Labels We Love – Asylum

Joni Mitchell – The Hissing of Summer Lawns

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  • An outstanding pressing, with both sides earning outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them
  • Lots of Tubey Magic, textured synths, big bass and breathy vocals – this copy brings Joni’s jazzy folky fusion to life
  • Check out the big bottom end on The Jungle Line, which features the Drummers Of Burundi
  • Who made a more original, forward looking and interesting album in 1975 than this? I can’t think of anyone, can you?
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Joni Mitchell evolved from the smooth jazz-pop of Court and Spark to the radical Hissing of Summer Lawns, an adventurous work that remains among her most difficult records [as difficult as it is brilliant] … a strange and beautiful fusion of jazz and shimmering avant pop.”

Both sides here are airy, open, and spacious, with plenty of ambience. The bottom end is tight and punchy throughout with good solid weight, and the top end is silky sweet. Many copies of this album have a phony hi-fi “glare” that made us wince, but the sound here is warm and natural.

After hearing a few copies that bored us to tears years ago we had pretty much given up on finding good sound for this album, but once we found some truly hot Hot Stampers we found ourselves really enjoying this sophisticated Jazzy Folk Pop music. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – For The Roses – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame that sold for $600 in 2008.

OFF THE CHARTS breathiness, delicacy, warmth and sweetness, and that’s just Joni’s voice. The sound of the ensemble throughout is amazingly natural, the recording so spacious. You may have noticed that there were no Joni records on our Top 100 List, but after hearing this wonderful LP on the original white label Asylum pressing we knew we had to add it to that very special list. [Since replaced by other titles.]

Let’s face it, we love Blue but it has its share of problems, as does Ladies of the Canyon. Court and Spark is up at the top up the list as well, but Roses seems to have the most folky recording purity. Perhaps the engineers saw this as an opportunity to address the problems with Blue on this, the followup. By the time she had fully adopted her new jazzy style with the album after this one, Court — with the multi-tracking that that music required — some of the recording quality got lost in the quest for slicker production values.

AGAIG on Side One

This copy has it all: the kind of transparency that allows you to see into the soundfield like never before; presence and immediacy in Joni’s breathy, emotional vocals; air and ambience around all the instruments; and tubey magical guitars. (Listen especially to the acoustic guitar on Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire. That’s the sound we love here at Better Records! Even if your system is all transistor (ouch), that guitar will sound like you own the most tubey magical equipment in the world.)

This copy also had REAL ENERGY and dynamics not found on the typical pressing. With dynamics AND the warmth and richness found here, we’re pretty sure this copy can’t be beat on side one. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Planet Waves – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This White Hot Stamper copy of Planet Waves boasts not only great Bob Dylan sound, but some of the best sound for The Band that you’ll ever hear! That’s right, Dylan is backed by Messrs. Robertson, Danko, Helm, Manuel and Hudson on this album, and I don’t know when we’ve ever heard such audiophile quality sound from that crew. It’s a real treat to hear their signature styles without the cardboard-y, compressed quality we usually find on their albums.

Lots of great material on this album, not sure why it doesn’t get more respect. On A Night Like This, Going Going Gone, Forever Young, You Angel You… these are wonderful, well-recorded songs. (more…)

Bob Dylan & The Band – Before The Flood

More Bob Dylan / More The Band

Before The Flood

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  • An outstanding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on sides one and four and Double Plus (A++) sound on the other two sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Dylan and The Band team up for exuberant versions of many classics from each of their repertoires – a copy like this lets you appreciate just how wonderful the performances are  
  • “Dylan reworks, rearranges, reinterprets these songs in ways that are still disarming, years after its initial release… “
  • “Without qualification, this is the craziest and strongest rock and roll ever recorded. All analogous live albums fall flat.”

One of the great Live Classic Rock albums of all time in Hot Stamper form! We played a ton of these and found that most copies bored us to death. Some lacked energy, even more never opened up, and most of them were too thin-sounding. We had to play a HUGE stack of copies to come up with a few good ones, and on a double album like this, that’s a TON of work. (more…)

Jackson Browne – For Everyman

More For Everyman

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

This SUPER Hot Stamper pressing has TWO A++ sides, with clarity and transparency that left most copies in the dust. The average copy of this record is absolute MUD, but this one shows you that the master tape of For Everyman is a whole lot better than most audiophiles would ever suspect. (The first album is the same way.)

The vocals on side one are breathy, the result of actually having a top end with real extendion. Want a quick test for transparency? Listen to the piano on I Thought I Was a Child. On most copies you can’t really hear the attack of the hammers hitting the strings, but here you can. If the tonal balance is correct — and it is on this copy — then you know you are getting a pressing of very high quality. (more…)

Eagles – Eagles – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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More Eagles – Eagles

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

A WHITE HOT side one that was so darn good, we had to break our own rules and give it FOUR BIG PLUSES — A++++! This side one is a DEMO DISC like you will not believe. When the big chorus comes in on Take It Easy — one of the toughest tests for side one — you will be amazed by how energetic and downright GLORIOUS these boys can sound. Believe us when we tell you, it’s the rare copy that can pass that test. 

This side one had some of the best ENERGY we heard in our entire shootout (composed of all original pressings by the way; nothing else comes close, a subject we discuss below). With big bass and huge scope, this may become your favorite disc for showing your friends just what analog is really capable of. (We’ve heard many times from customers that they use Hot Stamper pressings of this very album for that exact purpose.)

It won’t take the future owner of this record long to recognize what we’ve known for years: the Eagles first album is clearly and inarguably one of the Best Sounding Rock Recordings Ever Made. Want your speakers to disappear? Want to hear Live Rock Music in your listening room? This side one will make it happen!

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 pressing pale in comparison. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now – What to Listen For

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More Don’t Cry Now

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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.

Her vocals on both sides can be very DYNAMIC, but only the best copies will present them with no hint of STRAIN or GRAIN, two problems that make most pressings positively painful to listen to at the loud volumes we prefer.

Linda really belts it out on this album — face it, it’s what she does best — and only the rarest copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Planet Waves

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Planet Waves

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this superb pressing of Dylan’s 1974 release 
  • With wonderfully rich, natural tonality, these early pressings are by far the best way to hear the album sound the way it should
  • Lots of great material on this one, not sure why it doesn’t get more respect: On A Night Like This, Going Going Gone, Forever Young, You Angel You… these are seriously good, very well-recorded songs
  • “Reteaming with the Band, Bob Dylan winds up with an album that recalls New Morning more than The Basement Tapes, since Planet Waves is given to a relaxed intimate tone…”

This is an excellent recording, boasting not only great Bob Dylan sound, but some of the best sound for The Band that you’ll ever hear. That’s right, Dylan is backed by Messrs. Robertson, Danko, Helm, Manuel and Hudson on this album, and I don’t know when we’ve ever heard such audiophile quality sound from that crew. It’s a real treat to hear their signature styles without the cardboard-y, compressed quality we usually find on their albums. (more…)

Andrew Gold – All This and Heaven Too Our Shootout Winner from 2016

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All This and Heaven Too

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

Superb engineering by Greg Ladanyi (Toto 4, The Pretender, El Rayo-X, demo discs one and all). Contains the monster hit Thank You for Being a Friend. AllMusic gives this one 4 1/2 Stars. It’s also the last good album our fab friend made.  

Andrew Gold is another talented popster who got little respect from the critics, or the public for that matter. His music has a lot of the same qualities as Buddy Holly’s: simple catchy tunes about love, with clever lyrics and tons of hooks.

If you know the “Asylum Sound” — think of the Tubey Magical Analog of The Eagles first album and you won’t be far off — you can be sure the best copies of All This and Heaven Too have plenty of it. Rarely do we run into recordings from the mid- to late-’70s with richer, fuller sound. The bass on the best copies is always huge and note-like. In the ’80s the very engineer for this record, Greg Ladanyi, would produce solo albums for the likes of Don Henley with nobass. How this came to be I cannot begin to understand, but record after record that we play from that decade are bright and thin like a transistor radio. This accounts for why you see so few of them on the site.

But Andrew Gold’s albums from the later ’70s are amazingly rich and tubey. That sound never went out of style with us. In fact albums with those sonic qualities make up the bulk of our sales, from The Beatles to The Eagles, Pink Floyd to Elton John, Simon and Garfunkel to Graham Nash. In our world the more “modern” something sounds the lower the grade. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Living In The USA

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Living In The USA

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

Both sides here are rich and smooth yet still clean and clear, precisely the kind of sound we’ve come to expect from the team of Val Garay and Peter Asher in the ’70s. The bass is deep and punchy, the keyboards tubey rich, and the whole of the ensemble displays both energy and conviction on this top quality batch of songs.

Check out the best of them, tracks that still get airplay today: Back in the U.S.A.; Just One Look; Alison; All That You Dream; Oh Baby Baby; Blowing Away and Love Me Tender. That’s a lot of great songs on one album! (more…)