Genre – Country & Country Rock

Johnny Cash – At San Quentin

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  • Here is an original Columbia 360 pressing of Cash’s legendary live album with stunning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • What made these sides really stand out from the pack was their combination of richness and clarity – take it from us, it’s not easy to find a pressing that gives you both the way this one does
  • Forget the ’70s reissues and whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magical you-are-there immediacy of Johnny Cash live in concert, this is the only way to do it
  • So many great songs: “Wanted Man,” “I Walk the Line,” “San Quentin,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and more
  • If you only have one Johnny Cash album, wouldn’t it have to be this one?
  • 5 stars: “…listen to ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ … rescued by the wild-eyed, committed performance by Cash, where it sounds like he really was set on murdering that son of a bitch who named him Sue. He sounds that way throughout the record…


Rick Nelson – Garden Party

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  • Garden Party finally returns to the site on this original Decca pressing that boasts two INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides
  • This is an amazingly 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…)

Willie Nelson – The Sound In Your Mind

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  • A superb Columbia Lone Star pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Both of these sides are full-bodied and natural, with a nicely extended top end and plenty of space around the instruments and vocals
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “The true highlights are the original ‘The Healing Hands of Time,” revived from his RCA years and given possibly the definitive treatment here, and especially a vigorous version of Lefty Frizzell’s ‘If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time.'”
  • If you’re a fan of Willie’s, a killer copy of his album from 1976 belongs in your collection


Loggins and Messina – The Best of Friends

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  • Boasting excellent Double Plus (A++) Master Tape sound or BETTER throughout, this vintage Columbia pressing rocks with all the energy that L&M’s super-tight band is capable of – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Spaciousness, richness and freedom from grit and grain are key to the better pressings, and here you will find all three
  • These sides are bigger, more natural, warmer and more solid than those of any other copy you’ve heard or your money back
  • So many of the band’s best songs on one LP make this a Must-Own

The best news we have to report concerning this compilation is that it does not sound at all like a compilation, and by that we mean that the better copies don’t sound “dubby,” flat, small or compressed. The better copies, in fact, rock, with all the energy that the band is capable of producing, which, in the case of Loggins and Messina, is a great deal.

You may have noticed that we do very few Greatest Hits albums here at Better Records, for the simple reason that most greatest hits albums don’t sound very good. This is one of the few exceptions to that rule that we’ve come across in our record playing travels over the years.


Mike Auldridge / Dobro

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  • Amazing sound throughout this original pressing of Mike Auldridge’s highly enjoyable album of Bluegrass music, with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades from start to finish
  • Both of these sides are sweet and rich with tons of Tubey Magic, exceptionally breathy vocals, deep punchy bass, and a super extended top end
  • We had a lot of fun hearing how good banjos, mandolins, dobros and fiddles can sound when recorded and mastered properly
  • 4 stars: “The skill with which Auldridge put together vehicles for his tremendously appealing soloing style … not only resulted in a boost in interest in the dobro, but the entire civilization of soloists on various instruments benefited from such obvious evidence of potential appeal, while the Washington, D.C., bluegrass scene never quite recovered from the legendary status of these recording sessions and the magical things that went on as the tapes rolled.”


Neil Young – American Stars ‘N’ Bars

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  • Side one of this album was recorded just before Comes A Time and it shows — the music is country-flavored and relaxed
  • Side two’s material was recorded throughout the ’70s and has more of the dark, heavy sound that we know and love from albums such as Zuma and Tonight’s The Night. The tracks on side two seem to have a little more sonic potential
  • Superb sound for some really great songs, including Like A Hurricane and Star Of Bethlehem 
  • If you’re a Neil Young fan, this 1977 album should fit nicely in your collection

Rolling Stone writes of Neil Young:

Although he may be circling in a peculiar and seemingly haphazard manner (some claim he has as many as nine unreleased albums), Neil Young has a very good chance to be the most important American rock & roll artist in the Seventies. Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne and others must be considered, of course, but I don’t know anyone who goes after the essences with as much daring as Young. I don’t know anyone who finds them like he does either.

This Album

This album consists of tracks recorded over the course of three years, so naturally there is some variation between songs, particularly on side two. Star Of Bethlehem, one of the most underrated Neil Young songs ever, sounds great here with strong vocal presence and an open, spacious top end.


The Grateful Dead – Barncard Knocked It Out of the Park with This One

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Stephen Barncard’s Recordings

Reviews and Commentaries for Stephen Barncard’s Recordings

The crowning glory of the Grateful Dead, this is their MASTERPIECE. Albums like this come along once in a band’s life — if they’re lucky. This is the zenith of the Grateful Dead. Workingman’s Dead is a good album. American Beauty is a great one.

If you don’t have a killer copy yet, it’s time to get on the bus. Stephen Barncard is the recording engineer responsible for this album, Deja Vu, Brewer and Shipley’s Tarkio, and a host of other amazingly rich, sweet and natural, mostly acoustic recordings that stand head and shoulders above the bulk of their contemporaries. American Beauty is one of them.

All the Elements Come Together for Once

All of the elements necessary to take this music to an entirely new level are here, my friends: smooth, sweet vocals; rich, meaty bass; an open and airy top end; top-notch presence and so forth. The sound is so spacious and transparent that you can easily pick out each of the instruments and follow them over the course of the songs.

The acoustic guitars sound magical on this one, and I can’t believe how wonderful these guys’ voices sound. The Tubey Magic and immediacy on this copy are going to STUN you.

You could choose any track you wanted to and find lovely sound here, but I’d recommend Ripple and Attics Of My Life for starters.

Most copies suffer from a glaring lack of highs, but just listen to the ride cymbal on this one to find out that the top end is still alive and well here.

Here are some other records we’ve played that often have No Real Top End.

Willie Nelson – Me & Paul

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  • Both sides of this copy were doing practically everything right, earning incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Don’t waste your money on whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size, and energy of Nelson’s 1985 release, an original pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • 4 stars: “The album kicks off excitingly with ‘I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train,’ and there really aren’t any noticeably weak moments. The band is superb and, by the standards of a normal country artist, the record would be considered a masterpiece.”


Bob Dylan – Pat Garrett & Billy The Kid (Original Soundtrack Recording)

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  • An incredible copy of Dylan’s 1973 soundtrack album with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This one is doing practically everything right – it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than almost anything else we played
  • Includes the hit “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” which charted on the Top 20 and would be famously covered in later years by the likes of Eric Clapton and Guns N’ Roses
  • “This record also proved that Dylan could shoehorn his music within the requirements of a movie score without compromising its content or quality, something that only the Beatles, unique among rock artists, had really managed to do up to that time…”


Rockin’ the Mandolin with Loggins and Messina

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A recent White Hot Stamper pressing of L&M’s fourth release demonstrates pretty convincingly just what an amazing DEMO DISC this album can be. When Jim Messina rips into his mandolin solo halfway through Be Free your jaw is likely to hit the ground. On the best copies it positively LEAPS out of the left speaker.

I can’t recall another pop or rock recording that captures either the plucked energy or the harmonic nuances of the instrument better. To hear such a well-recorded mandolin on a copy of this quality is nothing less than a THRILL.

This copy showed us:

  • a full-bodied piano
  • rich, lively vocals, present between the speakers and brimming with enthusiasm
  • harmonically-rich guitars, mandolins, dobros and the like
  • as well as a three-dimensional soundstage that reveals the space around them all

What to Listen For

What typically separates the killer copies from the merely good ones are three qualities that we often look for in the records we play: transparency, speed, and lack of smear.

Transparency allows you to hear into the recording, reproducing the ambience and subtle musical cues and details that high-resolution analog is known for.