Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

Getz Au Go Go – A Bossa Nova Classic

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  • Truly superb sound for this incredible recording, Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side and Double Plus (A++) on the first
  • Amazingly present, immediate and REAL — musically and sonically, this is one of our favorite jazz albums
  • This is an incredibly tough album to find with the right sound and decent surfaces, which is the main reason it’s been years since we did the shootout
  • 4 stars on Allmusic: “Highly recommended for all dimensions of jazz enthusiasts.” [We would of course give it the full 5 Stars]

This Stan Getz record has the kind of LIVE JAZZ CLUB SOUND that audiophiles like us (you and me) dream of. More importantly, this ain’t no Jazz at Some Stupid Pawnshop — this is THE REAL THING. Stan Getz, Gary Burton, Kenny Burrell and the lovely Astrud Gilberto, the living embodiment of Cool Jazz, are coming to a listening room near you.

This is about as good a copy as has ever hit the site. Fans of cool jazz — in point of fact, some of the coolest jazz ever recorded — take note. 

Cool Jazz Is Right

I’ve gotten more enjoyment out of this Getz album than any other, including those that are much more famous such as Getz/Gilberto (which doesn’t sound as good by the way). This one is (mostly) live in a nightclub and it immediately puts you in the right mood to hear this kind of jazz.

Listening to side one I’m struck with the idea that this is the coolest jazz record of cool jazz ever recorded. Getz’s take on Summertime is a perfect example of his “feel” during these sessions. His playing is pure emotion; every note seems to come directly from his heart.

What really sets these performances apart is the relaxed quality of the playing. He seems to be almost nonchalant, but it’s not a bored or disinterested sound he’s making. It’s more of a man completely comfortable in this live setting, surrounded by like-minded musicians, all communicating the same vibe. Perhaps they all got hold of some really good grass that day. That’s the feeling one gets from their playing. As one is listening, there’s a certain euphoria that seems to be part of the music. This is definitely one of those albums to get lost in. (more…)

James Taylor / In The Pocket – A Personal Favorite

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

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.

Side Two

The best we heard and SUPERB in all respects. It’s got Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album. It’s fairly 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. White Hot all the way.

Side One

Big and clear with lots of studio space and reverb. A bit shifted up tonally but very good this way.

We’re No Snobs

The critics have never had much love for In The Pocket, but I’ve always felt just the opposite — it’s one of my favorites of the JT canon, an absolute joy from first track to last. As a James Taylor fan I bought a copy as soon as it came out and proceeded to play it practically to death. At the time Rolling Stone magazine gave it a scathingly negative review, accusing Taylor of selling out for making a carefully-produced, sophisticated Soulful Pop Album. Plenty have derisively labeled it “slick”, but to my ear the material is very strong, with all the heart of his earlier albums. Glossy production values and a cast of the L.A. assembled multitudes is hardly cause to dismiss the emotional power of these songs. (more…)

Dave Grusin – Discovered Again!

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  • This Sheffield Direct to Disc pressing boasts superb nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • After critically listening to this record good and loud, I have to award the album The Greatest Direct to Disc Recording of All Time
  • The songs, the players, the arrangements, the sound – this is a record that will reward hundreds of plays for decades to come
  • “Everything about this project is just right from the gentle contemporary feel of the music to the superb sound of the [album] itself.”

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Bryan Ferry – The Bride Stripped Bare

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  • A strong copy, with a Double Plus (A++) side two and a side one that’s nearly as good
  • These two sides show us just what a monster rocker this album can be when it’s mastered and pressed right
  • I’m a big fan of the record – it’s as original and as moving as practically anything the man ever did
  • Bryan Ferry owned the ’70s as much as David Bowie did; they’re both artistic giants in my book

It’s been years since I last played this album, and I’m happy, ecstatic even, to report that it sounds way better than I remember it. In the old days, I recall it sounding dry, flat and transistory. Now it’s BIG and BOLD, revealing a band that’s on fire in the studio.

These two sides show us just what a monster rocker this album can be when it’s mastered and pressed right. The reviews were mixed when the album was released in 1978 but time has been kind to it — after hearing the killer copies I would rank it up at the top with the best of Ferry’s and Roxy’s bodies of work.

We were a bit surprised to find that the domestic copies we played were clearly better sounding than the UK imports. It may be counterintuitive but these are the kinds of things you find out when doing shootouts. We have little use for intuitions (UK recording, UK pressing) and rules of thumb (original equals better). Hard data — the kind you get from actually playing the records — trumps them all. (more…)

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

ONE OF THE HOTTEST COPIES OF CAN’T BUY A THRILL TO EVER HIT THE SITE! If you’re ready to hear what a superb pressing of this great album can do, I suggest you jump on this one quickly. This one’s got all the qualities we look for in a great Steely Dan album — punchy lows, extended highs, tons of energy and real immediacy.

We have no less than three dozen copies of this album on our shelves right now and have played even more than that over the last few years. Most of them we’d be embarrassed to sell. We drop the needle on a copy briefly and the faults reveal themselves quickly. If we don’t hear that “Better Record” sound, we toss that copy and move on to another. The difference between a Hot Stamper and an average copy is so huge, that we don’t need to waste much time on the also-rans.

Side one is very strong, earning an A++ grade. It’s got a wonderfully punchy bottom end, with the kind of WHOMP that brings this music to life! The soundfield is BIG, WIDE, and OPEN, with a three-dimensional quality that we just don’t hear on too many copies. Listen to how breathy and textured the vocals are throughout. The top end is silky sweet — just listen to the cymbals on Do It Again.

Imagine our delight when we discovered that side two is EVEN BETTER! From the moment the needle hit the grooves, we were treated to some of the best electric guitar sound we’ve ever heard for this album; the meaty texture and uncanny presence take a song like Reeling In The Years to an entirely new level! On the average pressing Fagen is singing, on this one he’s really beltin’ it out!

Fire In The Hole is exceptionally dynamic with real weight to the piano, and Turn That Heartbeat Over Again sounds just right. (more…)

Brian Eno’s Masterpiece – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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  • TRIPLE TRIPLE (A+++) – it’s been ages since we’ve heard a copy that sounds as amazing as this one
  • Superb Demo Disc sound on both A+++ sides, huge and open like you will not believe
  • The superb clarity and transparency here let you appreciate all of Eno’s mastery — amazing texture and detail
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, a Top 100 title, and without a doubt Eno’s Masterpiece
  • Highest Recommendation from your friends at Better Records. This is an album we think you will love!

TWO SUPERB SIDES on this Killer White Hot Stamper pressing of Brian Eno’s MASTERPIECE — one of my All Time Favorite Albums, a real Demo Disc of twisted pop. This British Sunray original pressing takes the sound to a level BEYOND all others. This copy has deep, punchy bass that exceeded my wildest expectations, energy like I couldn’t believe, and a wonderful smoothness that you just don’t get on most copies.

If you have a big speaker and the kind of high quality playback that is capable of unraveling the most complicated musical creations, with all the weight and power of live music, this is the record that will make all your audio effort and expense worthwhile. That’s the kind of stereo I’ve been working on for thirty years and this album just plain KILLS over here.

Art Rock

That being said, it may not be the kind of thing most music loving audiophiles will be able to make much sense of if they have no history with this kind of Art Rock from the ’70s. I grew up on Roxy Music, 10cc, Eno, The Talking Heads, Ambrosia, Supertramp, Yes and the like, bands that wanted to play rock music but felt shackled by the chains of the conventional pop song. This was and still is my favorite kind of music.

When it comes to the genre, I put this album right at the top of the heap along with several other landmark albums from the period: More Songs About Buildings and Food, Roxy Music’s first, Sheet Music, Crime of the Century, Ambrosia’s first two releases, The Yes Album, Fragile and perhaps a handful of others, no more than that. (more…)

Harry Nilsson – Nilsson Schmilsson – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO WONDERFUL SIDES, capable of delivering the Nilsson Schmilsson GENIUS in a way few copies out there can! We’re just wild about Harry ’round these parts, but it’s unbelievably difficult to find copies of his albums that sound any good. Beyond that, most of the Nilsson records out there in used record land are noisy, thanks to that super-high-quality RCA Dynaflex vinyl. (Your sarcasm detector should be going off like crazy right about now.)

Ah, but here’s a Nilsson Schmilsson that’s dramatically more audiophile-friendly than other copies.

Harry’s vocals sound great throughout and the overall sound is BIG, present, powerful, spacious, smooth and rich. Side one earned each and every plus of its White Hot Stamper Three Plus (A+++) rating. Folks, that’s shorthand for a copy that’s As Good As It Gets! (more…)

Flack / Hathaway – Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway

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  • An outstanding copy, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades throughout, making this the best copy to hit the site in many years!
  • There’s Tubey Magic, sweetness and spaciousness all over this recording – when it all comes together on Where Is The Love, you won’t believe how good it sounds
  • One of our favorite duet albums, Flack and the woefully underrated Soul Man Donny Hathaway are in top form here
  • Allmusic raves: “A duet classic, and perhaps the most popular album Roberta Flack made. ‘Where Is the Love’ dominated urban contemporary radio for almost the entire year, while ‘You’ve Got a Friend’ was just as influential…”

These soulful duets sound wonderful. The best sides are big, bold, open and transparent with a huge three-dimensional soundfield, strong presence, good rhythmic energy, and wonderfully dynamic leads and choruses. (more…)

Michael McDonald – If That’s What It Takes

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish for Michael McDonald’s Masterpiece and on fairly quiet vinyl to boot
  • Both of these sides are incredibly clean, clear, spacious and dynamic with excellent clarity, tons of energy and a big punchy bottom end
  • One of the All Time Great Jeff Porcaro Drum Exhibition Records (with the equally amazing Steve Gadd handling the other tracks)
  • Some of the best Pop Rock engineering of all time, courtesy of Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic – more importantly, this is a dramatically better album than anything the Doobies ever released

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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…)