Genre – Rock – More Rock than Pop

Van Halen on DCC – Not My Idea of Good Sound

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked.

As I recall it isn’t very good — thick and dull and closed-in; in other words, boring — but I played it quite a while ago. 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.

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.

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.

Badly Mastered LPs

Visit our Hall of Shame to see what are in our opinion some of the worst sounding records ever made.

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more intolerable.

Deep Purple – Made In Japan – 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 the album.

We’ve raved about a number of live albums over the years. Some of the better sounding ones that come readily to mind (in alphabetical order) are Belafonte at Carnegie Hall, David Live, Johnny Cash At San Quentin, Donny Hathaway Live, The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, Performance – Rockin The Fillmore, Live Wire – Blues Power, Waiting For Columbus, Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out and Live at Leeds. I would be proud to have any of them in my collection.

Having just played a stack of copies of Made In Japan I’d put it right up there with the best of the best. In terms of Tubey Magic, richness and naturalness — qualities that are usually in very short supply on live albums — I would have to say that the shootout winning copies of Made In Japan would be very likely to take Top Honors for Best Sounding Live Album of All Time. Yes, the sound is that good.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

The best sides tended to have the same qualities. They were huge, open, clear, transparent, rich, tubey and natural.

And of course they rocked, with startling dynamics, massive amounts of bass and a full-bodied midrange. The better the pressing the more the instruments jumped right out of the speakers. Live in your listening room was the sound we were after, and this copy delivers like nothing you have ever heard.

Machine Head Live? That would not be far off, and the fact they brought MARTIN BIRCH along with them all the way to Japan in order to engineer a live album that was only supposed to sell to the Japanese market (!) could not have been more fortuitous for us audiophiles. (more…)

Straight Shooting with Bad Company – Check Out the Punch in the Snare

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises.

In late 2009 we had just finished a shootout for this hard-rockin’ album, our first since January of ’08, and what we were hearing this time around BLEW OUR MINDS. This record got a whole lot better over the course of the last twenty months or so. I’ll go out on a limb here and say that the drum sound on this record is the right up there with the most present, punchy and realistic I have ever heard on record.  (more…)

The Who – Quadrophenia – Simply Vinyl Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: B

[These are old notes from many years ago. Take them with a grain of salt.]

Wow! This Universal Heavy Vinyl pressing from circa 2000 (the turn of the century!) is superb, not all that far from a good Track original, and quieter for sure. 

Side One rocks incredibly hard from start to finish. What a great album. It has to rank right up there with the best rock of the ’70s, right behind Who’s Next and probably on a par with Tommy, good company indeed, since we LOVE all three of those albums here at Better Records. (Both Tommy and Who’s Next are Top 100 Titles, but Quadrophenia is not far behind either of them for sound or music. (more…)

The Who – Who By Numbers on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP debunked.

It’s not just bass that separates the Real Thing from the Classic Reissue. It’s WEIGHT, fullness, the part of the frequency range from the lower midrange to the upper bass, that area that spans roughly 150 to 600 cycles. It’s what makes Daltry’s voice sound full and rich, not thin and modern. It’s what makes the drums solid and fat the way Johns intended. The good copies of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia have plenty of muscle in this area, and so do the imports we played. (more…)

ZZ Top – Fandango – Another Warners Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity

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Sonic Grade: C

Warner Brothers remastered Fandango in 2008, so we took some domestic pressings and put them up against their Heavy Vinyl LP. The results were mixed; most of our originals pressings were lackluster, many were noisy, and we just weren’t hearing anything with the sound we thought deserved to be called a Hot Stamper.

We shelved the project for another day. In the interim we kept buying domestic pressings — originals and reissues — in the hopes that something good would come our way.

Fast forward four years. It’s 2015. We drop the needle on a random pressing and finally — finally — hear a copy that rocks like we knew a ZZ Top album should. With that LP as a benchmark we got a shootout up and running and the result is the record you see here.

How did the WB remaster fare once we had some truly Hot Stamper pressings to play it against?

Not well. It’s tonally correct, with a real top and bottom, something that a substantial number of copies cannot claim to be.

But the sound is stuck behind the speakers, veiled, and sorely lacking in energy and excitement. The transparency is of course compromised on all these new reissues, and without transparency and resolution much of the audience participation on the first side is lost. I won’t say the new pressing is boring. Let’s just say it’s a lot more boring than it should be. (more…)

Cheap Trick At Budokan

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for this classic Cheap Trick Live album, this copy will be impossible to beat
  • Like most live albums the sound won’t win awards, but this original is doing pretty much everything right, with deep bass, less distortion, and plenty of LIVE ROCK ENERGY
  • We’ve tried a number of Cheap Trick albums over the years, but this is the only one that cuts it for us both sonically and musically
  • “With their ear-shatteringly loud guitars and sweet melodies, Cheap Trick unwittingly paved the way for much of the hard rock of the next decade, as well as a surprising amount of alternative rock of the 1990s, and it was At Budokan that captured the band in all of its power.”

The first pressings of this record come with an OBI strip and a Japanese style lyric and photo booklet, giving the impression that this is a Japanese pressing. But it’s clearly domestic, so kudos have to go to Epic Records for doing a wonderful imitation of the import that would fool practically any record collector.

This copy includes both. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

The best copies will tend to have the qualities detailed below, and the more abundant these qualities are on any given pressing, the higher its grade will be.

Yes, it is a science, an empirical one, which can only be carried out by the use of strict protocols and controls, but it sure ain’t rocket science. All you need is the system, the room, the records, the time and the will to do the painstaking critical listening required to carry out the task.

It can be done, but you could spend a lifetime meeting audiophiles of the vinyl persuasion and never run into a single one who has made the effort more than a handful of times.

To be honest, shootouts are a bitch. If you aren’t getting paid to do them the way we are, finding the motivation to devote the time and energy required to do them right — not to mention the piles of copies of each record you will need — is daunting to say the least.

So, back to the question: what to listen for? (more…)

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

Mystery to Me

 

fleetmyste_band

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.

fleetmyste_guitar

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

fleetmyste_cover

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…)