Genre – Rock – American Blues Rock

Bonnie Raitt – Nick Of Time – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Minty Capitol LP has an UNBELIEVABLE White Hot Stamper As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) Side Two backed by a Side One that was nearly its equal! The original grade for side one was in fact A+++, but after hearing a copy that was even better we had to lower the grade to A Double Plus. Hey, that’s how we roll here at Better Records. Side one will blow your mind, but if we hear something better, we lower the grade on the nearly White Hot copy, no matter how good it is. 

We expect that, as good as side one is, when you drop the needle on side two you will hear EVEN BETTER sound.

Prepare to have your mind blown, because this album sure sounds a whole lot better than I remember it. And that’s a good thing. I have a new respect for this album (along with Don Was’ somewhat heavy-handed production).

Both sides are POWERFULLY BIG AND BOLD, with meaty, deep bass (such a big part of the rockers here, Thing Called Love being a prime example) and the sweetest, richest, most ANALOG sound we’ve heard from any record Don Was has been involved with. When you hear it like this — something probably pretty close to what he heard during the control room playback for the final mix — it actually makes sense. It works. It’s not exactly “natural”, but natural is not what they were going for, now is it?

Missing Too Much

The no-longer-surprising thing about these Hot Stamper pressings is how completely they MURDER the DCC LP. Folks, it’s really no contest. Yes, the DCC is tonally balanced and can sound very good, but it can’t compete with the best original pressings. It’s missing too much of the presence, intimacy, immediacy and transparency that we’ve discovered on these hot copies.

Like practically every Heavy Vinyl record pressed at RTI, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a kind of sterility to the sound. These remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing. Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a kind of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can turn up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want but they just never seem to want to come to life. We play albums like this VERY LOUD. I’ve seen Bonnie Raitt live a number of times and although I can’t begin to get her to play as loud in my livingroom as she did on stage, I can try. To do less is to do her a great disservice. (more…)

ZZ Top – Fandango – Another Warners Heavy Vinyl Mediocrity

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Sonic Grade: C

Warner Brothers remastered Fandango in 2008, so we took some domestic pressings and put them up against their Heavy Vinyl LP. The results were mixed; most of our originals pressings were lackluster, many were noisy, and we just weren’t hearing anything with the sound we thought deserved to be called a Hot Stamper.

We shelved the project for another day. In the interim we kept buying domestic pressings — originals and reissues — in the hopes that something good would come our way.

Fast forward four years. It’s 2015. We drop the needle on a random pressing and finally — finally — hear a copy that rocks like we knew a ZZ Top album should. With that LP as a benchmark we got a shootout up and running and the result is the record you see here.

How did the WB remaster fare once we had some truly Hot Stamper pressings to play it against?

Not well. It’s tonally correct, with a real top and bottom, something that a substantial number of copies cannot claim to be.

But the sound is stuck behind the speakers, veiled, and sorely lacking in energy and excitement. The transparency is of course compromised on all these new reissues, and without transparency and resolution much of the audience participation on the first side is lost. I won’t say the new pressing is boring. Let’s just say it’s a lot more boring than it should be. (more…)

J.J. Cale – 5

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  • Stunning sound from start to finish and the first copy to ever hit the site — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The overall sound here is rich, full-bodied and musical with lots of Tubey Magic and a solid bottom end; the perfect sound for this laid-back blues-rock
  • “While Cale remains the ultimate laid-back Blues artist, he still manages to conjure up the spirit of Country, Soul and subdued Funk in each of the tracks on 5, making this album one of the best loved in his catalog.”

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The Allman Brothers – Eat a Peach

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  • One of the best copies of Eat a Peach to ever hit the site – Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on ALL FOUR SIDES!
  • These superb sides have the immediacy that will put these wild and crazy southern rockers right in your living room
  • Includes phenomenal hits Melissa, One Way Out, Blue Sky, Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More and more
  • 5 stars: “The record showcases the Allmans at their peak .. proof of Duane Allman’s immense talents and contribution to the band.”

What do such high grades give you for this album? Unbelievably Tubey Magical guitars, huge whomp factor on the bottom end, incredible dynamics and life, shocking transparency and clarity, and the kind of immediacy that puts these crazy southern rockers right in your very own living room. The overall sound is impressively BIG, BOLD, and POWERFUL! (more…)

The Allman Brothers – Eat a Peach – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

THE ALLMAN’S MASTERPIECE CONQUERED AT LAST! I don’t think you could find a more tubey magical Southern Rock record than this! We just shot out a huge stack of these double LPs, no mean feat, and this Original Capricorn pressing manhandled the competition, rating A++ or better on ALL FOUR SIDES. Not only that, but the vinyl plays mostly Mint Minus throughout — exceptionally quiet for an old Allman Brothers record.

This and Live At Fillmore East are the two monumental albums these guys ever put out, and they have a lot in common. You know what you’re gonna get with the Allmans: dueling electric guitars, sweet acoustic guitars, energetic drumming, and full-bodied vocals throughout. There’s obviously a lot of exploration — two complete sides are dedicated to the song Mountain Jam — but the heartfelt radio-friendly songs such as Melissa and Little Martha keep up the energy and enjoyment factor.

The Three Keys: Transparency, Energy, and WHOMP

A super transparent, super lively copy like this one really lets everything that’s great about this music come through. You can easily pick out each of the musicians and follow their contributions over the course of the songs. The huge WHOMP factor throughout kicks up the excitement factor and sets the necessary foundation for the crazy guitar jams to sound correct. The top end has the kind of extension necessary to bring out all the ambience and spaciousness. (more…)

Big Brother & The Holding Company

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This album has got that trippy ’60s San Francisco sound, no doubt about it. Those of you who are familiar with Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow or the early Grateful Dead albums know what I’m talking about. Like you might expect from this mixture of blues and psychedelic rock, the sound can be a bit raw. That’s surely the way the band wanted you to hear it, and this copy gives you, more than anything else, the right sound for this music. (more…)

Janis Joplin – I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama! – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This Columbia 360 Label White Hot Stamper pressing is THE CURE for Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues.

This side one takes the album to places only hinted at on the other copies we played. Drop the needle on the song Try and just listen to how crisp, punchy, and BIG the drums sound. When Janis starts singing, watch out — her voice positively JUMPS out of the speakers, something we didn’t experience on many other copies. The bottom end has real weight and the top end is silky and extended. The overall sound is richer, fuller, and smoother than any side one we’ve ever played.  (more…)

The Allman Brothers … At Fillmore East

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More At Fillmore East

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

There was a time when we never dreamed we’d find a copy of this hard rockin’ live album with SUPERB SOUND and QUIET VINYL on all four sides, but we got a hold of a seriously hot one here! This is one of the all-time great live albums, and with a copy like this one YOU ARE THERE at the Fillmore!

Side One

A+++, huge and lively with real rock energy! The guitars really jump out of the speakers here and the bass is solid and full. When the music sounds this good, with this kind of rich, musical tonality and big, open soundstage, it just WORKS. A+++, White Hot Stamper material all the way! (more…)

The Allman Brothers – Brothers and Sisters

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Brothers and Sisters

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

A+++ sound on side one! It’s bigger, punchier and livelier with more texture to the instruments than any other copy we played. Finding great sound for this album is no mean feat. This one is definitely not a Demo Disc — no copy will truly be — but it’s a BIG step up from most of the copies we played. I don’t think you could find better sound for the first side no matter what you did!

One important note: it’s pretty clear that Ramblin’ Man and Jessica were not cut from the real master tapes. We’ve talked about this issue before; there are many instances where the master tapes were used to cut the singles and then dubs were used for those tracks on the albums. (It’s why the versions of the songs on The Best Of Traffic sound so much better than they do on the regular albums, for example.)

Those Harmonizing Guitars

One of the keys to the Allman’s sound is obviously the guitars and the way they blend with one another. The typical copies tend to be dry, congested, and grainy, which hurts the effect of two soaring, harmonizing leads. When you get a copy with smoother, more tubey magical, more open sound, you really understand what the band was going for. It’s a great sound, and no one ever did it better than these guys. (more…)

The Allman Brothers – Idlewild South

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

The first Top Copy to ever hit the site! Double Plus (A++) on side one, Triple Plus (A+++) on side two

  • Easily the group’s best sounding studio recording and especially impressive on a copy like this

Drop the needle on Midnight Rider or In Memory Of Elizabeth Read to hear what this copy can do. You get lots of extension here both up top and down low that makes the overall sound far more engaging and musical than what you’d hear on a typical copy.

One of the biggest problems we ran into with this shootout was thin, recessed or edgy vocals. This is a band known for their rockin’ guitar jams, so it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the vocals are not where they focused their energy when recording. I wish the vocals here were a bit fuller but at least they have enough presence to put them front and center. (more…)