Genre – Rock – Art Rock

Is the Original Better? Not on this Supertramp Album It Ain’t

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This is an older listing that illustrates how We Was Wrong when we thought the best domestic copies were not competitive with the A&M Half-Speed or better British pressings.

We touch on other much-loved themes in this commentary, such as the myth that the original pressing is going to be better than a reissue or later stamper. On this album that is definitely not the case.

TWO AMAZING SIDES, including an A+++ SIDE ONE! It’s not the A&M Half Speed, and it’s not a British pressing either. It’s domestic folks, your standard plain-as-day A&M pressing, and we’re as shocked as you are. Hearing this copy (as well as an amazing Brit; they can be every bit as good, in their own way of course) was a THRILL, a thrill that’s a step up in “thrillingness” over our previous favorite pressing, the Half Speed.
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Frank Zappa & The Mothers – Freak Out!

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  • Insanely good sound throughout with all four sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • The overall sound here is incredibly rich, warm and full-bodied yet still super detailed, spacious and dynamic; the energy level is off the charts too!
  • Most pressings of this double album are just awful, if you can even find one that’s clean enough to bother playing
  • “One of the most ambitious debuts in rock history, Freak Out! was a seminal concept album that somehow foreshadowed both art rock and punk at the same time. Its four LP sides deconstruct rock conventions right and left, eventually pushing into territory inspired by avant-garde classical composers.” – All Music

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Rick Wakeman – The Six Wives of Henry VIII

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  • This outstanding 2-pack pair of pressings of Rick Wakeman’s first studio album boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from beginning to end
  • The sound here is big, full, and rich with tons of energy, beautifully showcasing the diverse contributions of Wakeman’s synthesizers
  • This prog-rock collection is spacious and musical, thanks in part to the engineering of Ken Scott
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Not only did this album help pave the way for progressive rock, but it also introduced the unbridled energy and overall effectiveness of the synthesizer as a bona fide instrument.”

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album.

Audiophiles are often surprised when they hear that an LP can sound amazing on one side and mediocre on the other, but since each side is pressed from different metalwork which has been aligned independently, and perhaps even cut by different mastering engineers from tapes of wildly differently quality, in our experience it happens all the time. In fact it’s much more common for a record to earn different sonic grades for its two sides than it is to rate the same grade. That’s just the way it goes in analog, where there’s no way to know how a any given side of a record sounds until you play it, and, more importantly, in the world of sound everything is relative.

Since each of the copies in the 2-pack will have one good side and one noticeably weaker or at best more run-of-the-mill side, you’ll be able to compare them on your own to hear just what it is that the Hot Stamper sides give you. This has the added benefit of helping you to improve your critical listening skills. We’ll clearly mark which copy is Hot for each side, so if you don’t want to bother with the other sides you certainly won’t have to.

One of the two pressings has the original label and one has the reissue label. (more…)

David Bowie – Diamond Dogs

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • Superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – this UK pressing will show you a Diamond Dogs you had no idea existed, yet here it is
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout (especially on the first side) – the sound is big, full, lively and spacious with hard-rockin’ energy to spare
  • It’s ridiculously tough to find even passable sound for this album – we guarantee you’ll be blown away by this pressing
  • Great songs including the title track, Rebel Rebel, 1984, Sweet Thing, Big Brother, Rock & Roll With Me and more

The sound on this UK pressing is Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and spacious — you’ll need a lot of luck and a good-sized pile of records to find a copy that sounds like this one.

1984 (a favorite of ours on David Live) sounds great here. In addition to singing, the man handles sax, Mellotron, and Moog duties on the album, and, most surprisingly, plays practically all of the electric guitar parts.

Bowie easily qualifies as one of the handful of artists to produce an immensely enjoyable and meaningful body of work throughout the ’70s and into the ’80s, music that holds up to this day. The music on his albums, so multi-faceted and multi-layered, will surely reward the listener who takes the time to dive deep into the complex sounds he recorded.

Repeated plays are the order of the day. The more critically you listen, the more you will discover within the exceedingly dense mixes favored by the man, his producers (Tony Visconti among them) and engineers (our favorite being Ken Scott). And the better your stereo gets the more you can appreciate the care and effort that went into the production of his recordings. (more…)

David Bowie – Heroes

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • An outstanding copy of Heroes with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • This import is ALIVE with musical energy and Tubey Magical Analog sound the likes of which you may never have experienced
  • Until we discovered these amazing British reissues, we had no idea the album could sound as good as it does here
  • 5 stars: “Repeating the formula of Low’s half-vocal/half-instrumental structure, Heroes develops and strengthens the sonic innovations David Bowie and Brian Eno explored on their first collaboration. The vocal songs are fuller, boasting harder rhythms and deeper layers of sound.”

It has taken us years to get this shootout going. The reason for the long delay is simple. The domestic pressings we had on hand to play were not exactly thrilling us and even the best of them are no better than acceptable, and not likely to win a shootout.

Even worse, our intuition that the British originals would sound the best also turned out to be incorrect. (In the audiophile record collecting world intuitions have a bad track record, but more than a few audiophiles — many of whom seem to be addicted to sharing their “record knowledge” on audiophile forums — seem to be unaware of this unassailably true fact.) The original UK Orange Label pressings did not sound especially good to us, so we kept looking.

Over the course of the last few years, during which time we investigated every different pressing we could get our hands on, finally some good sounding copies of the album came our way. And they were not originals. The lucky owner of this copy will be one of the few to know what label the record is on, and in what country it was pressed.

OK, I suppose we can afford to be a bit more charitable than that. Here goes: the one thing we’re pretty clear on from our efforts to date is that our best Hot Stamper offerings are sure to be pressed in the UK.

If you have a copy of this groundbreaking album and were never impressed with the sound of it, we have a potential solution to your predicament — depending on our inventory — a Hot Stamper pressing. It will show you the kind of sound you never knew could exist on Heroes. (more…)

Ambrosia – Somewhere I’ve Never Travelled

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides of this truly phenomenal ’70s Big Rock Production – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The best sides have the trademark Alan Parsons sound, with huge amounts of space in the studio, and the kind of musical energy that made the first Ambrosia album (which he mixed) such a joy to play
  • This band, their producers, and their engineers sweated every detail of this remarkable recording
  • “There is an unusual dreamlike quality that pervades its work. The songs seem to be reaching the listener direct from some strange and beautiful realm of the unconscious. It is an experience rare in popular music today or at any time. ” – Billboard

Alan Parsons produced this album, and at its best, it is truly a Demo Disc — if you have the system to play it.

This album needs lots of space and a big, wide, open soundstage if it’s going to work, and the best sides deliver that sound. It’s a rare copy that manages to have real presence and top end without getting too edgy; on the good ones, the bass is big, solid and punchy and the energy is superb. (more…)

Be-Bop Deluxe – Futurama

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  • 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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Brian Eno – His First Four Albums Are Best on Import, Right? – Well, Almost…

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[This commentary is quite old. You should take it with a grain of salt.]

The domestic pressings of Before And After Science are typically grainy and hard sounding — hardly competitive with the smoother British Polydors. But our best Hot Stamper pressing isn’t an import; it was made right here in the good old U. S. of A.

Say what? Yes, it’s true. We were SHOCKED to find such hot stamper sound lurking in the grooves of a domestic Eno LP. It’s the One and Only. In thirty plus years of record playing I can’t think of any domestic Eno LP that ever sounded this good.

Now hold on just a minute. The British pressings of Eno’s albums are always the best, aren’t they?

For the first three albums, absolutely. But rules were made to be broken. This pressing has the knockout sound we associate with the best British originals of Eno’s albums, not the flat, cardboardy qualities of the typical domestic reissue.

Kinda Blind Testing

Since the person listening and making notes during the shootouts has no idea what the label or the pressing of the record is that he is evaluating — this is after all a quasi-scientific enterprise, with blind testing being the order of the day — when that domestic later label showed up at the top of the heap, our jaws hit the floor.

Both sides have that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end that make any record magical. Side one, the rock side, strongly relies on its deep punchy bass to make its material come to life and rock (or should we say art rock?). Eno’s vocals are clear and present with virtually no strain. Phil Collins’ drumming (how did these guys get together? We forget that Collins was in the proggy Brand X) is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work. (more…)

Sinead O’Connor – The Lion and the Cobra – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

Big and lively on both sides, and that’s the sound you want. All her early records are hard to find in clean condition these days. 

Side Two

A++, big, open and clear, with breathy vocals. So spacious! A little more weight would have earned this one a White Hot Stamper grade!

Side One

A+ to A++, big and lively, but a bit of smear and congestion compared to side two. (more…)

Ambrosia / Life Beyond L.A. – WW, LW, JW? Which Stampers Sound the Best?

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There’s a unique story behind this title, which goes something like this. I recount it because it’s a classic and hopefully instructive case of Live and Learn.

In 2005 we acquired more than a dozen sealed copies. Knowing that no two of them would sound the same we decided to crack them open, clean them up and play them.

All three of the major stamper prefixes for Warners were represented in the various matrix numbers: WW, JW and LW. As we started to play them it quickly became clear that most copies of this record just do not sound good. The typical copy is hard, midrangy, opaque, dull and sour.

Only one of those prefixes — WW, JW, LW — actually has any hope of sounding good, and surprisingly it’s not the one I would normally expect it to be. Live and learn.

Live and learn indeed. This time those stampers did not sound nearly as good as others, another good reason why there will never be a Book of Hot Stampers, not one written by us anyway.

Like we’ve said in the past, if you think the world is in need of such a book, please do us all a favor and write one. We’ll sit back and take potshots at it. There is no chance in the world it won’t be full of misinformation. Hell, if we wrote it would be full of mistakes too, and we think we know as much about stampers as anybody in the world, and probably more. I ask you, under what circumstances would anyone be in a position to know more than we do? (more…)