Genre – Soul – Blue Eyed Soul

Hall and Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Abandoned Luncheonette

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

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, is full of TUBEY MAGIC, and has consistently good music, look no further. Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track pop recording this is about as good as it gets (AGAIG as we like to say). It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth most of the time — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE.   

This copy was our shootout winner with A Double Plus sound on side one (no copy rated higher) and A++ to A+++ sound on side two. We did hear one copy with a better side two that really knocked us out, which we called A+++, and since no side one could match it, we kept our highest grade for side one at A++ just to be stay on the safe side.

Most copies lack the top end extension that makes the sound sweet, opens it up and puts air around every instrument. It makes the high hat silky, not spitty or gritty. It lets you hear all the harmonics of the guitars and mandolins that feature so prominently in the mixes. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs and Englishmen – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This original A&M 2 LP pressing has FOUR EXCELLENT SIDES, including a shootout-winning A+++ SIDE TWO!

We did not give out a lot of top grades on this record — Super Hot is WAY better than most of what we heard (which to be honest was just not very good, a subject we discuss below). Overall this is the best copy to ever hit the site, boasting plenty of soulful rock and roll energy.

Biggest Problems

(Other than noisy, scratched up vinyl of course.)

Well, for one thing, if you get the wrong stampers on this record, you will discover, as we did, that it’s clearly been mastered from a badly made dub. The “cassette-like” sound quality will not be hard to recognize. If you have stumbled onto one of those pressings, give up on it and try your luck elsewhere, making sure to note the bad stampers.

Most copies have a tendency to sound smeary and congested. Listen for good transients and not too much compression. Most copies are opaque, as well as dull up top; try to find the ones with some degree of transparency and as much top end extension as you can (the percussion will be helped most of all by the extended top).

And of course you need to find a copy that rocks, as this is a definitely a Rock Concert, although what it most reminds me of is Ray Charles doing a choice set of modern classics, mixing it up by off-handedly mixing in a few of his own. See how they all fit together? That’s how the pros do it. (The main pro in this case is Leon Russell, the mastermind of the whole operation. He clearly knows what he is doing.) (more…)

Elvis Costello – Get Happy – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

AN AMAZING A+++ WHITE HOT SIDE TWO backed with a pretty darn good side one on this rip-roarin’, twenty song, five star rated Elvis Costello extravaganza! We shot out well over a dozen Brit Import copies and this was one of a very small group that really rocked our world. Most copies were veiled, smeary, and thick but this one presents the music with the kind of energy these songs demand.

Side two here is OFF THE CHARTS! It’s open, transparent and super full-bodied with excellent presence to the vocals and big punchy bass. It has all of the richness and sweetness that’s missing from the average dull copy. This side is truly As Good As It Gets folks! (more…)

Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees – David Hungate Gives a Master Class on the Bass

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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 Silk Degrees.

One of the main qualities separating the winners from the also-rans on this title is the quality of the bass. This is first and foremost rhythmic music. David Hungate just kills on this album; he’s giving a master class on rock and roll bass on practically every track. And, for us audiophiles, the good news is the bass is very well recorded — big, punchy and well up front in the mix.

The bad news is that only the best copies show you the note-like, clear, rich bass that must be on the master tape. Vague and smeary bottom end is the rule, not the exception, and it’s a veritable crime against Well-Recorded Sophisticated Pop such as this. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

This Hot Stamper Original A&M LP has BIG BOLD sound. It’s dynamic, punchy and spacious. Just listen to the drums on Black-Eyed Blues — the way the percussion and bass mingle sonically with Alan Whites’ skins takes this listener right into the room where the magic happened. This is definitely the best sounding Joe Cocker record we have ever heard.

Both the lead and background vocals have real presence to them. This copy has energy and life that was nowhere to be found on ANY other pressing. Joe Cocker is known for being a throaty vocalist but this was extraordinary even for him. The breathiness found here was a good blend of the smooth and gravely — a true test for any Cocker record. Every time that piano hit the lower registers you could feel it right down to your toes.

This copy had extension on both ends. An absolutely fantastic weight and openness thrive on this copy, so much so that the tambourines sound like they are right in the room with you. The textural way the guitars were recorded is incredible; their tone is RIGHT ON THE MONEY! I don’t think there’s anything you could do to this recording to make it sound much better than this.

Soundwise, most copies became harsh and shrill in the loud passages of the music. When the music gets loud, the sound becomes strained and unpleasant. A copy (like this one) that doesn’t do that is the exception, not the rule. Listen to the cover song ‘Midnight Rider’ on side two. If you own the typical copy, parts of that song will sound pretty darn unpleasant. Not so here!

Van Morrison – Astral Weeks

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  • This WB Green Label pressing has STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides for Van The Man’s 1968 groundbreaking, introspective classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This record lives or dies by the quality of its Tubey Magical Midrange, a sound modern records rarely begin to reproduce
  • It takes us years to find enough clean copies to do a shootout – these originals are not sitting in the bins at your local store anymore, they’re displayed behind the counter for a hundred bucks or more a pop 
  • 5 stars: “Astral Weeks is a justified entry in pop music’s pantheon. It is unlike any record before or since; it mixes together the very best of postwar popular music in an emotional outpouring cast in delicate, subtle musical structures.”

The original cover is actually in the original shrink!

I don’t think there’s too much I can tell you about Astral Weeks that’s going to convince you to buy it or not. It’s obviously one of the man’s (many) masterpieces, his most unique and original contribution to the music of his time, and one of the most beloved albums in his canon. (more…)

Hall and Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette

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  • This early Atlantic pressing was clearly bigger, smoother and more open than practically any other copy we played – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • By far the best sounding record these guys ever made, and for our money nothing in their recorded canon can touch it 
  • A Better Records favorite, a longtime member of our Top 100, and an absolute thrill when it sounds like this!
  • 5 stars: “Hall & Oates’ second album was the first indication of the duo’s talent for sleek, soul-inflected pop/rock. It featured the single “She’s Gone,” which would become a big hit in 1975 when it was re-released following the success of “Sara Smile.”

I’ve always liked this record, but now I consider it a classic. I could listen to it every week for a year and never tire of it.

Don’t write these guys off as some Top 40 blue-eyed soul popsters from the ’70s that time has forgotten. They are all of the above, but they don’t deserve to be forgotten, if only on the strength of this album. Without question this is their masterpiece. We also consider it a Desert Island Disc and a true Demo Disc.

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, look no further. This record is ALIVE! Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track popular recording, this is about as good as it gets. It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth — most of the time (although the multi-tracked vocals might be a little much on some songs, depending on your front end) — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE. (more…)

Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley – His Best Album By Far

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

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES on this British Sunray Island pressing. SSTTA is very hard to find nowadays, but we managed to put together a big enough stack to make a shootout possible, and this copy acquited very well indeed — it was miles ahead of the typical pressing. As is usually the case with these originals, the vinyl is a bit noisier than ideal at Mint Minus Minus.

No doubt this is the best album Robert Palmer ever made. With Lowell George’s unmistakable slide guitar and members of the Meters providing backup, as well as the amazing Bernard Purdie on drums, it’s the only Robert Palmer release that consistently works all the way through as an album. The entire first side is excellent from top to bottom, with the title track being our favorite RP song of all time.  (more…)

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker (1972)

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  • A Killer Copy of Joe Cocker’s patented Blue Eyed Soul Album, rating an outstanding grade of Double Plus (A++) or close to it on both sides
  • Plays on some of the quietest vinyl we have ever heard for the album, a true Mint Minus throughout!
  • Pardon Me Sir; High Time We Went and Black-Eyed Blues, Midnight Rider; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and St. James Infirmary – so many of his best songs
  • “With “St. James’ Infirmary,” Joe Cocker has moved into a whole different sphere of musical activity, far distant from the rip-roaring anarchism of the Mad Dogs … This album is, when all be said and done, riddled with meaningful soul.” — Rolling Stone

Great sound for this rockin’ soul album with two live tracks. Just listen to the drums on Black-Eyed Blues — the way the percussion and bass mingle sonically with Alan White’s skins takes this listener right into the room where the magic happened.

Classic Tracks

On side one, three out of five you know or should know: Pardon Me Sir; High Time We Went and Black-Eyed Blues.

On side two, three out of four you know or should know: Midnight Rider; Do Right Woman, Do Right Man and St. James Infirmary.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Solitude 
Where or When 
Mood Indigo 
Autumn Leaves

Side Two

Prelude to a Kiss 
Willow Weep for Me 
Tenderly 
Dancing in the Dark

Depanorama.net

Stunningly beautiful. The band plays perfectly. All the solos are fantastic. This album of romantic ballads is easily in the top 1% in my record collection of several thousand items. Picking highlights is an exercise in futility as every second of this album is wonderful. But don’t miss Duke’s piano with the full band on “Solitude” and in a trio setting on “All The Things You Are.” Ozzie Bailey’s vocal on “Autumn Leaves” is serene and lovely, but when coupled with the violin of Ray Nance, the beauty becomes more than we mere mortals deserve.

David Bowie’s Young Americans – 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 average RCA copy of this album is bright, grainy and hard to some degree, like most RCA pressings I come across. If you’ve been stuck with an average copy, you’re not going to believe how smooth and sweet the best ones sound. 

This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.

Both sides here are AGAIG — As Good As It Gets, Master Tape Sound. The overall sound is open, spacious, and transparent with lots of DEEP bass. You can easily pick out all the background vocals, and Bowie’s voice sounds just right. The strings have amazing amounts of texture — you can really hear the sound of the rosin on the bow. The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is punchy and powerful. You won’t believe how superb the cymbal crashes sound — you’re right there in the room with these guys! (more…)