Genre – Country & Country Rock

Marty Robbins – More Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

More Marty Robbins

More Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs

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  • Stunning sound throughout for this original Columbia Six-Eye stereo LP; Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • Transparency and Tubey Magic are critical to the sound of the arrangements and you will find both are abundant here  
  • Very quiet for an early Columbia Six-Eye pressing – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “Robbins’ originals are authored in an authentically vintage style, interspersed with public domain titles that are the real article…” – All Music

Two superb sides, with the kind of ’60s Tubey Magical Analog Sound that’s been lost to the world of recorded music for decades — decades I tell you! Nobody can manage to get a recording to sound like this anymore and it seems clear to us that no one can remaster a recording like this nowadays, if our direct experience with more than hundred such albums counts as evidence.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Marty Robbins himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room, along with the other other musicians playing on the sessions of course. (more…)

Rick Nelson – Garden Party

More Rick Nelson

More Country and Country Rock

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  • Garden Party finally returns to the site after four long years, here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • This is an incredibly rich, Tubey Magical recording, and when you get a good copy with enough clarity and top end extension to bring it to life it can sound very good indeed
  • If you like the sound of albums engineered by Stephen Barncard (think Deja Vu, American Beauty and Tarkio for starters) then you are going to find much to like about the sound of this album
  • “Rick Nelson’s Garden Party rocks a lot harder than the title track would lead one to believe, and is also as much of a showcase for the Stone Canyon Band as it is for Nelson.”

It’s tough to find copies without marks, or ones that play this quietly.

The music is quite enjoyable — even the younger guys around here were getting a lot out of it. Drop the needle on the title track (a top ten single) or “Are You Really Real?” to hear these guys at their best. Rick’s Stone Canyon Band at times featured future members of Poco and The Eagles, so that should tell you something.

Acoustic guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. The harmonic coherency, the richness, the body as well as phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum. (more…)

J.J. Cale – Okie

More J.J. Cale

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  • This pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from the first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Plenty of top notch songs that were later covered by other artists — I Got The Same Old Blues, Anyway The Wind Blows and Cajun Moon, to name a few.
  • If you’re a fan of the low-key bluesy vibe of Troubadour and Naturally, you’ll find much to like here

This vintage Shelter Recording pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Again – Extracting the Midrange Magic

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So many copies of this album sound so bad and play so poorly that most audiophiles have given up by now and written it off as a lost cause.

But we didn’t. We kept at it. Our main motivation? The music.

Extracting the midrange magic from a album like this should be the goal of every right-thinking audiophile. Who cares what’s on the TAS Super Disc List? I want to play the music that I love, not because it sounds good, but because I love it. And if the only way to find good sounding copies of typically poorly-mastered, beat-to-death records such as this one is to go through a big pile of them, well then, I guess that’s what we’ll have to do. (more…)

Johnny Cash – Johnny Cash at San Quentin – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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This Columbia 360 Label pressing has TWO WONDERFUL SIDES and quiet vinyl. We just finished a big shootout for this great album and this copy was a MAJOR step up from most of them we played, particularly on side two. It’s of course not the world’s greatest recording (San Quentin is not quite Olympic Studios) but on a Hot Stamper copy the sound can actually be very good.

Most copies we’ve played are just too full of grit and grain to enjoy. Other problems we’ve run into are loose bass, smear, weak top ends, and a lack of presence. We’ve been picking these up for a while now, but only a few of them sound good enough to really get into.

The best copies, like this one, give you proper tonal balance, presence and fullness to Johnny’s voice, and enough tubey magic to combat the grit and grain.

Side one is super clean and clear with good presence and energy. There’s nice depth to the soundfield, putting the female background vocalists in the back and The Man In Black right up front. The overall sound is tonally correct from top to bottom.

Side two is INCREDIBLE — tubey magical with excellent presence and superb transparency. It’s also smooth, rich and full with more energy than we heard elsewhere. The drums sound just right.

We had a blast listening to this one, and Cash’s banter between the songs is practically as good as the music itself! You’ll have a hard time finding another copy that lets you enjoy the music without the sound getting in the way. (more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity – Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits on DCC

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[This review was written many years ago, around 2004 I think. This was one of the first DCC records I did a shootout with up against run-of-the-mill Mastering Lab domestic pressings, only to find, somewhat surprisingly, at least at that time, that the DCC came up short, as you will see in the review below.]

Sonic Grade: C

As much as I admire Steve Hoffman’s work for  DCC, on this title the DCC is not as good as the best domestic copies. The best domestic pressings are cleaner, leaner and meaner than the DCC, and just plain more fun.

The DCC sounds thick in the midrange and fat in the bass, although some of that boost in the bass could have been used to the advantage of some of the domestic pressings we played. 1 DB or so at 50-60 cycles would help, but the DCC has a boost in the middle and upper bass that causes the bass to sound bloated next to a properly mastered, properly pressed LP. 

I like rich sounding records just like Steve does, but his version of this title is too rich for my blood. If your system is lean sounding you may prefer the DCC, but we found it less than agreeable over here.

Emmylou Harris – Blue Kentucky Girl

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  • A superb sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides have the kind of rich, natural sound we found on far too few copies and little of the vocal edginess that many EH albums suffer from
  • Surprisingly full-bodied and not overly detailed for a recording from 1979 – they still knew what they were doing then
  • “In response to criticism that her records weren’t country enough, Harris recorded Blue Kentucky Girl, one of her most traditional outings. Relying on a more acoustic sound, the album largely forsakes contemporary pop songs in favor of standard country fare, including the Louvin Brothers’ “Everytime You Leave” and Leon Payne’s “They’ll Never Take His Love from Me.”

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Bob Dylan – John Wesley Harding

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  • A wonderful sounding original Columbia 360 Stereo pressing of this pivotal Dylan LP, with insanely good Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Here is the bass, richness & vocal presence that make John Wesley Harding one of the better sounding Dylan records from the late ’60s
  • The title track, Dear Landlord, I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight, All Along the Watchtower and I Pity The Poor Immigrant are but a small sampling of the more memorable songs here
  • 5 stars: “The music is simple, direct, and melodic, providing a touchstone for the country-rock revolution that swept through rock in the late ’60s.”

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Eagles – On The Border

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  • An outstanding British SYL copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound for this criminally underrated California Country Rock Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl for this album, because early UK pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile playing condition
  • If you’ve never heard one of these early pressings, you have simply never heard this album sound the way it should
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love (their first No. 1) offer Glyn Johns magically delicious DEMO DISC quality sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot coming from us – we’ve been big fans for decades

NOTE: *On side one, a mark makes 2 moderately loud pops followed by 1 loud pop and 2 moderatly light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, You Never Cry Like a Lover.

Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind of sound you’ll hear on this vintage UK pressing (the only kind we sell of course).

The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Nashville Skyline

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and Double Plus (A++) on the second, this copy has the real Nashville Skyline magic – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee that Bob’s duet with Johnny Cash on this Shootout Winning Triple Plus side one (Girl from the North Country) will blow your mind, or your money back  
  • “Lay Lady Lay,” “To Be Alone With You,” “I Threw It All Away,” “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” are true country-rock standards
  • 5 stars: “It’s a warm, friendly album, particularly since Bob Dylan is singing in a previously unheard gentle croon — the sound of his voice is so different it may be disarming upon first listen, but it suits the songs.”

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