Blue Eyed Soul

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

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  • Cocker’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than these?
  • How’s this for a track listing: Dear Landlord; Bird on the Wire; She Came in Through the Bathroom Window; Something; Delta Lady; Darling Be Home Soon – and there’s more
  • 4 stars: “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.”

*NOTE: Side two Track Four, Hello, Little Friend, is slightly noisier, on the low end of Mint Minus Minus.

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music.

This album is a ton of fun, with Cocker and his band putting their spin on some of the best songs of the era. You need energy, space and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound if this music is going to sound right, and on those counts these copies deliver. (more…)

Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

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  • This outstanding copy boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • There’s a reason this album is so tubey and real – it was recorded at Olympic and Trident in the halcyon days of 1968
  • The sound is solid, present and rich – you’re unlikely to find a better sounding pressing, and if you own the mediocre Speakers Corner pressing from years back, a world of sound will open up to you that you never knew was there
  • 4 stars: “Joe Cocker’s debut album holds up extraordinarily well across four decades, the singer’s performance bolstered by some very sharp playing… Tracks like “Just Like a Woman,” with its soaring gospel organ above a lean textured acoustic and light electric accompaniment… help make this an exceptional listening experience.”

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Boz Scaggs – Boz Scaggs

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This original pressing has two excellent sides, which is two more than the typical cardboardy, flat, thin, lifeless copy has. If you like your music dry and clean, try the remixed version, the CD, or perhaps there is a heavy vinyl version out there (at one-tenth the price). That’s not our sound here at Better Records. The best recordings from the era do not have that sound, so when we find that kind of analog richness, sweetness and naturalness on a pressing such as this, we know the record is right.

The nearly 13-minute long version of Loan Me A Dime on side two is out of this world and the best reason to play the album. Another good reason: Duane “Skydog” Allman on guitar! (more…)

Hall and Oates – H2O

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  • A stunning copy of this Hall and Oates classic from 1982 with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two, mated with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on side one – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • It’s lively, open, and natural – the voices of the two leads sound especially full-bodied, real and tonally correct from top to bottom, which is pretty much all you need to earn top grades in a shootout
  • Much more consistent than most of their releases, this one boasts three killer hits including Maneater, Family Man and my All Time Favorite by the band, One on One
  • 4 stars: “Private Eyes solidified Hall & Oates’ status as one of the most popular acts in America in the early ’80s, and…… with 1982’s H2O, they capitalized on its success, delivering an album that turned out to bigger than its predecessor, as it climbed higher on the charts and launched three Top Ten singles…”

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Elvis Costello – Get Happy

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More Titles Only Offered on Import LP

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  • An incredibly good UK pressing – only the second Shootout Winner to hit the site in many years, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Big, lively and dynamic, with huge amounts of bass (Elvis’s trademark sound) and New Wave energy that’s off the charts
  • Get Happy, coming right before the brilliant Trust, contains Elvis classics like I Can’t Stand Up (for Falling Down) & Motel Matches
  • The AMG Five Star rating “…a 20-song blue-eyed soul tour-de-force…” and killer recording quality make this a Must Own for Elvis fans

Two amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sides for this rip-roarin’, twenty song, five star rated Elvis Costello extravaganza!

This is the record that came right after Armed Forces, which is a huge favorite around these parts, and the venerable All Music Guide gives both albums five big stars. I’m not sure I’d go quite that far, but it’s certainly full of good material. Out of the twenty songs on here, exactly one clocks in at over three minutes. (more…)

Boz Scaggs – Slow Dancer

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This is an album of wonderful white soul music. As a bonus, it also happens to be very well recorded. The problem we ran into on copy after copy was a brighter than ideal tonal balance, hard vocals and, on those copies that don’t extend fully on the top and bottom, a somewhat squashed, peaky midrange.

The better copies deal with those issues and, for the most part solve them. There’s lovely texture to the strings, plenty of punchy rich bass, and all the elements of the recording are properly balanced, something they still knew how to do back in the all analog days of 1974, I’m glad to report. (more…)

Robert Palmer – Sneakin’ Sally Through The Alley

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl for the most part too, although one mark is a problem
  • Rich, smooth, Tubey Magical sound is what makes these wonderful import pressings win our shootouts – that and lots of funky bass
  • The best album Robert Palmer ever made – with Little Feat and The Meters helping out, it had to be
  • 4 stars: “While the music is tight and solid, it is Robert Palmer’s voice that is revelatory — he sounds supremely confident among these talented musicians, and they seem to feed off his vocal intensity. Fans of the Meters or people who want to discover the funky side of Robert Palmer should check this one out.”

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Boz Scaggs and His Background Singers – How Well Can You “See” Them?

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What to Listen For – Transparency Vs Opacity

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This original (SD-8239) pressing has two excellent sides, which is two more than the typical cardboardy, flat, thin, lifeless copy has. If you like your music dry and clean, try the remixed version (SD-19166), the CD, or perhaps there is a heavy vinyl version out there (at one tenth the price). That’s not our sound here at Better Records.

The best recordings from the era do not have that sound, so when we find that kind of analog richness, sweetness and naturalness on a pressing such as this, we know the record is RIGHT.

What to Listen For — Background Singers You Can “See”

If you have multiple copies of the album and want to shoot them out, here’s an easy test. Listen for how clear and correct the female background singers sound. This is an excellent test because it will hold true for both sides on the album.

On opaque copies they are hard to “see”; on transparent copies they are easy to “see.” On tonally thin copies they will sound edgier and harder than they should. And on Tubey Magical copies they will sound full-bodied, solid and real.

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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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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…)