Genre – Rock – Roots Rock

The Band – The Band

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  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sonic grades or BETTER on both sides, this is an outstanding copy of an absolutely essential album
  • Big bass, rich meaty guitars and smooth silky vocals make this a Band album like you have never heard before
  • Not only is the sound superb, but both sides here play Mint Minus Minus, about as quiet as we can find them
  • 5 stars: “As had been true of the first album, it was the Band’s sound that stood out the most… The arrangements were simultaneously loose and assured, giving the songs a timeless appeal…”

The lucky person who takes this record home is in for quite a shock. This very pressing is proof positive that this album is much better recorded than the audiophile community gives it credit for being. How could anyone judge the sound of the record without a great copy such as this one to play?

This vintage pressing has no trace of phony sound from top to bottom. It’s raw and real in a way that makes most pop records sound processed and wrong. These two sides have plenty of the qualities we look for in an album by The Band. Energy, presence, transparency, Tubey Magic… you name it, you will find it here. Its biggest strength — and the biggest strength of the album as a whole — is its wonderful, natural midrange.

And the bass is HUGE. On the best copies it always is.

Drop the needle on The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down or King Harvest Has Surely Come and get ready for some serious Analog Magic. This is a Band album like you have never heard before. (more…)

Bob Dylan and The Band – The Basement Tapes

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on ALL FOUR SIDES, making this the best copy to ever hit the site
  • All four sides are incredibly big, full-bodied, clean and clear with plenty of extension on both ends
  • … the music here (including the Band’s) is astonishingly good. The party line on The Basement Tapes is that it is Americana, as Dylan and the Band pick up the weirdness inherent in old folk, country, and blues tunes, but it transcends mere historical arcana through its lively, humorous, full-bodied performances. Dylan never sounded as loose, nor was he ever as funny as he is here, and this positively revels in its weird, wild character… among the greatest American music ever made.” – All Music

This vintage Columbia Double LP pressing has some of the very best sound we’ve ever heard for this album. Of course, given the nature of these recordings, you don’t get stunning sonics along the line of, say, Magical Mystery Tour or Dark Side Of The Moon, but at least you get to hear these great songs sound the way they were intended to, without the complications of bad mastering and pressing getting in the way. Most of the copies we’ve heard wouldn’t be fit to list on the site at any price, but we felt strongly that this copy did justice to the music in a way that the typical pressing does not. While this may not be a Demo Disc, it’s MUCH better sounding than most copies we’ve come across. We’ve played a bunch of these over the years and most of them paled in comparison to this one.

This is of course a famous album, with The Band backing up Dylan (and adding some of their own material) in the famous Big Pink House which would later be the place where The Band’s 1st album was born. (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “I’ve listened to it numerous times and it just does not have that sound stage I was expecting.”

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A customer recently contacted us after making his first purchase and being disappointed with the White Hot Stamper pressing we had sent him.

Hi,

Wondered who I can talk to about this record that I purchased. I’ve listened to it numerous times and it just does not have that sound stage I was expecting.

I am not looking for a refund. In fact, I refuse a refund. However, I would appreciate the opportunity to speak to someone about the factors that make this a “White Hot Pressing.”

I’m sure you need to understand what amplifier, speakers, setting, etc. I am using. Without Going into the details, I have a McIntosh amplifier and Focal 936 speakers. I know how much of a difference equipment makes in the sound of a record.

I love to hear amazing records, some of which I have in original pressings I purchased when they were released and can truly feel it when there is something special about the record. This one does not seem to have it to me, but I am interested in finding and purchasing one from you that gives that amazing feeling.

Please let me know if there is someone I can speak to about finding that record.

Thank you,
Sanjay

I replied with an overwhelming amount of information (and opinions!) designed to help Sanjay understand more about records, as follows:

Sanjay,

Tom here. Let me see if I can help.

The first thing I would need to know is what version of the album do you have that you think sounds better, or, if not better, comparable?

[He had no other pressing, not surprising as our White Hot copies are almost impossible to beat.]

Assuming you don’t have a better copy — we would be very surprised if you did — we would say that it’s likely there are two factors at play:

White Hot does not mean amazing Demo Disc sound. It means the best sound we can find for this recording, relative to the others we play. In other words, the best there is within the limitations of the recording.

We can’t fix the recording, we can only find you the best available pressing. If you were expecting more, something along the lines of Dark Side of the Moon, then I understand your disappointment.

For the band’s first album, we wrote:

It’s unlikely you will be demonstrating your system with this record, but you may find yourself enjoying the hell out of it for what it is — an early example of Roots Rock that still holds up today.

For Green River we wrote:

Green River isn’t ever going to be a knockout demo disc, but a copy like this allows you to enjoy the music as it was recorded. Most copies are so dull, grainy and lifeless that someone would have to wake you at the end of a side!

We have a section for great sounding recordings, it’s this one:

https://www.better-records.com/product.aspx?pf_id=top100

There are no CCR records in this section and never will be.

The second point I would make is that some records are much more difficult to reproduce than others, and require the right equipment to do them justice.   In the listing for your record, under one of the tabs, you can find all of this.

The story of our recent shootouts is what real Progress in Audio is all about.

Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these. The best copies no longer to seem to have the problems we used to hear all the time.

Of course the reason I hadn’t heard the congestion and grittiness in the recording is that two things changed. One, we found better copies of the record to play — probably, can’t say for sure, but let’s assume we did, and, Two, we’ve made lots of improvements to the stereo since the last time we did the shootout.

You have to get around to doing regular shootouts for any given record in order to find out how far you’ve come, or if you’ve come any distance at all. Fortunately for us the improvements, regardless of what they might be or when they might have occurred, were incontrovertible. The album was now playing at a much, much higher level.

It’s yet more evidence supporting the possibility, indeed the importance, of taking full advantage of the Revolutions in Audio of the last ten or twenty years.

Who’s to Blame?

It’s natural to blame sonic shortcomings on the recording; everyone does it, including us.

But in this case We Was Wrong. The congestion and distortion we’d gotten used to are no longer a problem on the best copies. We’ve worked diligently on every aspect of record cleaning and reproduction, and now there’s no doubt that we can get these vintage Creedence records to play at a much higher level than we could before.

This is why we keep experimenting, keep tweaking and keep searching for the best sounding pressings, and why we encourage you to do the same.

A word of caution: Unless your system is firing on all cylinders, even our hottest Hot Stamper copies — the Super Hot and White Hot pressings with the biggest, most dynamic, clearest, and least distorted sound — can have problems . Your system should be thoroughly warmed up, your electricity should be clean and cooking, you’ve got to be using the right room treatments, and we also highly recommend using a demagnetizer such as the Walker Talisman on the record, your cables (power, interconnect and speaker) as well as the individual drivers of your speakers.

This is a record that’s going to demand a lot from the listener, and we want to make sure that you feel you’re up to the challenge. If you don’t mind putting in a little hard work, here’s a record that will reward your time and effort many times over, and probably teach you a thing or two about tweaking your gear in the process (especially your VTA adjustment, just to pick an obvious area most audiophiles neglect).

High-Ranking

This recording ranks high on our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale. Do not attempt to play it using any but the best equipment.

It took a long time to get to the point where we could clean the record properly, twenty years or so, and about the same amount of time to get the stereo to the level it needed to be, involving, you guessed it, many of the Revolutionary Changes in Audio we tout so obsessively. It’s not easy to find a pressing with the low end whomp factor, midrange energy and overall dynamic power that this music needs, and it takes one helluva stereo to play one too.

If you have the kind of big system that a record like this demands, when you drop the needle on the best of our Hot Stamper pressings, you are going to hear some amazing sound .

{He sent me a picture of the speaker he uses, the Focal 936. It has 3 6.5 inch woofers.]

I would not want to play a CCR record with the speaker you have. It is doubtful it can move enough air to get the weight of the music right.

We discuss our system and why a CCR record would sound right on our big speakers here:

https://www.better-records.com/product.aspx?pf_id=stereo

On my blog I have a section for:

RECORDS THAT SOUND BEST ON BIG SPEAKERS AT LOUD LEVELS

https://ontherecord.co/category/records-that-sound-best-this-way/records-that-sound-best-on-big-speakers-at-loud-levels/

with 300+ entries at this point, including all the CCR albums.

This is a lot to digest, but after 40 years of audio experience and record collecting, I have learned a few things, and the above information is my attempt to help others with what I have learned:

https://www.better-records.com/product.aspx?pf_id=expert

Please take the time to read all the information I have sent, as well as as much of the following as you can, probably best spread out over the course of a few weeks:

https://www.better-records.com/dept.aspx?dept_id=14-006-016

If you would like specific recommendations about records you are interested in that we think would sound good on your stereo, we are happy to point you in the right direction.

Best, TP

(more…)

Dr. John – Dr. John’s Gumbo

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  • Dr. John’s Gumbo is back, now with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Full, lively, and solid, this copy has just the right sound for this collection of quintessential New Orleans Rhythm and Blues tracks
  • The superbly talented Keith Olsen engineered – just one year later he would record Buckingham-Nicks, and two years after that Fleetwood Mac
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Dr. John’s Gumbo bridged the gap between post-hippie rock and early rock & roll, blues, and R&B… that sly fusion of styles makes Dr. John’s Gumbo one of Dr. John’s finest albums.”

You may have read this commentary in our other Dr. John listing, the one for In The Right Place. The two recordings — and therefore the Hot Stamper pressings made from them — share much in common, so we’ve more or less copies the listing for that album into this one. What’s good about one is good about the other, and vice-versa.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original Yellow Label Atco pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even 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…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Willy and the Poor Boys

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  • Both sides earned Triple Plus (A+++) grades, a huge step up over every other copy in our shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Whatever you do, don’t waste your money on the awful Heavy Vinyl remasters of CCR’s albums that Acoustic Sounds commissioned – they are so wrong it will make your head ache
  • Features Down On The Corner, Fortunate Son, Midnight Special and more
  • 5 stars: “[A] fun record, perhaps the breeziest album CCR ever made. Fogerty’s rage remains, blazing to the forefront on “Fortunate Son,” a working-class protest song that cuts harder than any of the explicit Vietnam protest songs of the era, one of the reasons that it hasn’t aged where its peers have. Also, there’s that unbridled vocal from Fogerty and the ferocious playing on CCR…”

(more…)

The Band – Music From Big Pink

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  • Two strong Double Plus (A++) sides AND quiet vinyl make this a consistently impressive copy of this all-time classic album
  • Forget all those lifeless, ambience-free, vague sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings – THIS is the sound of the album
  • It’s big, punchy and dynamic, and resolves all the intricacies of the recording that make it so interesting to us audiophiles
  • 5 stars on Allmusic: “Over time, Music from Big Pink came to be regarded as a watershed work in the history of rock, one that introduced new tones and approaches to the constantly evolving genre.”

We guarantee you have never heard Music from Big Pink sound remotely as good as it does on this very copy. (more…)

Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus

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  • With Double Plus (A++) grades, or close to them, on all four sides, this copy of Waiting for Columbus is outstanding from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the best sounding live rock and roll sound you will ever hear outside of a concert venue
  • One of our all-time favorite live recordings and their single best release – a true Masterpiece
  • 4 1/2 stars: “There’s much to savor on Waiting for Columbus, one of the great live albums of its era, thanks to rich performances that prove Little Feat were one of the great live bands of their time.”

This is an amazingly well-recorded concert, and what’s more, the versions the band does of their earlier material are much better than the studio album versions of those same songs in every case.

Fat Man In A Bathtub on this album is out of this world, but you could easily say that about a dozen or more of the tracks on this double album. Which simply means that you will have a very hard time listening to any of the studio versions of these songs once you’ve heard them performed with the kind of energy, enthusiasm and technical virtuosity Little Feat brought to this live show. (I saw them twice with Lowell and they were amazing both times.) (more…)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Cosmo’s Factory – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

More Creedence Clearwater

More Bayou Cosmo’s Factory

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

Clean copies of the album are rare enough as it is; good sounding clean copies are as rare for this title as for practically any we offer.

Fortunately we’ve made some strides of late finding the “right’ pressings for this band, and with better cleaning technologies we are finding that the better copies such as this one are sounding the way we want our Creedence records to sound.

Note that the Hoffman reissues and the MoFi pressing sound nothing like the Creedence records we all grew up with, and records that sound that enervated, small, lifeless and boring just can’t be what audiophiles want, can they?

Those of you who have been watching the site for a while have probably noticed that we hardly ever list Hot Stamper copies of Creedence records. That’s because it is DARN NEAR IMPOSSIBLE to find copies that sound any good, a fact that many of you have probably stumbled upon on your own.

The typical copy of this album is grainy, murky, and veiled — and that’s just for starters. It took us a HUGE stack of copies to find ANY that had bottom end weight, midrange presence, freedom from grain (mostly) and real energy. (more…)

Marshall Crenshaw – Mary Jean & 9 Others – A Desert Island Disc

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

This is my favorite roots rock record of all time. I love the album. It starts off with the driving This Is Easy and never lets up until the very last song, a beautiful ballad, “They Never Will Know.”

The All Music Guide had this to say about MC’s first 3 albums: “…an irresistible combination of masterful pop and vibrant, timeless rock & roll.” They weren’t that impressed with this album.

I am of the opposite opinion. I think this is the album where Marshall got it all together: his best songs, his best production, his most tightly knit band, his best guitar solos — the best the guy had to offer is right here.

I’ve listened to this record well over 100 times. How does somebody play the same record 100 times? I have it on tape in my car, backed with one of my favorite Bonnie Raiitt albums, Nine Lives. I can sing along with every song and know every guitar lick by heart. This music may sound simple on the surface, but it has the essence of great popular music. The songs are heartfelt and catchy.

If you like Buddy Holly, or any of the people that have been influenced by him to produce straight ahead rock and roll, you should like this. (more…)

Bob Dylan & The Band – Before The Flood

More Bob Dylan / More The Band

Before The Flood

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  • An outstanding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on sides one and four and Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Dylan and The Band team up for exuberant versions of many classics from each of their repertoires – a copy like this lets you appreciate just how wonderful the performances are  
  • “Dylan reworks, rearranges, reinterprets these songs in ways that are still disarming, years after its initial release… “
  • “Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat.”

One of the great Live Classic Rock albums of all time in Hot Stamper form! We played a ton of these and found that most copies bored us to death. Some lacked energy, even more never opened up, and most of them were too thin-sounding. We had to play a HUGE stack of copies to come up with a few good ones, and on a double album like this, that’s a TON of work. (more…)