Genre – Rock – Art Rock

Queen – A Day At the Races

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Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses


  • This UK import copy of the band’s fifth studio album has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget the domestic pressings — they may be cut at Sterling, but they never sound like these shockingly good British LPs
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, 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
  • Problems in the vinyl is sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around it if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “A Day at the Races is a bit tighter than its predecessor… its sleek, streamlined finish is the biggest indication that Queen has entered a new phase, where they’re globe-conquering titans instead of underdogs on the make.”

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Crack The Sky – These Big, Lively Choruses Are a Thrill

Hot Stamper Albums with Huge Choruses

Records with Huge Choruses that Are Good for Testing

The best vintage rock recordings usually have something going for them that few recordings made after the ’70s do: their choruses get big and loud, yet stay smooth, natural and uncongested. 

We’ve mentioned it in countless listings. So many records have — to one degree or another — harsh, hard, gritty, shrill, congested choruses. When the choruses get loud they become unpleasant, and here at Better Records you lose a lot of points when that happens.

This recording, more specifically this pressing of this recording, has exceptionally big, smooth and natural choruses for many of the songs. Rangers at Midnight comes to mind immediately. Credit our man Shelly Yakus below for really getting the choruses right on this album.

Fun tip: Listen for the Elton John-like piano chords on the first track. Can you name that song? (Hint: it’s on Tumbleweed Connection.)

Choruses Are Key

Watch out for too many instruments and voices jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression or distortion, there will be too many upper midrange elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space, resulting in congestion and a loss of clarity.

With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich. Above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space in which to fit all the instruments and voices comfortably, without piling them on top of one another as so often happens. Consequently, the upper midrange “space” does not get overwhelmed with musical information.

Also watch for edge on the vocals, which is of course related to the issues above. Most copies have at least some edge to the vocals — the band wants to really belt it out in the choruses, and they do — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.

The highest quality equipment, on the hottest Hot Stamper copies, will play the loudest and most difficult-to-reproduce passages with virtually no edge, grit or grain, even at very loud levels.

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Roxy Music – For Your Pleasure

More Roxy Music 

More Brian Eno

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this UK copy was one of the best we played in our recent shootout
  • Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for over ten years – here is one of the better copies we have to show for our effort
  • 5 Stars: “… another extraordinary record from Roxy Music, one that demonstrates even more clearly than the debut how avant-garde ideas can flourish in a pop setting.”
  • If you’re a Roxy fan, For Your Pleasure has to be considered a Must Own Title of theirs from 1973.
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Spacious, dynamic, present, with HUGE MEATY BASS and tons of energy, the sound is every bit as good as the music. (At least on this copy it is. That’s precisely what Hot Stampers are all about.)

Strictly in terms of recording quality, For Your Pleasure is on the same plane as the other best sounding record the band ever made, their self-titled debut.

Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album and this one are the only two with the kind of dynamic, energetic, powerful sound that Roxy’s other records simply cannot show us (with the exception of Country Life, was is powerful but a bit too aggressive).

The super-tubey keyboards that anchor practically every song on the first two albums are only found there. If you want to know what Tubey Magic sounds like in 1972-73, play one of our better Hot Stamper Roxy albums.

Roxy and their engineers and producers manage to capture a keyboard sound on their first two albums that few bands in the history of the world can lay claim to. I love the band’s later albums, but none of them sound like these two. The closest one can get is Stranded, their third, but it’s still a bit of a step down. (more…)

Tears For Fears – The Seeds Of Love

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More Art Rock

  • A superb vintage UK copy of the band’s masterpiece – we guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard, and on this record that is saying a LOT
  • A tough record to find in audiophile playing condition – copies without audible marks were not easy to come by
  • The band’s Magnum Opus, a Colossal Production to rival the greatest Prog, Psych and Art Rock recordings of all time (Whew!)
  • 4 stars: “Thanks to the duo’s uncompromising stubbornness, expansive creative vision, and Dave Bascombe’s final production, The Seeds of Love has dated better than either of its predecessors and is inarguably Tears for Fears’ masterpiece.”

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801 / 801 Live – None Rocks Harder

A Member of the Prestigious “None Rocks Harder” Club

Reviews and Commentaries for 801 Live

The best Island copies of this album ROCK HARDER than practically any record we’ve ever played. If you have the system for it, this one will bring a Live Art Rock concert right into your living room!

This is a BIG SPEAKER record. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at fairly loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It’s right at the top of the list of my Favorite Albums — a Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. I stumbled across it more thirty years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. It all started when a college buddy played me the wildly original Tomorrow Never Knows from the album and asked me to name the tune. Eno’s take is so different from The Beatles version that I confess it took me an embarrassingly long while to catch on.

Click here to see more titles that have earned a place on our None Rocks Harder List

Adventures in Music and Sound

Phil Manzanera and Brian Eno were founding members of Roxy Music.

AMG calls Roxy Music the “most adventurous rock band of the early ’70s” and I’m inclined to agree with them.

Roxy are certainly one of the most influential and important bands in my growth as a music lover and audiophile, joining the ranks of Supertramp, Ambrosia, 10cc, Steely Dan, Yes, Bowie and countless others, musicians and bands who seemed to me dedicated to exploring and exploding the conventions of popular music.

My equipment was forced to evolve in order to be able to play the scores of challenging recordings issued by these groups in the ’70s.

You could say that the albums of Roxy Music and others informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on. I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for the last four decades, precisely in order to play records like this, the kind of music I fell in love with more than forty years ago.

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Peter Gabriel – Self-Titled 2 (Scratch)

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More Progressive Rock

  • This UK Charisma pressing has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • We shot out a number of other imports and this Mad Hatter label copy had the presence, bass, and dynamics that were missing from most others we played
  • 4 stars: “‘On the Air’ and ‘D.I.Y.’ are stunning slices of modern rock circa 1978, bubbling with synths, insistent rhythms, and polished processed guitars, all enclosed in a streamlined production that nevertheless sounds as large as a stadium.”

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Electric Light Orchestra / On the Third Day – The British Imports Are Made from Dubs

More of the Music of The Electric Light Orchestra

Sonic Grade: F

It’s obvious, or should be, that the Brit vinyl is made from sub-generation copy tapes. The imports sound like someone threw a blanket over your speakers. We know this because we had a bunch of them cleaned up for our shootout many years ago and they all sucked.

We tend to buy Electric Light Orchestra records on import vinyl; those are the ones that often sound the best. Many of the domestic pressings sound as though they were mastered from dub tapes.

But On The Third Day is proof that this is not always the case, just as Siren proves that the best Roxy Music albums are not always British.


FURTHER READING

This record sounds best this way:

On Big Speakers at Loud Levels 

On the Right Domestic Pressing 

On the Right Early Pressing

For those who might be interested in finding their own Hot Stamper pressings, we here provide

More Moderately Helpful Title Specific Advice

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Jethro Tull – Aqualung

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Reviews and Commentaries for Aqualung

  • Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or very close to it on both sides – reasonably quiet vinyl too, with no audible marks
  • The sound of this side two is excellent – big, punchy, present, tubey and bursting with Rock and Roll energy
  • Those of you looking for a better copy might want to hold off for now — we will be doing this shootout sometime this year, assuming we luck into some good copies, so let us know if you want a shootout winner or something closer to it
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that still floors us on the better copies, with sound that will jump right out of your speakers
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the most astonishing progressions in rock history… the degree to which Tull upped the ante here is remarkable… Varied but cohesive, Aqualung is widely regarded as Tull’s finest hour.”

Folks, for hard-rockin’, Tubey Magical, ’70s Arty Proggy Rock in ANALOG, it just does not get much better than Aqualung. You need the right pressing to bring it to life though, and this one is certainly up to the task. (more…)

Peter Gabriel / First Album – Classic Records Heavy Vinyl Reviewed

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Peter Gabriel

Sonic Grade: D (Or Worse!)

Hall of Shame pressing and another Classic Records Rock LP badly mastered for the benefit of audiophiles looking for easy answers and quick fixes. If only there were some!

We have a special section for bad sounding records that are marketed to audiophiles, and you can find that section here.

It currently has 266 entries, but if someone wanted to audition more of them — that person is definitely not me, although I cannot imagine anyone more qualified — the number could easily hit 500. If one were to do just the Music Matters and Analogue Productions albums released to date, a thousand would be no problem.

And if one were simply to include vintage Japanese pressings, the kind many audiophiles regularly bought in the ’80s and ’90s for their quieter vinyl and supposedly higher quality mastering, our bad audiophile record section would contain multitudes. Multitudes I tell you!

Bernie Grundman’s mastering approach for the first PG album is a disaster — brighter and cleaner, which turns out to be precisely the wrong sound for this music.

In a recent commentary we went into some detail about Bernie Grundman’s shortcomings as a mastering engineer.

To be fair, he has cut some wonderful records. We survey more of his work here.


FURTHER READING

New to the Blog? Start Here

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Peter Gabriel / Security

More Peter Gabriel

More Art Rock Records

  • One of the most important records in the Peter Gabriel canon, original and influential on so many levels
  • With the benefit of today’s technology, on a copy this good you hear into the soundfield in a way never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of multi-tracked choruses
  • “Security remains a powerful listen, one of the better records in Gabriel’s catalog, proving that he is becoming a master of tone, style, and substance…”
  • If you’re a Peter Gabriel fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1982 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1982 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
  • 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. Security is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.

Man, does this album sound better than I remember it from back in the ’80s when I first played it. Stereos have come a long way since then, along with a host of other things that help records sound better, such as cleaning fluids, room treatments and all the rest.

Now you can really hear INTO the soundfield in a way that simply was never possible before, picking out all the drummers and counting all the layers of PG’s multi-tracked choruses.

On the best pressings, both sides are huge, and the music jumps out of the speakers. The balance is perfection. (more…)