Labels We Love – Reprise

The Beach Boys – Surf’s Up

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this original Reprise pressing 
  • They revolutionized the popular music of their day with their genius for harmony, and this copy gets their voices right
  • Includes classics Don’t Go Near the Water, Long Promised Road, Till I Die, and of course the title smash hit, Surf’s up
  • 4 stars: “A masterpiece [which] defined the Beach Boys’ tumultuous career better than any other album … The album closer, ‘Surf’s Up,’ is a masterpiece of baroque psychedelia, probably the most compelling track from the Smile period.”

When it works, boy can this album sound AMAZING. Full of tubey magic, not to mention analog warmth and sweetness, this is clearly one of the band’s best albums of the 70s. (more…)

Jethro Tull – Aqualung

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  • This wonderful copy of Jethro Tull’s fourth studio album earned oustanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides 
  • The sound is excellent from start to finish – big, punchy, present, tubey and bursting with Rock and Roll energy
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that still floors us on the better copies, with sound that will jump right out of your speakers
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… one of the most astonishing progressions in rock history… the degree to which Tull upped the ante here is remarkable… Varied but cohesive, Aqualung is widely regarded as Tull’s finest hour.”

Folks, for hard-rockin’, Tubey Magical, ’70s Arty Proggy Rock in ANALOG, it just does not get much better than Aqualung. You need the right pressing to bring it to life though, and this one is certainly up to the task. (more…)

Neil Young – After the Gold Rush – We Loved This Copy So Much in 2005 We Asked $200 for It

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

This is the story of how we discovered our very first killer copy of After the Gold Rush. What a thrill it was to finally hear the album sound so amazing, this after hearing so many mediocre copies over the years. It’s records like this that made us eventually put 100% of our resources into finding records that sound like this one — or better!  

This is the way we heard After the Gold Rush in 2005. Embarrassingly, we liked it so much we compared it to the best DCC records we were selling back then, ouch! (more…)

Arlo Guthrie – Alice’s Restaurant

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  • This superb 2-pack boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout for Arlo Guthrie’s classic debut – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These stereo pressings on the early Two Tone label are practically impossible to find with surfaces this quiet, but here they are
  • The 18 minute plus title song sounds wonderful here – natural, Tubey Magical, and tonally correct, as befits any top quality vintage pressing
  • 4 stars: “… provide[s] an insight into his uniformly outstanding — yet astoundingly overlooked — early sides on Warner Bros.”

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Frank Sinatra and Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands – What to Listen For

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There is some edge on Sinatra’s voice on every side of every copy; it’s so common it’s got to be on the tape. Those copies with less edge and grit on the vocals which are not overly smooth or dull tend to do very well in our shootouts.

Also, richness is very important. We look for a combination of rich, Tubey Magical sound that still maintains a fair amount of space, clarity, transparency and freedom from smear.

The original label pressings (always in stereo; the monos are really a joke) are richer and thicker as a rule.

The pressings with the orange two-tone labels tend to be thinner and clearer. A high percentage of them are much too modern sounding, bright and gritty, and when they are we throw them right in the trade-in pile. (more…)

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere

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  • A MONSTER Shootout Winning early pressing with incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – this is the EKTIN you have been waiting for!
  • Live-in-Your-Listening-Room sound throughout – miles beyond any copy you’ve heard (or ever will hear)
  • Includes immortal classics such as “Cinnamon Girl,” “Cowgirl in the Sand,” and “Down by the River,” just to name three
  • 5 stars: “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was breathtakingly different when it appeared in May 1969, both for Young and for rock in general… almost 30 years later [make that 49], he was still playing this sort of music with Crazy Horse, and a lot of contemporary bands were playing music clearly influenced by it.”

The sound of this Hot Stamper copy is Big and Bold in the best Neil Young tradition, with studio ambience bouncing off the walls and into the open mics he favors.

The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality, with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY. We absolutely love that sound. With a killer pressing played back on a big pair of speakers this album can ROCK like nobody’s business. Nine minutes of Down by the River? A ten minute long version of Cowgirl in the Sand? Cinnamon Girl? We are so there. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Ladies Of The Canyon – 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 your copy.

The growl of the cello on Rainy Night House can clearly be heard behind Joni, with the wood of the instrument sounding real and correct. The kind of You Are There immediacy and transparency of the best copies has to be heard to be believed. 

Listen to the piano Joni plays throughout the album: this is not the thin and hard-sounding instrument that accompanies her on practically every LP you have ever had the misfortune to audition, hoping against hope that someday you would find that “elusive disc” with sound worthy of such extraordinary music. No, this piano has real weight; it has body; and it’s surrounded by real, three-dimensional studio space. (more…)

Neil Young’s Debut with the Original Mix

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  • Amazing sound throughout for Neil’s self-titled debut – shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Both sides are rich, full and Tubey Magical with a big bottom end and excellent resolution 
  • Surely one of Neil’s toughest to find with top quality sound – and only these early pressings with the original mix have the potential to sound as good as this one does
  • “…a flowing tributary from the over-all Springfield river of twangs, breathless vocals and slim yet stout instrumentation. Especially vivid is Young’s sense of melancholy and the ingenious clusters of images he employs in his lyrics (printed in full).”

The Old Mix Beats the New Mix

We’ve always felt that this album was not nearly as well recorded as the albums that followed. Why that would be we would never pretend to know. It was a long time ago. Who on earth has the arrogance to think they know precisely what went wrong? (I could actually name a few people but the less said about them the better.)

It turns out the remixed pressings we’d been selling for years were not the way to hear this album at its best. Neil wanted his voice to sound clearer and more present than the first mix, but the approach the engineers took to increase the clarity and presence was simply to boost the middle and upper midrange, a boost that seriously compromises the wonderful Tubey Magic found in the rich lower midrange of the original mix.

Neil may have liked the sound of his voice better on the new mix, played back on whatever mediocre-at-best stereo he was using at the time, but we here at Better Records are of a decidedly different opinion. On a modern, highly-resolving system Neil’s voice will not sound the least bit “buried” on the original mix, not on the best pressings anyway. Of course, the best ones are the only ones we sell.

If you want to hear this album sound right, we strongly believe that the original mix is the only way to go. And if you want to hear this album sound really right, better-than-you-ever-thought-possible right, you need a copy that was mastered, pressed and cleaned properly, and that means a Hot Stamper from Better Records. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Sinatra’s Sinatra

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  • This Sinatra release from 1963 has out of this world Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget the reissues – the stereo original we are offering here is the only way to go for rich, tubey, dynamic, musical sound 
  • Frank rerecorded some of his biggest hits in stereo for this album – the record is one Sinatra Classic after another
  • Amazon 5 Stars: “Riddle’s arrangements are, as always, top-notch, and Sinatra is in fine, engaging form.”

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Jethro Tull – Aqualung – An Album We Are Clearly Obsessed With

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AQUALUNG is an album we admit to being obsessed with — just look at the number of commentaries we’ve written about it.

We love the album and we hope you do too. If you have some time on your hands — maybe a bit too much time on your hands — please feel free to check out our commentaries. (more…)