Labels We Love – Asylum

Eagles – Hotel California – Rockin’ Out to Victim of Love

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Victim of Love is yet another one of our favorite tracks that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

It’s the sound of this five piece tearing it up LIVE IN THE STUDIO. It’s also the track where the DCC just falls apart for us. Where did the rock and roll energy go? The DCC makes it sound like the band just doesn’t care, which was certainly not our experience when were playing any of the killer Hot Stampers we came across. Just the reverse was true; we had them turned up full blast and they ROCKED.

In fact I might go so far as to say that Victim of Love is the best sounding track on the whole album. It’s punchy, real and MUSICAL in a way that nothing else on the album is, because it’s being played by a real band, live. The energy and coherency of the sound is like nothing else you will hear on Hotel California, and possibly on any other Eagles record.

Such A Lovely Place

Yet another example of an album that we couldn’t fully appreciate until we’d discovered a truly great copy. You may have heard these songs a million times, or what seems like a million times, but you’ve sure never heard them sound like this. We played copy after copy this week and never grew tired of the music. In fact, we like it better than ever. If you take home one of our Hot Stamper copies, we’re pretty sure you’ll feel exactly the same way. This album is a classic in the world of Classic Rock. When you can hear it right that fact becomes all the more believable. Until then maybe not so much.  

The Search For Hotel California

Even though we’re HUGE Eagles fans at Better Records, we had never tried to do a shootout for this album until about 2008, and that’s because the typical copy doesn’t even hint at the magic found on the better pressings. After countless gritty, grainy, compressed, lifeless, veiled copies we had almost given up — until we played one that summer and heard some seriously good sound coming out of our speakers.

We checked the dead wax, and with new stamper information to go by, we hit the local stores. Let me tell you, finding any clean copy of this album is not easy. Of the scores of copies we’ve picked up, about one in three or four turns out to be quiet enough to sell. Asylum vinyl leaves much to be desired, and the average copy of this album has been played to death, on pretty bad equipment no less.

The DCC — Not Terrible, But…

The DCC for this album is not a total disaster. In fact, the first side of the DCC is one of the better DCC sides we’ve played in recent memory. We dropped the needle on a few copies we had in the back (pressing variations exist for audiophile records too, don’t you know) and they averaged about a B+ for sound on side one. Side two was quite a bit too clean for our tastes — no real ambience or meaty texture to the guitars, about a B- for sound. To flip something we say often: you can do worse, but you can do a LOT better.

Something Phony This Way Comes

Linda+Ronstadt+-+Prisoner+In+Disguise+

Here’s what we learned when doing our most recent shootout.

Many copies sounded like they were half-speed mastered.

They had a little something phony added to the top of Linda’s voice, they had a little bit of suckout right in the middle of the midrange, the middle of her voice, and they had a somewhat diffuse, vague quality, with sound that lacked the SOLIDITY we heard on the best pressings. These hi-fi-ish qualities that we heard on so many copies reminded us of the kind of audiophile sound we decry at every turn. We’ve played literally hundreds and hundreds of MoFis and other half-speed mastered records over the course of the last twenty years, and one thing we know well is That Sound.
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Eagles – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy or copies of The Eagles amazingly well recorded first album.

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better! It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile Record pale in comparison. EVERYTHING you could ask for as an audiophile is all here and more.  

The Eagles first album is without a doubt Glyn Johns’ masterpiece — rock records just don’t sound any better! It’s exactly the kind of record that makes virtually ANY Audiophile Record pale in comparison. EVERYTHING you could ask for as an audiophile is all here and more. When you drop the needle on Train Leaves Here This Morning, the opener for side two, the immediate impression you will get is “WOW”. The sound is as BIG and BOLD as any outside of the live event. The sweetness and the tubey magical quality of the vocals are virtually without equal. It’s my favorite track on the album and it KILLS on this copy!

A Top Ten Title

You may have seen our Top 100 list of the best sounding rock records elsewhere on the site. If we were to pick out a Top Ten from that list, this record would have made the cut.

In-Depth Track Commentary

Side One

Take It Easy

On most copies the vocals in the chorus will be a little bit strained. When you hear the vocals sound completely free from harmonic distortion or “edge” of any kind, you have yourself an exceptionally well mastered and pressed copy.

Witchy Woman

Witchy Woman is one of the key test tracks we use for side one. Take It Easy, the opening song, often sounds amazingly good — it’s got that driving beat and those acoustic guitars and it just seems to be one of those songs that usually sounds right on the original pressings.

Witchy Woman starts out with huge, powerful drums: they should just knock you out. Next comes an acoustic guitar with a lot of echo: the more echo the better, because that means the pressing has lots of resolution. The echo is on the tape, and the more of the tape that ends up on the record the better. Then comes the vocal. It should not be too bright, spitty or grainy. The vocals also have tons of ambience surrounding them on the best copies.

This is a HUGE Demo Quality track. If this song doesn’t knock your socks off something is not working right.

Chug All Night 
Most of Us Are Sad 
Nightingale

Side Two

Train Leaves Here This Morning

This is my favorite track on the album. In fact I like it so much I think it’s the best Eagles song ever recorded. (Dillard and Clark recorded it on their album as well.) The acoustic guitars and vocal harmonies on this track are simply as good as it gets. If somebody can play me a CD that sounds like this I will eat it.

Take the Devil 
Early Bird

This is another tough track to master properly. The mix is very complicated, and there’s a banjo that figures prominently in it. Getting that banjo to sound musical is the trick. The bass is very rich on the best copies. On those copies that are a bit on the lean side, the banjo can take on an edgy and aggressive quality.

The best copies get the banjo JUST RIGHT and place it perfectly in the mix. On The Border, their third album and my personal favorite, makes wonderful use of the banjo. When the band changed their sound to take them in the direction of more straight ahead rock (One of These Nights) they lost me. The public felt differently, sending the album to Number One in the charts, which set the stage for the monster success of Hotel California.

Peaceful Easy Feeling 
Tryin’

Jackson Browne’s Late for the Sky – This Kind of Clarity Quickly Wears Out Its Welcome

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF)  as you critically evaluate your copy of Late for the Sky. 

It’s not easy to find copies that get the tonal balance right the way the best copies do. Most err in one of two ways — either they’re rich, full and a little veiled, or they’re clear and transparent, but leaned-out and boosted.

The clear ones of course are the ones that initially fool you — they present an illusion of transparency because everything is easy to hear right from the get-go, but they quickly wear out their welcome with their more “modern”, leaner sound.

The choruses are telling here. With so many background singers, the size and weight and energy of the singers only comes through on the copies that are full and rich.

What Else to Listen For (WETLF?)

The jug on Walking Slow — you gotta love it!

Jackson Browne’s Debut – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF)  as you critically evaluate your copy of Jackson Browne’s first (and best) album. 

The real trick with this album is in striking the right balance between richness and presence. A White Hot Stamper from years back made me change my mind about this recording. I used to think it was dull, but I was wrong. I used to think that even the best copies of this recording sounded rolled off on the top end. I no longer believe that to be true. On the best pressings the top end is correct for this music.

It took the right pressing to show me the error of my ways. (more…)

Eagles – Desperado

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  • Wonderfully rich and smooth throughout – both sides earned Double Plus (A++) grades for their crazy good Tubey Magical sound
  • Clean, clear and dynamic, this copy has huge amounts of bass and tremendous space around the guitars and voices
  • Play this pressing against the average copy for a good laugh – the differences will be anything but subtle 
  • An outstanding Glyn Johns recording (with TAS List credentials) that is nothing less than jaw-dropping on a copy as good as this one

This early pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Court and Spark – Joni’s Best Sounding Record

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides!
  • The sound is rich, warm and natural with wonderful transparency, ambience and loads of Tubey Magic
  • One of our very favorite Joni albums here at Better Records, and probably her Best Sounding Album
  • “[A] remarkably deft fusion of folk, pop, and jazz … the music is smart, smooth, and assured from the first note to the last.” – AMG 5 Stars

Stunning sound for this White Hot Stamper! Court and Spark deserves to be heard with all the clarity, beauty and power that only the best Hot Stamper pressings can convey.

What you hear is the sound of the real tape; every instrument has its own character, because the mastering is correct and the vinyl — against all odds — managed to capture all (or almost all; who can know?) of the resolution that the tape had to offer.

Tubey Magic Is the Key to Court and Spark (more…)

Eagles – One Of These Nights – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2016

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

This 2-pack contains the best side one we’ve ever heard! The sound is bigger, richer, tubier and livelier than we even thought possible. Side one was so amazing, such an obvious step up over every side of every other copy, we felt it deserved to be awarded our “Four Plus” (A++++) grade. One of These Nights, Too Many Hands and Hollywood Waltz will blow your mind on this side one. 

Please note: we award the Four Plus grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side one here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it a fourth plus!

We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus (A++++) grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea even existed. We estimate that about one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

A Side One Like No Other

My notes read: ‘hi-rez, super tubey, breathy vocals with much less honk.”

This comment which really gets to the point: “guitar solos rise above.” The big solo on the title track just soars on this copy like we had never heard before. This is the guitar sound that Bill Szymczyk achieved with the band that Glyn Johns had not. Of course Johns had never tried; he saw them as a Country Rock band. The Eagles saw themselves as a Rock band, it’s as simple as that. (more…)

The Eagles’ Long Run – Don’t Blame Bill Szymczyk If Your Copy Doesn’t Sound Good

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  • This copy has a rockin’ Long Run like you have never heard, with Double Plus (A++) sound all around 
  • The sound is full, rich and vibrant with impressive punch down low and relatively smooth up top
  • The best songs prove that the Eagles were still at the height of their powers in 1979
  • “Overall, The Long Run is a synthesis of previous macabre Eagles motifs, with cynical new insights that are underlined by slashing rock & roll. There’s a stark simplicity to the album, especially when compared with the hyperslick Hotel California. Not a collection of hot car-radio singles. The Long Run is easily the band’s most uncommercial effort.” Rolling Stone 

What these sides of The Long Run are doing better than most other copies is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl domestic pressings like this one offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1979
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the guitars and drums having the correct sound for a Bill Szymczyk recording
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now

Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

Problems Or Not?

Most copies have a smeary, veiled, stuck-in-the-speaker quality that makes for some painful listening. Cardboard drums. Non-existent ambience. No energy. (Unless you get one of the hard, edgy, thin ones — we’re not sure which is worse!).

This one is a while different story, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands.

What’s Bill Szymczyk’s problem anyway, you might ask. Can’t the guy record an album any better than this after being in the studio for all these years?

Yes he can! Don’t make the mistake of judging his work by the typical bad pressing of it, the kind that Elektra was churning out by the millions back in the day. Believe me, the master tape must be AWESOME if the sound of some of the records we played is any indication (which of course it is).

The True Test for Side One

Want to know if you have a good side one on your copy? Here’s an easy test. Timothy B Schmit’s vocal on I Can’t Tell You Why rarely sounds right. Most of the time he’s muffled, pretty far back in the soundstage, and the booth he’s in has practically no ambience. On the good copies he’s not exactly jumping out of the speakers, but he’s clear, focused, and his voice is breathy and full of emotional subtleties that make the song the heartbreaking powerhouse it is.

This is why you need a Hot Stamper. Most copies don’t let you FEEL the emotion in the song. Not like this one does. And the rest of the band is cookin’ here as well. From the big, full-bodied bass to the fat, punchy snare, this side is doing practically everything we want it to.

The Music

The best songs on this album show the Eagles at the height of their powers. The first two songs on both sides are practically as good as it gets for mainstream rock from this era – they’re playlist staples of Classic Rock stations from coast to coast to this day.

The last song on side two, The Sad Cafe, is also a standout. Others, as they used to say in school, “need improvement.” But five Killer Eagles songs is nothing to sneeze at. This is an album that belongs in your collection, even if you choose to listen only to the best material on it.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

The Long Run
I Can’t Tell You Why
In the City
The Disco Strangler
King of Hollywood

Side Two

Heartache Tonight
Those Shoes
Teenage Jail
The Greeks Don’t Want No Freaks
The Sad Café

Wikipedia

The Long Run is the sixth studio album by Eagles, released in 1979. This was the first Eagles album not to feature founding member Randy Meisner, who was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit… The Long Run took almost two years to complete and saw the Eagles move in a more hard rock direction that they started going in with its predecessor, 1976’s Hotel California.

Rolling Stone

By Timothy White
November 15, 1979

By day, the stardom-obsessed City of Angels depicted on the Eagles’ The Long Run is a dreary land of blank vistas and empty promises, baking slowly under an unsentimental sun. But when the night comes, the landscape is suddenly infested with mad shadows: inky, menacing configurations that provide an ominous depth. Unbridled by reality, this is the time when desperate dreams emerge from their lairs. Such dreams stalk the back streets, bistros, board rooms and bedrooms where the deals for success are struck — and then metamorphose into nightmares.

The Long Run, the Eagles first album in three years, is a chilling and altogether brilliant evocation of Hollywood’s nightly Witching Hour, that nocturnal feeding frenzy first detailed by Warren Zevon on his haunting Asylum debut (Warren Zevon, 1976) and the equally powerful Excitable Boy. Both Zevon and the Eagles have employed the desperado and the ghoul as antiromantic symbols of the star caught in the devil’s bargain. And both eventually came to realize that they had to give up the guise of observers and confess their roles as participants.

The Eagles live and thrive in a town where rock & roll is the foremost fame machine. Commercially, they’ve risen as high as a band possibly can, and yet, as individuals, they still have trouble getting in touch with a girlfriend, with any true comfort or satisfaction, with their own dreams. Their backyard is a thicket of fast cars, witchy women, outrageous parties and wasted time, so their perspective on the maw is doubtlessly an informed one.

Since their first LP in 1972, the Eagles have been adept at portraying the dark side of stardom, the sordid milieu of its beneficiaries and the various modus operandi used to secure notoriety. From Eagles’ “Chug All Night,” “Most of Us Are Sad” and “Take the Devil,” through all of Desperado, to “James Dean” and “Good Day in Hell” on On the Border and the title tracks of One of These Nights and Hotel California, the themes of evil exhilaration, dissolution and despair that attend tinseled glory were relentlessly hammered home. These recurring themes finally reached their apex in the song whose title has since become synonymous with high living and self-destruction: “Life in the Fast Lane.”

On first listening, The Long Run seems a modest, flawed project that’s virtually devoid of the gloss, catchy hooks and flashy invention that typified earlier Eagles records. The title tune sets an unambitious tone: the group lopes along in a familiar country-rock framework, singing about youthful hopes and the virtues of tenacity. But it slowly becomes apparent that the “long run” is a metaphor for a host of secret concerns and passions that are either career- or relationship-oriented. What starts out as a mildly encouraging number about hanging in there ends up a grim homily on the solitary pleasures of flirting with the precipice:

Linda Ronstadt – Rockin’ Out on Simple Dreams

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

Clearly this is one of Linda’s best albums, and I would have to say, based on my fairly extensive experience with her recorded output, that it is in fact THE BEST SOUNDING record she ever made. I love Heart Like a Wheel, but it sure doesn’t sound like this, not even on the Triple Plus copies that win our shootouts. 

Kudos once again must go to VAL GARAY, the man behind so many of our favorite recordings: James Taylor’s JT (a Top 100 title), Andrew Gold, Prisoner In Disguise, etc. (more…)