Genre – Rock – Pure Pop

Spandau Ballet – True

More Spandau Ballet

More Pure Pop Recordings

  • Boasting two surprisingly rich and natural – dare we say Analog? – Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, this early UK Chrysalis pressing had the sound we were looking for on the band’s third studio album
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful Brit Pop album, an import pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • “… a set of tunes aimed squarely at the charts. The one that succeeded most spectacularly, of course, was the title cut, a glossily-updated Motown-style ballad that became one of the decade’s biggest hits – aided by a video that cast singer Tony Hadley as a young Frank Sinatra, crooning about the sound of his soul.”
  • This is clearly the band’s best sounding album. Roughly 100 other listings for the Best Sounding Album by an Artist or Group can be found here.
  • In our opinion, True is the only Spandau Ballet record you’ll ever need. Click on this link to see more titles we like to call one and done

Forget the dubby domestic pressings. Like so many British bands on the Chrysalis label, when it came time to master the album for our domestic market, not theirs, the people in charge (whoever they may have been) took the easy way out and simply ordered up a dub of the tape to send across the pond.

Too many wonderful albums by highly accomplished bands had their records ruined by sub-generation masters. (Ruined for audiophiles. The general public couldn’t care less.)

But this is the real British-pressed vinyl from the real master tape, and that makes all the difference in the world. It has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.


The Beach Boys – Endless Summer

More of The Beach Boys

More Sixties Pop

  • This 2-LP compilation set from 1974 boasts excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides of these vintage Capitol pressings – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • A copy like this is a rare audiophile treat – here are The Beach Boys’ marvelous harmonies sounding as rich, warm, clear, natural and lively as you could ever hope to hear them (particularly on sides one, two, and four)
  • 5 stars: “Endless Summer, which was assembled in consultation with Mike Love, soared to number one and charted high over two subsequent summers (spending three years on the charts, the longest of any of the group’s albums).”

Like any compilation, some tracks sound better than others, but the best sounding tracks on here easily rank with any Beach Boys vinyl we’ve ever played. And the material on here is so good and so comprehensive that for most of you this and Pet Sounds should be all the Beach Boys you’ll ever need.

The sound here is big, open, rich and full, with the performers front and center (as well as left and right). The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than others by a long shot. Very few Beach Boys records offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from these pressings.

Fresh Tapes

These vintage LPs also have the Midrange Magic that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the 50+ year old tapes. As good as that pressing may be, we guarantee that this one is dramatically more real sounding. It gives you the sense that all the boys (and the Wrecking Crew) are right in the room with you.

They’re no longer a representation — they’re living, breathing persons. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Their voices are so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music.

As any record collector knows all too well, Capitol pressings are all over the map. When you find a good one, you can be pretty sure it’s the exception, not the rule. That’s been our experience, and we’ve played them by the hundreds.


Barbra Streisand / Guilty – Bab’s Best and Most Underrated Album

More Barbra Streisand

More Pure Pop Recordings

  • Streisand’s Pop Masterpiece returns to the site on this original pressing with killer sound on both sides, just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • You get lovely extension up top, good weight down low, as well as exceptional transparency in the midrange, all qualities that were much less evident on the average copy we played
  • This is Barbra and The Bee Gees at the peak of their Pop Powers – it just doesn’t get any better
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The biggest selling album of Barbra Streisand’s career is also one of her least characteristic. The album was written and produced by Barry Gibb in association with his brothers and the producers of the Bee Gees, and in essence it sounds like a post-Saturday Night Fever Bee Gees album with vocals by Streisand. Still, the record was more hybrid than compromise, and the chart-topping single ‘Woman in Love’ has a sinuous feel that is both right for Streisand and new for her.”

This ain’t no zombie audiophile BS, the kind of sleep-inducing, reverb-drenched trash that passes for “female vocals” in bad audio showrooms around the globe. (Paging Diana Krall.)

This is the best album Babs ever made, and you can take that to the bank. It’s also one of the best sounding, if not the best sounding of her later Monster Pop Productions. Can’t say for sure as I haven’t played all that many. Her first album is a true Demo Disc as well, but that one’s all about the Tubey Magical ’60s Columbia era, the Golden Age of Natural Sound, a world away from Guilty and its layers and layers of tracks. Having said that, there are multi-tracks and then there are multi-tracks.

The engineers and producers here pull it off brilliantly.

If you don’t feel something deep inside when playing this record, open up a vein and let some of the ice water in your system that passes for blood run out.


What Was Harry Up To in 1969?

More of the Music of Harry Nilsson

More Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Harry Nilsson

This forgotten gem sank like a stone in 1969, but time has treated this album well. It holds up to this very day. The production is superb throughout. Judging by this early album and the one before it, it appears he was already a pro in the studio, as well as an accomplished songwriter, and, most importantly, the owner of one of the sweetest tenors in popular music, then or now.

Harry checks off a few very important boxes for us here at Better Records:

What to Listen For

The average copy suffers, most notably, from honky vocals. It seems to be a mastering EQ problem, since it affects a larger percentage of copies with earlier stampers and not as many of the later pressings. The later copies have problems of their own, though, so you can’t just assume that the copies with high numbers will sound better — they don’t always, and the earlier ones can sound amazing when you’re lucky enough to get hold of a good one.

It just goes to show that (all together now…) you can’t know anything about the sound of a record without playing it, and to take it a step further, you can’t really know much about the sound of an album without cleaning and critically listening to multiple copies. But that’s a lot of hard work, and who has the time, other than us?

What Were You Doing In 1969?

If the answer is “Recording an album of innocent, touching, and completely unironic pop music,”” well, you could only be Harry Nilsson.


James Taylor – Flag

More James Taylor

  • Both sides of this vintage copy were doing pretty much everything right, earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades
  • The best sides have Tubey Magical acoustic guitars, sweet vocals, huge amounts of space, breathtaking transparency, and so much more
  • Credit the engineering chops of Val Garay – the guy makes these sort of Demo Disc Quality Pop Records about as good as they can be made
  • Musically this is one of JT’s most underrated albums – it’s a Better Records Top Recommendation and Must Own LP

From the opening notes you will be amazed at how good this album sounds. As far as JT’s recordings go, it’s right up there at the top. Like his album JT, which came just before this one, the best copies of this record are smooth, rich, punchy and have great bass.

The average copy of this record is dreadful. All the recuts that were done by Columbia that I’ve ever heard are garbage. There are a number of different stampers for both sides one and two and it’s almost impossible to find two good sides on the same album.


Billy Joel – An Innocent Man

More Billy Joel

  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this copy of Joel’s ninth studio album
  • Dynamic and open, with driving rhythmic energy – this early pressing brings this great batch of songs to life
  • Jam packed with hits: An Innocent Man, The Longest Time, Tell Her About It, Uptown Girl, Leave a Tender Moment Alone, and more – seven singles in all
  • 4 stars: “[H]e’s effortlessly spinning out infectious, memorable melodies in a variety of styles, from the Four Seasons send-up “Uptown Girl” and the soulful “Tell Her About It” to a pair of doo wop tributes, “The Longest Time” and “Careless Talk.” Joel has rarely sounded so carefree either in performance or writing, possibly due to “Christie Lee” Brinkley, a supermodel who became his new love prior to An Innocent Man.”

Both of these sides have the huge soundstage and startling clarity and immediacy that characterizes this album, but they also add an ingredient missing from most we heard — a full, rich, musical midrange!

On many pressings, the vocals can get hard and harsh on the uptempo tracks (“Uptown Girl” is a notable offender, and never sounds quite as good as the rest of the album), but this copy manages to fix that problem (mostly) without sacrificing transparency or top end.

This was a monster in its day, generating a Number One hit and seven total single releases out of the ten songs that comprise it. Seven out of ten, not a bad track record. We couldn’t find a weak song on the album either, which is surely one of the reasons it sold seven million copies in the states alone. (more…)

James Taylor – Gorilla

More James Taylor

More of Our Favorite Pure Pop Recordings

  • Soulful JT at his best, an underappreciated album by the man who single-handedly created a new genre of music
  • “Mexico,” “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and “I Was A Fool To Care” are standouts – but, honestly, there simply are no weak tracks to be found on either side
  • Rolling Stone notes, “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”
  • 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,” with an accent on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Gorilla is a good example of a record audiophiles may not know well but might just benefit from getting to know better
  • If I were to compile a list of Must Own Rock and Pop Albums from 1975, this album would definitely be on it

This is soft rock at its best, made up primarily of love songs, and helped immensely by the harmonically-gifted backing vocals of Graham Nash and David Crosby.

To be honest, the recording of Gorilla itself cannot compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. It can be a good sounding record, not a great one, certainly not in the same league as those two.


Burt Bacharach – Make It Easy On Yourself

More Burt Bacharach

More Pure Pop Recordings

  • Boasting INSANELY GOOD Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades from top to bottom, this vintage A&M pressing is the BEST we have ever heard
  • The sound is big, tubey, balanced and above all, natural, with brass that is rich and full with the right amount of bite, not to mention lively and dynamic
  • With engineering by the legendary Phil Ramone, this is an exceptionally well-recorded album, as this pressing makes clear
  • “‘I’ll Never Fall in Love Again,’ and ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’ are great songs that solidify Bacharach as a master of quirk.”

If you’re a fan of the Casino Royale soundtrack, you should definitely check out this crazy album. The best material on here is loads of fun, and when you get a great copy like this one the sound is wonderful.

This pressing is Tubey Magical — what A&M pressing from 1969 wouldn’t be? — but also highly resolving of subtle musical information, the kind you notice when you play a pile of copies one after another. Listen to the orchestra on “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” — you can really hear the sound of the rosiny bows being pulled across the strings.


Blondie – Eat To The Beat

More Blondie

More Women Who Rock

  • Outstanding sound for the band’s followup to Parallel Lines, with both sides of this original pressing earning Double Plus (A++) or BETTER grades – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Turn it up as loud as you want – the top end and vocals are balanced, smooth and tonally correct, not gritty or edgy
  • The drums and bass of “Die Young Stay Pretty” are as real sounding as if you were standing five feet from the band
  • It’s an amazingly punchy, lively Demo Disc for Big Speakers that Play at Loud Levels
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The British… made Eat to the Beat another chart-topper, with three major hits, including a number one ranking for Atomic and almost the same success for Dreaming.”

This is Mike Chapman’s Big Beat Sonic Masterpiece — yes, the sound is actually bigger and better than the sound on Parallel Lines — akin to the debuts of The Knack and The Cars, and every bit as huge and punchy as either.

Eat to the Beat lives and dies by its energy, its bass and above all by its transient snap. The drums and bass of “Die Young Stay Pretty” are amazing. On the best copies it’s hard to imagine that song sounding any better. The drums and bass are massive in their attack. It’s the very definition of punch.

If you’re a fan of big drums in a big room, with jump out of the speakers sound, this is the album for you.


Paul McCartney and Wings – London Town

  • London Town returns to the site on this vintage import pressing with INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Clean, clear, and full-bodied with a solid bottom end – this copy smoked the competition in our recent shootout
  • 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 London Town
  • 4 star: “… it’s certainly stronger than Speed and, in its own way, as satisfying as Venus and Mars… It’s a laid-back, almost effortless collection of professional pop and, as such, it’s one of his strongest albums.”