Genre – Jazz/Rock Fusion

John McLaughlin / Extrapolation – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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INCREDIBLY POWERFUL AND DYNAMIC DEMO QUALITY SOUND THROUGHOUT! If you’re looking for a jazz-fusion guitar album that will wake your system up (and show off its best qualities to boot), this is the hot ticket right here. We had been slowly compiling various pressings for a big shootout for ages, and we finally let it rip recently. This was one of the most impressive pressings, earning an A++ on side one and an A+++ on side two. If you’re a fan of ’70s Miles Davis or the Birds Of Fire album, you probably already know that you need this in your collection!  (more…)

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

Hot Stamper Pressings of Miles’ Albums Available Now

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

Reviews of Recordings Made at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio

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  • This outstanding Columbia pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) or close to it from first note to last
  • Excellent sound courtesy of Arthur Kendy’s and Frank Laico’s engineering at the famed Columbia Studio B in NYC
  • Miles here is backed by his classic ’60s All Star crew – Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams
  • “…Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion… intriguing music…”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, Paraphernalia.

We just finished a big shootout for this superb Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than many. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of Tubey Magic.

Many copies didn’t have the kind of transparency or openness that we heard here, which made it harder to appreciate the contributions of the different players. This one puts plenty of separation between the various instruments, so you can make sense of what each of these heavy-hitters adds to the mix. You will have a very hard time finding a copy out in the bins that sounds as good as this one!

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

Al Di Meola – Land Of The Midnight Sun

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  • A stunning copy of this Fusion Guitar classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides are incredibly lively, full-bodied, open and present — the sound, in a word, is HUGE
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” A very impressive beginning to di Meola’s solo career”
  • A great lineup including Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorious, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Steve Gadd and more

If you’ve enjoyed the sonics on one of our Hot Stamper Return To Forever, Weather Report or Santana LPs, I think you’d find a lot to like about this record. (more…)

Carlos Santana, John McLauglin and The Mahavishnu Orchestra – Love Devotion Surrender

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More of The Mahavishnu Orchestra

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  • This stellar collaboration finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • The sound is huge, spacious, lively, transparent and punchy – this is jazz fusion that really rocks
  • A superb collection “inspired by the teachings of Sri Chinmoy and intended as a tribute to John Coltrane”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “To hear this recording in the context of not only Carlos Santana’s development as a guitarist, but as the logical extension of the music of John Coltrane and Miles Davis influencing rock musicians — McLaughlin, of course, was a former Davis sideman — this extension makes perfect sense in the post-Sonic Youth, post-rock era.”

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Weather Report – Sweetnighter

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Weather Report Albums We’ve Reviewed

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  • Incredible Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Boogie Woogie Waltz was one of the most mindblowing tracks found on any album from 1973
  • The sound is huge, spacious, lively, transparent and punchy – this is jazz fusion that really rocks
  • 4 stars: ” It is the groove that rules this mesmerizing album, leading off with the irresistible 3/4 marathon deceptively tagged as the ‘Boogie Woogie Waltz’ and proceeding through a variety of Latin-grounded hip-shakers.”

This is our favorite Weather Report album here at Better Records. Heavy Weather is arguably a more ambitious and more accomplished piece of work, but Sweetnighter is so original and rhythmically compelling that we find ourselves enjoying it more. I don’t know of any other album on the planet like it. We only know of two Must-Own Weather Report albums, this one and Heavy Weather. They both belong in your collection if you’re a fan of jazz fusion.

The top end is fully extended here in a way that most copies barely hint at, and the overall sound is amazingly transparent and three-dimensional. The brass is full and rich, the percussion lively and present, and the bass is weighty and defined. All the stuff we look for on a Classic Weather Report album is here.

Note especially that the energy is excellent, and both sides are also very high-rez; the echo trails from all the studio reverb go on for days. (more…)

Mahavishnu Orchestra – Birds of Fire

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  • An outstanding original CBS Orange Label British pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • If you were to own only one Fusion record, you could hardly do better than Birds of Fire
  • It’s hard to think of another record that rocks as hard, and it’s not even a real rock record!
  • Clearly one of the All Time Greats in the world of Jazz/Rock, as well as the band’s Masterpiece – 5 stars

This is the band at the peak of their powers and, no pun intended, ON FIRE. This may be jazz, but it’s jazz that wants to rock. And on this copy, it rocks like you will not believe. The louder you play it the better it sounds.

Birds of Fire is one of the top two or three Jazz/Rock Fusion Albums of All Time. In my experience, few recordings within this genre can begin to compete with the Dynamics and Energy of the best pressings of the album — if you have the Big Dynamic system for it.

It’s hard to think of another record that rocks as hard, and it’s not even a real rock record! We find ourselves playing albums like Houses of the Holy and Zep II and Dark Side of the Moon for hour upon hour, with dozens of copies to get through, and we do it on a regular basis. If anybody knows Big Rock Sound, it’s us. But can we really say that those albums rock any harder than this one? Birds of Fire is to Jazz what Zep II is to Rock — the ultimate statement by a band at the absolute top of their game.

We tried doing a shootout for this album in 2008 and failed miserably. At that time, not that long ago when you think about it, there was no way we could get this music to play so loud, so cleanly, and with such correct tonality, from the deepest bass to the highest highs, complete with the wild swings in dynamics that the recording captures so well.

The Audio Revolution Is Alive and Well and making progress all the time.

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Donald Byrd – Fancy Free

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  • Fancy Free makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from top to bottom
  • The overall sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • Credit must go to Rudy Van Gelder once again for capturing the jazz energy and performance space of this superbly sympathetic ensemble
  • “1969’s Fancy Free marked the beginning of Donald Byrd’s move away from hard bop, staking out fusion-flavored territory… the rare Donald Byrd album that holds appeal for rare-groove fanatics and traditionalists alike.”

If you’re ready to take a mindblowing jazz fusion trip with sonics to match, you should definitely check this one out. (more…)

Caldera – Carnavalito! Louder Is Better

Records You Can Buy that Sound Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

Carnavalito is a track that really comes ALIVE when you Crank Up the Volume. I played it FULL BLAST on two different occasions for audiophile friends of mine just to show them what happens when a Big Speaker Stereo meets a Large Scale Recording with absolutely AMAZING audiophile quality sound — BIG and BOLD, wall to wall and then some!

It’s my favorite track not only for the album as a whole but for the band’s entire recorded output. It just doesn’t get any better than this if you have the system for it.

Hearing the megawatt energy in the section when the soprano saxophonist jumps in, right into an ongoing orgy of wild percussion, who then proceeds to blow his brains out — now that is a thrill beyond belief. Played REALLY LOUD it’s about the closest to The Real Thing, the Live Event, that you will ever hear in your living room. (Unless you have a very large living room and lots of latin jazz musician friends.)

Even a year ago there was no way I could get that music to play that LOUD, that CLEANLY, and that tonally CORRECT, from the deepest bass to the highest highs, with the wild swings in dynamics that the recording captures so well. The Audio Revolution Is Alive and Well and making progress all the time. It’s never too late to join in the fun.

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King Crimson – Lizard

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this vintage Island Sunray pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them
  • Every bit the sonic equal of the first album – if colorful Big Production Jazzy Prog Rock (with mellotron!) is your thing, you can’t go wrong here
  • 4 stars: “Lizard is very consciously jazz-oriented — the influence of Miles Davis (particularly Sketches of Spain) being especially prominent — and very progressive, even compared with the two preceding albums.”

This is probably the last White Hot Stamper pressing you will see on the site for many years to come. Our sources for records such as this — really, anything by the band — have dried up. It is unlikely we will find many new ones. For the time being this is it. Fans of rare records such as this one may want to get while the gettin’ is good. (more…)