Labels We Love – Warners

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

OH BABY! This is the HOTTEST copy of The Captain And Me to ever hit the site, bar none. The sound is nothing short of PHENOMENAL from the first cut to the last. Side two earned our top A+++ grade while side one clocked in just half a plus behind. You can’t even begin to imagine what we’ve gone through trying to find Hot Stampers for this album. Here’s the copy that proves it was all worth it. 

We had TWICE tried to shootout this album and gave up both times with little to show for it. The one great sounding, reasonably quiet copy we found had a nasty edge warp that obliterated the first track on both sides. So we knew that great copies of this album must be out there, but where? We had OVER THIRTY COPIES of this record on our shelves and none of them were worth listing. The warped copy sounded so much better than any of the rest, and we felt it was wrong to call even the best of the rest a Hot Stamper. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Boomer’s Story – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This is a QUIET Reprise Tan Label LP with a good side one and a GREAT side two. It’s not the best copy we’ve ever heard but it’s a step up from most of what’s out there. Side two is very natural and incredibly clean. The presence is wonderful, the top end is sweet, and the transparency is top-notch. Side one is similar but a bit smooth for our tastes.

We’re big Ry Cooder fans here at Better Records, and this is one of our favorites. Make sure to check out the lovely reading of Dark End Of The Street that opens side two. (more…)

INXS – Listen Like Thieves

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Listen Like Thieves

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  • Superb sound throughout with each side earning a sonic grade of Double Plus (A++) – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The Big Rock sound is courtesy of Chris Thomas’ production – if you know his work, you know this sound
  • AMG: “INXS completes its transition into an excellent rock & roll singles band with this album.”
  • “…with Thomas they “forge an unlikely union between the sonic extremism of Led Zeppelin-style crunch rock and the step-lively beat of disco” such that the album “rocks with passion and seals the deal with a backbeat that’ll blackmail your feet.”

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The Everly Brothers – Both Sides Of An Evening

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Both Sides Of An Evening

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  • You’ll find outstanding sound on this WB Gold Label Stereo original with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • Another amazingly Tubey Magical recording from the legendary Bill Porter (which may explain why Chet Atkins plays on it) 
  • About as quiet as these early copies come – Mint Minus Minus – records pressed in the early ’60s rarely play even this quiet
  • “In some ways, Both Sides of an Evening was the duo’s most ambitious and mature record to date…”

This ’60s stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (more…)

The Association – Greatest Hits – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

The sound on this record is as good as this album gets. Don’t think you’re too cool to enjoy this ’60s pop rock. These songs are still a blast and very enjoyable. The sound on this record is as good as this album gets. Don’t think you’re too cool to enjoy this ’60s pop rock. These songs are still a blast and very enjoyable.

I did a shootout with this copy and a later pressing just now, after having just listed a Gold Label Original LP of Insight Out, which allowed me to compare the sound of three different generations of Warner Brothers records.

I heard what you would expect to hear pretty much. The best Gold Label pressings have the most sweetness, richness, the best bass (amazingly good for a ’60s pop recording) and the most tubey magic. (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead – Watch for Strain in Jerry’s Voice

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

High Time tells you the most about the sound of side one on any given copy. If the pressing in question is lean, bright, grainy, transistory or aggressive in any way, Jerry Garcia’s voice will sound strained. Far from a professionally trained singer, he’s already straining to some degree on even the best copies. 

The better pressings have him sounding ever so slightly dull at the beginning of the track. As the song progresses he starts pushing his pipes pretty hard. The sound will become quite unpleasant if there is any added brightness when he tries to reach those high notes. (more…)

The Everly Brothers – The Golden Hits of The Everly Brothers

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  • A superb early WB Green Label Stereo LP, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Our early pressing here showed us a wonderfully Tubey Magical midrange for the Everlys that most audiophiles have never heard
  • So much good material here – Cathy’s Clown, Crying In The Rain, So Sad, That’s Old Fashioned, Lucille, etc.
  • “There are few sounds in American popular music more thrilling and sublimely satisfying than the harmonies of Don and Phil Everly…”

In stereo, on the early WB Green Label, with really quiet vinyl — this copy will be tough to beat!

It took us a long time to find enough records to do this shootout. How many extremely popular 50 year old records survived into the present era in such clean condition? We can’t be sure when the next shootout will be, but we can be pretty sure it won’t be any time soon. (more…)

Paul Simon – Graceland – When Clarity Is King

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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 Graceland

We regularly do shootouts for Graceland. Having played so many copies over the years we’re become quite familiar with the range of sound on the album, what constitutes good, better and best, and we understand precisely what qualities the premier copy must have in order to win one of our shootouts. 

Above all the thing Graceland has going for it sonically is CLARITY. It has many other good qualities as well: It can be open and spacious, tonally correct, with punchy, tight bass and present, breathy vocals.

The better copies have all these qualities to some degree, but the one thing a good copy must have is clarity, because that’s what’s especially good about the sound of Graceland. (more…)

Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here

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

This kind of recording quality was abandoned decades ago, but there was a time — I’m old, I remember it — when engineers actually tried to produce recordings with this kind of rich, sweet, thoroughly analog sound. 1979, the year of this album’s release, is right at the tail end of it. Why do you think so much of our Hot Stamper output covers the decade that stretched from the late ’60s to the late ’70s? Only one reason — that’s where some of the best sound can be found. (It’s a bit like Willie Sutton’s famous answer to why he robbed banks: “because that’s where the money is.”)

Which is taking the long way round in saying that this recording has a healthy dose of analog Tubey Magic, in places maybe even a bit too much, as the sound can sometimes get too thick and overly rich, like a cake with too much frosting.

The best copies keep that wonderful analog smoothness and freedom from artificiality, adding to it the life and energy of classic rock and roll. Yes, you can have it all — rich analog sound that jumps out of the speakers! Just listen to those horns on Honest Man — that is the sound we are looking for on an album like this. (more…)

The Faces – A Nod Is As Good As A Wink – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

This Warner Bros. Green Label LP has a STUNNING SIDE ONE backed with MASTER TAPE SOUND ON SIDE TWO! 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 ROTM (Right On The Money) vocals. We played a ton of copies and most of them couldn’t hold a candle to this one. 

  • This album was produced by one of our very favorite engineers around here, Mr. Glyn Johns. He’s the man behind tons of Better Records faves — Sticky Fingers, Eagles 1st, Joan Armatrading’s self-titled, Who’s Next, and many more.

But no Faces album — Glyn Johns-produced or not — will ever have Demo Disc Sound. It’s just not what the band was going for. The proper sound for a band like this is RAW AND ROCKIN’. Any phony EQ or overproduction would really make a mess of what the band does here, which put simply is kickin’ out the jams. It would be fair to call these guys a bar band, but they’re the best darn bar band I’ve ever heard!

The best Faces pressings have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that completely conveys the power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. What more can you ask for? (more…)