Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

Richard & Linda Thompson – Pour Down Like Silver – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

The biggest problems with this record would be obvious to even the casual listener: gritty, spitty vocals; lack of richness; lack of bass; no real space or transparency, etc. etc.

When we came across this copy we knew we had something special as it had very few of the problems above. 

The Carthage pressings did not do well in our shootout, no surprise as these early Island records were mastered at one of our favorite cutting houses here in the Southland. (more…)

David Lindley – El Rayo-X – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

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 stuck up his butt. His solos never seem to let loose or get loose, and they rarely rock. Mercury Blues on this, his best album, 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…)

Phil Manzanera – Diamond Head – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This White Hot Stamper English Import has the BIGGEST, BOLDEST SOUND we have ever heard for this album! If this copy doesn’t wake up your stereo nothing ever will.

Like its brother, 801 Live, this album is an amazing SONIC BLOCKBUSTER, with sound that positively leaps out of the speakers.

Why shouldn’t it? It was engineered by the superbly talented Rhett Davies at Island, the genius behind Taking Tiger Mountain, the aforementioned 801 Live, Avalon, Dire Straits’ first album and many many more.

This isn’t known as an audiophile album but it should be — the sound is GLORIOUS — wall to wall, floor to ceiling, and as rich and dynamic as it gets. It’s also a big speaker album. Play this one as loud as you can. (801 Live is exactly the same way and needs high volumes to come to life.) (more…)

Marty Robbins – Hawaii’s Calling Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

Hearing this kind of Tubey Magical, tonally correct, rich, sweet, spacious sound is nothing less than a THRILL. The Analog sound of this pressing makes a mockery of even the most advanced digital playback systems, including the ones that haven’t been invented yet. I’d love to play this for Neil Young so he can see what he’s up against. Good Luck, Neil, you’re going to need it.

We’ve been through dozens of Columbia albums from the ’60s over the last year or two since we discovered how good the Marty Robbins titles on Columbia can sound. Most of the popular vocal and country albums we play have an overall distorted sound, are swimming in reverb, and come with hard, edgy, smeary vocals to boot.

To find an album with freakishly good sound such as this involves a healthy dose of pure luck. You will need to dig through an awful big pile of vinyl to uncover a gem of this beauty.

Side Two

Like any good Elvis or Nat “King” Cole record, the quality that is far and away the most important is that the vocals must be full-bodied, rich and smooth. Without that sound you might as well be playing a CD. This is precisely what side two here gives you – Tubey Magical Richness in spades.

Note that the heavy reverb not only sounds right for this music and this era, but actually sounds great, the very opposite of the hard, sour, metallic digital reverb that replaced it decades later. (more…)

Queen – The Game – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Two SUPERB SIDES with side one beating all comers to achieve White Hot Stamper status! Throughout this copy you get solid bass, tubey magic, breathy vocals and BIG BOLD sound!

But watch out: this side one kicks it up to a whole ‘nother level, with BIGGER energy, BIGGER bass and even more PRESENT and breathy vocals from Mr. Mercury. This is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for Queen, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

When reading the above it’s best to keep this in mind: The Game may be the BEST SOUNDING record Queen ever made. The Dirty Little Secret of Queen’s recorded output is that they are mostly pretty mediocre, and often downright dreadful.

Do you see a lot of them going up on the site? No? Well, there’s a reason for that. As much as people love Queen, we just can’t seem to find pressings that do their music justice. Take A Night at the Opera for example. Is this a good sounding record? I’ve played twenty of them over the last ten years — imports, domestics, the DCC, the MoFi – and NONE of them sounding particularly good to me. Don’t rely on your memory. Pull out your own copy and listen closely; you should hear the distortion and smearing and transistory grain that’s there on all the copies I’ve played. It’s a record that’s trying to sound good but just doesn’t, so far anyway. Hope springs eternal.

[This is no longer true, the Hot Stampers were discovered a few years back!] (more…)

Cannonball Adderley – Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a superb Double Plus (A++) side two, this pressing one of Adderley’s most enjoyable albums will be very hard to beat
  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than practically any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • Joe Zawinul (Weather Report) wrote the title song, which became a big hit for Adderley (and later The Buckinghams), and he plays on the album
  • 5 Stars: “Adderley’s irrepressible exuberance was a major part of his popularity, and no document captures that quality as well — or with such tremendous musical rewards — as Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

Don’t worry about surface noise on this copy. With the audience making so much noise, you’ll never get a chance to hear it. If you do it will be barely audible under the music and crowd sounds.

I dropped the needle on a copy of this record a year or so ago and heard amazing you-are-there live jazz club sound, and, more importantly, a hot session from one of our favorite saxophone players of all time, the man who contributed mightily to the likes of Kind of Blue, Somethin’ Else, Know What I Mean? and many more. For an Alto player Cannonball is just about as good as it gets.

Fast forward one year and we now have in our possession enough copies to do a proper shootout – originals and reissues on a variety of labels.

These were of course two of the best sides we played. They’re big, rich and natural. The music does manage to sound like a live club, even though it’s live in the studio, playing to an audience. (The AMG review has more on that.)

For mainstream jazz it’s hard to think of any album on our site that would be more enjoyable. (more…)

Graham Nash’s Wild Tales

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from 1974. 

Like the man’s first album, no one pays much attention to this music nowadays, but Better Records is trying to remedy that situation by making available to the audiophile public numerous copies of this album, every one of which is guaranteed to turn you into a fan. This is not new music, but it may be new music to you, so “discovering” it will be every bit as much fun for you in 2016 as it was for me in 1973.

This is not an “audiophile” record. It ain’t never going to make the TAS List or get a mention by anyone in the Audiophile Press Corps. This is a record for music lovers who care about good sound. If you’re reading this, that’s you. Us too, and proud of it.

From one audiophile to another, this is a great record that belongs in your collection. (more…)

James Taylor – Dad Loves His Work – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Hot Stamper original Columbia is THE KING, the Best Sounding Copy we have ever played — the sound was OUT OF THIS WORLD! In fact, side two went so far beyond what we’ve come to expect from this album that we had to award it the rare Four Plus (A++++) grade.

The soundstage and depth on our Hot Stamper copies is HUGE — this is without a doubt the most spacious recording by James Taylor we’ve ever heard. If you want your speakers to disappear, replaced by a huge studio full of musicians playing their hearts out, this is the album that can do it. (more…)

Seals & Crofts – Year of Sunday – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

The best album by this duo – their strongest songwriting and arrangements. Nearly White Hot on side one, with vocals that are full-bodied, rich and solid.

A forgotten Classic from 1971, the album holds up very well forty plus years on.

Their commercial breakthrough would come with their next album, Year of Sunday, helped out by scores of session cats, but I much prefer the less commercial — although it’s far from uncommercial — sound of Year of Sunday. I am apparently not alone in my love for this album. Of the thirteen reviews on Amazon, every one gives it Five Stars(!).

The consistency of the songwriting is very strong here as well, with surprisingly powerful emotional currents. There’s not a dog in the bunch, and many of the better tracks are gems of popcraft. Some of the my favorites are When I Meet Them, Cause You Love, and Antoinette on side one, and Paper Airplanes, Irish Linen and Springfield Mill on side two.

Side One

Smooth and very rich, with big bass, this is without a doubt precisely the right sound for the album. Very few copies managed to pull off the rich tonal balance that this side has going for it.

Side Two

It’s big and clear, a bit thinner but still very good. (more…)

Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights – The Best Sounding Record of the Decade?

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Without a doubt this is the best record Richard and Linda Thompson ever made together, possibly the best record Thompson was ever involved with, but it also holds one other important distinction, one of great interest to us audiophiles: it’s the BEST SOUNDING record he (they) ever made as well.

As I was playing the finalists for side two (at ear-splitting levels I might add) an odd thought crossed my mind. Where had I heard this kind of monstrous, punchy bass and these soaring, perfectly distorted guitars, so big and so powerful, before? There was something about the sound – the awesome energy, the freedom from compression or spatial restraint of any kind – that was strangely familiar from another shootout.

After a minute’s deliberation the answer came to me: I was remembering the feeling I got from the White Hot Stamper of Led Zeppelin II we played not long ago.

Yes, that’s the album that it most closely resembles. As outlandish as it may seem, the rock power of Shoot Out the Lights has much more in common with the rock power of Zep II than any other record I can think of.

To be sure, the vast majority of people, including the vast majority of audiophiles, have never heard a top quality RL Zep II played at extremely loud levels on a big speaker system in a dedicated room. Nor in all probability will they ever have the chance.

But I sure have, quite a few in fact. If anyone knows that sound I do. I’ve dedicated the past forty years of my efforts in audio to reproducing records with the Big Rock Sound like Zep II. There’s really none bigger in my opinion. (more…)