Heavy Vinyl Winners

The Who – Quadrophenia – Simply Vinyl Reviewed

More The Who

More Quadrophenia

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B

[These are old notes from many years ago. Take them with a grain of salt.]

Wow! This Universal Heavy Vinyl pressing from circa 2000 (the turn of the century!) is superb, not all that far from a good Track original, and quieter for sure. 

Side One rocks incredibly hard from start to finish. What a great album. It has to rank right up there with the best rock of the ’70s, right behind Who’s Next and probably on a par with Tommy, good company indeed, since we LOVE all three of those albums here at Better Records. (Both Tommy and Who’s Next are Top 100 Titles, but Quadrophenia is not far behind either of them for sound or music. (more…)

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto – Midnight Sugar – 2 45 RPM Discs

More Tsuyoshi Yamamoto

More Midnight Sugar

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B

We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds.

This 45 RPM Three Blind Mice 180g Double LP has DEMO DISC SOUND! The 33 RPM versions were pretty darn amazing but these 45s take the sound of this recording to an entirely new level. 

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

There are a couple of quite obvious benefits to mastering this music at 45 RPM. One is that Yamamoto tends to use his right hand in a percussive manner, which creates tracking problems on most any set up. At 45 RPM the mastering engineer is able to cut those transients, full of difficult to deal with harmonics, much more cleanly and accurately. The result is a sense of “ease” that you don’t hear on the 33.

It’s a bit like having a slightly underpowered system which makes loud passages or transients seem to be right at the edge of distortion, and then switching to a more powerful amplifier and hearing those passages reproduced with the relaxed quality that more headroom gives you.

Also the sound opens up quite a bit on these 45s so that more of the room ambience is heard. The Japanese are famous for their close-miking, and sometimes the sense of real musicians in a real space is lacking. Here much of that quality is restored.

Yamamoto is one of the few Japanese jazz players who has any feel for the medium. If you like bluesy jazz piano with amazingly dynamic sound, you can’t go wrong here. 

TRACK LISTING

Midnight Sugar
I”m A Fool To Want You
The Nearness Of You
It Could Happen To You
Sweet Georgia Blues

The Who – Who’s Next – Classic Records Reviewed

More The Who

More Who’s Next

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B-

At one time we did not recommend this record but now we do! Without going into the sordid details, let”s just say this record sounds pretty good. The acoustic guitars are especially sweet and silky for a modern reissue. The sound is better than most of the pressings of Who’s Next I’ve ever played. Clearly this is is one of the better Classic Records rock records. (It’s the only Who record they’ve done that we carried. The others are awful.) 

The Best Bass Ever!

In our Hot Stamper commentary for Who’s Next we noted this about the sound of the Classic pressing:

It’s actually shockingly good, better than it has any right to be coming from Classic Records. The bass is PHENOMENAL; no British Track pressing had the bass punch and note-like clarity of the Classic. It shows you the kind of bass you had no idea could possibly be on the tape. It reminds me a bit of the Classic pressing of the first Zep album: in the case of the Zep, it has dynamics that simply are not to be found anywhere else. The Classic Who LP has that kind of bass — it can’t be found elsewhere so don’t bother looking. (Don’t get me wrong; we’ll keep looking, but after thirty plus years of Track Who LPs, we kinda know when we’re beaten.)

Hot Stampers Ain’t Cheap

We’ve found Hot Stampers of Who’s Next in the past, and they are still the ultimate versions. This goes without saying.

But Hot Stamper copies are not particularly quiet, and they are never cheap, which is in marked contrast to Classic Records’ heavy vinyl pressings, which are fairly quiet and also fairly cheap. Some of you may think $30 is a lot of money for a record, but we do not. It’s a fair price.

When you buy Crosby Stills and Nash’s first album or Tapestry or Bridge Over Troubled Water on Classic for $30, you are getting your money’s worth.

Don’t Kid Yourself

But don’t kid yourself. You are not getting anywhere near the best copy available, because the best copies are hard to find. We do find them, and we do charge a lot of money for them, because they sound absolutely AMAZING compared to the Classic version and anything else you’ve ever heard.

A Benchmark

We recommend you use the Classic version as a benchmark. When you find something that beats it, you have yourself a very good record. Until then, you still have a good, quiet record to enjoy. You win either way.

Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights – A Four Men with Beards Heavy Vinyl Winner

More Richard Thompson

More Shoot Out The Lights

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B

Hey, this is a surprisingly good sounding pressing! Our Hot Stampers are clearly bigger and more lively, but for a Heavy Vinyl reissue this pressing is quite respectable.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

You won’t get the effect we describe below on the Heavy Vinyl pressing that we heard on our best Hot Stamper original pressings, but you will get a very good sounding record.

With constant improvements to the system Shoot Out is now so powerful a recording that we had no choice but to add it to our Top 100 list in 2014, but we would go even further than that and say that it would belong on a list of the Top Ten Best Sounding Rock Records of All Time.

The guitars are HUGE — they positively leap out of the speakers on the title cut, freeing themselves from a studio that seems already to be the size of a house. (more…)

John Coltrane – Lush Life – DCC and OJC Reviewed

More John Coltrane

More Lush Life

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B or so (DCC) 
Sonic Grade: C or so (OJC) 

The DCC heavy vinyl pressing is a nice record; I remember liking it back in the day. I’m guessing it’s a bit better than the ’80s OJC, which is, like most OJC pressings, typically thin and hard. Neither one of them can hold a candle to the pressings we offer on the site. If for some reason we could not find copies of the album that substantially beat the sound of either of these two remastered LPs, we simply would not have anything to offer, since neither of these versions could be considered Hot Stampers. Nice records, sure, but Hot Stampers? Not a chance.

It was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have.

Previously we had written:

“There are great sounding originals, but they are few and far between…”

We no longer believe that to be true. In fact we believe the opposite of that statement to be true. The original we had on hand — noisy but with reasonably good sound, or so we thought — was an absolute joke next to our best Hot Stamper pressings. Half the size, half the clarity and presence, half the life and energy, half the immediacy, half the studio space. It was simply not remotely competitive with the copies we now know (or at least believe, all knowledge being provisional) to have the best sound.

Are there better originals than the ones we’ve played? No doubt. If you want to spend your day searching for them, more power to you. And if you do find one that impresses you, we are happy to send you one of our Hot Copies to play against it. We are confident that the outcome would be clearly favorable to our pressing. Ten seconds of side one should be enough to convince you that our record is in an entirely different league, a league we had no idea even existed until just this year.

By the way, the mono original we played was by far the worst sound I have ever heard for the album. By far. (more…)

Louis Armstrong – I’ve Got The World on a String on Classic Records Vinyl

More Louis Armstrong

More I’ve Got The World on a String

xxxxx

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

Sonic Grade: B (probably)

I first heard this album on the wonderful Classic Records pressing from the ’90s. I remember really enjoying the music and liking the sound of Bernie Grundman’s remaster very much. We reviewed and recommended the album (along with Under the Stars) in our old paper catalogs.

 have no idea what I would think of their version these days — well, to be honest I do have some idea of what I would think of it — but their version is at least good enough to make the case that Russell Garcia’s orchestral arrangements and Louis Armstrong’s sublime skills interpreting The Great American Songbook are a match made in heaven.

You may have seen Russell Garcia’s name on one of the landmark recordings of the ’50s: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong’s recording of Porgy and Bess for Verve in the previous year, 1959. Watch for copies coming to the site one of these days. We’ve discovered some exceptional original and reissue pressings (as well as some that really do a disservice to the music and the engineers who recorded it. What else is new in the world of records?).

Now all that remains is for us to track down enough clean copies with which to do the shootout. At the rate were going it may be a year or two, but having heard how good the music and sound can be on the best copies, we are on it!

1960 – What a Year

This ’60s LP (1960 to be exact) has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal 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 person singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

AMG 4 1/2 Star Rave Review

prime samplings from the autumn of Armstrong’s recording career. Even in the pressure cooker of a marathon session, even when confronted with standards not often associated with him, Armstrong finds the essence of each tune, bending and projecting them with his patented joie de vivre and gravel-voiced warmth every time. There are also lots of examples of his trumpet — pithy, soulful, belonging to no one else…

Peggy Lee – Latin ala Lee! – S&P (Reviewed in the ’00s)

More Peggy Lee

More Latin ala Lee!

xxxxx

Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the 2003 when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

The Record of the Year for 2003. I know how crazy that sounds, but it’s true! If you don’t have a smile on your face fifteen seconds after playing track one, you better check your pulse, cuz, as the famous song has it: Jack, You Dead. Amazingly good sound, courtesy of a fabulous and painstakingly difficult remix by the mastering guru himself, Steve Hoffman. This is popular music for the previous generation — but why should we be denied these long forgotten treasures? (more…)

Joe Cocker – With a Little Help From My Friends on Speakers Corner

More Joe Cocker

More With a Little Help From My Friends

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B

One of the better Speakers Corner releases. We haven’t played a copy of this record in years, but back in the day we liked it, so let’s call it a “B” with the caveat that the older the review, the more likely we are to have changed our minds. Not sure if we would still agree with what we wrote back in the ’90s when this record came out, but here it is anyway.

“Speakers corner knocks one out of the park with this wonderful reissue! Those conga drums and the back-up singers sound so much better than I remember them! If you”re going to own one Joe Cocker album make it this one. It’s a man-size serving of English Soul.”

 

 

Roxy Music – A Heavy Vinyl Winner!

xxx

Roxy Music

Sonic Grade: B-

Hey, this is a good sounding pressing! I had to pull out my best imports to beat it, which they did handily of course, but the typical audiophile trying to find a pressing superior to this one will have to do a fair bit of homework in order to succeed. We had multiple copies of Islands, Polydors, Atcos, Reprises and one copy of the Heavy Vinyl import I used to like. This pressing trounced most of them, and it’s cheap. 

I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Art Rock from the ’70s and is never going to lay out the kind of bread our Hot Stamper pressings command. For around $20 you just can’t beat it.

 

Mozart / Symphony #35 – A Cisco Recommended LP

More of the Music of Mozart

 

xxxxx

Sonic Grade: B-

I wrote this review in 2001 and disagree with a great deal of what I said about the sound.  The music and performance are great but the sound has all the hallmarks of bad cutting equipment and dead-as-a-doornail RTI vinyl.

Hearing this performance from Thomas Nee and his orchestra is like hearing the work for the first time. It may be difficult to reproduce the magic in these grooves but wonderfully rewarding when you do. You won’t be bored! The sound is intimate and immediate; this is the record for those of you who appreciate more of a front row center seat. Count me in; that’s where I like to sit myself.  

I worked hard on my system for about 4 hours one night, using nothing but this record as my test, because of its wealth of subtle ambience cues, excellent string tone, and massed string dynamics. There is a lot to listen for, and a lot to get right, for this album to sound right.

The performance of the Mozart’s 35th Symphony is definitive. Without a doubt this is the best Mozart record currently available, one that belongs in any serious record collection. I give it a top recommendation for its sublime musical qualities that set it apart from other current releases. In short, a Must Own! 

Now I know better. Now I would say:

As is the case with practically every record pressed on Heavy Vinyl over the last twenty years, there is a suffocating loss of ambience throughout, a pronounced sterility to the sound. Modern remastered records just do not BREATHE like the real thing.

Good EQ or Bad EQ, they all suffer to one degree or another from a bad case of audio enervation. Where is the life of the music? You can try turning up the volume on these remastered LPs all you want; they simply refuse to come to life.

“One of Mozart’s most popular symphonies is given a visceral and driving performance. Instead of slowing down the tempo in service to lyricism, conductor Thomas Nee chose to adhere to Mozart’s written instructions: ‘The first movement must be played with fire; the last, as fast as possible.’ Even if you own several recordings of this bright and joyous work, you’ve never heard it played like this, and certainly never with this kind of audiophile sound!” Cisco Music