Labels We Love – Columbia/Epic

Bob Dylan and The Band – The Basement Tapes – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Columbia Double LP pressing has some of the very best sound we’ve heard for this album, with all four sides finishing strongly in a recent shootout. Of course, given the nature of these recordings, you don’t get stunning sonics along the line of, say, Magical Mystery Tour or Dark Side Of The Moon, but at least you get to hear these great songs sound the way they were intended to, without the complications of bad mastering and pressing getting in the way.  (more…)

Willie Nelson – Always On My Mind – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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Always On My Mind

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

AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! We just finished a big shootout for this wonderful album, and this Columbia pressing was second to none. Side one has MASTER TAPE SOUND — super dynamic and OFF THE CHARTS presence and transparency!

Fans of Stardust are going to go crazy over this one. It’s another solid album full of Wille belting out heartfelt renditions of standards. Once again, he’s backed by a top-notch backing band of industry session masters. The arrangements are splendid — just drop the needle on Bridge Over Troubled Water to hear these guys doing what they do best. (more…)

The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn! – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Columbia 360 label pressing has AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES and the vinyl is about as quiet as any of these 360 Label pressings can be found!

It took us a long time, but we pulled together enough clean copies for a big shootout, and these two great sides were head and shoulders above the competition. The sound is natural, lifelike and realistic with serious immediacy and plenty of rock and roll energy. (more…)

Sly and The Family Stone – Fresh

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Fresh

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

Both sides here had exceptionally good bass, and that earned it a lot of points in our shootout. The sound is punchy and full-bodied with excellent clarity. It’s also smooth, in the best tradition of analog from the early ’70s. This is the right sound for the music, no question about it.   (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Soul To Soul

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Soul To Soul

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  • STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout for this Classic of Electric Blues Guitar – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is one of the better copies to hit the site in years – good SRV albums are getting tough to find nowadays 
  • A copy like this one soars above the pack with its hard-rockin’ energy, rich, solid bass, open top end, and freedom from congestion
  • “[SRV] wanted to add soul and R&B inflections to his basic blues sound, and Soul to Soul does exactly that.” 

Vaughn’s guitar playing is as fiery as ever, and the addition of keyboards and saxophone here gives the music broader scope and range than was possible on his previous albums. (more…)

Tony Bennett – For Once In My Life

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For Once In My Life

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  • This vintage pressing gives Tony the sound he deserves, with excellent Double Plus (A++) grades on both of these early stereo sides
  • Amazing vocal reproduction courtesy of the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico at his favorite studio (and ours), Columbia 30th Street studios
  • We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this

Everything that’s good about Vocal Recordings from the ’50s and ’60s is precisely what’s good about the sound of this record.

The huge studio the music was recorded in is captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging here are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the space to be found on a record as good as this.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are key to the sound of the orchestra and you will find both in abundance on these two sides.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Tony Bennett himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room! The space of your stereo room will seem to expand in all directions in order to accommodate them, an illusion of course, but nevertheless a remarkably convincing one. (more…)

Miles Davis – Sketches of Spain – Our Shootout Winner in 2016

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

The first White Hot copy to hit the site in nearly EIGHT years! Both sides were stunning, knocking us out and earning our top Triple Plus (A+++) grade.

When you get a Hot Stamper like this one the sound is truly MAGICAL. (AMG has that dead right in their review.) Tons of ambience, tubey magic all over the place; let’s face it, this is one of those famous Columbia recordings that shows just how good the Columbia engineers were back then. The sound is lively but never strained. Davis’s horn has breath and bite just like the real thing. What more can you ask for?

Harry Pearson added this record to his TAS List of Super Discs a few years back, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording?

Of course you can be quite sure that he would have been listening exclusively to the earliest pressings on the Six Eye label. Which simply means that he probably never heard a copy with the clarity, transparency and freedom from distortion that these later label pressings offer.

The Six Eyes are full of Tubey Magic, don’t get me wrong; Davis’s trumpet can be and usually is wonderful sounding. It’s everything else that tends to suffer, especially the strings, which are shrill and smeary on most copies: Six Eyes, 360s and Red Labels included. (more…)

Art Garfunkel – Breakaway

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

Both sides are transparent, open, and spacious, with dramatically more life and energy than the typical pressing. The bottom end on this copy is surprisingly meaty as well, with far more punch than most of the pressings we played. 

The keyboards are full and rich, the guitars ring just right. This copy is killer in practically every way. You will be hard-pressed to imagine it sounding much better than it does here.

The problem with this album is that, for whatever reason, practically every copy you find is, to some degree, grainy, harsh and shrill in the loudest passages of the music. When the music gets loud, the sound often becomes strained and unpleasant. A copy like this one that doesn’t do that is the exception, not the rule. (more…)

The Byrds – Younger Than Yesterday

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

It ain’t easy to find great sounding copies of this album on decent vinyl, but we managed to get a hold of a hot one here. White Hot in fact. Not only that, but the vinyl’s pretty darn quiet! The sound is very tubey with excellent transparency and serious immediacy.

Most Byrds’ records are far from audiophile demo discs. However, what the best originals and ’70s reissues give you is relatively good sound.

This album will never sound as good as Abbey Road. Keeping that rather obvious point in mind, as I listened to this copy the thought that went through my mind is that this tape had been mastered about as well as it could be.

It’s tonally correct from top to bottom; the frequency extremes are there; and the vocals have a silky, sweet quality to them (when they haven’t been bounced down too many times of course).

Recommended Tracks (more…)

Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited

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Highway 61 Revisited

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  • A superb 360 Stereo pressing of Dylan’s 1965 release with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Live-in-Your-Listening-Room sound throughout – guaranteed miles beyond any copy you’ve ever heard 
  • In the same way Sgt. Pepper changed music a mere two years later, Highway 61 Revisited left all of Dylan’s contemporaries behind, scrambling to keep up with the standard it set
  • 5 stars: “Dylan had not only changed his sound, but his persona, trading the folk troubadour for a streetwise, cynical hipster … it proved that rock & roll needn’t be collegiate and tame in order to be literate, poetic, and complex.”

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