Labels We Love – Warners

Emmylou Harris – Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Quarter Moon In A Ten Cent Town

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

This is a Warner Brothers Palm Tree Label LP with SUPERB SOUND, dramatically better than that of the typical copy. We recently undertook a huge shootout for this album and this pressing finished way up top with an A+++ grade on side one and an A++ for the second side. The grit and edge that mess up most copies out there are kept in check here, allowing the music to sound smooth and sweet.   (more…)

Captain Beefheart – Clear Spot

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  • This outstanding pressing of Clear Spot boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • One of the better copies of Clear Spot to hit the site in recent years – no question about it, this is his Masterpiece!
  • Produced by Ted Templeman, Clear Spot is one of Beefheart’s most accessible albums and, IMHO, his best
  • 4 stars: “The sound is great throughout, and the feeling is of the coolest bar-band in town, not to mention one that could eat all the patrons for breakfast if it felt like it.”

Two outstanding sides for this masterpiece of bent rock. It’s not easy to find great sound for this album — that’s why you so seldom see it up on our site. There are a whole lot of problematic pressings out there, but when you find one that really gets it right the sound is nothing short of SUPERB. (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Roses In The Snow – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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Roses In The Snow

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

AMAZING A+++ SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! The immediacy of the vocals is startling — Emmylou is IN THE ROOM with you, belting out these heartfelt, emotional songs. If that doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will! We’ve done several shootouts for this album now, and we’ve completely fallen in love with both the music and the sound. When you hear a copy like this, it’s easy to see why. Even our single plus (A+) sides sound wonderful, but our Super Hot (A++) and White Hot (A+++) sides are OUT OF THIS WORLD. You won’t find too many records from 1980 with sound this good, that’s for sure!

Both sides have wonderful clarity and transparency. Emmylou’s vocals are breathy with lots of texture, the stringed instruments have the proper amount of pluck and twang, and the bass is Right On The Money. Yee-haw!  (more…)

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris – Trio

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Trio

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  • These two sides, each rating a solid Double Plus (A++), are proof positive that Trio is a surprisingly well recorded album
  • Big, rich, smooth, and sweet, how did George Massenburg pull off this kind of analog sound in 1987?
  • We don’t know, but we do know good sound when we hear it, and we heard exceptionally good sound on this copy
  • “…that rare example of an all-star collaborative effort that truly shows everyone involved to their best advantage, and it ranks with the best of all three headliners’ work.”

With three brilliant and accomplished singers harmonizing in the studio you can imagine that faultless midrange tonality is key to the best copies, and you would be right.

Some copies had the girls’ sounding a bit dark and veiled. Some had them a bit thin and bright. The Goldilocks Principle comes into play here as it does in so many of our shootouts: the best copies find the right balance of richness and clarity. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this 1976 release – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • With the awesome Michael McDonald contributing songs and vocals, this is the kind of Doobies album we can get behind 
  • Credit must go to Donn Landee for the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best pressings such as this one 
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…shows off the new interplay and sounds that were to carry the group into the 1980s, with gorgeous playing and singing all around.”

Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? We’ve been buying pressings for years, with very little to show for it. Most copies have no real top or bottom; that’s what separates the men from the boys on Takin’ It to the Streets. That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, midrangy sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobies Brothers albums is the rule, and these sides are the exceptions.

Why go to all the trouble? Because we love the album! This is the first album to feature Michael McDonald’s infusion of white soul into what was otherwise just another radio-friendly boogie rock band, and ’70s soul is precisely the Doobies sound we love here at Better Records.

Most copies of this record are such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that many audiophiles could be bothered to take it seriously. But they should; the band cooks on practically every song, and the writing is some of their best, with essential Doobies tracks like Losin’ End and It Keeps You Runnin’ and no real dogs in the bunch. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – The Captain and Me

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  • Excellent sound throughout with both sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++)
  • Natural Thing, China Grove and Long Train Runnin’ all sound great – smooth, rich and full of energy   
  • Credit Donn Landee with the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of these good copies
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars: “The Doobie Brothers’ third long-player was the charm, their most substantial and consistent album to date, and one that rode the charts for a year.”

There are some great songs on this album, songs that still get plenty of play on the radio: China Grove, Long Train Running and South City Midnight Lady all come to mind. It’s tough to find great sounding copies, but it’s worth all the trouble when you get one with this kind of rich, full tonality, punchy bottom end and real space and ambience. (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Best Of The Doobies Volume II – Our Shootout Winner from 2005

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

This Warner Brothers LP has exceptionally good sound — you would never know you are listening to a greatest hits compiliation. I bought a promo pressing recently and decided to shoot it out with two copies that had been sitting on the shelf for a long time. The Promo was not particularly impressive; neither was one of the other copies but this one stood head and shoulders above them. It’s full of ambience; the sound is rich and sweet; the vocals are tonally correct and not spitty; and the more you play it, the better you like it — the shortest definition of a Better Record I know of. 

The Dynamic Energy of Neil Young and His Crazy Horse Pals – They’re LIVE in the Studio

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Another in our series of Random Thoughts and observations on recording-related issues.

Hot Stampers are all about finding those rare and very special pressings that manage to represent the master tape at its best.

Notice I did not say ACCURATELY represent the master tape, because the master tape may have faults that need to be corrected, and the only way to do that is in the mastering phase. I can tell you without fear of contradiction that fidelity to the master tape should never be, and rarely is, the goal of the mastering engineer.

Which, as a practical matter, means that flat transfers are usually a mistake.

Chesky is famous for boasting that their early remasterings of the Living Stereo catalog were flat transfers. They sure sound flat all right. If there is a more clueless bunch of audiophiles on the planet than the people running Chesky you would have a hard time proving it to me. But I digress.

Whether we like or dislike the presentation of any given recording is of course a matter of taste. When listening we constantly make judgments about the way we think the recording at any moment “ought” to sound, based on what we like or don’t like about the sound of recordings in general and how our stereos deal with them. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Tusk

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

This copy is absolutely KILLER, with the kind of deep, solid low end and superb space and openness you just don’t hear on most copies of the album. When the soundstage is wide and three-dimensional the way it is here, it’s amazing how much more SENSE the music starts to make. 

And the clarity is not the phony “audiophile” kind that’s the result of too much treble – there’s no lack of richness or warmth to the sound. (more…)

The Grateful Dead – Aoxomoxoa

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  • This original Green Label Warner Brothers LP has STUNNING Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • These sides were doing everything right — big, full-bodied and present with tons of energy and a nice extended top end
  • “When the LP hit the racks in the early summer of 1969, Deadheads were greeted by some of the freshest and most innovative sounds to develop from the thriving Bay Area music scene.” – All Music 

NOTE: This is the later remixed version from 1971. We found it far better sounding than the original 1969 mix. If you’re interested in the original mix, we have some of those copies with lower grades but if you want the best sound, this copy is definitely the way to go. (more…)