Genre – Rock – Hippie Folk Rock

The Beach Boys – Sunflower

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  • A KILLER copy of Sunflower with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • This pressing is surprisingly rich and smooth, with excellent bass and the kind of breathy immediacy to the vocals that only vintage vinyl can offer
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[Sunflower] signaled a creative rebirth for the band, a return to the beautiful harmonies and orchestral productions of their classic mid-’60s material.”

This album — like Surf’s Up, which was released just after it — can really sound wonderful on a good pressing. If you love Pet Sounds, you’ll find plenty of the Beach Boys’ signature harmonies here, all recorded with real richness and warmth. (more…)

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

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  • Harvest Moon finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Full-bodied, big, rich and solid, this album has the kind of analog sound we did not expect to find, but were pleasantly surprised, thank goodness
  • Turn this one up good and loud (which you can do when the sound is THIS good) and you’ll have a living, breathing Neil Young standing right between your speakers
  • “Harvest Moon manages to be sentimental without being sappy, wistful without being nostalgic… a beautiful album that proudly displays scars, heartaches, and love.”

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Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout, this copy of Still’s superb debut is doing just about everything right
  • Love the One You’re With and Sit Yourself Down are to die for, but there’s really not a bad track on the album
  • A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns – this and Deja Vu are the very definition of Big Production Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Listening to this album three decades on, it’s still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them.”

When we say it’s getting harder and harder to find clean copies of albums such as this in the bins of our local record stores, we are not kidding. (more…)

America – Self-Titled

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the best we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of our favorite Hippie Folk Rock albums – the instruments and voices are so well recorded they will seem to be floating right in front of you
  • The Tubey Magical acoustic guitars on this record are a true test of stereo reproduction – thanks Ken Scott!
  • A tough record to find these days on the early Green Label with sound this good and audiophile playing surfaces that are this quiet
  • 4 stars: “America’s debut album is a folk-pop classic, a stellar collection of memorable songs that would prove influential on such acts as the Eagles and Dan Fogelberg…”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

This is clearly America’s best album, and on the better pressings like this one, the sound is worthy of Demo Disc status. You’ll find the kind of immediacy, richness and harmonic texture that not many records (and even fewer CDs) are capable of reproducing.

The version we are offering here has the song A Horse With No Name. Some copies without that song can sound very good as well, but with grades this good, this copy is going to be very hard to beat.

Interestingly, A Horse With No Name never sounds quite as good as the rest of the album. It was recorded in 1971, after the album had already been released, and subsequently added to newer pressings starting in 1972. Unlike the rest of the album, it was not engineered by Ken Scott at Trident, but by a different engineer at Morgan Studios. The engineer of that song took a different approach to the one that Scott had, and we leave it to you to decide how well that approach worked.

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Donovan – A Gift From a Flower To a Garden

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  • An outstanding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side three mated with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to in for sides one, two, and four
  • This copy has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and lovely analog warmth
  • Wear Your Love Like Heaven is superb here – rich, natural and relaxed
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… stands out as a prime artifact of the flower-power era that produced it… the sheer range of subjects and influences make this a surprisingly rewarding work.”

*NOTE: On side three, Track 5, The Mandolin Man And His Secret, plays closer to EX++.

This is a longtime Better Records favorite for both music and sound. It may not be one of the more popular titles we do our unique shootouts for, but for those of you who love folky, acoustic guitar pop — we often call it Hippie Folk Rock — you should find a lot to like about this album.

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).

Natural vocal reproduction is absolutely key for this album. Many copies had “hyped-up” phony sound — fine for the old consoles and radios of the day (1967) but not too enjoyable on the modern, much more revealing rigs we use today. The tonality of the midrange — where the guitars and vocals are found of course — must be correct for this music to work. This copy really gets it right! (more…)

Donovan – The Hurdy Gurdy Man

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  • The Hurdy Gurdy Man finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Shockingly rich, spacious and lively, in the best tradition of vintage analog – Donovan’s recordings are hit and miss, but with Eddie Kramer at the controls, this one is clearly a hit
  • Among the supporting musicians were three soon-to-be members of Led Zeppelin: Jimmy Page (who had already contributed to Donovan sessions in the past), John Paul Jones (likewise a veteran of sessions for Donovan), and John Bonham”
  • “… uplifting, accessible, pop-rock numbers with a splash of jazz or Caribbean flavor, rounding out an excellent album of the highest musicianship, lyric writing, and songcraft from an era.”

*NOTE On side two, a mark makes 3 loud pops halfway through Track 1, Jennifer Juniper.

An outstanding pressing of what we consideDonovan’s best album, musically and sonically. The 1968 sound here is wonderful — rich, sweet, Tubey Magical and very, very Analog.

Donovan records tend to be hit or miss affairs, but we were pleasantly surprised to find that we could not find a bad track on either side of the album. Most are in fact quite wonderful.

Both Yellow Label Epics and Orange Label Epics fared well in our shootout. (We could find no Blue/ Black later labels to play.) Finding any pressing with clean surfaces was another matter, but we managed to have a pretty healthy group with which to do our shootout.

Some of these tracks may remind you more than a little of Pentangle. Danny Thompson, that band’s amazingly talented and unusually well recorded double bassist, just happens to be the bass player on the album. Go figure. Tony Carr does most of the drumming as he has on many of Donovan’s albums from the period. Needless to say, the rhythm section is first-rate. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • The “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills. Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

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The Byrds – The Byrds

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, tubey, solid, with tight, note-like bass, what early Byrds record sounds this good?
  • Top quality covers of great songs by Joni Mitchell (For Free) and Neil Young (Cowgirl in the Sand, See the Sky About to Rain)

*NOTE: On side one, a crackly edge is lightly stitchy for the first five revolutions.

The album features the original Byrds lineup of McGuinn, Gene Clark, Michael Clarke, David Crosby, and Chris Hillman.

Even though this is not one of The Byrds’ stronger albums, it does have some very nice material. For Free on side one may very well be the high point of the album for me. They also do a nice version of Neil Young’s Cowgirl In The Sand. (more…)

Donovan – Wear Your Love Like Heaven

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  • Donovan’s superb 1967 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – the Epic vinyl is also about as quiet as any original pressing can offer
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • 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
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the brightest, most pleasant works Donovan ever recorded… Donovan’s voice is better than ever, playful and unassuming…”

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far

What We Think We Know about

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s So Far

 

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  • This stunning copy offers exceptionally good Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • The two tracks exclusive to this album, Ohio and Find the Cost of Freedom, are amazingly well recorded – both have Demo Disc quality sound on this killer side one
  • Huge, rich and energetic, this pressing brings the gorgeous harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to life like nothing you have ever heard
  • If you’ve made the mistake of buying any Heavy Vinyl pressing containing any of these songs, this record will show you just exactly what you’ve been missing

When you get hold of a pressing as good as this one, the sound is so correct it makes a mockery of the phony EQ and just plain bad mastering and pressing of the Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered versions.

The MoFi and the Classic 200g LP are both clearly wrong in important ways. This record will make it clear exactly what’s wrong with them, assuming you have the critical listening skills to recognize the differences. If you are on this site chances are very good you do.

Once you hear this copy you will never be able to enjoy those audiophile pressings again, of that we are quite confident. (more…)