Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

James Taylor – In The Pocket

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More Blue Eyed Soul

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  • Stunning sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it
  • Both of these sides are SUPERB in all respects; there’s plenty of Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album
  • Rich, sweet, and lively — Woman’s Gotta Have It sounds fantastic here
  • An underappreciated album that we’re big fans of here at Better Records!

The quality of the songwriting is what makes this album such a moving listening experience. These songs are superb, individually and collectively, and can hold their own up against those found on Gorilla, an album with which In the Pocket has much in common.

Just as they did on Gorilla, Taylor and his multi-talented, multi-tracking production team polish these songs into three and four minute gems of popcraft, and they do so without ever compromising the emotional heart of the material. I’ve searched and I honestly cannot find a bad song on the album. Better than that, not even a weak one.

Both of these sides are SUPERB in all respects. There’s plenty of Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album. They’re super rich, smooth, yet transparent and high-rez. The vocals are breathy, and again, that is not something we heard nearly enough of in our shootout.

And no hardness. This is key. And the best tonal balance, which is also key. (more…)

The Poll Winners – Straight Ahead

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More Ray Brown

More Barney Kessel

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  • This superb collaboration has KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Musically, this is by far our favorite Poll Winners record – these guys got back together after 15 years and were eager to prove that they still had their youthful exuberance, and even better chops, which they did have and did prove!
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Kessel in particular is heard in excellent form… Overall this is the best all-around recording by The Poll Winners and is easily recommended to bop fans.”

These guys play with more spunk here than on any other album of theirs I’ve heard. And you have to love those ’70s leisure suits they’re wearing on the cover. I remember my commentary when this record was around, mentioning that Roy DuNann had lost none of his engineering skills in the intervening years either.

This is a very dynamic recording, one of his best. You almost never hear cymbals sound this good on an RVG Blue Note, that’s for sure. The bass definition on this record is amazing — you can really hear Ray Brown pulling and bending the strings of the instrument. He’s tearing it up. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Innervisions

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Hot Stamper Pressings of Innervisions Available Now

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this is an all around killer pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the funkiest audiophile-quality discs money can buy, but you need a copy that sounds as good as this one to make that case
  • The key qualities are richness, warmth, Tubey Magic, and clarity, and here you will find a healthy dose of all four
  • “Stevie Wonder applied his tremendous songwriting talents to the unsettled social morass that was the early ’70s and produced one of his greatest, most important works, a rich panoply of songs addressing drugs, spirituality, political ethics, and what looked to be the failure of the ’60s dream — all set within a collection of charts as funky and catchy as any he’d written before.”

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this 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, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real Stevie Wonder singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Equinox

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More Pure Pop Recordings

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  • With a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two married with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one, this original A&M pressing had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Equinox, Sergio’s follow-up to his massively successful debut
  • The breathy intimacy of the two wonderful female leads – Lani Hall and Janis Hansen – were brilliantly captured by the engineering team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine at A and M
  • Watch What Happens, Night and Day, Wave – Mendes brings his innovative Bossa Nova arranging skills to these timeless classics
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equinox continues the scrumptiously winning sound that Sergio Mendes cooked up in the mid-’60s… Again, the mix of American pop tunes old and new and Brazilian standards and sleepers is impeccable, and the treatments are smooth, swinging, and very much to the point.”

These Sergio Mendes records can be surprisingly dynamic, and only the better copies (such as this one) will allow those dynamics to explode naturally, with the kind of ease that only analog is capable of reproducing correctly in our experience.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’re the world’s biggest fans of Sergio Mendes here at Better Records. Brasil ’66, Stillness, and this album are ALL Desert Island Discs for us, and we even enjoy the hell out of some of the later albums. You can search all you want, but outside of The Beatles you are going to have a very tough time finding the diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy, multi-part female vocals, their unusually voiced multi-tracked harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us not forget, Mendes’ superb keyboard work anchoring as well as jazzing up the whole production.

His stuff never sounds dated to us, and we’ve never heard another artist do anything in the ’60s samba idiom nearly as well. We love Astrud Gilberto’s albums from the period, which no doubt served as a template for the style Sergio wanted to create with his new ensemble, but Brazil 66 is clearly a step up in every way: songwriting, arranging, production, and quality of musicianship.

Just play the group’s amazing versions of Watch What Happens, Night and Day, or Jobim’s Wave to hear the kind of Mendes Magic that makes us swoon. For audiophiles it just doesn’t get any better. (Well, almost. Stillness is still the Ultimate, on the level of a Dark Side of the Moon or Tea for the Tillerman, but Equinox and the first album are right up there with it.) (more…)

Eddie Money / Self-Titled – A Personal Favorite from 1977

A Well Recorded Album that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

Hot Stamper Pressings of Eddie Money’s Debut Available Now

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  • Two incredible sides each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it; the first copy to hit the site in many years!
  • Bruce Botnick‘s engineering ensures the sound is big and lively – this early pressing is full-bodied, with wonderfully present vocals, and plenty of punchy bottom end
  • 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
  • “With much of the same urgency Money stands as perhaps a lighter but still gutsy-voiced Bruce Springsteen. His performance exudes a certain authenticity of main line rock without seeming derivative or repetitious.” – Billboard 

The average copy is way too compressed, which kills the top end (by making the cymbals aggressive) and the vocals too midrangy. When you’ve got a copy of Eddie Money’s debut album that’s doing what it’s supposed to do, you know pretty quickly. The highs are sweet and extended, the vocals are present, but without any spit or strain, and there is solid bass and low end propelling everything else forward.

Eddie Money has only made one good record in our opinion — this one. Fortunately, it’s a GREAT one and we don’t have to play any of his others! This guy had so much promise, based solely on his debut here. He lost his brilliant guitarist and arranger, Jimmy Lyon, soon after this first album was made, and that may account for his slide into mediocrity. But this record is outstanding from first note to last. If at the end of the second track — a cover of You Really Got A Hold On Me — you are not rockin’ out, then Eddie Money is just not for you. I love this album and I have played it countless times. (more…)

Nat King Cole – Nat King Cole Sings / George Shearing Plays

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More Pop and Jazz Vocals

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  • This wonderful collaboration finally returns with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Two masters come together here to create a compilation of timeless arrangements still appreciated by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • It’s tough to find top quality pressings of Nat King Cole’s recordings in audiophile playing condition – this All Tube Recording from the early ’60s is your chance to hear just how rich and real he could sound in his prime
  • 4 stars: “Cole is in prime form on such songs as ‘September Song,’ ‘Pick Yourself Up,’ and ‘Serenata.’ Shearing’s accompaniment is tasteful and lightly swinging, and the string arrangements help to accentuate the romantic moods.”

The better pressings of this unique collaboration between Nat King Cole and George Shearing put Cole’s voice right up front with lovely breath and natural texture. On the better copies such as this one, the Nat’s vocals are full-bodied, the piano has real weight, and the soundfield is open and transparent. If you want a great-sounding male vocal LP in your collection, this one will do the trick nicely.

The reissue pressings rarely sounded right to us. In addition, the mono copies were uniformly awful — small, congested and gritty. Our Hot Stamper pressings — even the lowest-graded copies we offer –are sure to give you fuller vocals, more transparency, more weight to the piano and, of course, the tubey warmth of vintage analog. (more…)

Brian Eno / Before And After Science – A Must Own Eno Record (His Last, Sad to Say) from 1977

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More Arty Rock Records

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  • This outstanding copy of Before And After Science on the Island Black Label boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Here you will find that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end, with huge amounts of space in the middle, three qualities among many that make this album an especially magical listening experience
  • I know whereof I speak- I must have played this album at least two hundred times in the 43 years that have passed since I first bought a copy
  • If you’re a fan of Art Rock or Prog Rock or just like something a little different, this is an album that belongs in your collection
  • 5 stars: “Despite the album’s pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream. The music on Before and After Science at times resembles Another Green World (“No One Receiving”) and Here Come the Warm Jets (“King’s Lead Hat”) and ranks alongside both as the most essential Eno material.”

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 is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work. (more…)

Gino Vannelli / Powerful People – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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This is some of the best sound we heard in our shootout, coming in right behind our winning sides. Few copies were as BIG and BOLD as this, and that is unquestionably our sound. 

Overall this copy is far richer and fuller than most, and that’s a big deal on Powerful People, an album which is almost always pure midrange — no bottom, no top, just midrange. Until we did this shootout I wasn’t sure we would ever find a copy with any real bass or top end. For that very reason we had more than once abandoned this project in past years.

Then, a few months back I came across a cheap CD of the album in my local record store and started playing the hell out of it in my car. I had completely forgotten how good the music was, but it all came rushing back to me — once I had cut the CD’s treble and boosted the bass so that it sounded rich and smooth like the MoFi vinyl. Soon enough I knew we had to do the shootout, and fortunately for all involved the best copies of the album sounded amazingly good, much better than I remember and a whole lot better than the seriously flawed MoFi I used to play. (more…)

David Lindley – El Rayo-X

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Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

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  • El Rayo-X finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • If you’re looking for deep punchy bass, crashing dynamics, silky sweet vocal harmonies, grungy slide guitars, tons of ambience, and super low distortion sound, this is the copy for you
  • Engineered in 1981 by Greg Ladanyi, the very next year he would take home the Best Engineering Grammy for Toto IV (one helluva good sounding album and a former member of our Top 100)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the greatest rock music albums of its time. Fabulous.”

This superb Asylum original LP is a real DEMO DISC — if what you are trying to demonstrate is how BIG and BOLD a good old-fashioned analog recording can sound.

After hearing Lindley’s white-bread session playing on ’70s albums by Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, et al., you might think the man must have a stick up his butt. His solos just never seem to let loose or get loose, and they rarely rock. Mercury Blues is proof positive that he can rock like a wild man when he wants to. On this album, perhaps for the first time, he really does seem to want to.

The sound on this record is so punchy and dynamic, the rest of your rock records should seem positively anemic in comparison. Most of it sounds live in the studio, and live in the studio is how you get a bunch of guys to play with this kind of enthusiasm and energy.

Engineered in 1981 by Greg Ladanyi, the very next year he would take home the Best Engineering Grammy for Toto IV (one helluva good sounding album and a former member of our Top 100).

Fortunately for us audiophiles, this album catches him before the overly-processed, digital drums and digital echo “sound of the ’80s” had gotten into his blood. (Just play any of the awful Don Henley records he made to hear what we mean.) This record still sounds ANALOG, and even though it may be 1981 and mostly transistorized, the better copies display strong evidence of TUBES in the recording chain. (more…)

James Taylor – JT

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  • This KILLER copy of an exceptionally well-recorded album boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • It’s a superb recording – a member of our Top 100, in fact – but it takes a pressing like this to show you just how BIG and LIVELY it can sound
  • The big hits Your Smiling Face and Handy Man both sound great here – thanks Val Garay!
  • 4 stars: “JT was James Taylor’s best album since Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon because it acknowledged the darkness of his earlier work while explaining the deliberate lightness of his current viewpoint, and because it was his most consistent collection in years.”

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