Blues, R&B, Soul

Van Morrison – Wavelength

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  • A superb copy of Wavelength with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Richer, warmer and bigger than practically all of the other copies we played, here is the kind of analog smoothness that’s essential to the sound of Morrison’s music
  • His biggest selling album to date? Seems hard to believe but that’s what is says on Wikipedia – it went gold in 3 months
  • Time magazine raved: “Morrison has made two, maybe three albums that rank high among the finest of all rock ‘n’ roll. Wavelength is good enough to stand close by Morrison’s best work, a record of sinuous, sensuous magic. The man just can’t be beat.”

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The Vaughan Brothers – Family Style

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  • Jimmie and Stevie Ray’s 1990 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with superb nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Space, clarity, transparency, and in-the-room immediacy are some of the qualities to be found on this pressing – it’s guaranteed to soundly beat any copy you’ve ever heard
  • “Jimmie makes his vocal debut on ‘White Boots’ and ‘Good Texan,’ and the brothers blur the lines between their expected guitar styles — Stevie sometimes going for a less sustainy twang, Jimmie moving into Albert King territory.”

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Stevie Wonder – The Secret Life of Plants

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  • Wonder’s wonderful documentary soundtrack from 1979 makes its Hot Stamper debut here with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound or close to it on all four sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than practically any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • “… there is beauty here. Stevie’s unquenchable desire for experimentation and love for melody are in full effect, and some of the magic and mystery of the botanic planet is evoked.”

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Van Morrison – His Band And Street Choir

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) copy of this great sounding Van Morrison album, a favorite of ours here at Better Records
  • The sound is full-bodied, clear, and brimming with the soulful energy of this great artist
  • The best sounding Van Morrison album, a Top 100 title, with classic 1970 Analog sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • “As “Domino” opens the album with a show of strength. “Street Choir” closes it with a burst of both musical and poetic energy which is not only better than anything else on the album but may well be one of Van’s two or three finest songs.” Rolling Stone

This is the album that came out between Moondance (in the same year in fact, 1970) and Tupelo Honey, but for some reason, it don’t get no respect. We think that’s insane — the material on this album is stellar and the sound on the best pressings is out of this world!

Here’s a copy that really makes our case for us. Both sides of this original Warner Bros. pressing sound AMAZING! We went through a massive stack of copies and let me tell you — most of them sure don’t sound like this! Take this one home for some of the best Van Morrison sound you will ever hear.

For years I thought that Moondance was the best sounding album in the Van Morrison catalog. His Band And Street Choir is even better. One reason for that would have to be that Robert Ludwig mastered it, and he can usually be counted on to do an excellent job. (more…)

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

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  • An superb sounding copy of an album that almost never hits the site; Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Both sides are super rich, full and Tubey Magical with plenty of energy and big bottom end — Gaye’s vocals sound wonderful here
  • “What’s Going On is not only Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece, it’s the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music… arguably the best soul album of all time.” — All Music, 5 stars  

Stunning Sound

Way more spacious and transparent than most copies yet still super rich and smooth in the midrange. Listen to the bells and percussion — there’s real ambience around them for once! The vocals are full and present, the bottom end is big and solid, and the soundstage is open and three-dimensional. So good!

I don’t know how many copies like this we’ll be able to track down, so if you’re a fan of this great music you should probably snap this one up. Most copies we’ve brought in were beat to death, full of groove damage or just sonically unimpressive. (more…)

Bob Marley – Natty Dread

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TWO EXCELLENT SIDES on quiet vinyl, including an AMAZING A++ TO A+++ SIDE ONE! This is one of the very best Bob Marley and the Wailers albums, and you’re going to have a hard time finding better sound for it than what you get on this SUPERB pressing. Both sides are incredibly rich, full and open with the kind of massive bottom end you’ve just gotta have for reggae music.

We recently undertook a big shootout for this album and were quite pleased with the sound of this copy, especially in relation to all the mediocre copies that hit our table that day. Side one features nothing but hits (Lively Up Yourself, No Woman No Cry, Them Belly Full and Rebel Music — what a lineup) and all four tracks sound wonderful here.

We don’t find killer Bob Marley pressings very often, so you shouldn’t let this one get by you if you want to hear the King of Reggae sound amazing! (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – The Sky Is Crying

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  • You’ll find insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the most blistering performances of electric blues we have ever had the pleasure of rocking out to
  • Hands down the best sounding SRV recording — Little Wing is an absolute MONSTER on this White Hot side one and a Demo track to beat them all
  • 4 stars: “Doing away with vocals, Vaughan augments Hendrix’s concise two-and-a-half minute original, turning the track into a nearly seven-minute-long electric tour de force. The cover would earn Vaughan his sixth Grammy, for Best Rock Instrumental Performance, in 1992.”

This is one of the most blistering recordings of electric blues-rock we’ve ever played. Few other records recorded in the ’80s have this kind of BIG, BOLD sound. Maybe none. The sheer impact and wallop of this music is a real treat, but only if you have the right pressing (and the right kind of stereo to play it on, of course).

Stevie’s take on Jimi’s Little Wing is the surest proof that SRV was one of the greatest Electric Blues Guitarists of All Time. I know of no other guitar showcase to compete with it. Sonically it’s a knockout, with one of the tallest, widest and deepest soundstages I have ever heard on record. It brings to mind Gilmore’s multiple solos on Money from the hottest Dark Side of the Moon pressings, high praise indeed. Little Wing deservedly won SRV the Grammy in ’92 for Best Rock Instrumental. Click on the Little Wing tab above to learn more.

And, if you want to here Stevie channel Wes Montgomery instead of Jimi Hendrix, take a listen to Chitlins Con Carne. (more…)

Smoky Babe – Hottest Brand Goin’

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  • Smoky Babe makes his Hot Stamper debut here on this superb pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • The mono sound is gloriously ANALOG, so smooth and full-bodied – no other copy in our shootout had this kind of exceptionally realistically relaxed sound
  • 4 stars: “Smoky Babe, aka Robert Brown, laid down a good set of down-home country blues on this 1961 session, with occasional assistance from harmonica players Clyde Causey and Henry Thomas… it’s sung with conviction, and the guitar playing is emphatic and chunkily rhythmic.”

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Average White Band – Cut The Cake

More Average White Band 

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We’ve always been big fans of their AWB album, but it was only recently that we discovered how good Cut The Cake can sound on the right pressing. Most of the copies we’ve heard over the years have sounded flat and dry, but we got a hold of a hot one here! All Music Guide calls it “one of their finest, most engaging albums” and when it sounds this good, we sure aren’t going to argue!

Check out the title track and School Boy Crush for some funky fun with great sound! (more…)

Boz Scaggs – Silk Degrees

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  • A superb copy of Scaggs’ Masterpiece, with amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy brings out of the mix the solid, weighty piano that’s missing from the CBS Half-Speed and 90% of the reissues
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 5 stars: “[Scaggs] hit the R&B charts in a big way with the addictive, sly Lowdown… and expressed his love of smooth soul music almost as well on the appealing What Can I Say.”

NOTE: *On track three there are five light ticks during the outro.

Stunning sound on the better recorded tracks, which I’m happy to say are most of them. And why not? This band is basically Toto with Boz Scaggs singing lead. Paich wrote most of the songs and most of the Toto band (which didn’t exist yet of course) is in the house. (No Lukather, but the guitarists on hand manage to pull it off without him.) Check out the legendary Jeff Porcaro’s twin hi-hats on Lowdown, one per channel, energizing the rhythm of the song big time.

One of the main qualities separating the winners from the also-rans on this title is the quality of the bass. This is rhythmic music, first and foremost. 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 upfront 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…)