Labels We Love – Parlophone/Apple

The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – Our 4 Plus Shootout Winner from 2013

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

We are calling this White Hot Stamper 2-pack set THE ULTIMATE SGT. PEPPERS EXPERIENCE. These two sides give you EVERYTHING you could ask for from this album. Side one earned the rare Four Plus A++++ grade and side two was a killer A+++; both sides play a very quiet Mint Minus throughout. The sound is so big and rich throughout that we would be very surprised, shocked even, if you’ve ever imagined that Sgt. Pepper could sound this powerful and REAL.

We defy any original to step into the ring with a copy like this. One thing we can tell you: it would not be a fair fight. The cutting equipment to make a record this good did not exist in 1967. (more…)

Badfinger – Straight Up – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate the album.

The best sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can’t begin to reproduce. The sound on the right pressings just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies are supposed to (but rarely) do.  (more…)

Mary Hopkin – Post Card

Mary Hopkin – Post Card

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

This British original pressing has a White Hot side two and a nearly White Hot side one. Side two is unbelievably huge and open in a way that no other side of any copy could touch. It’s taken us close to ten years to find enough clean copies with which to do this shootout. Engineered by Ken Scott, Donovan’s “Lord of the Reedy River” is simply amazing on this copy.    (more…)

George Harrison – All Things Must Pass

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All Things Must Pass

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

To say that this one has been a long time coming would be an understatement! FINALLY, an incredible sounding copy of All Things Must Pass. Stunning shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on all six sides (!).  

It’s also worth mentioning that this is one of the nicer boxes we’ve come across for this title. It’s the thicker box which has stood the test of time a little better than the narrower version. Those are usually in pretty poor shape and we should know because we have a bunch of problematical boxes sitting right here. (more…)

The Beatles – Please Please Me – Which Is More 3-Dimensional, Mono or Twin Track?

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With all due respect to Sir George Martin, we’ve played a number of mono pressings of this album in the past twenty or so years and have never been particularly impressed with any of them. The monos jam all the voices and instruments together in the middle, stacking them one in front of the other, and lots of musical information gets mashed together and simply disappears in the congestion. 

But is Twin Track stereo any better? Yes, when you do it the way Norman Smith did on Please Please Me.

Twin Track stereo (which is actually not very much like two-track stereo, I’m sure Wikipedia must have a listing for it if you’re interested) is like two mono tracks running simultaneously. It allows the completely separate voices to occupy one channel and the completely separate instruments to occupy another with no leakage between them.

On some stereos it may seem as though the musicians and the singers are not playing together the way they would if one were hearing them in mono. They are in fact recorded on two separate mono tracks, the instruments appearing in the left channel and the singers in the right, separated as much as is physically possible.

Stuck in their individual stereo speakers, so far apart from one another, the members of the band don’t even seem to be playing together in the same room.

That’s on some stereos, and by some stereos I mean stereos that need improvement. Here’s why. (more…)

George Harrison – Living In The Material World

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  • An excellent sounding early British Apple pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout and reasonably quiet vinyl
  • If you want to hear the rich, Tubey Magical sound that was all over the Master Tape in 1973, these vintage imports are the only way to go
  • What Living in the Material World does show off far better than the earlier record, however, is Harrison’s guitar work… it does represent his solo playing and songwriting at something of a peak. Most notable are his blues stylings and slide playing, glimpsed on some of the later Beatles sessions but often overlooked by fans.” – All Music

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The Beatles – Revolver – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND on BOTH sides of this British White Hot Stamper LP! Having played scores of copies over the years, this is As Good As It Gets as far as we know. Want to be blown away by Beatles sound you never imagined you would ever have the chance to experience for yourself? Drop the needle on Taxman on this very side one — that’s your ticket to ride, baby! We were blown away and we guarantee you will be too.

Both sides of this killer pressing have all the qualities we look for on this album: vocal presence, Tubey Magic, huge weight to the bottom end, and most importantly of all, SERIOUS ENERGY. It’s also very smooth, sweet and above all analog-sounding — the grit and grain that ruin the typical pressing are nowhere to be found here.

Life As We Know It

This knockout copy clearly had the most ENERGY of any copy we played. Unlike so many copies of the album, the band here is enthusiastic and rockin’ like crazy. Right off the bat the electric guitar transients were just jumping out of the speakers in a way that no other copy managed to achieve. This copy brings the music to LIFE in a way that no other we have heard could. That’s our definition of White Hot Stamper sound in a nutshell.

Side One

A+++, super clear and clean and rockin’ like you will not believe. Zero smear. Zero distortion. As BIG and SOLID as a rock record can sound. Not as Tubey-Magical as some other copies we heard, but is that sound really on the tape, or is that a mastering coloration? We don’t know, no one does, but we love the fact that this copy has ZERO coloration. It lets us think we are sitting in the control room for a playback with Geoff and George.

Side Two

A+++ again, but not in the same way. This side is richer than side one, but every bit as big and clear. I was tempted to award it our famous Four Plus grade, but what the hell, Three Pluses is supposed to be As Good As It Gets, and this side is definitely that.

Listen to how grungy and smooth the guitars are on And Your Bird Can Sing — they are perfection! My notes say this copy is by far the best side two we heard, and that pretty much says it all.

The Revolver Revolution Beginning in 2007

Finding amazingly good sounding copies of Revolver used to be almost impossible. The typical British Parlophone or Apple pressing, as well as every German, Japanese and domestic LP we played a few years back just plain sucked. Where was the analog magic we heard in the albums before and after, the rapturously wonderful sound that’s all over our Hot Stamper Rubber Souls and Sgt. Peppers? How could Revolver go so horribly off the rails for no apparent reason? (more…)

The Beatles For Sale (2009)

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND ON SIDE ONE! We feel Beatles For Sale is a criminally underappreciated album, and a killer copy like this will show you exactly why. The startling presence and immediacy allow the emotional qualities of these lovely songs to really come through. The clarity of the vocals is going to blow you away. No matter what copy you’ve been listening to, I’m completely confident that this one will slaughter it. We play a ton of these every year, but there’s a good reason you don’t see too many of them hit the site — most of them bore us to tears.

Side one is OUT OF THIS WORLD — warm, sweet and delicate with shocking vocal clarity. You won’t believe the transparency on this copy — you can easily pick out the vocal harmonies and follow the individual voices. In our shootout, we found copies with amazing presence that lacked some sweetness, and vice versa. This copy has the best of both worlds! Drop the needle on I’ll Follow The Sun and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

There’s MIDRANGE MAGIC here that you just don’t find on the typical pressing of this album — just listen to the all the ambience around the full-bodied sound of the electric guitar. The acoustic guitars are PERFECTION. The overall sound is spacious, lively, and energetic, and we rate side one an A+++, As Good As It Gets.

Side two is wonderful, but not quite in the same league as the first side. The sound is open and transparent with all the tubey magic needed to give you smooth, sweet vocals. It’s also clean, clear, and relaxed — exactly the kind of sound you want for these lovely early Beatles songs.

Hey, Sir George: We Respectfully Disagree!

We had a lot of fun reading The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, which details the band’s studio history from 1962 – 1970. In the book, George Martin mentions that he felt this album was a rush job and that he has trouble listening to it to this day. As much respect as we have for Sir George, we couldn’t disagree more. This album is WONDERFUL! The more we played this album, the more we enjoyed it. Repeated listenings only enhanced our enjoyment, and a good copy like this let us hear things in the music that we hadn’t heard before. This isn’t the kind of record that beats you over the head with mega pop hits sure to enthrall screaming teens. With wonderful songs like I’ll Follow The Sun, Eight Days A Week, I Don’t Want To Spoil The Party and What You’re Doing, this album gives you a glimpse at the more heartfelt side of the band. It’s an extremely sweet, delicate album and a superb copy like this lets you fully appreciate that.

A Wonderfully Fun Album

Of all the Beatle records that we play around here, this, along with Abbey Road and perhaps Please Please Me, was one of the most enjoyable shootouts because the music is so good and hasn’t been beaten to death with overplaying. You might even call it the undiscovered album. Everyone knows The White Album and Sgt. Pepper’s like the back of their hands, but what about Beatles For Sale? If more people had Hot Stamper pressings of this LP, we guarantee you’d hear a lot more about this album! When the sound is this good, this album is MAGICAL.

AMG Review

There are some important changes on Beatles for Sale, most notably Lennon’s discovery of Bob Dylan and folk-rock. The opening three songs, along with “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party,” are implicitly confessional and all quite bleak, which is a new development… Its best moments find them moving from Merseybeat to the sophisticated pop/rock they developed in mid-career.

Badfinger – Straight Up

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

This relatively quiet WHITE HOT STAMPER Straight Up is KILLER, with a A++ side one and an A+++ side two — you can’t do much better than that! Side two has Master Tape Sound, the kind that we like to call AGAIG — As Good As It Gets. Both sides have the kind of PRESENCE in the midrange that most copies can’t begin to compete with. The sound here just JUMPS out of the speakers, which is exactly what the best copies of the album are supposed to (but rarely) do. For fans of the band — and Power Pop in general — this is the Straight Up you have been waiting for!

Our last shootout was in 2007, not because we don’t like the record or have customers for it; rather it’s the fact that clean copies of the album just aren’t out there in the bins the way they used to be. Two or three a year is all we can find, and that’s with hitting the stores every week.

2007 vs 2010

In 2007 we wrote: “Having played more than half a dozen copies of this record during the shootout I can tell you that the most common problem with Straight Up is grainy, gritty sound. Most copies of this record are painfully aggressive and transistory.” (more…)

The Beatles Rubber Soul – Listening in Depth

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with specific advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy (or our copy) of Rubber Soul. (If you have the MoFi pressing please click on the Track Listing tab below to read about its most glaring shortcoming.)

After playing so many copies of this record over the last few years, all of us here at Better Records have come to appreciate just how wonderful an album Rubber Soul really is. It has 14 fairly compact, well-structured, well-arranged pop songs, each of which is a gem in its own right. It reminds me a bit of the second album (With The Beatles) in that respect — short and to the point, get in and get out.  (more…)