Genre – Rock – More Rock than Pop

The Five Men and Women Who Recorded My Favorite Fleetwood Mac Album

Mystery to Me

 

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The album is Mystery to Me, and it contains  my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time, “Why”, written by the lovely Christine McVie. Considering how many great songs this band has recorded over the last thirty plus years, that’s really saying something. (“Need Your Love So Bad” off Pious Bird is right up there with it. “Beautiful Child’ from Tusk would be in the Top Five, as would “Oh Well Parts 1 and 2” from Then Play On.)

Bob Weston, I learned recently, did the arrangement. He plays the lap guitar you see pictured below. His guitar work throughout the album, along with the wonderfully complex arrangements he provided for both Why and other songs on the album, make this music a powerful and engaging listening experience forty years on.

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The fold-open cover looks like this. You figure out what they were going for because I sure can’t.

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From Bob Weston’s Bio (not sure where I found it)

The band recorded another album, the inspiring “Mystery To Me”. It contained such Mac classics as “Hypnotized”, “Emerald Eyes”, and the song “Why” which was a Bob Weston arrangement (a fact sadly left off the album’s liner notes). It is also interesting to note that Bob Welch’s song, “Good Things (Come To Those Who Wait)” was dropped at the last minute (but not before thousands of record sleeves and lyric inserts had been printed) in favor of a song suggested by Weston, the Yardbird’s “For Your Love”, which was also released as a single.

Eager to support the promise of “Mystery To Me”, the band scheduled a tour of the States. The tour had already begun, when Mick Fleetwood noticed something was awry. Bob Weston, always the ladies’ man, was spending a whole lot of time with Mick’s wife, Jenny. Not surprisingly, it became increasingly difficult, as the tour progressed, for the two musicians to appear on stage together. And Jenny did nothing to dispel his worst suspicions. Mick toughed it out as long as he could, but by the end of October it was clear someone had to go. Road Manager John Courage did the deed: Bob Weston was fired on October 26, 1973. And so ended one of the most magical lineups the band ever produced.

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls

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  • A KILLER copy of the Stones’ last great album with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • You aren’t going to believe how hard this pressing rocks, with all the WHOMP and ENERGY you never knew was there
  • Tons of great songs – Miss You, Beast of Burden and Shattered, all sounding shockingly good on this Shootout Winning copy
  • 5 Stars on Allmusic: “Some Girls may not have the back-street aggression of their ’60s records, or the majestic, drugged-out murk of their early-’70s work, but its brand of glitzy, decadent hard rock still makes it a definitive Stones album.”

This is the Stones’ last truly great album in our opinion. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers. With hits like Miss You, Shattered, and Beast Of Burden it’s easy to see why.

Most copies are too thin or too grainy for serious audiophile listening, but this one is a MONSTER. It’s beyond difficult to find great sound for The Stones, so take this one home for a spin if you want to hear this band come to life in your very own listening room.

Not many copies have this kind of clarity and transparency, or this kind of big, well-defined bottom end. The sound of the hi-hat is natural and clear on this pressing, as are the vocals, which means that the tonality in the midrange is correct, and what could be more important than a good midrange? It’s where all the music is! (more…)

Van Halen – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Van Halen’s debut album.

Most copies just do not have the kind of weight to the bottom and lower mids that this music needs to work. Put simply, if your Van Halen LP doesn’t rock, then what exactly is the point of playing it?

The other qualities to look for on the best pressings are, firstly, space — the best pressings are huge and three-dimensional, with large, lively, exceptionally dynamic choruses.

The copies with the most resolving power are easy to spot — they display plenty of lovely analog reverb trailing the guitars and vocals.

And lastly (although we could go on for days with this kind of stuff), listen for spit on the vocals. Even the best copies have some sibilance, but the bad copies have much too much and make the sibilance gritty to boot.

A “Modern” Classic

Go ahead and turn up your nose if you like, but this music is widely considered classic rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but this album does exactly what it’s trying to do — it really ROCKS.

At least it does when you have a pressing as good as this one. The All Music Guide gives the album 5 Big Stars, and I’m sure that more than a few of you out there think it deserves every last one of them.

Donn Landee

Credit DONN LANDEE (and Ted Templeman too) with the rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies. He’s recorded many of our favorite albums here at Better Records. Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; more by Van Halen of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.

The DCC

As I recall it wasn’t very good — thick and dull and closed-in; in other words, boring — but it was quite a while ago that I played it. If your copy sounds better, more power to you, but I bet it doesn’t. Any copy we sell is guaranteed to blow the doors off of it — as well as any other pressing you own — or your money back.

Eagles – One Of These Nights – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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

This 2-pack contains the best side one we’ve ever heard! The sound is bigger, richer, tubier and livelier than we even thought possible. Side one was so amazing, such an obvious step up over every side of every other copy, we felt it deserved to be awarded our “Four Plus” (A++++) grade. One of These Nights, Too Many Hands and Hollywood Waltz will blow your mind on this side one. 

Please note: we award the Four Plus grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side one here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it a fourth plus!

We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus (A++++) grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

A Side One Like No Other

My notes read: ‘hi-rez, super tubey, breathy vocals with much less honk.”

This comment which really gets to the point: “guitar solos rise above.” The big solo on the title track just soars on this copy like we had never heard before. This is the guitar sound that Bill Szymczyk achieved with the band that Glyn Johns had not. Of course Johns had never tried; he saw them as a Country Rock band. The Eagles saw themselves as a Rock band, it’s as simple as that. (more…)

Bad Company – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame  and a recording that comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

The sound was JUMPING out of the speakers and filling the room. 

Sometimes a copy is just BIGGER than the others – it’s somehow physically wider and taller than other pressings, how we haven’t a clue — and that’s exactly what this copy had more of than any other: SIZE. If you’ve never heard a rock record like this — and knowing how rare they are it’s more than possible — you are in for a treat here.

If you’re a fan of this kind of stuff (as we definitely are) you aren’t going to want to let this one get away. Movin’ On and the title track are going to absolutely blow your mind. The best sounding tracks have MASTER TAPE QUALITY SOUND. (more…)

The Who – Live At Leeds

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  • A hard-rockin’ copy – this British Track pressing boasts huge and powerful Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • The recording is huge and lively with startling dynamics and in-the-room-presence like nothing you’ve heard
  • The drums are so solid, punchy and present they put to shame 99 out of 100 rock records you’ve ever played
  • 5 stars in Allmusic – a Rolling Stone readers’ poll in 2012 ranked it the best live album of all time!
  • Cited as the best live rock recording of all time by The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, the BBC Q magazine, and Rolling Stone. In 2003, it was ranked number 170 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Killer sound for this classic live album! Get ready to rock out, as this is one of the BEST SOUNDING live albums ever recorded. Young Man Blues on a copy such as this has drums that are so solid, punchy and present they positively put to shame the drum sound on 99 out of 100 rock records! Keith Moon lives on! (more…)

The Eagles’ Long Run – Don’t Blame Bill Szymczyk If Your Copy Doesn’t Sound Good

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  • This copy has a rockin’ Long Run like you have never heard, with Double Plus (A++) sound all around 
  • The sound is full, rich and vibrant with impressive punch down low and relatively smooth up top
  • The best songs prove that the Eagles were still at the height of their powers in 1979
  • “Overall, The Long Run is a synthesis of previous macabre Eagles motifs, with cynical new insights that are underlined by slashing rock & roll. There’s a stark simplicity to the album, especially when compared with the hyperslick Hotel California. Not a collection of hot car-radio singles. The Long Run is easily the band’s most uncommercial effort.” Rolling Stone 

What these sides of The Long Run are doing better than most other copies is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1979
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the guitars and drums having the correct sound for a Bill Szymczyk recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Problems Or Not?

Most copies have a smeary, veiled, stuck-in-the-speaker quality that makes for some painful listening. Cardboard drums. Non-existent ambience. No energy. (Unless you get one of the hard, edgy, thin ones — we’re not sure which is worse!).

This one is a while different story, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands.

What’s Bill Szymczyk’s problem anyway, you might ask. Can’t the guy record an album any better than this after being in the studio for all these years?

Yes he can! Don’t make the mistake of judging his work by the typical bad pressing of it, the kind that Elektra was churning out by the millions back in the day. Believe me, the master tape must be AWESOME if the sound of some of the records we played is any indication (which of course it is).

The True Test for Side One

Want to know if you have a good side one on your copy? Here’s an easy test. Timothy B Schmit’s vocal on I Can’t Tell You Why rarely sounds right. Most of the time he’s muffled, pretty far back in the soundstage, and the booth he’s in has practically no ambience. On the good copies he’s not exactly jumping out of the speakers, but he’s clear, focused, and his voice is breathy and full of emotional subtleties that make the song the heartbreaking powerhouse it is.

This is why you need a Hot Stamper. Most copies don’t let you FEEL the emotion in the song. Not like this one does. And the rest of the band is cookin’ here as well. From the big, full-bodied bass to the fat, punchy snare, this side is doing practically everything we want it to.

The Music

The best songs on this album show the Eagles at the height of their powers. The first two songs on both sides are practically as good as it gets for mainstream rock from this era – they’re playlist staples of Classic Rock stations from coast to coast to this day.

The last song on side two, The Sad Cafe, is also a standout. Others, as they used to say in school, “need improvement.” But five Killer Eagles songs is nothing to sneeze at. This is an album that belongs in your collection, even if you choose to listen only to the best material on it.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Long Run
I Can’t Tell You Why
In the City
The Disco Strangler
King of Hollywood

Side Two

Heartache Tonight
Those Shoes
Teenage Jail
The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks
The Sad Café

Wikipedia

The Long Run is the sixth studio album by Eagles, released in 1979. This was the first Eagles album not to feature founding member Randy Meisner, who was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit… The Long Run took almost two years to complete and saw the Eagles move in a more hard rock direction that they started going in with its predecessor, 1976’s Hotel California.

Rolling Stone

By Timothy White
November 15, 1979

By day, the stardom-obsessed City of Angels depicted on the Eagles’ The Long Run is a dreary land of blank vistas and empty promises, baking slowly under an unsentimental sun. But when the night comes, the landscape is suddenly infested with mad shadows: inky, menacing configurations that provide an ominous depth. Unbridled by reality, this is the time when desperate dreams emerge from their lairs. Such dreams stalk the back streets, bistros, board rooms and bedrooms where the deals for success are struck — and then metamorphose into nightmares.

The Long Run, the Eagles first album in three years, is a chilling and altogether brilliant evocation of Hollywood’s nightly Witching Hour, that nocturnal feeding frenzy first detailed by Warren Zevon on his haunting Asylum debut (Warren Zevon, 1976) and the equally powerful Excitable Boy. Both Zevon and the Eagles have employed the desperado and the ghoul as antiromantic symbols of the star caught in the devil’s bargain. And both eventually came to realize that they had to give up the guise of observers and confess their roles as participants.

The Eagles live and thrive in a town where rock & roll is the foremost fame machine. Commercially, they’ve risen as high as a band possibly can, and yet, as individuals, they still have trouble getting in touch with a girlfriend, with any true comfort or satisfaction, with their own dreams. Their backyard is a thicket of fast cars, witchy women, outrageous parties and wasted time, so their perspective on the maw is doubtlessly an informed one.

Since their first LP in 1972, the Eagles have been adept at portraying the dark side of stardom, the sordid milieu of its beneficiaries and the various modus operandi used to secure notoriety. From Eagles’ “Chug All Night,” “Most of Us Are Sad” and “Take the Devil,” through all of Desperado, to “James Dean” and “Good Day in Hell” on On the Border and the title tracks of One of These Nights and Hotel California, the themes of evil exhilaration, dissolution and despair that attend tinseled glory were relentlessly hammered home. These recurring themes finally reached their apex in the song whose title has since become synonymous with high living and self-destruction: “Life in the Fast Lane.”

On first listening, The Long Run seems a modest, flawed project that’s virtually devoid of the gloss, catchy hooks and flashy invention that typified earlier Eagles records. The title tune sets an unambitious tone: the group lopes along in a familiar country-rock framework, singing about youthful hopes and the virtues of tenacity. But it slowly becomes apparent that the “long run” is a metaphor for a host of secret concerns and passions that are either career- or relationship-oriented. What starts out as a mildly encouraging number about hanging in there ends up a grim homily on the solitary pleasures of flirting with the precipice:

McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece with White Hot Stamper Sound

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The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

What the best sides of this McCartney Classic from 1970 have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl import pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1970
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with the guitars and drums having the correct sound for this kind of recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we listed above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Looking For The McCartney Magic? Look No Further (more…)

Deep Purple – Machine Head on Rhino 180 Gram Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing. 

I’m guessing that very few people have ever heard this record sound good. The average copy is nothing special, but this one is a boring, lifeless mess so save your money.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

 

 

Counting Down to Ecstasy and Singing Along with My Old School

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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 Countdown to Ecstasy, Steely Dan‘s wonderful second album.

We’ve found that two songs are especially helpful in this regard: Razor Boy on side one, and My Old School on side two.

This album shares top honors with Katy Lied as the toughest Steely Dan album to get to sound right. It’s a positive shame that so many copies are such sonic let-downs: congested, bass-shy, veiled, compressed and grainy. There’s a good reason we don’t do this album but once a year, and it’s not because of a lack of demand. It’s because so many copies sound so bad.
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