Labels We Love – Island

Brian Eno – Before And After Science

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides have that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end that make any record magical
  • 5 stars: “Ranks alongside the most essential Eno material.”

 Side one, the rock side, strongly relies on its deep punchy bass to make its material come to life and rock (or should we say art rock?). Eno’s vocals are clear and present with virtually no strain. Phil Collins’ drumming is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work.

Common Problems

This album typically suffers from a severe case of rolled-off highs, compounding the problems in the midrange: veiled and smeary vocals. The average copy is thick, muddy and congested, lacking the kind of transparency and clarity that makes it possible for the listener to hear into Eno’s dense mixes and make musical sense of them.

Partly this is Eno’s fault. He overloads his recordings. Played The Joshua Tree lately? It has some of the same sonic shortcomings, (exacerbated by Direct Metal Mastering). (more…)

Jethro Tull – Forget the Pink Island Originals

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    • Triple Plus (A+++) on side two and nearly as good on side one – this is one of the best copies to EVER hit the site
    • We haven’t had any copies of this album at all up since 2013, and no White Hot copies since 2008 – it’s that tough to find
    • Guaranteed to MURDER any Pink Label Island original you have ever heard – these are the Hot Stampers
    • Melody Maker thoroughly recommended the album in 1968 for being “full of excitement and emotion” and described the band as a blues ensemble “influenced by jazz music” capable of setting “the audience on fire”. Wikipedia

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…)

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Tarkus – The Brits Really Rock

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  • Triple Triple (A+++) – this shockingly good copy had Shootout Winning sound on BOTH SIDES and plays as quietly as any copy ever will
  • Our monster Tarkus shootout produced exactly one amazing sounding British pressing of this quality, this one, guaranteed to rock your world
  • Eddie Offord’s trademark Tubey Magic, energy, resolution, whomp factor and dynamics are all over this phenomenal recording
  • “More accomplished than the trio’s first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.” 

This killer copy features some of the more intense prog rock sound to hit our table in quite some time. This is a true Demo Disc LP, one of the most dynamic and powerful rock recordings ever made.

The organ captured here by Eddie Offord (of Yes engineering fame, we’re his biggest fans) and then transferred so well onto our Hot Stamper pressings will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big Bombastic Prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually does rock your world. (more…)

ELP – Pictures At An Exhibition – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • An incredible copy of this ELP classic with both sides earing a Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Both sides here are super big and full with a massive bottom end and huge amounts of energy
  • Quiet vinyl for this title — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “A sufficiently bold use of Mussorgsky’s original to stimulate hours of delightful listening.” — Allmusic

See all of our Emerson Lake and Palmer albums in stock

This Island British Import LP has amazing sound! It’s super full-bodied with excellent clarity and transparency. The low end has real weight and heft, so when Emerson really lays into the organ it’ll rattle your walls! (more…)

Are You a Detail Freak? – At Better Records We Call that Pitfall Number 1

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Is that where the music is — in the details? Brighter ain’t necessarily better; most of the time it’s just brighter. 

This album isn’t about clarity. It’s about the sound of a live Rock and Roll concert. It’s about the raw power of one of the most phenomenal rhythm sections to ever be captured in performance.

Next time you try out some audiophile wire or a new tweak play this record to make sure you haven’t lost the essential weight and power of the sound. It doesn’t care about your love of detail. It wants you to feel those bass notes going right through you. If the new wire can’t get that right, it’s got to go.

Our Hot Stamper Commentary for 801 Live Circa 2007

This is a one of my All Time Favorite records — a Desert Island Disc if there ever was one. I treasure this album. And I just now finally figured out how to tell the good ones from the not-so-good ones. I confess I was listening for the wrong things in the shootouts I was doing over the last few years, and in that I have the feeling I was not alone. I think this is a fairly common Major Audiophile Pitfall that we all get stuck in on occassion.

In this case I was trying to find a more transparent copy, one with more shimmer to the cymbals and air around the instruments. The first track is a little opaque and I wanted to be able to hear into the music better. I tried many import and domestic copies, but none of them seemed to have the particular qualities I was looking for. They all sounded different, but I could not for the life of me find one that sounded clearly better. (more…)

King Crimson – In The Court Of The Crimson King – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • With two sides rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or very close to it, this was one of the best copies in our most recent shootout
  • We had a wide variety of Islands (Pink and Sunray) and UK Polydor pressings, and if you want to know which of them sounds the best all you have to do is buy this LP!
  • At good loud levels the horns blasting away on 21st Century Schizoid Man are guaranteed to blow your mind on this copy  
  • 5 Stars: “The group’s definitive album, and one of the most daring debut albums ever …. it blew all of the progressive/psychedelic competition out of the running, although it was almost too good for the band’s own good — it took King Crimson nearly four years to come up with a record as strong or concise.”

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Over the last five years or so we have been prepping for this shootout by buying and trying lots of different pressings. Right from the start we could hear that no domestic pressing was, or was likely to ever be, remotely competitive with the best Brits.

Most later reissues — domestic or import — were as flat and lifeless as a cassette, although we admit that some were clearly better than others. (more…)

Free Advice: Look Before You Leap

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Free’s Third Album on the Original British Island Pink Label — Wow!

Found one at a local record store a while back. It was the first one I’d ever seen in nice enough condition to buy. Checking the dead wax was a bit of a shock though. Guess where it was mastered. Right here in the good old U S of A. In fact, at one of the worst mastering houses of all time: Bell Sound in New York.

Now what does that tell you about British First Pressings? Are those the ones you’re looking for? Don’t get me wrong; I look for them too. But you had better look before you leap, or you’ll end up with a bad sounding, probably quite expensive pressing. It’s one more reason why we try to play as many records as we can here at Better Records. You can’t rely on anything but the grooves. (If you see Bell Sound in the dead wax, run for cover. You know what the original domestic Let It Be’s sound like? That’s Bell Sound in all its glory.)
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Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Trilogy – A Classic of Tubey Magical British Prog Rock


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • One of the best copies to ever hit the site and boy is it KILLER! Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • An excellent recording that really shines on a good pressing like this; fairly quiet vinyl too!
  • “Every track on this album has been carefully thought, arranged, and performed to perfection…”

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It’s not easy to find great copies of this album. This kind of prog rock demands big, bold sound, and not all copies have the size or low end weight to pull it off. Keith Emerson’s organ needs to extend all the way down, or it just doesn’t work. Both sides here have a great bottom end, and some real texture and space up top. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Stand Up – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • A stunning Island Pink Label Import LP with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • This is a True Tull Classic, and a VERY tough record to come by with this kind of sound
  • Both British sides give you richness, Tubey Magic, clarity and resolution few copies can touch – and what’s more, IT ROCKS
  • Their best album? It gets my vote, and this copy will really make the case if you turn it up good and loud

See all our Jethro Tull albums in stock

We just finished a big shootout for Stand Up with a variety of Brit pressings and a few domestics (which most of the time are awful but occasionally you run across one that’s pretty good on one side or another).

The following are some older notes that apply to the album in general.   (more…)

Bryan Ferry – Let’s Stick Together – Our White Hot Shootout Winner


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • Our shootout winner for side two and only the second copy to hit the site in many years – Triple Plus (A+++) on side two, Double Plus (A++) on one  
  • For material and sound I consider this to be the best of Bryan Ferrry’s solo albums – it’s a blast from start to finish
  • The energy, presence, bass, and dynamic power (love that horn section!) place it well above his other side projects
  • 4 Stars: “The title track itself scored Ferry a deserved British hit single, with great sax work from Chris Mercer and Mel Collins and a driving, full band performance. Ferry’s delivery is one of his best, right down to the yelps, and the whole thing chugs with post-glam power.”

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We shot out a number of other imports and this killer side two is As Good As It Gets. The presence, bass, and dynamics place it head and shoulders above the competition. It has what we like to call Master Tape Sound — right in every way. (more…)