Genre – Country & Country Rock

J.J. Cale – Troubadour

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  • An outstanding copy of 5 with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • The overall sound here is rich, full-bodied and musical with lots of Tubey Magic and a solid bottom end — the perfect sound for this laid-back bluesy rock
  • If you’ve got a hankerin’ to hear Cocaine on the authentic original, you will really have to work hard to hear it sound any better than it does on this pressing.
  • Wikipedia lists his many styles as “Americana, Cajun, blues, swamp rock, country rock, Red Dirt, Tulsa Sound” but we think Americana is probably all you really need.
  • If you like Dire Straits, try this one – J.J. Cale and Mark Knopfler have a lot in common, probably more than you think
  • “While Cale remains the ultimate laid-back Blues artist, he still manages to conjure up the spirit of Country, Soul and subdued Funk in each of the tracks on 5, making this album one of the best loved in his catalog.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Cale’s breakthrough album is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

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Buffalo Springfield / Again – Listening for Tubey Magic Down Low

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Buffalo Springfield

Music Does the Driving

On even the best copies I regret to say there’s a bit too much Tubey Magic in the bass. Tubbiness and bloat were par for the course. This may explain why so many copies have rolled off bass; the engineer cut the bass because he heard how tubby it was and figured no bass is better than bad bass. 

Which is just not true. Cutting the bass leans out and “modernizes” the sound, making the voices sound thin and dry. This pretty much ruins everything on this album, just the way it ruins everything in practically every modern recording I hear.

Having your bass under control on the playback side isn’t easy — in fact it’s probably the hardest thing to achieve in audio — but it can be done, and with good bass control the slightly wooly bass is just part of the sound you learn to accept.

It doesn’t actually interfere much with your enjoyment of the music, mostly because all the other instruments and voices sounds so magical. (more…)

Neil Young – Hawks and Doves

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  • The trick on this album is to find rich, smooth, edge-free sound, and this copy delivers those qualities like few that we played all day
  • “Hawks and Doves has a homey feel. “Little Wing,” bare and haltingly lyrical with its miked harp and unaccompanied acoustic, is simpler than anything on the folky Comes a Time, and the rest of the music is defined by Ben Keith’s laconic dobro and steel and Rufus Thobodeaux’s sawing fiddle.” Robert Christgau (A-)

On side one, the second track, The Old Homestead, has an especially intimate vocal worth checking out.

Flip the record over and listen to how full-bodied the piano is on the first track on side two, Stayin’ Power.

This is the sound of ANALOG. So many copies are dry and edgy, as is the CD, I would guess, but here the sound is smooth, natural and enjoyable.

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Gram Parsons – Grievous Angel

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades throughout, this vintage Reprise pressing of Parson’s country rock classic is doing just about everything right
  • The sound here is rich, full and Tubey Magical with plenty of presence and none of the harshness that plagues most copies
  • It’s tough (and getting tougher) to find clean early pressings of this album, which is why only a handful of copies have hit the site in the last few years
  • 5 stars: “… one would be hard pressed to name an artist who made an album this strong only a few weeks before their death — or at any time of their life, for that matter.”

It’s tough to find clean early pressings of this album, let alone copies that have excellent sound and quiet surfaces on both sides. We just had our first big shootout for this album in a number of years and found a lot to like about this pressing. The sound here is big, rich and open with excellent clarity and transparency. Gram’s voice sounds just right here, as does Emmylou Harris’s. Most copies have some grit and edge that really hurts the uptempo numbers, but this copy remains smooth and sweet enough to work throughout.

The music on this record is some of the finest Parsons ever laid to wax. There never was a true “solo” Gram Parsons record and Grievous Angel is full of wonderful collaborations, especially with Emmylou Harris, whose nuanced vocal performance perfectly compliments Parsons on nearly every song. Though The Gilded Palace of Sin and Sweetheart of the Rodeo may be Parsons’ most influential LPs, he never made another record quite as personal and effortlessly understated as Grievous Angel.

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Gregg Allman – Laid Back

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  • We were surprised at how well recorded the album is, dramatically better than the Allman Brothers album from the same year, Brothers and Sisters
  • Full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with especially smooth, present vocals – this is the sound we love at Better Records
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Recorded in the same year as the Brothers and Sisters album, this solo debut release is a beautiful amalgam of R&B, folk, and gospel sounds, with the best singing on any of Gregg Allman’s solo releases.”

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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.”
  • This is a Must Own Dylan Classic from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1969 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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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…”

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Neil Young / Old Ways – Another Anadisq Disaster

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Some time in the 2000s we reviewed this pressing from 1996.

The MoFi is a muckfest, as was to be expected from a record mastered by this awful label during the Anadisq era, the darkest chapter in the disgraceful history of Mobile Fidelity.

We guarantee any Hot Stamper LP will make your MoFI pressing sound like the bad joke it was even as far back as 1996, the stone age in audio, or your money back including shipping.

As of 2015, this label may have entered a new and even more disgraceful era, but considering how bad their records have been from the very start, (something that should be obvious to any audiophile with a high quality playback system, the kind of system that should have no difficulty exposing the manifold shortcomings of their remastered pressings), how much lower can they possibly fall?

Only time will tell!


FURTHER READING on Half-Speeds

Here’s a good question:

How come you guys don’t like Half-Speed Mastered records?

To learn more about records that sound dramatically better than any Half-Speed ever made (with one rare exception, John Klemmer’s Touch), please consult our FAQs:

More Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Below you will find our breakdown of the best and worst Half-Speed mastered records we have auditioned over the years.

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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 can often have No Real Top End.

The Eagles – Self-Titled

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  • A truly outstanding early pressing, earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • This is as quiet as they come, folks – no marks play, and the vinyl is often quieter than Mint Minus Minus, exceptional for this title
  • You will be floored by the huge, rich, Tubey Magical guitars exploding out from your speakers on Take It Easy
  • One of the Best Sounding Rock Records Ever Made, a member of our Top Ten and without a doubt Glyn Johns’ engineering (and producing) Masterpiece
  • A Top 100 Tubey Magical Demo Disc that is guaranteed to blow your mind on a pressing that sounds as good as this one does

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


It will not take the lucky owner of this record long to recognize what we’ve known for years: the Eagles first album is clearly and inarguably one of the Best Sounding Rock Recordings Ever Made. Almost all the qualities we look for on this album can be found on this very copy.

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johnsmasterpiece — rock records simply do not sound any better in our experience. It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile pressing pale in comparison. Everything you could ask for as an audiophile is here, and more.

We’ve been up on our soapbox for years telling people how amazing this record can be, and here’s a copy that backs up our position from start to finish. (more…)