Labels We Love – Decca/London

John Mayall with Eric Clapton – Blues Breakers

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

DRAMATICALLY SUPERIOR to the typical pressing, the MOFI Gold CD and every other version that I know of. This is it folks! They cut this one right. It sounds the way you always wished it would sound. We’ve been searching for these for years — everyone wants a great copy, but they are TOUGH to come by. 

This copy is guaranteed to be clearly superior to virtually all imports, all domestic pressings, whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl they’re making these days — in short, any version of this music on any format that you’ve ever played. This is it folks. They cut this one right and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to know it. Blues Breakers finally sounds the way you always wanted it to sound.

We’ve been searching for copies of Bluesbreakers for years — everyone wants a great copy of this Five Star Classic, the only album John Mayall ever made that we would consider a Must Own. After many, many years of experimentation and dozens of copies purchased we’ve finally discovered the British pressings that deliver the best sound we’ve ever heard for this music.

But they don’t come easy and they sure don’t come cheap, so don’t expect the floodgates to open with White Hot Stamper after White Hot Stamper hitting the site. One was it and it will be a year or two at the very least before we have a big enough stack of copies with which to do a shootout fo find another.

Until then this is a great copy that belongs in your collection, and it’s QUIET. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Through The Past Darkly – Reviewed in 2010

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

This is a Decca In The Box Blue Label LP with EXCELLENT SOUND! Some of the tracks here sound WONDERFUL, but even more surprisingly, none of them sound bad the way so many Stones compilations often do. Virtually nowhere on this record can you find shrill, thin, edgy, typical compilation Stones sound. Playing songs like ‘She’s a Rainbow’ or ‘Dandelion’ on this album is so refreshing and enjoyable because they really sound the way you want to hear those songs. They have that rich and sweet analog quality that’s usually lost on later and/or digital versions.

The best sounding tracks on side one are track two; track three (silky vocals and deep bass); track five (big sound — a bit bright but ALIVE and tons of fun); and track six.

The best sounding tracks on side two are track two (as good as it gets); track four (the same); and track six, with plenty of cowbell. Side two is characterized by perfect top to bottom tonality and lots of energy.

“The U.K. version of this album was a bit odder yet more rewarding than its American counterpart. Apart from the superior sound, the major difference lies in the range of songs…” – AMG (more…)

Can You Imagine Sound this Bad from a TAS List Super Disc? We Can, We Played It.

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This 2-pack boasts White Hot Stamper sound on side two for the Mehta Planets. Yes, it IS possible. Side two shows you what this record is actually capable of — big WHOMP, no SMEAR, super SPACIOUS, DYNAMIC, with an EXTENDED top. It beat every London pressing we threw at it, coming out on top for our recent shootout. Folks, we 100% guarantee that whatever pressing you have of this performance, this copy will trounce it.

But side one of this London original British pressing was awful. We wrote it off as NFG after about a minute; that’s all we could take of the bright, hard-sounding brass of War.

Can you imagine sound this bad from a TAS List Super Disc record? We can, we played it. (more…)

Chopin and Delibes / Les Sylphides / Maag / PCO – Reviewed in 2005

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

A dynamic and excellent pressing. This record has lovely string tone. Lots of tubey magic. Not one of the rarest Londons, but certainly one of the most enjoyable.

[This is a very old commentary so take it for what it’s worth.]

Mendelssohn and Bruch / Violin Concertos / Ricci / Gamba

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Mendelssohn Violin Concerto sound remotely as good as it does here, and the Bruch Violin Concerto on the second side is every bit as good
  • With sonic grades like these, you can be sure this pressing will beat all comers for sound, including the performances by Heifetz, Rybar, and others we’ve been enamored with in the past
  • The violin is so sweet and present, so rich, natural and real, you will forget you’re listening to a record at all
  • The glorious sound of these truly great 1958 All Tube “Decca Tree” recordings from Kingsway Hall is faithfully captured in all its beauty on this very disc

This is one of the ALL TIME GREAT violin concerto records. In Ruggiero Ricci’s hands both works are nothing short of magical. If you want to know why people drool over Golden Age recordings, listen to the violin. Careful, when you hear it you may find yourself drooling too.

The staging of the orchestra and violin is exactly the way we want to hear it in our heads. Whether it would really sound this way in a concert hall is impossible to say — concert halls all sound different — but the skill and the emotion of the playing is communicated beautifully on this LP. This is a sweetheart of a record, full of the Tubey Magic for which London recordings are justly famous.

As we noted above, engineering took place in the legendary Kingsway Hall. There is a richness to the sound of the strings that is exceptional, yet clarity and transparency are not sacrificed in the least. (more…)

Schubert / Symphony No. 9 “The Great” / Krips / LSO – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame

Krips’ 1958 recording for Decca (from Kingsway Hall, with the legendary Kenneth Wilkinson behind the board) is here brought to life on a quiet and wonderful World of the Great Classics reissue from 1976. This copy was one of the best we played, showing us depth and transparency that was only hinted at on most pressings, regardless of age.

The strings are so, so rich and sweet — this pressing is yet another wonderful example of what the much-lauded Decca recording engineers of the day were able to capture on analog tape all those years ago. The ’50s master has been transferred brilliantly using “modern” cutting equipment (from 1976, not the low-rez junk they’re forced to make do with these days), giving you, the listener, sound that only the best of both worlds can offer.  (more…)

The Moody Blues – Seventh Sojourn – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This Super Hot Stamper side two was among THE BEST sounding side twos we’ve played. We did not find any copy with better sound on side two, and because no side of any copy really blew our minds, we did not award our Triple Plus grade to either side of any of them.

We had a bunch of British and Dutch imports to play, and we did hear some good sound, just not the kind of good sound we’ve heard on earlier albums. If you like this album we’re pretty sure you will have a hard time finding a copy that sounds even remotely this good. Most of them are much much worse. Dreadful in fact. (more…)

Edmundo Ros – Ros On Broadway – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Edmundo Ros and his orchestra don’t command much respect these days from the general record buying public. As for audiophiles, it’s doubtful that many even know who he or they is/are. But we at Better Records are going to change that, starting with this very record, because it’s one of the best sounding records we have ever heard. Stampers just do not get any HOTTER than these! 

From the perspective of a level playing field, I cannot think of a single rock record that sounds as BIG and DYNAMIC, nor one that is as spacious and clear, as is the side two of this London Blueback. As good as the best German pressings of Dark Side of the Moon may be, shockingly good in fact, this recording is clearly more exciting and lifelike, with instrumental timbres that are uncannily accurate.

Over the years we’ve played a lot of Edmundo Ros records on London — you name it, Blueback, Whiteback, Phase 4 — but I sure never heard one sound like this until we did this shootout! (more…)

Mozart / Quintet – Piano + Winds & Trio

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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 chamber music recordings.

This is a handy record for VTA setup as well. Listen for fullness and solidity, especially in the piano, although a rich, full sounding clarinet is a joy here as well. 

Some of the copies lacked the weight and solidity to balance out the qualities of transparency and clarity. The resulting sound is less natural, with the kind of forced detail that CDs do so well, and live music never does. There is a balance to be found.

The right VTA will be critical in this regard. When you have all the space; the clearest, most extended harmonics; AND good weight and richness in the lower registers of the piano, you are where you need to be (keeping in mind that it can always get better if you have the patience and drive to tweak further).  (more…)

Bizet – L’arlesienne And Carmen Suites

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Orchestral Music Hall of Fame.

With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one, this pressing is one of the best sounding Carmen Suites we have ever heard. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good ’60s All Tube Analog can be, this killer copy should be just the record to do it. This is only the second Carmen Suite to make it to the site, and it was worth the wait – the sound of this vintage Blueback is absolutely breathtaking. Recorded in 1961 using the amazing Decca Tree mic setup, it’s yet another remarkable disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording.

What To Listen For – Side to Side

My notes for side two read:

Could use more tubes.

Strings could be a bit smoother.

Needs a bit more weight down low.

Side one had all of this and more!

(more…)