Good Records

Marty Robbins – Hawaii’s Calling Me

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Marty Robbins – Hawaii’s Calling Me

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.

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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. (more…)

Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

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

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music found here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

All the copies we played were stereo. We’ve had very poor luck with mono pressings of Living Stereo recordings and tend to avoid them.

Produced by Chet Atkins in Nashville, 1960, with Bill Porter engineering. This is superb countrypolitan pop by the man who practically invented it.

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Jim Reeves is lucky to have had the Bill Porter and his staff of RCA engineers from the era on his team. Although we love to do these vintage Hot Stamper shootouts, finding clean copies of these albums is getting harder every day.

What do we love about these Living Stereo Hot Stamper pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The instruments here are recorded with remarkable fidelity. Now that’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi”, not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days.

There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and any of you out there who pick this one up are guaranteed to get a real kick out of it!

U2 – The Joshua Tree – Our Shootout Winner for 2018

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. A STUNNING pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and Double    Plus (A++) on the first
. Both sides here are incredible — big, full and musical with a solid bottom end and        lots of energy
. One of the best copes from our most recent shootout and on fairly quiet vinyl too
. 5 stars on Allmusic: “A powerful, uncompromising record that became a hit.”

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The soundstage is huge, and the overall quality of the recording is big and bold. Most copies of this album are either thin, shrill and agressive — like most U2 albums — or thick and veiled. This one is actually smooth and natural sounding, with the added benefit of some deep punchy bass! It conveys the ENERGY and POWER of the music, and that makes it a very unusual pressing indeed.

’80s vinyl is almost always tricky in terms of sound, and U2 is not a band we associate with audiophile-quality sonics. We’ve been through a number of their albums now, including this title, War and October, and while Demo Quality Sound may never be in the cards for these guys, we have at very least found pressings that do a better job communicating the music. I don’t want to throw on a record that just sounds like a CD when I have access to so much amazing sounding vinyl, but clean and play enough copies of this album and eventually you’ll find one like this copy that gives you something to enjoy.

Bottom line? While this may not be a record that’s going to blow anyone’s mind like a killer copy of Zuma or Deja Vu, it does a very good job of bringing this music to life in a way that most copies out there just won’t. If you’re a fan of U2, you won’t find a better sounding copy than this.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Where the Streets Have No Name
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For
With or Without You
Bullet the Blue Sky
Running to Stand Still

Side Two

Red Hill Mining Town
In God’s Country
Trip Through Your Wires
One Tree Hill
Exit 4
Mothers of the Disappeared

Frank Sinatra – Sings Days of Wine and Roses & more

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Frank Sinatra – Sings Days of Wine and Roses & more

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

Presented with the less-than-captivating cover and title of Days of Wine and Roses, we were put off by our first impression; that of a budget thrown-together compilation, brought even lower by the fairly generic shot of Old Blue Eyes on the cover. We didn’t think an album that looked like this could possibly contain the swinging (or deeply emotional, both are fine with us) Sinatra music we’ve grown to love from his best Capitol- and Reprise-era releases.

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A textbook case of Live and Learn if there ever was one.

It’s true, we admit to having judged this book by its cover back in 2014. We frankly didn’t see much potential, but that was before we had played it. Then, and only then, were we able to recognize and appreciate what a superbly recorded classic Sinatra album it was.

It’s our favorite kind of record. According to conventional wisdom it’s not worth anyone’s time. Instead it’s one of the best of the Sinatra releases from the mid-’60s (and, as we noted above, sonically right up at the top of all his albums).

For our first Hot Stamper listing in 2014 we had written:

One of the best sounding Reprise-era Sinatra recordings we know of.

Having just listened to a slough of top Sinatra titles, I feel it’s my duty to inform the record buying public — at least that small fraction of the public that comes to this site — that the above statement is somewhat inaccurate. It should have read: (more…)

Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Willie Nelson – Pretty Paper

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

Imagine the sound of a Hot Stamper Stardust, but instead of Pop Standards you hear Willie, his voice still in its prime, singing Christmas songs, backed by similarly tasteful and understated arrangements. That’s what you get on this copy of Pretty Paper in a nutshell.

Released just a year after Stardust in 1979, many of the same musicians are featured, as well as the same producer, the amazing Booker T.. And the most shocking thing of all is just how good the sound is.

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Next to Stardust I’d have to say this is the best sound Willie has ever had. It’s so rich, smooth and natural — in other words, analog sounding — that it puts to shame what has come to be expected from pop recordings over the course of the last thirty years.

Yes, records used to actually sound like this, as hard as that may be to believe after playing so many dismal sounding modern recordings, modern reissues and audiophile “product”. A good pressing of this album is one of the best reasons I can think of to own a high quality turntable these days. I find it hard to imagine that the CD would sound remotely as good.

Note that this record sounds even better when played loud, no doubt the result of having no trace of phony top end boost and very little processing throughout, unlike — you guessed it — much of the vinyl product being produced today. (And of course all digital releases, which should go without saying to anyone reading this commentary I suspect.) Many if not most pressings of the legendary Stardust album have some phony top added to the sound. The good ones — meaning the Hot Stamper copies — are the ones that sound more like this: natural up top and and throughout the midrange.

Side One

A+ Hot Stamper sound, It has some of the all-too-common veiling we heard in our shootout compared to the best copies we played. Willie’s voice is not quite as breathy here on track one but it seems to get better as the record plays. Not quite as rich and full as the best but still quite nice.

Side Two

The sound is natural and smooth but somewhat opaque. We grade side two A+.

Vinyl Condition

Mostly Mint Minus, very nice! Click on the Sonic Grade tab for more specific information.

Little Milton – We’re Gonna Make It

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Little Milton – We’re Gonna Make It

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

This Chess reissue is spacious, open, transparent, rich and sweet. It’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology (1965 in this case), with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the mid- ’80s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 30+ years ago, not the too-often bad modern mastering of today.)

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The combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on both of these White Hot sides.

We were impressed with the fact that it excelled in so many areas of reproduction. What was odd about it — odd to most audiophiles but not necessarily to us — was how rich and Tubey Magical the reissue can be.

This leads me to think that most of the natural, full-bodied, smooth, sweet sound of the album is on the tape, and that all one has to do to get that vintage sound on to a record is simply to thread up the tape on a good machine and hit play.

The fact that nobody seems to be able to make a good sounding record these days tells me that in fact I’m wrong to think that such an approach would work. It just seems to me that somebody should be able to figure out how to do it. In our experience that is rarely the case today, and has been that way for many years.

Johnny Mathis – Warm

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Johnny Mathis – Warm

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

Side one is killer sounding, with the All Tube Analog sound that Columbia was famous for. The vinyl is fairly quiet as well for a ’50s Columbia 6 Eye pressing. I don’t know how many unscratched, lightly-played Mathis records you’ve ever seen, but in our experience they are few and far between — hence the fact that this is the first one to make it to the site.

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AMG Review

Johnny Mathis released Warm, his sophomore album, in 1957. The album is an example of the classic romantic mood that made Mathis a superstar. The lush, romantic Warm includes “My One and Only Love” as well as “A Handful of Stars,” “By Myself,” “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face,” “Then I’ll Be Tired of You,” “I’m Glad There Is You,” and “While We’re Young.” A classic Mathis album with a title track that ranks, with “Misty,” as one of his best.

Eartha Kitt – St. Louis Blues

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Eartha Kitt – St. Louis Blues

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

Don’t expect to see another copy of this album on the site any time soon. Pressings of this album are extremely rare in any condition, and this one not only sounds great but plays surprisingly well for RCA in 1958.

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1958 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you!

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This copy is super spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

What do we love about these LIVING STEREO Hot Stamper pressings?

The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. Everything, including the Ms Kitt’s voice, is reproduced with remarkable fidelity.

Now that’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi”, not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days. There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and whoever picks this one up is guaranteed to get a real kick out of it.

Peggy Lee – Guitars A la Lee

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Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Peggy Lee – Guitars Ala Lee

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

Full-bodied sound, open and spacious, bursting with life and energy — these are the hallmarks of our Truly Hot Stampers. If your stereo is cookin’ these days this copy of Guitars Ala Lee will be an unparalleled Sonic Treat.

We guarantee that no heavy vinyl pressing, of this or any other album, has the kind of analog magic found here.

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Some songs have a bit of ’60s midrange EQ, but most do not. What most do have is amazingly rich, sweet, Tubey Magical sound.

Side One

Bigger and clearer than any other side we played, with extension up top and down low that no other copy could touch. Who knew it could sound this good?

Side Two

Huge, rich and relaxed, this was also the best side two we heard, although, since side one sounds a touch better, we felt it was best to call this one just shy of White Hot.

Check out the energy and presence on the second track, Sweet Happy Life, which I understand was used in a Target commercial a few years back. This is the way it’s supposed to sound, with the instruments jumping out of your speakers.

Clean and Clear…

…yet rich and sweet, this copy managed to find the perfect balance of these attributes. You want that rare copy that keeps what is good about a Tubey Magical analog recording from The Golden Age of Pop Vocals but manages to avoid the pitfalls so common to them: smear, lack of top end extension, opacity and blubber.

To be sure, the fault is not with the recording (I guess; again, not having heard the master tape) but with the typical pressing. Bad vinyl, bad mastering, who knows why so many copies sound so veiled or gritty?

Julie London – Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 2

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Julie London – Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 2

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

The notes I took during this shootout lay out just how impressed I was with the sound of this remarkable copy:

Wide stereo. Big Bass. Swingin’. Just the right amount of reverb. Tonal perfection. The stereo kills the mono (on this album, on the copies we played anyway).

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On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies — or, to be more precise, some sides of some copies can be dry — but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

To take nothing away from her performance, which got better with every copy we played.

If only Ella Fitzgerald on Clap Hands got this kind of sound! As good as the best copies of that album are, this record — like the first volume, the 1955 mono recording — takes the concept of intimate female vocals to an entirely new level. (more…)