Genre – Percussion

Sweetnighter – A Must Hear Album of Modern Jazz Fusion

More of the Music of Weather Report

Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

We recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

The list is purposely wide-ranging. It includes some famous titles (Tumbleweed Connection, The Yes Album), but we’ve gone out of our way to choose excellent titles from famous artists that are less well known (Atlantic Crossing, Kiln House, Dad Loves His Work), which simply means that you won’t find Every Picture Tells a Story or Rumours or Sweet Baby James on this list because masterpieces of that caliber should already be in your collection.

Many of these may not be to your taste, but they sure were to ours.

Out of the thousands of records we have auditioned and reviewed, here are a hundred or two that are less well known, yet have stood the test of time for us. As such, we think are more than deserving of a serious listen.

Sweetnighter checks off a number of boxes for us here at Better Records

More reviews and commentaries for Sweetnighter.

Further Reading

Shelly Manne & Jack Marshall – Sounds!

More Shelly Manne

 More Exotica and Easy Listening Recordings

  • Sounds! makes its Hot Stamper debut on this original Capitol Stereo pressing with stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Spacious, rich and smooth – only vintage analog seems capable of reproducing all three of these qualities without sacrificing resolution, staging, imaging or presence
  • The follow up to Sounds Unheard Of!, the duo’s 1962 stereo test and demo record released on the Contemporary label


Airto – Fingers

  • An early CTI pressing with superb sound throughout – this copy guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Fingers you’ve heard
  • Incredibly impressive funky Brazilian jazz sound with HUGE lifelike percussion – thanks RVG!
  • This is without a doubt the best album Airto ever made, and this copy really has the kind of sound we look for, with an open, fully extended top end that gives all the elements of this complex music room to breathe
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Produced by [Creed] Taylor and recorded at Rudy Van Gelder’s famous New Jersey studio, this LP demonstrates just how exciting and creative 1970s fusion could be. When Moreira and his colleagues blend jazz with Brazilian music, rock and funk on such cuts as ‘Wind Chant,’ ‘Tombo in 7/4’ and ‘Romance of Death,’ the results are consistently enriching. Fingers is an album to savor.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Fingers is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

Fingers is one of our all time favorite records, a Desert Island Disc to be sure. I’ve been playing this album for more than thirty years and it just keeps getting better and better. Truthfully it’s the only Airto record I like. I can’t stand Dafos, and most of the other Airto titles leave me cold.

I think a lot of the credit for the brilliance of this album has to go to the Fattoruso brothers, who play keyboards, drums, and take part in the large vocal groupings that sing along with Airto.

At times this record really sounds like what it is: a bunch of guys in a big room beating the hell out of their drums and singing at the the top of their lungs. You gotta give RVG credit for capturing so much of that energy on tape and transferring that energy onto a slab of vinyl. (Of course this assumes that the record in question actually does have the energy of the best copies. It’s also hard to know who or what is to blame when it doesn’t, since even the good stampers sound mediocre most of the time. Bad vinyl, worn out stampers, poor pressing cycle, it could be practically anything.)


Dick Schory – Listen for a Sweetly Extended Top End

Percussion Recordings with Hot Stampers Available Now

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

What to listen for you ask? Top end, plain and simple. It’s the RARE copy that really has the incredible extension of the side two we heard recently. The space, the clarity, the harmonic complexity — perhaps one out of ten copies will show you a side two like that.

The highs are so good on this record you can use it as a setup tool. Adjust your VTA, tracking weight and the like for the most natural and clear top end, then check for all the other qualities you want to hear. You may just find yourself operating on a higher sonic plane than you ever thought possible.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, and rightfully so. It certainly can be a Super Disc, but only when you have the right pressing. It’s a real treat to hear such a crazy assortment of percussion instruments with this kind of amazingly clear, high-resolution sound!

This is one of the Demo Discs on the TAS List which truly deserves its status when, and only when, you have a killer copy.


Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp is yet another one of the many pressings we’ve discovered with reversed polarity on some copies.

Are audiophile reviewers or audiophiles in general listening critically to records like this? I wonder; I could not find word one about any polarity issues with this title, and yet we’ve played four or five copies with reversed polarity on side two. How come nobody is hearing it, apart from us?

We leave you, dear reader, to answer that question for yourself.

This record, along with the others linked below, is good for testing the following qualities.

Dick Schory – Out of Polarity Stampers Revealed

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Dick Schory

More Stamper and Pressing Information

Presenting another one of the many pressings we’ve discovered with reversed polarity on some copies.

An amazing discovery from Better Records. Many copies of this album are REVERSED POLARITY on side two (the side with Buck Dance, one of the better tracks on that side and great for testing).

Yes, once again you heard it here first, folks. We had two 4s copies of the album and both of them had side two out of polarity.  

NEWSFLASH: 7s on side two is out of polarity too. Just played one today. There’s practically no real top end extension until you reverse the polarity.

Further Reading


Weather Report – Watch Out for Sourness, Slowness and Smear

More of the Music of Weather Report

Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

What surprised us most about the dozen or so copies that we played years ago for this shootout was how wrong most copies of this album sound. They’re SOUR in the midrange. On this kind of music, a sour midrange is the kiss of death.

Those copies that aren’t sour are frequently just plain dull. On a recording like this, so full of percussion — which, to be honest, LIVES OR DIES on the quality of its percussion — dullness is devastating.

And so is slowness. If you have old school tube equipment — great for vintage RVG recordings but way too slow to keep up with this fast-paced and percussion-heavy music — this record is not going to do what it desperately wants to do: get your feet tappin’.

Smear is also another thing to watch out for — smear kills what’s good about this record. The percussion transients lose their snap and the harmonics get lost. The less smeary sides really bring out the funky magic of the recording.


The Thrill of Discovering Great Recordings

Hot Stamper Pressings of Percussion Recordings Available Now

More Killer Demo Discs for Big Speakers that Play at Loud Levels

Robert Fine was one of the greatest audio engineers who ever lived. He is the man responsible for recording this audiophile gem for Command, as well as much of the Mercury catalog.

Unfortunately, we rarely have any Command records in stock, but we do make an effort to have a good selection of the most amazing sounding Mercury titles available in the form of Hot Stamper pressings.

If you have the system for it, it’s very possible you have never heard most of these instruments sound this real on any other recording. It’s as if you were standing right in the studio with them. Yes, it’s that crazy good.

Let Me Ask You This

Here’s a question no one seems to be asking:

Who is finding incredible Demo Discs like this Command from 1961 nowadays?

Harry Pearson used to.

Sid Marks reviewed plenty back in the day (reviews which I mostly disagreed with).

Jim Mitchell (now long-forgotten) wrote about them back in the ’80s.

Moon and Gray published a book full of the best sounding Deccas and Londons.

Anybody else?

Are the Audiophile Reviewers of today picking up the baton that the giants of the past have dropped at their feet?

I see little evidence of it. [1]

Not to worry. Better Records has taken on the job that no one else seems to want to do. For example, here are:

And that’s not all. Not only have we set a higher standard for audiophile-quality records with our vintage vinyl Hot Stamper pressings, but we’ve endeavored to provide a great many other benefits to the audiophile community as well.

One of the things we’ve made an effort to do on this blog is to point out the manifold shortcomings of the audiophile reviewers operating today, whether on websites or youtube.

It is our belief, backed up by mountains of evidence, that these individuals have been misinforming and misleading our fellow enthusiasts for years and should be called to account.

We also criticize the mastering engineers who are doing woefully shoddy work these days, criticism which some find objectionable.

We, however, see this as just another one of the many services we are uniquely qualified to offer the audiophile community, especially in light of the fact that no one else seems to want to do it.

We’ve heard with our own ears thousands of amazing sounding vintage pressings, plain old records which make a mockery of the vinyl pressed today. They are yet more proof that the purportedly-superior sound of remastered LPs is rarely if ever more than a sham.

Deceptive, or Something More?

Some of the records put out by these incompetent mastering labels have turned out to be something more than a sham. They are, allegedly at least, a fraud, complete with ongoing lawsuits. Never in my wildest dreams.

We regret that we waited until 2007 to wash our hands of these modern mediocrities, long after our stereo was good enough to make their shortcomings obvious beyond question.

Yes, we were late to the party, but the fact is there is no party being held to celebrate the demise of the badly mastered audiophile record.

Since no one else in the mainstream audiophile community will follow our lead, I guess we will have to limit the guest list to those who have acquired some of our wonderful Hot Stamper pressings, a somewhat smaller group but one that makes up for their lack of numbers with boatloads of enthusiasm. We wouldn’t have it any other way.


The TAS List, a list that, back in the 70s when I was starting out, comprised a great many excellent records that were not widely known, has been going downhill for a very long time. When Classic Records pressings of the great Living Stereo recordings started showing up there, we knew the standards of the old days were gone. (Although, to be fair, there were always plenty of questionable titles on the list.)

Now the list is populated by one Heavy Vinyl mediocrity after another, a sad state of affairs if you ask me.

There are probably more records on the current list that do not qualify as Super Discs than those that do, but I can’t say I am inclined to calculate the ratio.

And many of these albums contain music that is far too esoteric to be taken seriously. Harry always said the list was about sound, not music, so this criticism has never struck us as fair. We happily concede that many of the titles on the list have the potential for excellent sound. We just couldn’t care less. As long as the music holds no appeal for us, we have better things to do with our time, time which we spend discovering amazing sounding pressings of music that never goes out of style.

For our purposes, as purveyors of albums commanding prices well into the hundreds of dollars, we do not have the luxury of considering only the sound quality of the records we offer.

However, there is still one uniquely valuable service we can offer those who are still fans of The Absolute Sound Super Disc List.

We can join in the fun and offer the TAS-head a fairly good selection of Hot Stamper pressings of TAS List titles that actually have audiophile sound quality, all 100% guaranteed or your money back.


Takemitsu / Ichiyanagi – Percussions in Colors / Yoshihara

More Classical and Orchestral Recordings

More Audiophile Recordings

  • A rare, limited edition Direct to Disc Japanese import pressing of experimental works performed by Sumire Yoshihara, here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • So transparent, dynamic and real, this copy raises the bar for the sound of this kind of unique percussive music on vinyl
  • Loads of presence, with richness and fullness that showed us just how good the Direct to Disc medium can be at its best


Bob and Ray Produced Our Favorite Record for Cartridge Setup

Hot Stamper Pressings of Bob and Ray Available Now

More of Our Favorite Difficult-to-Reproduce Test Discs

Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular just happens to be our favorite Test Disc, eclipsing all others in the areas of naturalness and difficulty of reproduction. Any tweak or new room treatment — we seem to do them almost weekly these days — has to pass one test and one test only — the Bob and Ray Test. 

This record has the power to help you get to the next level in audio like no other. Six words hold the key to better sound: The Song of the Volga Boatman.

For the purpose of mounting new carts, our favorite track is The Song of the Volga Boatman on Bob and Ray Throw a Stereo Spectacular (LSP 1773). It’s by far the most difficult track we know of to get to sound right.

There are about twenty places in the music that we use as tests, and the right setting is the one that gets the most of them to sound their best. With every change some of the twenty will sound better and some will sound worse. Recognizing when the sound is the biggest, clearest, and most balanced from top to bottom is a skill that has taken me twenty years to acquire.

It’s a lot harder than it looks. The longer you have been in audio the more complicated it seems, which may be counterintuitive but comports well with our day-to-day experience very well.

All our room treatments and tweaks must pass The Bob and Ray Test as well. It’s the one record we have relied on more than any other over the course of the last year or two.

Presenting as it does a huge studio full of brass players, no record we know of is more dynamic or more natural sounding — when the system is working right. When it’s not working right the first thirty seconds is all it takes to show you the trouble you are in.

If you don’t have a record like that in your collection, you need to find one.

It will be invaluable in the long run. The copy we have is so good (White Hot, the best we have ever played), and so important to our operation here, that it would not be for sale at any (well, almost any) price.

The Bob and Ray Trombone / Trumpet Test

One of the key tests on Bob and Ray that keeps us on the straight and narrow is the duet between the trombone and the trumpet about half way through The Song of the Volga Boatman. I have never heard a small speaker reproduce a trombone properly, and when tweaking the system, when the trombone has more of the heft and solidity of the real instrument, that is a tweak we want to pursue. The trumpet interweaving with it in the right rear corner of the studio tests the transients and high frequency harmonics in the same section. With any change to the stereo, both of those instruments are going to sound better. For a change to be positive they must both sound better.

What to Listen For (Side One)

That first crack of thunder on side one is an obvious test for bottom end size and weight. On the better copies it really rattles the room.

But the real test for side one is Buck Dance. For the Hall of Fame copy we wrote:

Without a doubt this is the best sound I have ever heard for side one of this album. The sound here is so amazing I’m willing to go out on a limb and make the following recklessly bold statement. Buck Dance on this pressing has the most extended, natural and harmonically correct high frequencies I have ever heard from my speakers (or anyone else’s for that matter).

And the crazy thing about it is, when played against an actual original pressing of Music for Bang, Baa-room and Harp, this copy, which one would assume is made from a dub, SOUNDS FAR BETTER. Now of course we don’t have ten copies of LSP 1866 which would allow us to find one with an even better Buck Dance than the one heard here on Bob and Ray, which means we cannot be definitive in any way about the disparity in sound between the two albums.

We can only judge the records we have in hand, not the ones we might have heard years ago or — even worse — speculate about the sound of records we have not actually played, recently or otherwise. So we will stick to the facts, and the facts of this side one are that it is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING sounding.

Bob and Ray and the TAS List

The album comprises a group of selections taken from the best of the early Living Stereo releases, some of which obviously sound better than others, all interspersed with dry dialogue and sound effects by Bob and Ray. From start to finish this record is a blast. The entertainment value is off the scale.

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs. When you hear a copy sound as good as this one does you will have no doubt that it belongs there. (Other records on the list, not so much. Played Summer Side of Life or Warm Shade of Ivory lately? These aren’t exactly Super Discs.)

We all owe HP a huge debt of gratitude for turning us on to this wonderful record, which also happens to be my favorite LSP of all time. I might not have ever played it were it not for the TAS List. (That’s actually a bit misleading; any classic Living Stereo gets played around here because the potential for good sound — and therefore a sizable return on investment — is fairly high.)


The Command All-Stars – Reeds and Percussion

More Jazz Recordings of Interest

More Records That Sound Better Loud

  • This original Stereo Command pressing was doing pretty much everything right, with both sides earning excellent Double Plus (A++) grades
  • Take the best sound you ever heard from the best authentic Mercury classical record and translate it into pop arrangements for clarinets, flutes, saxes, oboes, bassoons, and what do you have? Sound that leaps out of the speakers with absolutely dead on tonality
  • But what is most shocking of all is how vivid and accurate the timbre of every instrument is
  • Kudos to the exceptional skills of both Robert Fine (recording engineer) and George Piros (mastering engineer), two of the All Time Greats
  • If you appreciate exceptionally well recorded reed and percussion instruments, and what audiophile doesn’t?, this title from 1961 clearly belongs in your collection

This is one of the most phenomenal sounding records I have ever heard in my life. 

Yes, it’s multi-miked, and sometimes the engineers play with the channels a bit much (especially at the start of the first track).

That said, if you have the system for it, it’s very possible you have never heard most of these instruments sound this real, as if you were standing right in the studio with them. It’s that crazy good.

Which brings up a question: Who but Better Records is finding incredible Demonstration Quality recordings like these nowadays?

Harry Pearson used to. Jim Mitchell did back in the ’80s.

Are the Audiophile Reviewers of today picking up the baton that the giants of the past have dropped at their feet? I see little evidence of it. They seem more interested in discussing the newest Heavy Vinyl mediocrity to be released.

Is it really that much of a bother to look back to the Golden Age of analog recording and actually find a good sounding record to recommend? Apparently.

Not to worry. We are happy to fill the shoes of the greats who have passed, and here is a record that proves we have the chops to succeed in our endeavor, chops that no one else alive today seems to have.