Genre – Rock – Pure Pop

Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

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We’ve mentioned how difficult some records are to reproduce: how the Revolutions in Audio of the last decade or two have profoundly changed the ability of the seriously dedicated audiophile to get records that never sounded good before to come to life musically in a way previously understood to be impossible.

This is one of those records. But you have to have done your homework if you want to play a record like this, as the commentary below explains.

’60s Sound

The problem here is the sound. It’s got a bit of that tinny ’60s pop production sound — too much upper midrange, not enough lower midrange and a slightly aggressive quality when things get loud. Still, it’s quite a bit better than recordings by, say, The Byrds or Jefferson Airplane from the era, and I have no trouble playing and enjoying those records, so…

I can also tell you that if you have a modest system this record is just going to sound like crap. It sounded like crap for years in my system, even when I thought I had a good one. Vinyl playback has come a long way in the last five or ten years and if you’ve participated in some of the revolutionary changes that I talk about elsewhere on the site, you should hear some pretty respectable sound. Otherwise, I would pass.

On the Difficulty of Reproduction scale, this record scores fairly high. You need lots of tubey magic and freedom from distortion, the kind of sound I rarely hear on any but the most heavily tweaked systems. The kind of systems that guys like me have been slaving over for thirty years. If you’re a Weekend Warrior when it comes to stereo, this is not the record for you. (more…)

Bread – The Best of Bread

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing will show you just how good Bread’s music can sound on All Analog vinyl
  • A Better Records Desert Island Disc if there ever was one — believe me, there are scores of them
  • This is one of the rare Greatest Hits compilations (and this band had a LOT of hits) that is sonically competitive with the original albums
  • You’ll find most of the best Bread ballads here, including Make It With You, Everything I Own, Baby I’m A Want You, and If
  • All Music on their first album – “… effectively the birth of Californian soft rock…” (We think this applies equally well to all of their early material)

A Better Records Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. Believe me, there are plenty of them.

Listening to these acoustic guitars brings back memories of my first encounter with a British original of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic — that sound knocked me out thirty years ago, and here it is again. I guess I’ve just always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. (I was buying Bread album in the early Seventies while still in high school.) If you are too, then this killer copy of The Best of Bread will no doubt become a treasured disc in your home as well.

When you hear sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. Over the years I’ve even come to enjoy the rockers on side two. I used to consider side two the weak part of the album. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to borrow a good line from Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate the music that came out more than thirty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself, “What went wrong with popular recordings over the last two or three decades? Why do none of them ever sound like this?”

Not to worry. Audiophiles with good turntables have literally an endless supply of good recordings to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you have, you can’t have scratched the surface of the recorded legacy of the last 60+ years. That’s the positive thought for the day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just another step on your journey through the world of music.

One further note. Records like this only get better over time. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in painfully stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings that reveal their phony, lifeless and often just plain weird sound as your stereo and critical listening skills improve. In other words, if you make a change to your stereo and this record starts to sound better, you did the right thing. (more…)

The Zombies – The World of the Zombies

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

The World of the Zombies is for all intents and purposes a reissue of their 1965 debut album, Begin Here, with a few track changes, the most important of which is the addition of Tell Her No.

The drums here are clear and punchy and the bottom end is solid. The vocals do not get too bright as they have a tendency to do on some copies.

When you get a Tubey Magical copy like this, that Hammond B-3 sound is GLORIOUS. Smooth sweet vocals and dead on tonality complete the sonic picture here.

Just for fun sometime go to popsike.com and check out what the original first Zombies record on Decca sells for. Try $1500 and up! And people think our prices are high — we ain’t never charged that kind of bread. (more…)

Bee Gees – Main Course

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  • KILLER sound for this early RSO pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them – this is the best sounding Main Course ever
  • I can’t recall how many times we’ve tried to get this shootout going and failed – this very pressing represents the breakthrough we were hoping for the last twenty or so years
  • 4 1/2 stars: “It may sound silly to call the 12th album by a group with an eight-year string of gold records behind them a “breakthrough,” but that’s what Main Course was… Years later, Main Course holds up as well as anything the group ever did, and with killer album cuts like “Wind of Change” (featuring a superb Joe Farrell tenor sax solo) and “Edge of the Universe” all over it, demands as much attention as any hits compilation by the group.”

The impossible has happened – we found a good sounding copy of Main Course. The right stampers eluded us for a very long time, but we finally lucked into a good sounding pressing, and that allowed us to put the wheels in motion for this shootout. Here are some other titles that represent the most dramatic Breakthroughs from the last ten years or so. (more…)

Burt Bacharach – Make It Easy On Yourself

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  • Two great sounding Double Plus (A++) sides – big, tubey, balanced and above all, natural, on quiet vinyl too
  • With engineering by the legendary Phil Ramone, this is an exceptionally well-recorded album, as this pressing makes clear
  • The brass is great on both sides, rich and full with the right amount of bite, not to mention lively and DYNAMIC
  • “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,” and “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” are great songs that solidify Bacharach as a master of quirk.” – Allmusic

If you’re a fan of the Casino Royale soundtrack, you should definitely check out this crazy album. The best material on here is loads of fun, and when you get a great copy like this one the sound is WONDERFUL. The brass sounds lively on both sides of this copy, rich and full with the right amount of bite. The overall sound is surprisingly DYNAMIC!

This pressing is Tubey Magical — what A&M pressing from 1970 wouldn’t be? — but also highly resolving of subtle musical information, the kind you notice when you play a pile of copies one after another. Listen to the orchestra on Do You Know The Way To San Jose — you can really hear the sound of the rosiny bows being pulled across the strings. (more…)

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Ye-Me-Le

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this fun Brasil ’66 album
  • The overall sound here is incredibly rich and full-bodied with tons of energy and a very natural, musical sound
  • Norwegian Wood, Wichita Lineman and Easy to Be Hard are among the great songs that have the potential to sound amazing
  • We’re huge Sergio Mendes fans here and it’s a thrill to hear copies like this bring his music to life

The first three tracks on side 1 are the best reason to own this album, especially the first two (Wichita Lineman and Norwegian Wood), which are as good as anything the group ever did. As I’m a big fan, that’s high praise!

The average LP of this album is terrible. Shrill, aggressive sound is the norm, but compression and overly smooth (read; thick and dull) sound are also problems commonly found on Ye-Me-Le. There’s also a noticeable “strained” quality to the loud vocal passages on almost every copy; only the best are free of it. (more…)

Jimmy Buffett – Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

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  • Side one earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++), side two was a very strong Double Plus (A++) – you’ll be shocked at how good this pressing sounds!
  • It’s rich and smooth with an impressive bottom end, qualities that bring out the best in this music
  • 4 stars: “…one reason Changes… is his best record yet is simply the sound… The main reason it’s Buffett’s best is the songs, most of which he wrote. Buffett has always been a good songwriter when he had the time to apply himself, and he’s been developing a persona that reaches its culmination here.”

Shockingly good sound for this Jimmy Buffett classic, featuring Margaritaville!

Look, we’re as surprised as anyone that this album has the potential to sound like this. We picked up a few copies for the heck of it (I believe that’s exactly in the Jimmy Buffett spirit) and were shocked at what we heard on the best of them. Most of them were a complete waste of time, but we learned enough to start the hunt and finally get this shootout rockin’.

It took some time, but we’re pretty happy to present a knockout copy of this album sure to please not only his Parrothead fan base but anyone who enjoys this breezy country rock and wonderful audiophile sound. (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Room Treatments Bring Out The Best

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Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. 

With recent changes to some of our room treatments, we now have even more transparency in the mids and highs, while improving the whomp factor (the formula goes like this: deep bass + mid bass + speed + dynamics = whomp) at the listening position. (There’s always tons of bass being produced when you have three 12′ woofers firing away, but getting the bass out of the corners and into the center of the room is one of the toughest tricks in audio.)

For a while we were quite enamored with some later pressings of this album — they were cut super clean, with extended highs and amazing transparency, with virtually none of the congestion in the loud parts you hear on practically every copy.

But that clarity comes at a price, and it’s a steep one. The best early pressings have whomp down below only hinted at by the “cleaner” reissues. It’s the same way super transparent half-speeds fool most audiophiles. For some reason audiophiles rarely seem to notice the lack of weight and solidity down below that they’ve sacrificed for this improved clarity. (Probably because it’s the rare audiophile speaker that can really move enough air to produce the whomp we are talking about here.)

But hey, look who’s talking! I was fooled too. You have to get huge amounts of garbage out of your system (and your room) before the trade-offs become obvious. When you find that special early pressing, one with all the magic in the midrange and top without any loss of power down below, then my friend you have one of those “I Can’t Believe It’s A Record” records. We call them Hot Stampers here at Better Records, and they’re guaranteed to blow your mind.

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was thirty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the decades since.

Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66 – Bruce Botnick and The Big Bottom End

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What separates Sergio from practically all of his ’60s contemporaries is the AMAZING SOUND of his recordings. The first album was recorded by the legendary BRUCE BOTNICK, the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention. This, in my opinion, is his Masterpiece. The Doors albums Bruce recorded represent some of his best work, but what Doors album sounds as good as Sergio’s debut? I can’t name one. [Actually I can: the first album, when you get the right pressing. It’s out of this world.] 

Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. When you hear one of those copies, you have to give Botnick his due. The man knew what he was doing. (Larry Levine, who recorded the subsequent albums, was no slouch either. Stillness is one of the ten best sounding records I have ever played, and that’s no exaggeration.)

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was close to twenty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the intervening decades.

Starship – Knee Deep in the Hoopla

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  • The debut for the band Starship finally arrives on the site with two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides and quiet vinyl 
  • We guarantee you’ve never heard this Top Ten hit album from 1985 sound remotely as good as it does here
  • If you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of the album, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to do it in our experience
  • Not a hit with the critics, but it does contain two of this band’s biggest singles, both of which rocketed all the way to Number One: “We Built This City” and “Sara”

(more…)