Well Recorded Albums that Should Be More Popular with Audiophiles

Steely Dan – Can’t Buy A Thrill

More Steely Dan

More Debut Albums of Interest

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • After doing so many shootouts over the years, and hearing the guitars and vocals jumping out of our speakers right into our listening room, we now find the recording a lot more to our liking than we used to
  • If you made the mistake of buying the Speakers Corner reissue from 2000, this is your chance to hear the record with all the energy that this band put into their debut, the kind their Heavy Vinyl took out!
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were remarkable craftsmen from the start, as Steely Dan’s debut illustrates. Each song is tightly constructed, with interlocking chords and gracefully interwoven melodies, buoyed by clever, cryptic lyrics.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.


Both sides have a tight and punchy bottom end, with the kind of energy and bottom end weight that brings this music to life. The soundfield is big and open, with a three-dimensional quality that most copies don’t have. The top end is sweet — just listen to the cymbals on Do It Again.

Dirty Work sounds great here — rich and sweet mids, breathy brass, and lots of texture to the vocals. Often this track sounds dull and dubby, but it’s actually just a case of the mix being smoother than most of the other songs on the album. If this track sounds smooth, and the other songs sound right, the tonality is correct for the whole side because that’s what the best copies sound like.

Flip the record over and the good times begin all over again. Elliot Randall’s guitar on Reeling In The Years has the meaty texture and uncanny presence to take the song to an entirely new level. Fire In The Hole is dynamic with real weight to the piano, and the double-tracked vocals on Turn That Heartbeat Over Again sound rich and poppy the way they should. (more…)

Queen – The Game

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to last
  • Some of the best sound Queen achieved in the studio, thanks to talented engineer Rienhold Mack
  • Plenty of hits here, including Another One Bites The Dust and Crazy Little Thing Called Love, which both sound amazing on this Super Hot Stamper
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the striking difference with this album is that it finds Queen turning decidedly, decisively pop, and it’s a grand, state-of-the-art circa 1980 pop album that still stands as one of the band’s most enjoyable records.”

Throughout this copy, you get solid bass, Tubey Magic, breathy vocals and BIG BOLD sound.

Compared to most of the copies we played, these sides have more energy, bigger bass and even more present and breathy vocals. This is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for Queen, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

The quality of bass on this record is often superb. The best copies were Demo Discs in that regard.) You have probably never heard Queen sound this good. 

Take it from us, the guys who play nothing but vintage vinyl all day: not many Queen records sound as good as The Game. (more…)

The Band – Music From Big Pink

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Forget all those veiled, lifeless, ambience-free, vague sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings – THIS is the sound of the album
  • This copy resolves the intricacies of the recording that make repeated plays the order of the day for us audiophiles
  • 5 stars: “…as soon as “The Weight” became a singles chart entry, the album and the group made their own impact, influencing a movement toward roots styles and country elements in rock. Over time, [the album] 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 as good as it does on this very copy. There’s plenty of the all-important Tubey Magic and real weight to the bottom. You’ll have a VERY hard time finding one that sounds this good, if our experience is any guide.

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Band record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space); and last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated recording. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – September of My Years

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from top to bottom
  • An especially Tubey Magical Male Vocal recording, but that sound is only found on the best Blue Green original Reprise stereo pressings – like this one
  • These sides are exceptionally spacious and three-dimensional, as well as relaxed and full-bodied – Frank is right in the room with you on this one
  • 5 stars: (“One of Frank Sinatra’s triumphs of the ’60s”) and Grammy Album of the Year for 1967

It’s not easy to find good sounding copies of any of Sinatra’s albums, but we managed to find a few very good copies of this one, an album that earned the Grammy Album of the Year for 1967 and Five Big Stars in the venerable All Music Guide. The music is indeed hard to fault. Finding the right pressing of the recording of that music is another thing entirely. That’s where we come into the picture. (more…)

The Yardbirds – Roger The Engineer

  • A stunning copy with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one – exceptionally quiet import vinyl too
  • Here are the full-bodied mids, punchy lows and clear, open, extended highs that let this Psych Classic by the band come alive
  • Over, Under, Sideways, Down – the big hit off the album – sounds great here in MONO
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… the Yardbirds’ best individual studio album, offering some of their very best psychedelia.”

This is one of the few Mono albums that really justifies the claims made for the superiority of mono in general. Just listen to the vocals on side one: they’re right up front and centered the way they should be on any good pop song. On the stereo version, they’re off to the left and way down in level. They have no power over there! It robs the song of its focus.

Even worse, the stereo remaster by Edsel has no bass. It’s a joke next to the mono. It’s doubtful we would ever buy one again. What a waste of good import vinyl.

Edsel did a great remastering job of the mono mix here. What do we hear on this pressing that’s different from most of the early pressings? A smoother, sweeter, lower distortion midrange and top end. And really punchy solid super low distortion bass. The transparency of this pressing is clearly superior to anything we have ever played. (more…)

Santana – Inner Secrets

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  • With a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two and a side one that’s close to it, this original pressing has the analog magic in its grooves
  • Power and energy are what make this album a true Demo Disc in the world of rock, and this copy has both
  • A sleeper in the Santana canon that boasts some of the best sound the band ever put to vinyl
  • Top tracks here include three of their biggest barnburners: Dealer (Traffic), Stormy and Well…All Right (Blind Faith)

I know EXACTLY the kind of sound I like on this album. When the background vocals come in, on the Tubey Magical copies they are wall to wall and sweet as honey, with no trace of grain or edge. Big as life too. The guitars have plenty of bite, but no matter how loud they get, they never seem to strain. The louder they get the more I like it. That’s the ticket as far as I’m concerned.

Turn It Up

Like Abraxas, when you play a Hot Stamper copy good and loud, you find yourself marvelling at the musicianship of the group — because the Hot Stamper pressings, communicating all the energy and clarity the recording has to offer, let you hear what a great band they were.

If you’ve got the the big room, big speakers, and plenty of power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own house.

When Santana lets loose with some of those legendary monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so there you go.) Here are some other records that have especially dynamic guitar solos.

What makes it possible to play this record so loud and still enjoy it? Simple. When the sound is smooth and sweet, completely free of aggressive mids and highs, records get BETTER as they get LOUDER. (This of course assumes low distortion and all the rest, but the main factor is correct tonality from top to bottom, and this record has it.) (more…)

Santana / Abraxas – A True Demo Disc in the World of Rock Recordings

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  • Abraxas UNBOUND – this “Triple Triple” (A+++) copy has two mindblowing sides – at loud volumes it’s like Live Music in your very own listening room – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • When a record is this tonally correct, huge, powerful and energetic, the music has power you never imagined
  • AMG gives it 5 stars for its music, and we call it a Top 100 Demo Disc – the blistering solos that soar into the huge space of the studio on pressings like this
  • “America was never the same after Carlos Santana discovered the smoldering Afro-Cuban magic of Tito Puente. A sinuous cha cha cha that sounds as if it had been waiting for Santana’s soulful guitar licks to reinvent it, the Puente-penned “Oye Como Va” became the pillar of U.S. Latin rock.”

This copy is smooth, sweet, rich, full-bodied, and SUPER dynamic. The vocals are shockingly present and clear, with breath and body like nothing you have ever heard. Just listen to all that room around the drums!

The sound is transparent, open, and spacious, with life and rhythmic energy to spare. The bass is deep, tight, and note-like, exactly what this music needs to REALLY ROCK!

Both sides have an exceptionally big soundfield, which opens up and allows you to appreciate all of the players’ contributions. That’s a BIG deal for this music. For me, a big speaker guy with a penchant for giving the old volume knob an extra click or two, it just doesn’t get any better than Abraxas.

Abraxas Rocks

This is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock records. It’s also one of those recordings that demands to be played LOUD. If you’ve got the the big room, big speakers, and plenty of power to drive them, you can have a LIVE ROCK AND ROLL CONCERT in your very own house.

When Santana lets loose with some of those legendary monster power chords — which incidentally do get good and loud in the mix, unlike most rock records which suffer from compression and “safe” mixes — I like to say that there is no stereo system on the planet that can play loud enough for me. (Horns maybe, but I don’t like the sound of horns, so there you go.)

You may have heard me say this before, but it’s important to make something clear about this music. It doesn’t even make sense at moderate listening levels. Normal listening levels suck the life right out of it. You can tell by the way it was recorded — this music is designed to be played back at LOUD levels, and anything less does a disservice to the musicians, not to mention the listener, you. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale

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  • This pressing of the classic 1974 album from Stevie Wonder boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound on both sides and plays about as quietly as any early pressing ever will
  • Finding the right balance between Tubey Magical Richness and Transparency is the trick, and we think this copy strikes that balance as well as any pressing we’ve heard
  • Boogie On Reggae Woman and You Haven’t Done Nothing were the big hits but the other tracks on the album are where the real Stevie Wonder MAGIC can be found
  • 4 1/2 stars [but we give it 5]: “The songs and arrangements are the warmest since Talking Book, and Stevie positively caresses his vocals on this set, encompassing the vagaries of love, from dreaming of it (“Creepin'”) to being bashful of it (“Too Shy to Say”) to knowing when it’s over (“It Ain’t No Use”).”

We’re big fans of Stevie here at Better Records, but it’s always a challenge to find good sound for his albums. Tons of great songs here, including the ones everybody knows, Boogie On Reggae Woman and You Haven’t Done Nothing. Both sound WONDERFUL on this pressing.

But…

For the first time in my life, over the course of the last five years or so I’ve really gotten to know the album well, having found a CD at a local store to play in the car (and now I also have a cassette to play in my Walkman while working out).

I’ve listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale scores of times. I now see that it is some of the best work Stevie Wonder ever did, right up there with Innervisions and ahead of any other Stevie Wonder album, including Talking Book and Songs in the Key of Life.

The best songs on the album to my mind are the quieter, more heartfelt and emotional ones, not the rockers or funky workouts. My personal favorites on side one are: Smile Please. Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away, Too Shy to Say and Creepin’, which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, are all the songs that weren’t hits.

On side two the two slowest songs are the ones I now like best: It Ain’t No Use & They Won’t Go When I Go (famously and brilliantly covered by George Michael on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 in 1990). (more…)

Steeleye Span – Commoners Crown

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  • Incredible sound for this early British pressing, with huge and dynamic Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • The Tubey Magical Richness of this recording must be heard to be believed
  • Some of the best English Folk Rock Music ever recorded on analog tape and preserved on this lovely vinyl disc!
  • Allmusic gives it 4 1/2 stars: “Now a full-fledged rock group, competing with the likes of Jethro Tull and pumping out higher amperage than Fairport Convention, Steeleye engages in heavy riffing, savage attacks on their instruments, and generally kicks out the jams on this album.”

This original Porky/Pecko mastered British Chrysalis pressing has insanely good sound on both sides and, even more importantly, some of the best English Folk Rock Music ever recorded on analog tape (and preserved on this lovely vinyl disc!). (more…)

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…)