Labels We Love – Chrysalis

Steeleye Span – All Around My Hat – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

The best copy to ever hit the site! It ain’t easy to find clean British pressings of this one, which is why it’s taken us so long to get a copy like this up on the site. We played a good sized stack of these recently and only a couple did the job well enough to be considered Hot Stampers. This one is a big step up, with way less of the thick / murky / veiled sound that plagues many copies.

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well-controlled bass will have a tough time with this one. But never fear, it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment. (more…)

Steeleye Span – Commoners Crown – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

This original Porky/Pecko mastered British Chrysalis pressing has Superb Demo Disc Sound — Side Two is OFF THE CHARTS — and, even more importantly, the best English Folk Rock Music ever recorded. I grew to love this album back in the ’70s; the stereo store I worked at used it as a Demo Disc, so I heard it on a regular basis. Rather than getting sick of it, I actually bought a copy for my own collection to play at home. (Not sure if I managed to get an import, not sure if I would even have been able to hear the difference.)

Things have changed as we never tire of saying here at Better Records, but in a way you could say they have stayed the same. This used to be a demo disc, and now it’s REALLY a Demo Disc.

You will have a very hard time finding a record with a punchier, richer, fuller, better-defined, dare I say fatter bottom.

But that’s just the start. Side two defeated all comers in our shootout, earning our top grade of A+++. It’s got everything we look for in a Hot Stamper British Folk Rock Album — it’s dynamic; has really solid, deep punchy bass; transparency and incredible sweetness in the midrange; tubey-magical acoustic guitars; you name it, this copy had it. It had it all. (more…)

Blondie – Autoamerican – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

DEMO DISC SOUND on this A+++ Hot Stamper Side One! This is one KILLER New Wave Pop Record. All the Blondie magic you could ever want is in these grooves! The truly POWERFUL sound of this Power Pop Band really comes through on this Bad Boy, or should we say Bad Girl? Whatever. This was the Hands Down Hot Stamper Winner of our latest shootout. Man, we had a ball with this one.

To be fair, consistency is the problem with this album, with some songs being absolute Pop Masterpieces (The Tide Is High on side one, Rapture on side two), but other tracks falling short of the standard set by Parallel Lines, where every track bar none was a gem of songcraft and High Gloss Pure Pop Production.

Still, what’s good is good, and the sound is STUNNING, with real Demo Disc qualities. The Right Pressing of the Right Stamper.

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album like this one, sooner or later you will stumble upon The One, and boy did we ever. One of our copies was OFF THE CHARTS with presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums. It was positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air. There was not a trace of grain, just the silky sweet highs we’ve come to expect from analog done right.

This is of course the premise behind Hot Stampers themselves. They are out there to be stumbled upon. You can’t tell what pressing from what era from what country is going to be The One (Keanu, are you listening?) until you actually sit down, clean and play a big pile of them. We found a source for this title sealed and managed to pick up over a dozen new copies, and those, along with some other used ones we had laying around, comprised our data pool. (more…)

Jethro Tull – This Was

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This Was

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

Guaranteed to MURDER any Pink Label Island original you have ever heard – these are the Hot Stampers. 

Folks, this is the best copy we are going to have on the site for a very long time. It took years and hundreds upon hundreds of dollars to get this shootout going and this killer copy is the result. (more…)

Blondie – Eat To The Beat

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  • Incredible sound for the band’s followup to Parallel Lines with both sides of this 2-pack earning a Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it!
  • Turn it up as loud as you want – the top end and vocals are balanced, smooth and tonally correct, not gritty or edgy 
  • The drums and bass of Die Young Stay Pretty are as real sounding as if you were standing five feet from the band
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The British… made Eat to the Beat another chart-topper, with three major hits, including a number one ranking for Atomic and almost the same success for Dreaming 

Our 2-pack sets combine two copies of the same album, with at least a Super Hot Stamper sonic grade on the better of each “good” side, which simply means you have before you a pair of records that offers superb sound for the entire album. (more…)

Genesis – Abacab

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  • Excellent sound throughout with both sides of this vintage UK pressing earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades or better
  • Forget the thin sounding domestic pressings – these British sides are rich, full-bodied and spacious with real bottom end weight
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Abacab was where this new incarnation of the band came into its own. Working with producer Hugh Padgham, the group escalated the innovations of Duke, increasing the pop hooks, working them seamlessly into the artiest rock here… as bright, bold, and jagged as the modernist artwork on the cover.”

know of. Tons of bass too. We also quite like the big drums and meaty guitars he was able to bring to XTC’s English Settlement (a record we just never see anymore; wonder where they all went?). (more…)

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (3rd)

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

A+++ MASTER TAPE SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! This smokin’ hot British pressing just couldn’t be beat in our huge (and very enjoyable) shootout. The sound on this bad boy positively JUMPS out of the speakers and fills the room! Both sides are incredibly big and bold with superb clarity, amazing transparency, considerable dynamics and loads of energy. The sound is ridiculously full-bodied with texture and weight to all the various elements. If you’re a fan of this album, widely regarded as Gabriel’s masterpiece, your mind is going to be BLOWN.  (more…)

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel (2nd)

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame and a Forgotten Classic from Peter Gabriel. 

This British Charisma Pink Label original has As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) White Hot Stamper sound for side one! And mostly quiet vinyl on both sides. Man, does it ever ROCK. The sound just jumps out of the speakers. 

The overall sound is rich, warm, and full-bodied with incredibly punchy drums. We just could not believe how right this copy sounded — we rated it A+++ for its tonally correct, super-low distortion Master Tape Sound. (more…)

Genesis – Trespass

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  • Only the second Shootout Winning copy to ever hit the site and boy is it KILLER! Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides 
  • About as quiet as these British copies come – Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “… “tasteful, subtle and refined” – Melody Maker

This original 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…)

Steeleye Span – Commoners Crown – We Love Dynamic Choruses, and These Are Amazing!

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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This is one of the rare pop/rock albums that actually has actual, measurable, serious dynamic contrasts in its levels as it moves from the verses to the choruses of many songs . The second track on side two, Demon Lover, is a perfect example. Not only are the choruses noticeably louder than the verses, but later on in the song the choruses get REALLY LOUD, louder than the choruses of 99 out of 100 rock/pop records we audition. It sometimes takes a record like this to open your ears to how compressed practically everything else you own is. (more…)