Genre – Rock – Folk Rock (British)

The Pentangle / Pentangling

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  • Boasting INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first, this vintage UK import pressing had close to the BEST sound we have heard for Pentangle’s shockingly well-recorded music
  • The unprocessed quality found throughout the album has its audiophile credentials fully in order, especially in the area of guitar harmonics, as well as drums that sound like real drums actually sound
  • The true foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, with Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them
  • The best material from Pentangle’s amazing first six albums, with sound that’s full of British Analog Tubey Magic that no modern record can begin to reproduce
  • Not many compilation albums offer top quality wound, but this one does, and these are some others
  • If you’re a Pentangle fan, this compilation has to be considered a Must Own from 1973.
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This album presents the classic 1969 lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot.

When I was selling audio equipment back in the ’70s this was one of our Demo Discs. The song Pentangling has beautifully recorded drums and string bass. The first track, “I’ve Got A Feeling,” is lovely as well.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky sweet and Tubey Magical, this is the sound we love here at Better Records. (more…)

Van Morrison – Beautiful Vision

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  • An original WB pressing with outstanding grades on both sides
  • This copy was clearly fuller, livelier and more present than most of the others we played, with lovely Tubey Magic and good extension on both ends
  • “[It’s] a stronger articulation of what Morrison was attempting to do on Common One — much like how Wavelength got A Period of Transition right … [T]he record reveals such charming moments as ‘She Gives Me Religion,’ ‘Beautiful Vision,’ and Cleaning Windows,’ a skipping light R&B tune that became one of his latter-day standards.”

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Rod Stewart – A Milestone Listening Experience

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More Milestone Events in the History of Better Records

In the listing for our 2010 Shootout Winner, we noted:

Having made a number of serious improvements to our system in the last few months, I can state categorically and without reservation that this copy of Never a Dull Moment achieved the best stereo sound I have ever heard in my life (outside of the live event of course). I’m still recovering from it. [In 2022, of course this statement strikes me as way over the top. But I must have believed it when I wrote it.]

The credit must go to the engineering of MIKE BOBAK for the DEMO DISC sound. We just finished our most comprehensive shootout ever for the album, culling the best sounding dozen from about twenty five entrants, and this copy just plain kicked all their butts, earning our highest grade on side one (A+++).

Side one here is OFF THE CHARTS! No other side one could touch it. It’s got all the elements needed to make this music REALLY ROCK — stunning presence; super-punchy drums; deep, tight bass; and tons of life and energy.

The Sound

So many copies tend to be dull, veiled, thick and congested, but on this one you can separate out the various parts with ease and hear right INTO the music.

It’s also surprisingly airy, open, and spacious — not quite what you’d expect from a bluesy British rock album like this, right? But the engineers here managed to pull it off.

One of them was Glyn Johns (mis-spelled in the credits Glynn Johns), who’s only responsible for the first track on side one, True Blue. Naturally that happens to be one of the best sounding tracks on the whole album.

Side Two — Almost As Good

We were thrilled when we dropped the needle on side two and heard BIG BASS and TONS of ENERGY just like this amazing side one.

Listen to the room around the drums on Angel — you can really hear the studio as well as the sound of the skins being beaten. On the same track, the meaty guitar in the left channel sounds mind-blowingly good. With a little more top end, the kind that makes the glockenspiel in the right channel clear and present and harmonically correct, this copy would have been hard to beat on side two as well. 

The story of our old shootout is what progress in audio in all about. As your stereo improves, some records should get better, some should get worse. It’s the nature of the beast for those of us who constantly make improvements to our playback and critically listen to records all day. And it all comes courtesy of Revolutions in Audio.

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Dire Straits – Communique

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Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • This vintage UK pressing of the band’s sophomore album boasts outstanding solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the UK LPs are the only way to fly on Communique
  • If you’re a fan of the band’s debut release, you’ll find much to like on this underappreciated follow up
  • “…an album full of the delicate subtleties that make Mark Knopfler shimmer — that deep tobacco-soaked voice, the quick, fluid guitar, and the wit behind many of his lyrics… a rich, abundant source of beauty.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, a killer copy of their album from 1979 surely belongs in your collection

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Gerry Rafferty / City To City – A Simply Vinyl Disaster

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Reviews and Commentaries for City to City

Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing and another Simply Vinyl pressing debunked.

We had two copies of the Heavy Simply Vinyl pressing to audition as part of our last big shootout a few years back.

We actually used to like it, but it now sounds worse than we remember, especially in the low end, which is a blurry mess.

Better than any domestic copy I suppose, but that’s not really saying much.   

Rolling Stone Rave Review

Even in his mother’s womb, Gerry Rafferty must have expected the worst. This Scotsman entitled his melancholy 1971 solo album Can I Have My Money Back? (the answer was “No!”). And when Stealers Wheel, the group he subsequently formed with Joe Egan, became an overnight success with the hit single “Stuck in the Middle with You,” only to lapse into morning-after obscurity, he probably said, “I told you so.” On City to City, his first LP in three years, Rafferty sticks grimly to his guns. Not only does he use the same producer (Hugh Murphy) and several of the same musicians, but a similar un-self-pitying fatalism pervades the record.

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Stealers Wheel – Self-Titled

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 More Debut Albums of Interest

  • With solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout, this early British A&M pressing of Stealers Wheel’s debut album is doing just about everything right
  • This Brit is Tubey Magical like you will not believe – it’s guaranteed to be a huge improvement over anything you’ve heard, especially the dubby domestic pressings
  • Thanks naturally must go to the brilliant Geoff Emerick – it’s shocking to contemplate the idea that he became an even better recording engineer in the ’70s
  • 4 stars: “…the first LP from the tumultuous Stealers Wheel is a debonair affair comprised of the kind of accomplished and polished pub pop for which impetus Gerry Rafferty would become known as he subsequently rode out the decade…”

Like so many British bands on the A&M label, when it came time to master the album for the domestic market, the people in charge (whoever they may have been) took the easy way out and simply ordered up a dub of the master tape with which to cut the album.

Spooky Tooth, Procol Harum, Fairport Convention, (my beloved) Squeeze and too many others to think about all had their records ruined by sub-generation masters.

But this is the real British-pressed vinyl from the real master tape, and that makes all the difference in the world.

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The Beatles – Rubber Soul

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Reviews and Commentaries for Rubber Soul

  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it, this vintage UK stereo pressing has plenty of analog magic in its grooves – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, about as quiet as they can be found
  • We guarantee you’ve never heard “Girl,” “I’m Looking Through You,” “In My Life,” “Wait,” “If I Needed Someone” and “Run for Your Life” sound better – and that’s just side two!
  • A Must Own Folk Rock Masterpiece and permanent member of our Top 100
  • 5 stars: “The lyrics represented a quantum leap in terms of thoughtfulness, maturity, and complex ambiguities. Musically, too, it was a substantial leap forward, with intricate folk-rock arrangements that reflected the increasing influence of Dylan and the Byrds.”

Since this is one of the best sounding Beatles recordings, this could very well be some of the BEST SOUND you will ever hear on a Beatles album!

There’s wonderful ambience and echo to be heard. Just listen to the rimshots on Michelle — you can clearly hear the room around the drum. On the best pressings, Michelle is incredibly 3-D; it’s one of the best sounding tracks on the entire album, if not THE best.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings, and especially from modern remasterings.  (more…)

Al Stewart – Past, Present & Future

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More British Folk Rock

  • With INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades throughout, this UK import pressing cannot be beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We shot out a number of other imports and the presence, bass, and dynamics on this outstanding copy placed it well ahead of the competition
  • Don’t waste your money on the sub-generation domestic pressings, they are clearly made from dubbed tapes
  • “…the record where Al Stewart truly begins to discover his voice [and] finally found his muse, focusing his songwriting and intent to a greater extent than ever before.”

One of the few good copies of this album we’ve ever heard! The vocals sound just right and the overall sound is wonderfully clean and clear.

It took us ages to track down copies of this album that didn’t sound flat, boring, and stuck in the speakers. We played a large number of Brit and domestic copies, and while both versions can sound lovely on the best pressings, there are certainly plenty of bad sounding versions out there from both countries.

This is the album that comes before Modern Times, Year Of The Cat and Time Passages in the Al Stewart discography, so if you’re a fan of any of those albums we imagine you’ll find a lot to like here.

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Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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  • This copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you before are now front and center
  • When you play “I Wish, I Wish” and “I Think I See The Light” on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • One of the most underrated titles on the site – you owe it to yourself to see just how good the album that came out right before Tillerman can be when it sounds this good
  • 4 stars: “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”
  • 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. Red Clay is a good example of a record most audiophiles may not know well but should.
  • If you’re a fan of Folky Pop, this Cat Stevens album from 1970 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This side one has it ALL going on — all the Tubey Magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high-rez yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings, especially the reissues on the second label.

Right off the bat, I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of Folk Pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other Folk Pop recordings that are as good but we know of none that are better.

Mike Bobak was the engineer for these sessions from 1970. He is the man responsible for some of the best sounding records from the early ’70s: The Faces’ Long Player, Rod Stewart’s Never a Dull Moment, The Kinks’ Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One, (and lots of other Kinks albums), Carly Simon’s Anticipation and more than his share of obscure English bands (of which there seems to be a practically endless supply).

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with the richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and remasterings). (more…)

Gerry Rafferty – City To City

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More British Folk Rock

  • An outstanding copy of this early British pressing of Rafferty’s Must-Own Classic with Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • City To City is a Must Own Album – no right-thinking audiophile can fail to be impressed by the songwriting and production of Rafferty’s Masterpiece of British Folk Pop
  • You won’t believe how rich, Tubey Magical, big, undistorted and present this copy is (until you play it anyway)
  • If all you know are audiophile or domestic pressings, you should be prepared for a mind-blowing experience with this UK pressing
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Rafferty’s turns of phrase and tight composition skills create a fresh sound and perspective all his own… resulting in a classic platter buoyed by many moments of sheer genius.”

Here you will find the kind of rich, sweet, classically British Tubey Magical sound that we cannot get enough of here at Better Records. (more…)