Labels We Love – Vanguard

Joan Baez – Joan

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

In 1967 Vanguard still knew how to record pure, rich, sweet, Tubey Magical analog. Some of these tracks are amazing sounding. Once a year we run across a clean stereo copy of this album. (With such complex arrangements we don’t feel the mono could do the album justice. You may feel otherwise.)

This pressing appears to be the original stereo label, although with so many Vanguard labels — dozens by my count — this could easily be an early reissue. The paste-on rough cardboard back is a good sign of its age.

Side One

Double Plus, with the remarkably innovative reworking of Eleanor Rigby.

Side Two

White Hot, shootout winning and just plain Hard To Fault (HTF). The second track, a traditional folk song, has Demo Disc quality sound. If you are in the market for a natural sounding female vocal you will have a hard time finding a better one. (more…)

Joan Baez – 5

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

Natural, unprocessed, clear, breathy vocal reproduction is the key to any Joan Baez album, and this side two will clearly demonstrate just how well-recorded Joan’s voice (and guitar) were by the Vanguard engineering team. We heard immediately that this side one was excellent. We had no idea the sound could get as good as it is on side two. It takes the sound and music to an entirely new level.

With just guitar, vocal and occasional cello, the “truth” of recording quality is hard to fault. After only a few moments there’s really no sound, only music. (more…)

Haydn / Symphonies 100 & 101 – Reviewed in 2010

More of the music of Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

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

The New York Times review for these performances called them “matchless” and we see no reason to disagree! With Super Hot Stamper sound for No. 100, “Military”, we’re confident you will have a very hard time finding better sound and music from Haydn than is found on this original Black Label Vanguard Stereophonic Demonstration Disc.

Side one, containing Symphony No. 100, “Military”, is smooth and rich and full of tubey magic, the kind of analog sound that has not been recorded for more than thirty years. Because the top end is not boosted and phony like most audiophile pressings, you can play a record like this at much more realistic levels without fatigue or harshness. Try that with the average Reference or Telarc. (more…)

Doc Watson – Southbound

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Southbound

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  • Doc Watson’s superb sophomore release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut, boasting Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound and exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We were specifically listening for richness, sweetness, warmth and intimacy on Doc’s vocals, and this pressing gave us all those qualities in abundance
  • If you own the veiled, opaque, recessed, ambience-challenged Cisco remaster, you are in for a treat – our Hot Stamper is none of those things!
  • 5 stars: “Southbound was a pivotal record for Doc Watson… it demonstrated that Watson was capable of more than just dazzling interpretations of folk songs, but that he could also write excellent original material and rework new country songs in a fascinating manner.”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

Folks, if you made the mistake of buying the Cisco Heavy Vinyl reissue of this album that came out in the early 2000s, you are in for treat. Instead of Doc and his band mates playing from behind a thick curtain at the back of your sound room, they can now be heard where they should have been all along: front and center between your speakers!

The difference between a truly outstanding vintage pressing and a modern mockery of analog could not be more striking. We never got around to putting the Cisco pressing in our Hall of Shame (300+ strong!). There are just not enough hours in the day… (more…)

Joan Baez – Farewell, Angelina – Our Hot Copy from 2005

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Farewell, Angelina

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

Very nice fairly original Vanguard LP with EXCELLENT SOUND.

These early Black Label Vanguard pressings are actually better in some ways than the 180 gram reissue, as good as that one is. Of course, they all vary in their sound. But listen especially to tracks two and six on the first side to hear a more natural sounding Joan. (more…)

Country Joe & The Fish – Electric Music For The Mind…

 

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  • This outstanding Vanguard LP earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides
  • The sound on this superb pressing is full-bodied and lively, with solid and present vocals, as well as excellent clarity all around 
  • A very difficult record to find with good sound and clean surfaces, which is why we rarely have them on the site
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Their full-length debut is their most joyous and cohesive statement and one of the most important and enduring documents of the psychedelic era …”

First, a little background on the general sound of Electric Music For The Mind and Body, the band’s debut and an album that is widely considered a true psych masterpiece. Most copies of the album have an unfortunate tendency to be boosted in the midrange, and on top of that they are often veiled and lack space. (more…)

Ohm Stereo Imaging Demonstration Record – Reviewed in 2008

More Audiophile recordings

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

This Ohm LP has tracks from some of the world’s finest superdisks such as Flamenco Fever, Hot Stix and For Duke. It also includes various selections from Vanguard. The last copy I played had SUPERB sound. A special note is the first track on side two performed by the PDQ Bach Ensemble — it’s truly DEMONSTRATION QUALITY. 

The record is pressed on Teldec Virgin Vinyl. The back cover features extensive liner notes, explaining what to listen for on each of these unique selections.

Doc Watson – Home Again

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  • An outstanding copy of Watson’s 1966 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This LP has the Tubey Magic, as well as in-the-room performance intimacy, that will surely bring Doc’s music to life in a way you’ve never heard before
  • “[H]is most affecting folk-style record, with unexpectedly warm vocals matched to the quiet virtuosity of his playing. [The album] features Watson performing lively, achingly beautiful renditions of popular folk standards. All are played with very imposing dexterity by Watson, joined by his son Merle and Russ Savakus on upright bass.
  • “A great showcase for Watson’s voice — vaguely similar to but rougher-hewn than Burl Ives — which is often overlooked in the aura of his playing.”

Folks, if you made the mistake of buying the Cisco Heavy Vinyl reissue of this album that came out in the early 2000s, you are in for treat. Instead of Doc and his band mates playing from behind a thick curtain at the back of your sound room, they can now be heard where they should have been all along: front and center between your speakers! The difference between a truly outstanding vintage pressing and a modern mockery of analog could not be more striking. We never got around to putting the Cisco pressing in our Hall of Shame (300+ strong!). There are just not enough hours in the day…

This vintage Vanguard stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely begin to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, tubey sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). (more…)

Prokofiev / Peter & The Wolf / Rossi – How Does the Narrator Sound?

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

The narrator for this piece almost always sounds like he’s in a sound booth, of varying sound quality to be sure. (Bernstein’s narration is one of the worst in this respect, sounding more like Aqualung than Lennie.)  (more…)