Labels We Love – Warners

Van Halen on DCC – Not My Idea of Good Sound

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Sonic Grade: D

Hall of Shame pressing and another DCC LP debunked.

As I recall it isn’t very good — thick and dull and closed-in; in other words, boring — but I played it quite a while ago. If your copy sounds better, more power to you, but I bet it doesn’t. Any copy we sell is guaranteed to blow the doors off of it — as well as any other pressing you own — or your money back.

Go ahead and turn up your nose if you like, but this music is widely considered classic rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but this album does exactly what it’s trying to do — it really ROCKS.

Donn Landee

Credit DONN LANDEE (and Ted Templeman too) with the rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies. He’s recorded many of our favorite albums here at Better Records.

Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; more by Van Halen of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.

Badly Mastered LPs

Visit our Hall of Shame to see what are in our opinion some of the worst sounding records ever made.

Note that most of the entries are audiophile remasterings of one kind or another. The reason for this is simple: we’ve gone through the all-too-often unpleasant experience of comparing them head to head with our best Hot Stamper pressings.

When you can hear them that way, up against an exceptionally good record, their flaws become that much more obvious and, frankly, that much more intolerable.

The Vices of Production

doobiebrosvices

The best of this kind of mainstream radio-friendly pop rock has stood the test of time very well. One listen and we think you’ll agree: this is fun music that belongs in your collection.

IF…

IF you get hold of a good pressing, and in our experience this mass-produced stuff leaves a lot to be desired most of the time.

Actually that’s not really fair; the specialty audiophile limited edition pressings of most records are even worse sounding, so the production numbers really don’t have much to do with the final product, now do they?
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Ry Cooder – Jazz – Transparency Is Key

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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 of Jazz. 

The best copies realistically convey the live-in-the-studio quality of the sound. This is a tight ensemble working at the top of their game, no surprise there; Ry surrounds himself with nothing but the best.

But the better copies have such amazingly transparent sound you can’t help feeling as though you really are in the presence of live human beings You really get the sense of actual fingers plucking those guitar strings. You hear mouths blowing air through horns and woodwinds. (more…)

The Association Insight Out – Listening in Depth

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

The real stars of Windy (and the album itself) are Hal Blaine and Joe Osborne, the famous session drummer/ bass player team from The Wrecking Crew who create the driving force behind these songs. Osborne’s web site puts Windy front and center as the first track demonstrating what a top rhythm section can do for a pop song. This whole album can be enjoyed simply for the great drum and bass work, not to mention the sound that both instruments are given by the Master of Tubey Magical Pop Recording, Mr. BONES HOWE.

He produced and engineered the show here; Bones is a man who knew his way around a studio as well as practically anybody in the ’60s. He’s the one responsible for all the Tubey Magic of the recording. That’s his sound

Bouncing Tracks

Never My Love is clearly the best sounding track on the album. Those of you with better front ends will be astonished at the quality of the sound. Windy also sounds excellent, but I hear some sub-generation harmonic distortion, probably caused by bouncing down some of the tracks to make room for others.

This is the era of the four track machine, and when four of the tracks are used up they are bounced down to one track, making available three new tracks. Some of the albums from this era — the Mamas and the Papas come to mind — have multiple bounces, three and four deep, which accounts for the distortion that you hear all through their recordings. The two-track finished master might have upwards of five tape generations or more on some instruments or vocal parts.



In-Depth Track Commentary
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The Doobie Brothers Minute By Minute – Nautilus Reviewed

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Sonic Grade: D

A Hall of Shame pressing and another Half Speed debunked.

You may remember reading on the site that we used to like the Nautilus Half-Speed of this title. Playing our Nautilus copy against the better domestic pressings made us wonder what the hell we must have been smoking. The Nautilus was awful — veiled and compressed, with a lightweight bottom end. (The Nautilus of Threshold of a Dream is another one we used to like and boy does that record sound awful these days.)

Maybe we had played a better copy years ago, or maybe we had played some really bad domestics back then, who can say? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then. All we can say for now is that our Hot Stampers are going to blow that audiophile piece of junk — and any other pressing of the album that might exist — right out of the water. (Or your money back.)

And the gold CD too of course. I have never in my life heard a CD sound like this record does, and I don’t think anyone else has either. CDs do some things reasonably well, but few of them have the kind of richness, sweetness and tubey magic that the best vinyl copies of this album do, cleaned right and played on a proper stereo of course. (more…)

The Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink

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  • Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one backed with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on side two, this copy is a MONSTER!
  • Rich and solid, yet open, spacious, and transparent — nothing like the muddy, congested sound we heard all day
  • 5 stars: it “doesn’t feel cobbled together and it serves up tremendous song after tremendous song.”

This Warner Bros. Green Label LP has MASTER TAPE sound on the first side and not far from it on the second! If you like your hard rock dirty and bluesy, you can’t do much better than this record. You’re going to freak out over the meaty guitars, the HUGE bass, and the live-in-the-studio vocals. We played a ton of copies and none of them could hold a candle to this one. 

You won’t be a minute into this record before you’re blown away by all the ambience and echo. You can really hear the sound of the big room around these guys as they rock out. The vocals sound Right On The Money — smooth, but with all of the raspiness that Rod Stewart is famous for.

The drums are big and punchy and the guitars sound grungy and  right. (more…)

Bryan Ferry – Boys and Girls

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this classic Ferry album from 1985 
  • This copy was super big, full and lively with plenty of presence and bottom end weight
  • On this record, bigger bass and punchier drums make all the difference in the world
  • “Instead of ragged rock explosions, emotional extremes, and all that made his ’70s work so compelling in and out of Roxy, Ferry here is the suave, debonair if secretly moody and melancholic lover, with music to match…”

Excellent sound and quiet vinyl on both sides! If you’ve spent any time with this album, you will be blown away by how great both sides of this copy sound.

Key Listening Test

The song Valentine, the second track on side two, is a key test for that side. Note how processed Ferry’s vocals are; on the best copies they will sound somewhat bright. The test is the background singers; they should sound tonally correct and silky sweet. If Ferry sounds correct, they will sound dull, and so will the rest of the side. That processed sound on his vocal is on the tape. Trying to “fix” it will ruin everything. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – See What Tomorrow Brings

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  • This incredible copy boasts killer Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Wonderfully rich, sweet vocals – it’s hard to imagine this trio sounding much better than they do on this very copy
  • Very quiet for a WB Gold label original — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “See What Tomorrow Brings is a strong album that plays to the strengths of Peter, Paul, & Mary. There is a good variety of material within their folk format, and a nice esprit de corps that pervades the recording. All members sing lead, which brings a good balance to the proceedings.”

Peter, Paul & Mary records live and die by the quality of their midrange reproduction. These are not big-budget, high-concept mulit-track recordings. They’re simple, innocent folk songs featuring exquisite vocal harmonies, backed by straightforward guitar accompaniment. If the voices aren’t silky sweet and delicate, while at the same time full-bodied and present, let’s face it — you might as well be listening to something else. (As we say below, the average copy will have you looking for another record to put on.)

The Breath Of Life

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here: we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If P, P & M don’t sound like living breathing human beings standing right between your speakers, toss yours and buy this copy, because that’s exactly what they sound like here. The TUBEY MAGIC of the MIDRANGE is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you almost can’t really even imagine it. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully. (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side two and a Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy was one of the best in our most recent shootout
  • A Top 100 album, and a truly superb recording of the Dead at the peak of their creativity (along with American Beauty)
  • We love the amazingly rich, weighty and huge bottom end found on the truly killer sides such as these
  • 5 stars in Allmusic: “The lilting Uncle John’s Band, their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly.”

This original pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the control room hearing the master tape being played back, or, better yet, the direct feed from the studio, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Analog Recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

The Faces – Long Player

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  • A killer copy with a stunning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time
  • 5 stars in Allmusic and probably the Faces’ Best Album, for sound and music – Maybe I’m Amazed? Hell yeah!
  • “…a ferocious rock & roll band who, on their best day, could wrestle the title of greatest rock & roll band away from the Stones.”

We knew this album could sound good, but back in the day we sure didn’t know it could sound like this. The best pressings of this album have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. (more…)