Genre – Rock – Pure Pop

Blondie – Eat To The Beat

More Blondie

More Women Who Rock

xxxxx

  • I
  • Stunning sound for the band’s followup to Parallel Lines with both sides of this original pressing earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or or close to them – exceptionally 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
  • 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 as real sounding as if you were standing five feet in front of the band. On the best copies it’s hard to imagine that song sounding any better. The drum and bass are massive in their attack. It’s the very definition of punch.

This original Crysalis pressing 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.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of Eat To The Beat Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1979
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

The Magic Formula for Hot Stampers

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album like this one, as you work through them you will surely stumble upon some that really rock, with the kind of presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums that make this music come to life in your very own listening room. The best copies were positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air. There was not a trace of grain, just the silky sweet highs we’ve come to expect from analog done right.

Way back in 2009 we wrote:

Watch for Hot Stampers of the band’s fourth album coming to the site one of these days, later this year I would guess. The best copies have true Demo Disc sound. If you own the record, drop the needel on Die Young, Stay Pretty and turn the volume up as loud as your stereo will play. (Your own personal Turn Up the Volume Test.) If you have a good copy it will ROCK — the sound can be unbelievably dynamic and punchy. We love that Big Rock sound here at Better Records, and the very special Hot Stamper pressings that have it!

And here, years later, is the very pressing that will back up those claims. Turn it up as loud as you want; the top end and vocals are balanced, smooth and tonally correct, not gritty or edgy, so it just keeps getting better the louder you go (within reason of course).

To be fair, consistency is the problem with this album, with some songs being absolute Pop Masterpieces (Dreaming on side one, Die Young Stay Pretty on side two), but other tracks not quite at the level set by Parallel Lines, where every track was a gem of songcraft and Glossy Pure Pop Production.

Still, what’s good is good, and the sound is STUNNING, with real Demo Disc qualities.

What We’re Listening For on Eat To The Beat

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Dreaming 
The Hardest Part 
Union City Blue 
Shayla 
Eat to the Beat
Accidents Never Happen

Side Two

Die Young Stay Pretty
Slow Motion 
Atomic 
Sound-A-Sleep
Victor 
Living in the Real World

AMG Review

…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.

My favourite album

Blondie’s masterpiece is usually held to be 1978’s Parallel Lines, while Eat to the Beat, which followed a year later, is considered an inferior attempt to duplicate its arty/trashy perfection. I can understand why Parallel Lines gets so much love – any album that contains Heart of Glass, Hanging on the Telephone and Sunday Girl is going to rank high in people’s Best Records of All Time list. For me, though, it lacked the special shot of cool downtown decadence that, in my impressionable head, underpinned Eat to the Beat.

I wasn’t really aware of Eat to the Beat until several years after it came out. I discovered it during the summer that I lived on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, on a street populated by drug dealers and new wave scenesters. The area had a sordid glamour that I fancied was a bit like Paris in the 20s, and my preoccupation was how to be part of it. Too geeky to be one of the cool kids, too chicken to actually take drugs, I nonetheless wanted to swap places with one of the heroin-addled Johnny Thunders/Lydia Lunch lookalikes who slouched around the place in studded belts and black hair.

Then I came across Eat to the Beat, which seemed to embody all the nocturnal seediness of their lifestyle. The album, I should explain, wasn’t overtly about sex, drugs or the after-hours clubs where they hung out – in fact, you could’ve mistaken it for a collection of catchy pop songs. (One music site retrospectively dismisses it as mere “corporate rock” – how dare they?) But when you connect with an album, it doesn’t matter so much how it sounds as where you are when you hear it. And I was in my room on East 7th Street, playing Atomic and Die Young, Stay Pretty over and over, wondering how to become a drug addict without taking drugs.

So, for one humid New York summer, it was my soundtrack. The pinging disco of Atomic sounded to me like a monumentally hedonistic rush, The Hardest Part evoked the Italian-American truck drivers who catcalled the new wave girls sidling down 7th Street and Die Young, Stay Pretty’s beginner-level reggae sounded strange and dangerous. Even the delicate lullaby Sound-a-Sleep captured the disorienting feeling of leaving a club at dawn, when the streets were silent and swept clean. Eat to the Beat brilliantly encapsulated all the things that made New York so intoxicating. And it helped that Blondie themselves lived this dark downtown life (or so I thought – in fact, by then, guitarist Chris Stein had contracted a serious illness, and the band soon split up).

I left the album in New York when I moved to London, and haven’t listened to it all the way through in years. The only song I play occasionally now is Atomic. But when I do, I still remember wandering down the streets of the East Village with the album on my Walkman, trying to pass for one of the cool kids.

Caroline Sullivan – The Guardian

1979 – The Year in Music

Nineteen Seventy Nine sure was an interesting year.

The Wall, Breakfast in America, London Calling, Off the Wall, Get the Knack, Damn the Torpedoes, Armed Forces, Spirits Having Flown, Tusk, The B-52s, Rust Never Sleeps, Rickie Lee Jones, Candy-O — the variety is remarkable.

Even more remarkable is the number of albums recorded in ’79 that sound fresh and engaging to this day, more than 35 years after they were released. I could sit down in front of my speakers today and play any one of them all the way through. Try that with ten favorite albums from ’89, ’99 or ’09.

Billy Joel – An Innocent Man

More Billy Joel

xxxxx

  • 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…)

The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds

More Beach Boys

Hot Stamper Pressings that Sound Their Best on the Right Reissue

xxxxx

  • This insanely good pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to them on both sides
  • Forget 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 album, a vintage pressing like this one is the way to go
  • The Beach Boys revolutionized the popular music of the day with their genius for harmony, and a killer copy like this has their voices sounding the way they should
  • 5 stars: “The group here reached a whole new level in terms of both composition and production, layering tracks upon tracks of vocals and instruments to create a richly symphonic sound.”

(more…)

The Lovin’ Spoonful – John Sebastian Songbook, Vol. 1

More John Sebastian

More Sixties Pop Recordings

xxxxx

  • With STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides, the sound quality of the tracks on this compilation is impressive
  • Both sides are rich, full-bodied, Tubey Magical, and natural with a solid bottom end – no sign of radio EQ to be found
  • Features most of the band’s best songs, including Do You Believe In Magic, You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice, Six O’clock and Nashville Cats (a personal fave)
  • The Allmusic critic is not too crazy about this album, but the User Rating is 4 1/2 stars, which we think is about right

Great sound for some the biggest hits of The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band I wouldn’t have expected to hear sound good on vinyl if I lived to be a hundred, and yet, here it is. This is one of the rare cases where, in our experience, the hits compilation sounds BETTER than the original records. Why? Who knows? We don’t pretend to have all the answers. What we do have (that no one else has, if that’s not too obvious) are the records that back up the claims we make for them.

How they came to be that way is anyone’s guess. All we know for sure is that, judging by the best copies of this album, somebody got hold of some awfully good tapes and somebody mastered them with uncanny skill to what sounds to these ears like near perfection.

Actually, the mastering engineer for this compilation and the Best of from the same year is a person well known to us record collecting audiophiles — the person that ends up with this record can look in the dead wax for his info and the rest of you are welcome to guess — so it’s really no surprise that this compilation sounds as good as the Best of that we rave about.

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Shootout Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy for us to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

(more…)

The Real Stars of Windy – Bones Howe and The Wrecking Crew

More of The Association

The Master of Tubey Magical Pop Recording, Mr. BONES HOWE

association

The sound of the sixties will fill your room like never before — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, with layers upon layers of depth. You would be very hard pressed to find a pop rock recording from 1967 that sounds as good as a Hot Stamper Insight Out. (Sgt. Pepper comes to mind, but what else?) Can you imagine the Mamas and the Papas or The Jefferson Airplane with this kind of rich, sweet, open, textured, natural, tonally correct sound quality?

The midrange is pure Tubey Magic! If you have the kind of system that brings out that quality in a recording, you will go wild over this one. In fact it’s so good, it made me appreciate some of the other songs on the album which I had previously dismissed as filler. When you hear them sound this good, you can actually enjoy them.

Hal, Joe and Bones

The real stars of Windy (and the album itself) are Hal Blaine and Joe Osborne, the famous session drummer/ bass player team, who create the driving force behind these songs. Osborne’s web site puts Windy front and center as the first track demonstrating what a top rhythm section can do for a pop song. This whole album can be enjoyed simply for the great drum and bass work, not to mention the sound that both of those instruments are given by the pop recording master Bones Howe.

He produced and engineered the show here; Bones is a man who knew his way around a studio as well as practically anybody in the ’60s. He’s the one responsible for all the tubey magic of the recording. That’s his sound. Those of you who appreciate that sound will find much to like here.

Bouncing Tracks

Never My Love is clearly the best sounding track on the album. Those of you with better front ends will be astonished at the quality of the sound. Windy also sounds excellent, but I hear some sub-generation harmonic distortion, probably caused by bouncing down some of the tracks to make room for others.

This is the era of the four track machine, and when four of the tracks are used up they are bounced down to one track, making available three new tracks. Some of the albums from this era — the Mamas and the Papas come to mind — have multiple bounces, three and four deep, which accounts for the distortion that you hear all through their recordings. The two-track finished master might have upwards of five tape generations or more on some instruments or vocal parts. (more…)

Kenny Loggins – Celebrate Me Home

More Loggins and Messina

xxxxx

  • One of the best copies to ever hit the site and boy is it killer — Triple Plus (A+++) sound, or close to it, from start to finish
  • Both sides here are rich, full and Tubey Magical with a massive bottom end and lots of space around the instruments
  • It’s also one of the only Loggins solo albums I’ve ever liked; it’s a favorite of mine from back in the day
  • Allmusic 4 Stars: “Loggins is in good form throughout the record, and if even only the title track entered his readily-acknowledged canon, this has a fine, sustained mood: a soft late ’70s vibe that makes it a nice artifact of its time, as well as one of his stronger records, as illustrated by its platinum status — something it achieved without any blockbuster singles.”

This killer copy shows you just how good this record can sound, which is surprisingly good, considering how many copies of the album are just plain awful. Finally, most of the grit, grain, and transitory opacity have fallen away, leaving in its place the rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical ’70s sound one would expect.

As obvious as it may sound (especially to anyone on this site), the master tape is a whole lot better than the average copy of the record would have you believe. This copy is proof positive. Without a doubt this is one of the best pressings of the album we have ever heard.

Two Amazing Sides

The best copies take top honors for rhythmic energy and real frequency extension both high and low. Most copies have no real top end; if you own one give it a listen and we think you’ll agree with us.

Great bass, plenty of Tubey Magic, clarity and richness — no other copy in our shootout could do what this one was doing. (more…)

The Hollies – For Certain Because…

More by The Hollies

xxxxx

This is a rare, original Hollies Parlophone Black & Yellow label LP in stereo.

The album has very good sound on surprisingly quiet vinyl.

“An admirable effort that may stand as the group’s most accomplished album of the ’60s.” — AMG

“The Hollies were very much a pop group and didn’t let their somewhat more sober and introspective compositions stand in the way of their glittering harmonies and jangling guitars. Occasional brass, banjo, bells, and vibrating piano embellish their basic rock instrumentation on this pleasant, if hardly earthshaking, work. The circus-like “Stop! Stop! Stop!,” with its manic banjo, was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic; the good-natured “Pay You Back with Interest” was a Top 30 hit in America; and the jazzy “Tell Me to My Face” was one of their best ’60s album tracks.” — AMG

Christopher Cross – Listening for Choruses that Are Big, Clear, and Lively

More Christopher Cross

Hot Stamper Albums with Choruses that Are Big and Clear

xxxxx

Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.

There’s one test on side two that few copies do well on. The mostly instrumental section in the middle of Ride Like the Wind has a huge chorus singing in a wonderfully reverberant studio. Only the most transparent, most distortion-free copies let you clearly hear all their voices bouncing off the walls.

Take any two copies and listen for just this one effect and you will soon see that no two copies reproduce the reverberations identically, and many barely reproduce them at all.

Overall

The sound is full, rich, lively and even Tubey Magical in the best tradition of the glossy Pop Productions that were all the rage in the late-’70s. If you like Michael McDonald, Toto, The Doobies, Hall and Oates, The Bee Gees and countless other bands we have lovingly found a home for in our Hot Stamper sections you will no doubt find much to like here.

A guilty pleasure you say? When a record sounds this good there is nothing to feel guilty about!

(more…)

Sergio Mendes – Room Treatments Bring Out The Big Speaker Whomp Factor

More Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66

Reviews and Commentaries for Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66’s Debut

xxxxx

Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. 

With recent changes to some of our room treatments, we now have even more transparency in the mids and highs, while improving the whomp factor (the formula goes like this: deep bass + mid bass + speed + dynamics + energy = whomp) at the listening position.

There’s always tons of bass being produced when you have three 12′ woofers firing away, but getting the bass out of the corners and into the center of the room is one of the toughest tricks in audio.

For a while we were quite enamored with some later pressings of this album — they were cut super clean, with extended highs and amazing transparency, with virtually none of the congestion in the loud parts you hear on practically every copy.

But that clarity comes at a price, and it’s a steep one. The best early pressings have whomp down below only hinted at by the “cleaner” reissues. It’s the same way super transparent half-speeds fool most audiophiles. For some reason audiophiles rarely seem to notice the lack of weight and solidity down below that they’ve sacrificed for this improved clarity. (Probably because it’s the rare audiophile speaker that can really move enough air to produce the whomp we are talking about here.)

But hey, look who’s talking! I was fooled too. You have to get huge amounts of garbage out of your system (and your room) before the trade-offs become obvious. When you find that special early pressing, one with all the magic in the midrange and top without any loss of power down below, then my friend you have one of those “I Can’t Believe It’s A Record” records. We call them Hot Stampers here at Better Records, and they’re guaranteed to blow your mind.

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was more than thirty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the decades since.

Paul Revere and the Raiders – The Spirit of ’67

More Paul Revere

More Sixties Pop Recordings

xxxxx

  • A superb sounding copy with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are full-bodied and Tubey Magical, the right sound for America’s answer in 1966 to those pesky Brits and all their chart-topping songs
  • 4 stars: “The Spirit of ’67, Paul Revere and the Raiders’ third gold-selling, Top Ten album to be released in 1966, marked the triumph of the group’s in-house writing team of lead singer Mark Lindsay, Paul Revere, and producer Terry Melcher… Paul Revere and the Raiders were riding high.”

This vintage Columbia 360 pressing 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. (more…)