Genre – Rock – Hippie Folk Rock

America – Harbor

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  • Insanely good sound for this Warner Brothers pressing from 1977 with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them; the first copy to ever hit the site!
  • These sides are doing everything right — clean, clear, full-bodied and dynamic with a tight punchy bottom end 
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Produced by George Martin and engineered by Geoff Emerick, this is the last America album to feature Dan Peek before he took off for a career as a solo Christian musician; while it’s less folky (and less popular) than their earlier work, there’s still plenty of great songs here

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Grateful Dead – Go to Heaven

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sides or close to them, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Go to Heaven – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Bill Kreutzmann noted, “If you go back and (re)listen to it, you’ll find that time has been very kind to Go to Heaven. It plays better now than it did back then. That’s still no excuse for the cover, though – all six of us, dressed all in white disco suits against a white background.”
  • Classic Rock Review wrote, “While this may be a far cry from the group’s lauded stage improvisation, it made for an enjoyable studio album which holds up decades later…. It still sounds good today and shows that this band had some vast talent away from the stage.”

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Grateful Dead – In The Dark

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  • A superb copy of the band’s 1987 return with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This copy has just the right sound for this music – rich and meaty, with powerful rhythmic energy
  • Includes comeback hit, “Touch Of Gray,” the band’s first number one single
  • 4 stars: “Although the album is unmistakable as the work of the Dead, much of it recalls the punchy, pungent production of Dire Straits’ recent work. It’s not the second coming of the Dead, but a more entertaining epilogue you couldn’t ask for.”

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Grateful Dead – Skeletons From The Closet

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  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • Both of these sides are out of this world — clean, clear and present yet still pretty rich and Tubey Magical with plenty of bottom end weight
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “… long-lived as a Grateful Dead primer… [it] remains a good introduction to the band’s early — and arguably best — work… Skeletons — for longtime fans — will always be a great disc for a lazy Sunday afternoon.” – All Music

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Crosby / Nash – Graham Nash / David Crosby

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  • Close to Shootout Winning sound on both sides – Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) – one of the best copies of this shockingly well recorded album to hit the site in years
  • The vocals are exceptionally breathy, smooth and sweet here – this recording is the very definition of Midrange Magic, thanks to the engineering of Bill Halverson
  • 4 stars: “This self-titled release is one of most impressive side project to arise from CSN. The best elements of each are readily available here, punctuated at every turn by their complicated vocal arrangements and air-lock harmonies.”

Where in the world did all the Midrange Magic that we were hearing on this copy of the album come from?

On a song like Where Will I Be the sound is so unbelievably transparent, open and intimate it sounds like an outtake from David Crosby’s first album, one of the ten best sounding rock records ever made. How did Bill Halverson learn how to record as well as Stephen Barncard all of a sudden?

I was in high school when I first played this album and I remember being disappointed with it, mostly because I was expecting another Deja Vu. As I grow older I appreciate other qualities in a recording; I’ve come to appreciate this album for what it is: not the Grand Musical Statement that Deja Vu is, but a simpler, more intimate portrait of two artists at the start of a lifelong harmonious collaboration. With a damn fine batch of songs to sing.

Top Quality Sound

The Midrange Magic on some of these tracks is off the scale. The transparency is also remarkable, with richness and sweetness matched by few copies in our huge shootout.

Listen to the three-dimensional quality of the piano on the first track of side two. Skip to the second track and you will hear some of the best bass to be found on the side. The song is not about the bass, obviously, so we hasten to point out the vocals and harmonies — the sine qua non of any CSN or Y record — are Truly Right On The Money as well. (more…)

Donovan – A Gift From a Flower To a Garden – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Side one of this two record box set has Wear Your Love Like Heaven in Super Hot stamper sound, with some of the most natural vocal reproduction we heard in our entire shootout. Many copies had “hyped-up” phony sound — fine for the old consoles and radios of the day (1967) but not too enjoyable on the modern, much more revealing rigs we use today. The tonality of the midrange — where the guitars and vocals are found of course — must be correct for this music to work. This copy does a very respectable job on three of the sides, and that’s not easy to do. 

Not to mention condition issues. When’s the last time you saw a clean yellow label Epic original Donovan record in the bins? It takes us years to find enough clean copies to do a shootout like this, and we are out beating the bushes every week in the record capital of the world.

That said, Epic ’60s vinyl is rarely of audiophile quality. (more…)

Donovan – The Real Donovan in Mono – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

Now here’s a mono record we can get behind! If more mono records sounded big and open the way this one does we would totally be on board with the current movement towards One Channel. (As that has not been our experience we remain skeptical.)

This is by far the best sounding, quietest pressing we have ever played. It boasts Super Hot Stamper sound on side one, backed with even better than Super Hot Stamper sound (A++ to A+++) on side two, and it’s pressed on exceptionally quiet vinyl (for Hickory anyway).  

Mono is in fact the secret to getting these early Hickory records to sound their best. The recordings are mono; the stereo pressings are simply electronically reprocessed. Now, that’s not always the kiss of death, but as a rule it doesn’t help the sound much and has the potential to cause tonality and imaging issues.

The Real Donovan is a compilation of singles, along with some tracks which have been sourced from the first two albums, and an EP, as well as a couple of b-sides. (Hickory seems to have taken a page from Capitol here, as that’s exactly what The Beatles Second Album is. As I recall that album sold quite well in the states.) (more…)

The Grateful Dead – American Beauty – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND AND MOSTLY QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES, BABY! We went through all of 2008 without finding a single Hot Stamper copy of this great album, but today I am pleased to report that American Beauty Hot Stampers are back in stock at Better Records! Drop the needle on any track on either side — I guarantee you’ve never heard this band sound so good, or your money back. 

If you’re looking for a mindblowingly good copy of the Grateful Dead’s masterpiece, you’re going to have to act quickly, because our supply is extremely limited. I understand if you want to write the Dead off based on their later output, but you just can’t deny the power of this album. (more…)

Jerry Garcia – Garcia

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  • Incredible sound throughout for this original Warner Brothers pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • These superb sides are doing everything right — clean, clear, full-bodied and musical with wonderfully present vocals and a lovely bottom end
  • “Garcia is nothing short of a full-bodied artistic expression from one of rock & roll’s most multi-faceted musicians. Both initiated Deadheads as well as enthusiasts of the burgeoning early-’70s singer/songwriter movement will find much to cherish on this recording as Garcia redefines his immense talents and seemingly undiluted musical potential.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

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Crosby Stills & Nash – Crosby Stills & Nash – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Here’s a big one that we know many of you are waiting for: WHITE HOT STAMPERS for both sides of CSN’s amazing debut album. I’m pretty sure we get more emails about this album than any other; everyone wants a great sounding copy, but they’re oh-so-hard to find, especially in clean condition.

We’ve paired up a MONSTER side one with an equally amazing side two to create this White Hot Stamper 2-Pack. We’ve noticed many of you steer clear of the 2-Packs, but this one is a STUNNER.

If you’re waiting for a single copy to hit the site with two sides this good, we advise you to grab a comfortable chair and a cooler — you’re gonna be waiting a LONG TIME. (more…)