Soul / R&B

War / Why Can’t We Be Friends? – A True Demo Disc

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This Well Recorded Album Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

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  • An incredible copy of the band’s 1975 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • One of our favorite albums here at Better Records and clearly the band’s Masterpiece – the bass and dynamics on the better pressings make this a Demo Disc on the right system
  • 4 stars [but we give it 5]: “Cut from the same cloth as the band’s 1973 Deliver the Word LP, War’s 1975 Why Can’t We Be Friends? is a masterpiece in its scope and breadth. [It] remains one of War’s truly outstanding efforts, and has become an integral part of the funk genre’s landscape. It also remains the nightcap of their finest hour.”

Engineered by the brilliant Chris Huston, this recording displays all his trademark gifts. His mixes feature lots of bass; huge, room-filling choruses that get loud without straining or becoming congested; and rhythmic energy that few pop recordings could lay claim to in 1975.

Low Rider sounds AWESOME on this one. This is the kind of record you can take to any stereo store or audiophile friend’s house and bring their stereos to their knees. Audiophile systems are rarely designed to play this kind of music at the levels it demands, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be. Records like this are the challenge we audiophiles need to make our stereos even better. When the music is this good it’s worth the effort

What superb sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1975
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

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War – Deliver The Word

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  • Insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this Shootout Winning copy – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Thanks to the brilliant engineering of Chris Huston, the sound is War at its best: big, rich, smooth and clear, with the kind of low end whomp that few rock records from the era can claim
  • 4 Stars: “A smooth blend of the band’s more progressive jazz-rock fusion, the LP shot to the top of the R&B charts, their second of four number one records in a row. It was a perfect tonic to the mediocre MOR music rampaging its way through the early part of the decade…A magical ride with plenty of surprises to keep the listener on his or her toes, this set is a perfect example of the band at their genre-fusing best.”

Engineered by the brilliant Chris Huston, this recording displays all his trademark gifts. His mixes feature lots of bass; huge, room-filling choruses that get loud without straining or becoming congested; and rhythmic energy that few pop recordings could lay claim to in 1972.

As for the choruses, allow me to paraphrase our listing from Commoner’s Crown.

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs. The first track on side two, Four Cornered Room, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Richness and weight are key to the sound, but oddly enough an extended top end was almost as crucial to the success of the best copies. When the top end extends, the sound is open and relaxed. When the various songs build to their climaxes, the copies with lots of clean top end had a sense of “ease” that simply was not to be found on the smoother (read: duller) brethren. (more…)

Otis Redding – The Immortal Otis Redding

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  • Redding’s posthumous release finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce
  • This vintage Plum and Tan label LP plays pretty darn quietly for an original Atco pressing – we’ve never heard one quieter
  • “…any Otis Redding recordings should be considered welcome (if not mandatory) additions to all manner of listeners.”

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Sade – Stronger Than Pride

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  • KILLER Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides, making this one of the best copies to ever hit the site — exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • The better copies such as this one have the uncanny ability to bring a living, breathing, oh-so-sultry Sade Adu (age 29) right into your listening room
  • This import – forget the veiled, closed-in domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl poseur may be in print – will bring Sade to life right in your very own listening room
  • “Sade demonstrated some intensity and fire on her third release… she had more animation in her delivery on such songs as ‘Haunt Me,’ ‘Give It Up,’ and the hit ‘Paradise.'”

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Stevie Wonder – Innervisions

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Innervisions Available Now

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this is an all around killer pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the funkiest audiophile-quality discs money can buy, but you need a copy that sounds as good as this one to make that case
  • The key qualities are richness, warmth, Tubey Magic, and clarity, and here you will find a healthy dose of all four
  • “Stevie Wonder applied his tremendous songwriting talents to the unsettled social morass that was the early ’70s and produced one of his greatest, most important works, a rich panoply of songs addressing drugs, spirituality, political ethics, and what looked to be the failure of the ’60s dream — all set within a collection of charts as funky and catchy as any he’d written before.”

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Stevie Wonder singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Little Milton / Blues’N Soul – Reviewed in 2012

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Well Recorded Soul. RnB, Blues, Etc. Albums – The Core Collection

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Not sure if I would still agree with what I wrote many years ago about this album, sonically anyway:

A pristine looking Stax LP with excellent sound and some really heartfelt Blues music.

This is a Stax reissue from 1982. My experience with the stuff that Fantasy remastered has been very good over the years. This is another winner.

“Milton’s early-’70s output indeed began to walk the fine line between the blues and soul and includes the song Behind Closed Doors.” — AMG

Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life

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  • This outstanding copy of Stevie Wonder’s epic double album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Here you will find Tubey Magical Richness, as well as the kind of immediacy and transparency that few copies have – all qualities essential to getting the best sound from Stevie’s Magnum Opus 
  • A true musical genius (according to Eddie Murphy) here joins forces with other legends including Herbie Hancock, George Benson, and Deniece Williams
  • 5 stars: “…Stevie Wonder’s longest, most ambitious collection of songs… that — just as the title promised — touched on nearly every issue under the sun, and did it all with ambitious (even for him), wide-ranging arrangements and some of the best performances of Wonder’s career. “

Double albums are usually very tedious work for us, but this one had us smiling and tapping our feet all the way through to the end of the last side. I’m sure you don’t need a rundown of why this is such a great album, but the 5 star AMG review is an excellent read for those who want to be reminded. (Click on the tab above.) (more…)

Four Tops – Reach Out

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

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  • A stunning copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Both sides here are incredibly clean, clear and lively with a punchy bottom and and plenty of space
  • “… it’s one of the best Four Tops records of the ’60s… Reach Out still did better than any other original LP by the group, almost breaking the Top Ten.” – All Music

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Michael Jackson / Thriller – A Top 100 Title

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Reviews and Commentaries for Thriller

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades throughout, this pressing of Michael Jackson’s Masterpiece of Funky Rock Pop will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is huge – big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare, as well as cleaner, smoother, sweeter upper mids and a more extended top
  • Billie Jean and Beat It sound out of this world, but that’s not fair, since every track does
  • A Top 100 and 5 Stars on AMG: “This was a record that had something for everybody, building on the basic blueprint of Off the Wall by adding harder funk, hard rock, softer ballads, and smoother soul — expanding the approach to have something for every audience.”

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’80s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of Thriller is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, The Who, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd and far too many of our favorites to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

Sound that came Jumping-out-of-the-speakers coupled with driving rhythmic energy were the hallmarks of the best copies. These qualities really brought this complex music to life, gave it room to breathe, and made it possible for us to enjoy the hell out of it. This is yet another definition of a Hot Stamper — it’s the copy that lets the music work as music. (more…)

Chuck Berry – The London Chuck Berry Sessions

More Live Recordings of Interest

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this original pressing with each side earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades and playing about as quietly as any copy ever will, Chess vinyl being what it is
  • These vintage sides are rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical with a lovely musical quality that we found was missing from many of the copies we played
  • “This 1972 release is Chuck Berry’s bestselling album in nearly 50 years of hot-wax work. Buoyed by the playfully lewd No. 1 hit single “My Ding-A-Ling,” one of three live recordings here, the success of these sessions marked a comeback for the mercurial Rock and Roll Hall of Fame immortal…” – Alan Greenberg

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