Genre – Rock – Pure Pop

Thinking About the Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars of Bread and Cat Stevens

In many ways this recording is state-of-the-art. Listening to the Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars on the best copies brings back memories of my first encounter with an original Pink Label Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic– that sound knocked me out twenty-odd years ago, and here it is again. 

Of course I’ve always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. If you are too then a Hot Stamper copy of Manna will no doubt become a treasured demo disc in your home as well.

Audiophiles with high quality turntables literally have an endless supply of good recordings such as this to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you own, you can’t possibly have even scratched the surface of the vast recorded legacy of the last sixty years. (The first stereo recordings date from 1954, the year of my birth, good timing on the part of my parents.) That’s the positive thought for the day.

We here at Better Records look forward to helping you find recordings that do justice to the music you have yet to hear. (more…)

Whitney Houston – Whitney Houston

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  • An outstanding early Arista pressing, this copy earned seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them for its sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • this album has the kind of smooth, rich, tonally correct analog sound we thought they had forgotten how to record by 1985 – but here it is, thank goodness
  • Consistently strong material: You Give Good Love, Saving All My Love for You, How Will I Know, All at Once, and Greatest Love of All (the last of seven (!) singles released from the album)
  • “…introduced the world to ‘The Voice,’ an octave-spanning, gravity-defying melismatic marvel.”

Having done this for so long — 2020 marks our 33rd year in the record business — we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound — even as late as 1985! — is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.).

The music is not so much about the details in the recording; rather it lives or dies by its ability to recreate a solid, palpable, Whitney Houston singing and playing live in your listening room. The best copies had an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, and here it’s important to keep in mind that these tapes are now more than thirty years old, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard Whitney sound this good on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide. (more…)

America – Hat Trick

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  • This original Warner Brothers pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Rich, full-bodied and spacious, with wonderfully sweet, breathy vocals – this is the sound we look for on America’s classic Folk Pop albums
  • “Hat Trick, the trio’s third effort in as many years, is an admirable and ultimately successful attempt at fleshing out a sound that at one time consisted almost entirely of crisp acoustic guitar interplay, two-fingered elementary piano progressions and saccharin-sweet three-part harmonies… [it] should hopefully dispel America’s once notorious reputation as a “pubescent Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.” – Cameron Crowe, L.A. Times

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Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle – Decent at Best on Mobile Fidelity

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The top end of this album is a problem on most pressings — dry and somewhat brittle — but on the best pressings the highs are extended, sweet and fairly natural. The soundfield is open and transparent with three-dimensional space that brings out the “trippy” sound the band threw in all over this album.

The MOFI has a bit more going on up top than most dometic pressings (forget the dubby imports) but the combination of blurry bass and compressed, lifeless sound fail to make this album sound the way you remember it in your head from back in the day.

Finding a good sounding copy of this record is not easy. Most of them sound like they’re playing underwater. (more…)

The Fifth Dimension – Live!!

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  • Live!! finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on all FOUR sides
  • Bones Howe once again engineered, which means you can be sure the tonality is correct from top to bottom and the breath of life is captured beautifully in the midrange
  • The sound here is rich and full-bodied with much less grain and much more Tubey Magic than every other copy we played
  • Hal Blaine on the drums, Joe Osborne on bass and Larry Knechtel on keyboards – not too shabby!
  • 4 stars: “The performance offers an adequate sampling of the 5D’s classics and concurrent pop songs that attendees would likely be familiar with.”

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The Police – Zenyatta Mondatta

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  • This import pressing is a monster, with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them, and playing about as quietly as these imports ever do
  • Forget the domestic pressings, forget the Nautilus half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike — if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper import pressing is the only way to go
  • This album is an absolute classic — it leads off with Don’t Stand So Close To Me and never lets up
  • 5 Stars: “Zenyatta contains perhaps the quintessential new wave anthem, the haunting ‘Don’t Stand So Close to Me’… Zenyatta Mondatta remains one of the finest rock albums of all time.”

Finally, a killer copy of Zenyatta Mondatta worthy of the White Hot Stamper designation!

It is brutally difficult to find great copies of this album, which explains why only a handful have gone up since 2006. And given our expanded resources and refined shootout process, not to mention the expertise we’ve gained in the thousands of hours of listening we’ve done since that time, I have to believe that this is one of the best sounding copies we’ve ever found. Police fans, this is the ONE.

This copy was doing pretty much everything we wanted. The vocals are present, the bass is well-defined, the guitars have harmonic texture, and the drums are punchy and lively. I don’t think you could find a better sounding version of this album no matter how hard you tried.

As for the music, the album is an absolute classic — it leads off with Don’t Stand So Close To Me and never lets up. (more…)

Jimmy Buffett – Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it 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
  • 4 stars: “…one reason Changes… is his best record yet is simply the sound… The main reason it’s Buffett’s best is the songs, most of which he wrote. Buffett has always been a good songwriter when he had the time to apply himself, and he’s been developing a persona that reaches its culmination here.”

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Basia – Time and Tide

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  • This outstanding pressing of Time and Tide boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is rich and Tubey Magical, yet transparent and spacious in the way that only the best vintage pressings ever are
  • Allmusic: “This is sophisticated pop music that sounds ideal for playing in any number of upholstered locations — a black-tie cocktail party, a fashion-show runway, the back seat of a limousine. Basia’s lightly accented voice adds an exotic flavor to the Euro-disco style of the music.”

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Art Garfunkel – Breakaway

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Top sound for some of the best tracks: My Little Town, I Only Have Eyes for You, 99 Miles from L.A. and more
  • Superb space and clarity, with the rich, tubey smoothness that’s missing from most copies
  • The keyboards are full and rich, the guitars ring sweetly
  • Richard Perry went for the Big Sound here and he got it – this copy will show you just how well recorded the album really is

The problem with this album is that, for whatever reason, practically every copy you find is to some degree grainy, harsh and shrill in the loudest passages of the music. When the music gets loud, the sound often becomes strained and unpleasant. A copy like this one that doesn’t do that is the exception, not the rule.

Listen to the song ‘Disney Girls’ on side one. If you own the average pressing – odds are your copy is in fact quite average unless you went through a pile of copies and played them in order to find a good one – parts of that song will sound painfully hard and shrill, assuming your playing the record at the kinds of levels we do.

Which is the main reason I’ve never understood what qualified this record to be on the TAS Super Disc list. Now, having heard the best of the best copies sounding so big, rich and tubey, I can certainly say I hear what impressed HP (he likes that sound, as do we). It may indeed be a very well recorded album, but it clearly falls short for our own Rock and Pop Top 100 List. As you know we play a lot of amazing albums around here. (more…)

Ringo Starr – Ringo

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  • A KILLER copy with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades for sound and pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl
  • Another Richard Perry production that sounds great – big and rich – thanks to excellent engineering skills of Bill Schnee, who you may remember from the credits of some of Sheffield’s better direct to disc recordings
  • The big hits are here and they sound fantastic: Photograph, You’re Sixteen, Oh My My and many, many more
  • “Ringo’s best and most consistent new studio album, Ringo represented both the drummer/singer’s most dramatic comeback and his commercial peak.”

Like Nilsson Schmilsson – an amazing Richard Perry production with much the same amazing sound – the bad copies are really just awful — veiled, smeary, compressed, rolled off up top and leaned out down low. It’s a big studio pop production with a lot going on; when it doesn’t work it really doesn’t work. Thankfully, on some copies it does, and this is one of those.

If you’ve tried killer Hot Stamper pressings of any of our favorite Richard Perry productions — No Secrets, Nilsson Schmilsson, Son of Schmilsson and Breakaway come to mind — you know the sound of this album.

Bill Schnee did some of the engineering. You probably know his name from the famous Sheffield Direct to Disc recordings he made there. If you like your records will lots of bottom end, richness, Tubey Magic and powerful dynamics, he’s the guy that can get that sound on tape, and Doug Sax, the mastering engineer for the album, is the guy that can get that sound onto disc. They made a great team. (more…)