vertigo Spaceship pressing is going to be very hard to beat
  • Make no mistake: this is a Demo Disc Quality record on this pressing 

AMG commented about the followup album that Fairport was “doing what the band members do best – taking some fine old traditional English jigs, reels, and traditional narratives and putting their own distinctive folk-rock stamp on them.”

We think those comments apply to this album equally well.

The first track is very Proggy with rich solid bass and tons of Tubey Magic. Transparent and tonally correct from top to bottom. It may be As Good As It Gets (AGAIG)

Side two was every bit as good. Here are two sides that are just plain Hard To Fault (HTF).

If only more records sounded this good!

But then again that would put us out of business, so, truth be told I guess we’re glad more records don’t sound this good. (more…)