Genre – Rock – Prog Rock

McDonald and Giles – McDonald and Giles

More Prog Rock

More Recordings Engineered by Brian Humphries

  • You’ll find incredible sound on both sides of this very well recorded proggy album
  • These early UK pressed sides are full of the kind of Tubey Magic that makes us (and other right-thinking audiophiles) swoon – thanks Brian Humphries!
  • If you like early King Crimson – they were in the band don’t you know – you will surely get a big kick out of this one-of-a-kind sleeper from 1970
  • 4 stars: “The main attraction is really the performances turned in by McDonald and the Giles brothers — they all sound fabulous…”
  • If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Brian Humphries engineered the album, and although you may not be all that familiar with his name, if you’re an audiophile you know his work well. Take a gander at this group:

  • Traffic – John Barleycorn Must Die
  • Black Sabbath – Paranoid
  • Traffic – The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys
  • Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

Two are of course on our Top 100 Rock and Pop List, and all four — five if you count McDonald And Giles — qualify as State of the Art Rock Recordings from the era. (more…)

Today’s Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity Is… Fragile

The Analogue Productions 180g reissue shown here is mastered by Steve Hoffman and Kevin Grey, two guys with reputations for doing good work, but the results of their latest collaboration [can you believe this record came out in 2006!?] leave much to be desired.

The overall sound is lean. This is especially noticeable on the too thin-sounding guitars and vocals. Believe me, it’s no fun to play a Yes album with thin guitars and vocals.

Also, there’s a noticeable lack of ambience throughout the record. What comes to mind when I hear a record that sounds like this is the dreaded R word: Reissue. I find it hard to believe they had the actual two-track original master tape to work with. The sound is just too anemic to have come from the real tape. If they did have the real tape, then they really botched the job.
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Are All MoFis Created Equal? A Pair of Pink Floyd LPs Proved They Aren’t

[This commentary was written more than ten years ago. Still true though.]

Many audiophiles are still under the misapprehension that Mobile Fidelity, with their strict “quality control”, managed to eliminate pressing variations of the kind we discuss endlessly on the site.

Such is simply not the case, and it’s child’s play to demonstrate how false this way of thinking is, assuming you have these four things: good cleaning fluids and a machine, multiple copies of the same record, a reasonably revealing stereo, and two working ears.

With all four the reality of pressing variations for ALL pressings is both obvious and incontrovertible.

The discussion below of a Hot Stamper Pair of Dark Sides may shed light on some of the issues involved.

Remember Classic Records Comparison Packages?

This is our first Hot Stamper Comparison Package.

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Yes – Close To The Edge

  • A STUNNING pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – these early pressings are the only ones that can make sense of this challenging music
  • On such a dynamic recording, with so many quiet passages, finding surfaces as quiet as these is a dubious proposition for even the most committed audiophile
  • An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts
  • 5 stars: “Close to the Edge comprised just three tracks, the epic ‘And You and I’ and ‘Siberian Khatru,’ plus a side-long title track that represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years.”
  • If you’re a fan of adventurous Prog Rock, then this would clearly be a Must Own title for you from 1972.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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The Pentangle / Pentangling

More Pentangle

More British Folk Rock

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides, this copy had some of the better 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

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…)

Hot Stampers of Led Zeppelin and ELP Helped Some Audiophiles Hear What They’d Been Missing

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he played at a stereo show recently. You can read all about it here.

We carried on the conversation:

Tom,

Thank you and for sure I’d be more than happy to spread the word more and help out! Send me cards for sure. I’m def a Better Records disciple.

You should consider teaming up with a room at the show next time, I think worth your while. Time to break the grip of the Mofi Mafia at these shows.

All the best, Mike

Mike,

We went to some shows years ago and nothing came of it.

It may turn out that none of these people will ever want to pay good money for hot stampers. I wrote about it here:

“No one doubted your records after this listening session.”

Experience over many years has borne out this view, disappointing as it may be.

The audiophiles who go to shows for some reason don’t seem to be able to wrap their heads around the Hot Stamper concept.

Hard to imagine that none of them can afford our records. The money someone might pay for three wacky MoFis or three Analogue Productions disasters would probably get you one very good sounding Hot Stamper pressing. In my book, one good record that you might actually listen to and enjoy often is a lot better than any number of modern records that you will seldom play and more than likely simply file away on the shelf to collect dust.

I’m guessing. I don’t really know what people do with all these mediocre-at-best sounding reissues. I wrote about what I suspect happens to them here.

I Beg the Question

But this is purely an exercise in “begging the question.” I’m assuming things I do not know to be true, in order to make the very point I should have the burden of proving.

I need to provide evidence to back up my claim that these records don’t get played and enjoyed, but I have no evidence whatsoever that that is indeed the case.

It’s a naked expression of prejudice on my part, of assuming that what’s obviously true for me must be true for others. I don’t enjoy playing these Heavy Vinyl records, and I think that other audiophiles must be as disappointed by them as I am.

But Heavy Vinyl records are selling very well these days. Somebody must be buying them.

And they buy them even though, as our writer points out, they cannot begin to compete with a good vintage pressing.

(This happens to be something I have a lot of evidence for and can prove with ease. Practically every record on our site is a rebuttal to audiophile pressings from every era, made by every company in the remastering business. To find out how wrong these modern records are, all you need do is buy one of our Hot Stampers and play them head to head.)

Oh well. All we can do is keep trying to get the word out. And we thank you for your help showing audiophiles what they are missing. Because explaining doesn’t work. Only hearing works.

Best, TP

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Be-Bop Deluxe – Futurama

More Be-Bop Deluxe

More Titles Only Offered on Import Vinyl

  • The band’s sophomore release, Futurama, makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this early UK pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • “… where other bands lose their musical impetus in fussy artsiness, Be-Bop Deluxe is redeemed by the brilliance of its playing, and particularly Mr. Nelson’s guitar playing. Mr. Nelson’s music and his guitar playing lift Be-Bop Deluxe out of the ordinary. The music sounds something like the febrile eclecticism of Roxy Music and Queen and Mr. Nelson admits the kinship.” — The New York Times

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Kansas / Leftoverture – a certain “squawky, pinched” sound to the guitars…

This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This copy of Kansas’ most consistent album, their masterpiece I might venture to say, has an OFF THE CHARTS A+++ side two! This copy shows you the ROCK album they actually recorded. The average copy of Leftoverture only hints at the power of the band.  

Side two just KILLED from start to finish, with the deepest, punchiest bass, moving up the frequency ladder to the clearest sweetest mids, and following it all the way to the top with the most extended grain-free, silky highs.

Most copies, like so many rock records from the era, are veiled and smeary. Often they lack extension at one or both ends of the frequency spectrum, more often than not up top, which results in harshness and shrillness, not the sound you want on a Kansas record!

But copies such as this one show you the kind of sound that is possible with Leftoverture. It is, in a word, SMEAR-FREE, with superb transients, textures and clarity that are the natural result of getting every last bit of musical information into the grooves.

Another tough test: the vocals on the first track. They often sound strained right from the get go. It’s the rare copy that doesn’t show some strain on those first four lines. This copy, as good as it was, even had a trace of it. (Sometimes the sound is so strained it’s game over after the first thirty seconds. Who can listen to that kind of sound?)

Folks, if you have the big speakers that a balls-to-the-walls rock record like this one demands, you are in for one serious audiophile quality prog-rock experience. (Or is is Art Rock as the AMG likes to call it?) Wall to wall and floor to ceiling barely begins to do it justice. Like so many of the great rock recordings, the sound just JUMPS out of the speakers!

Side one was good, but simply not in the same league as side one, not even close. We gave it an A+ for being open and extended, but it is not as full-bodied as the best.

More Kansas

More Prog Rock

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Ambrosia – Self-Titled


  • Spectacular Prog Rock sound explodes on this copy of the band’s phenomenally well-recorded debut album, mixed by none other than Alan Parsons – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • With insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it on both sides, this copy has the sound we look for on Ambrosia’s Masterpiece
  • Big Whomp Factor here – the bottom end is huge and punchy on this copy, like nothing you’ve heard
  • A Better Records All-Time Favorite & Top 100 Demo Disc: “Its songs skillfully blend strong melodic hooks and smooth vocal harmonies with music of an almost symphonic density.”

Folks, this LP is nothing short of a Sonic Spectacular. For that reason alone it would get a strong recommendation, but the music is so good that the brilliant sound is best seen as a bonus, not the sole reason to own the album.

These sides have the kind of energy that few titles can lay claim to. Put this one up against your best Dark Side of the Moon. Unless you bought a High Dollar copy from us, I’d say there’s almost no chance that this album won’t reduce it to vinyl rubble. (We talk about how similar the recordings are below.) (more…)

Yes – The Yes Album

Hot Stamper Pressings of The Yes Album Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for The Yes Album

  • An incredible original Atlantic pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second — exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • You haven’t begun to hear the weight, energy and space of Yes’s brilliant third album until you’ve played one of our better copies
  • On the right system, at the right volume (very loud), this very record is an immersive experience like practically no other – I’ve Seen All Good People here will surely blow your mind
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record if you ask us (although Fragile can sound absolutely amazing too, just not as smooth and rich)
  • “Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other’s work as a knowledgeable band should.”
  • If you’re a Prog Rock or Art Rock fan, this is a classic from 1970 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers who like to play their records loud.

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it. (more…)