Labels We Love – Atlantic/Atco

Foreigner – Head Games

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Head Games

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  • This outstanding copy of the band’s third album earned outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • One of the better copies from our recent shootout – big, bold and lively with a punchy bottom end 
  • With plenty of energy, killer rock bass, and clear, present vocals, this pressing has all the key qualities we look for in a Foreigner record
  • 4 stars: “Foreigner continued its platinum winning streak on Head Games, the band’s third album… and the supergroup’s successes would continue well into the ’80s.”

This copy showed us just how good this album can sound — BIG, rich and ENERGETIC.

As I’m sure you know, there is a Mobile Fidelity Half-Speed Mastered version of this album currently in print and I can only imagine how terrible it sounds. If any of our Hot Stamper customers have purchased the current release, I would be interested in hearing how you think it stacks up against this copy.

What’s key to the sound of Foreigner’s records? Obviously, the big one would have to be ENERGY, a subject we have discussed at length here on the site.

Next would be punchy ROCK BASS, followed by clear, present vocals. Those would be the big three. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Tattoo You – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Tattoo You

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

THE BEST SIDE TWO WE’VE HEARD, which means we’ve never heard Waiting On A Friend sound this good on any other copy! We just finished a huge shootout for this 1981 Stones album, one that the All Music Guide tags as “essential latter-day Stones”. In the tradition of other late ’70s / early ’80s Stones albums (Some Girls, Goats Head Soup, It’s Only Rock And Roll), the sound is a bit raw at times, but a copy like this one gives you enough energy, body and richness to make for some very enjoyable serious listening.

Side one is big and rich, with more “meat on the bones” as we like to say. The guitars are chunky and powerful, which exactly the sound you want for a song like Start Me Up, which leads things off here. This side one had more extension up top than most copies and more size to the soundfield as well. It doesn’t have all of the presence of the very best copies, but it’s certainly a nice step up from most.

Side two is even better, doing everything side one did and then some, impressing us enough to earn our top A+++ grade. The sound is super clean and clear with amazing immediacy, putting Mick Jagger’s vocals right up front where they belong. It’s also very open, spacious and transparent — qualities that we certainly wouldn’t ascribe to most copies we’ve played. The piano has real weight, the guitars sound just right and the overall sound is usually rich and full.

As with any Stones album, don’t expect any sonic miracles. Hot Stampers aren’t going to turn this into Tea For The Tillerman. If you want to hear an amazing sounding Demo Quality record, this ain’t it, but if you love this music and are frustrated with the sound of the typical pressing I bet you’ll enjoy the heck outta this one. (more…)

Yes – The Yes Album

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The Yes Album

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  • A Big As Life copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides – I’ve Seen All Good People is mindblowing on this side one
  • You haven’t begun to hear the power and size of Yes’s brilliant third album until you’ve played one of our Shootout Winning early domestic pressings
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record if you ask us (although Fragile can sound absolutely amazing too, just not as smooth and rich)
  • “Organist Tony Kaye, guitarist Steve Howe and bass player Chris Squire play as though of one mind, complementing each other’s work as a knowledgeable band should.”

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl, as is the case on this side two. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the imperfections of this pressing you are in for some amazing Yes music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Drop the needle on this bad boy and you will find yourself on a Yes journey the likes of which you have never known. And that’s what I’m in this audiophile game for. The Heavy Vinyl crowd can have their dead-as-a-doornail, wake-me-when-it’s-over pressings that play quietly. I couldn’t sit through one with a gun to my head.

With the amazing Eddie Offord at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers who like to play their records loud.

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it. (more…)

Ray Charles – Soul Meeting

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Soul Meeting

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  • This outstanding pressing of Ray Charles and Milt Jackson’s 1958 collaboration boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides – exceptionally quiet too
  • Wonderful sound from start to finish — full-bodied and warm with wonderfully sweet vocals
  • Kenny Burrell lends his innovative guitar stylings to this soulful jazz collaboration
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Oscar Pettiford, Connie Kay, and Kenny Burrell in the various lineups, this is bluesy jazz in a laid-back manner; it surprised many hardcore R&B fans when these albums were originally issued.”

This wonderful pressing has superb sound throughout! It’s EXTREMELY rare to find a stereo copy of this title in anything but beat condition. (more…)

Charles Mingus – Me Myself an Eye

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More Me Myself an Eye

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

If you hear something that sounds like Frank Zappa’s music circa Waka Jawaka don’t be surprised, we heard it too. Mingus and Zappa were both eccentric geniuses so it only makes sense that they arrived at some of the same musical ideas as they evolved as composers. 

Side one is big, rich, Tubey Magical and natural. The saxophone that solos is front and center and lively. Above all the music works on this side.

Side two is especially rich and tubey. It will sound thick and dark unless you get the volume up to the level it wants to be for the mix to work (which simply means that the album was balanced at louder levels to sound correct at louder levels). A little more top end extension would be nice but the music sounds right on the copy the way it is. (more…)

Crosby Stills & Nash – Suite: Judy Blue Eyes – Critical Listening Exercise

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This commentary from an older Hot Stamper listing for CSN’s debut makes note of some specific qualities in the recording that are a good test for midrange transparency and naturalness.

What’s magical about Crosby, Stills, Nash (& Young)? 

Their voices of course. It’s not a trick question. They revolutionized rock music with their genius for harmony. Any good pressing must sound correct on their voices or it has no value whatsoever. A CSN record with bad midrange — like most of them — is a worthless record.

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

Listen to the section of the song that starts with Stills’ line Can I tell it like it is, with Nash and Crosby behind him — it’s clearly a generation of tape down from what came before and what comes after. The voices and the acoustic guitars just seem to lose their immediacy for no apparent reason. Wha’ happen?

It’s the mix, folks, and no mastering engineer can fix it. This album is full of parts and pieces of various songs that are occasionally problematical in that way. Recognize them for what they are, a little bump in the road of the recording, no more, no less. On the hot copies the best sounding material will sound amazing, and the lesser sounding material (i.e., the more poorly recorded or mixed bits and pieces) will sound as good as they can sound.

That’s the nature of the beast. It is what it is. The more intensely you listen to a record like this — a true Rock Classic from the ’60s — and we listen very intensely around here when doing these shootouts — the more you will notice these kinds of recording artifacts. It’s what gives them “character”.

It’s also what allows you to play a record like this on a regular basis and still find something new in it after all these years. We’ve made some recent improvements to the stereo and room here at Better Records and I can tell you I heard things in this recording I never knew were there. What could be more fun than that? The music never gets old, and neither does the sound!

Stephen Stills – Bill Halverson’s Engineering Masterpiece?

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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 the album.

When all the elements are working together as they do here, the music on Steve Stills’ first album is postively AMAZING. Until I hear something better, I’m going to have to call this BILL HALVERSON‘s Engineering Masterpiece.* Yes, on the best copies it’s that good.

*We have now heard something even better, an album from earlier in the same year in fact, Deja Vu.

We’ve had an unbelievably hard time finding copies that lived up to our expectations, prompting much of my crew to argue that it just could not be done. We didn’t find copies that sounded just as good as I remembered — no, we found copies that went BEYOND what I had hoped for.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Both sides are rich and full-bodied, as well as transparent, with lots of separation between the parts. Most copies tend to be murky, thick, and veiled. The overall sound here is airy, open, and spacious, with TONS of ambience. (more…)

Foreigner – Agent Provocateur

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Agent Provocateur

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this copy of Foreigner’s fifth studio album – quiet vinyl too
  • Exceptionally open, clear, and resolving, this pressing presents the music as it was meant to be heard
  • With the band’s biggest hit single, “I Want To Know What Love Is,” this is a vital addition to any Foreigner fan’s collection
  • “It would be difficult to find a band that had more success from 1977 to 1981 than Foreigner, as all four albums released during that time frame would chart Top 5, with the album 4 becoming the band’s first Number One album… Even now, more than 30 years after [Agent Provocateur] was released, I think there are several tracks that stand up pretty well with the rest of the band’s best material… “

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Smoother and sweeter sound with less of the grit and congestion that plagues the average copy. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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More Buffalo Springfield – Buffalo Springfield

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fam

This is the first White Hot Stamper pressing of Buffalo Springfield’s self-titled LP to ever hit the site, and folks, you are in for shock if you know this album at all. Although for the most part this is no Demo Disc, this super-rare pressing is SO MUCH BETTER than any other version we know of that it just blows our minds. I had my mind blown about ten years ago when I found my first one, and nothing has changed. It’s still the best pressing ever. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Emotional Rescue – The Stones Album You Don’t Know

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Emotional Rescue

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and one of the better late-period Stones albums, in this case from 1980. 

Side two of this copy ranks up there with the very best we’ve ever heard, earning an A+++ grade and DESTROYING our preconceived notions about the kind of sonics we might get from the ultimate copies. This one DOES IT, plain and simple. It’s got serious punch down low, superb clarity, all the extension up top, and a HUGE open soundfield that lets you hear every last detail. She’s So Cold sounds amazing, we’ve never heard it sound better.

We had a great time shooting this one out — we had forgotten how good the music was and were pleasantly surprised by how good the better copies can sound. It’s tough to get great Stones sound, I’m sure most of you know that, but there’s lots of it here and a bunch of good songs. She’s So Cold, Summer Romance, Dance, the title track… not a bad line-up, and probably the last great album these guys put out. (more…)