Labels We Love – ABC/MCA

Lynyrd Skynyrd – Street Survivors

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’ fifth studio album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Forget whatever dead-on-arrival Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and Southern Rock Energy of this surprisingly well recorded album from 1977, this is only the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… it’s a hell of an album. The band springs back to life with the addition of guitarist Steve Gaines, and Van Zant used the time off the road to write a strong set of songs… If the original band was fated to leave after this record, at least they left with a record that serves as a testament to Skynyrd’s unique greatness.”

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The Who – Hooligans (2 LPs) – Reviewed Many Years Ago

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This nearly White Hot Stamper (on two sides) was the CLEAR WINNER in our Hooligans shootout, a pretty big step up from the next best copy, and WORLDS BETTER than the average Hooligans album. I’ve known how good this record can sound for more than twenty five years, but how many have you seen make it to the site in Hot Stamper form? Exactly one copy, with exactly one Hot Stamper side. Here’s a direct quote from the listing about that side one (which has the fabulous early hits with superb sound):

Since it’s almost impossible to find good sounding pressings of those songs, I’m glad it was side one that came out so good. If you’re a fan of the early Who — and who isn’t — you will get a thrill from this album. And of course you get all the music on the other sides; they just don’t sound very good.

This is the problem with the record — the average MCA Crap-for-Vinyl copy is just a grainy, edgy mess. Before we started using our proprietary cleaning techniques — and thanks to the Walker Enzyme cleaning fluids — we just could not get four sides to sound good enough or play quiet enough to satisfy.

Of course now that has all changed. We managed to find some superb sounding sides with fairly quiet vinyl, something that would have been well out of our reach only a year or two ago. So much for the law of diminishing returns, one of the oldest, most wrongheaded and pernicious canards in audio. (See the commentary in the column on the left.)

Triple Plus? Not So Fast

However, not all ills are curable, and we failed to find a single side that we felt truly deserved the vaunted A Triple Plus rating. Two to Three, yes, a few qualified, but with such different sounding tracks cobbled together on the same sides, balancing the mastering would have had to have been a nightmare. Perhaps this is as good as it gets; only time will tell. Not that many of the good copies have survived in clean shape, so finding more is not that easy, but we will get on the stick and start digging around. The few good ones we found make it all worthwhile. (more…)

Jim Croce – Life and Times

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  • This copy of Croce’s superb 4th studio album boasts superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner – mostly quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, and vocal presence on this copy than others you’ve heard
  • “Released at the height of the singer-songwriter era, Life And Times put Jim Croce up there with the best of them. Containing the upbeat top forty songs such as “One Less Set Of Footsteps” and “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” along with such ballads as “These Dreams,” and “Alabama Rain.” High rollicking fun for anyone who likes enjoyable music.”

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Joe Walsh – The Best of…

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  • An outstanding copy of Walsh’s first compilation album, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side one matched to a Hot Stamper side two 
  • With sound close to our Shootout Winner on side one, Turn To Stone and Rocky Mountain Way are amazing here
  • We expected to hear dubby, sub-generation tape copy sound, but instead we discovered that these tracks – on the right pressings, natch – sound pretty darn close to the ones on the albums they originally came from
  • The perfect sampler for a casual Joe Walsh fan, featuring songs from his tenure with the James Gang along with some of his best known solo tracks

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Joe Turner – Singing the Blues

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  • Joe Turner’s wonderful 1967 release finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is an exceptionally well recorded blues album by one of the greats, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound that music such as this absolutely demands
  • “Backed by some top studio players of the era (Buddy Lucas on tenor and harmonica along with a four-piece rhythm section), the 56-year old classic blues singer shows that he was still in prime form.”

For years we have been touting a select group of albums Joe Turner did for Pablo in the ’70s — Life Ain’t Easy comes to mind — but this is our first foray into his Bluesway period. Mobile Fidelity did this title on CD right at the start of the digital era. As deaf as they are (seriously; who has made more bad sounding reissues than this group of so-called audiophiles?), apparently they could still hear that the sound of the original album was so good that it justified its release to the new audience armed with CD players as opposed to turntables. And now here we are, having gone full circle, back to vintage vinyl. (more…)

Glenn Frey – Soul Searchin’

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  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We were shocked to find out that this album actually sounds very analog – rich, smooth, sweet and natural
  • Elliot Scheiner (Royal Scam, Aja, Nightfly) produced and also did some engineering – he is to be commended for his excellent work here
  • “Though I left Detroit and went to California to cut my teeth on country-rock, I’ve remained obsessed with the music of my adolescence, the great soul hits of the ’60s and early ’70s.”

The best copies are both rich and open, with the sound we tend to associate with the better ’70s recordings and rarely hear on records from the ’80s. But here’s a record from 1988 that sounds the way we like our records to sound – like analog. We don’t really know if it is or not, or mostly is or mostly isn’t, but we’ve never really cared about those sorts of things as long as the record sounds good.

It’s our one and only criterion. Any other criterion is a sign that you’re not really listening, you’re reading (more…)

Jimmy Witherspoon – Handbags and Gladrags

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  • An outstanding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Both sides here are super big, rich and lively with tons of extension on both ends
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout with both sides playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus

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Lynyrd Skynyrd – Pronounced ‘Leh-‘nérd…

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  • Amazing sound from start to finish with both sides coming in just shy of our big Shootout Winner — nearly White Hot (A++ to A+++) throughout
  • Both sides here are incredibly big, full-bodied and spacious with a punchy bottom end and tons of energy 
  • “The Allman Brothers came first, but Lynyrd Skynyrd epitomized Southern rock… Produced by Al Kooper, there are few records that sound this raw and uncompromising, especially records by debut bands… the band rocks like a motherf*cker. It’s the birth of a great band that birthed an entire genre with this album.” – All Music, 5 Stars

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.

This vintage original Sounds of the South/MCA yellow label pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely 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 studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Hot August Night

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,   

The Neil Diamond Live is one the best I’ve ever bought from you. You were too kind to the Mofi: yours destroyed it. My stock copy is worthless. An unusually well recorded live album. You are so right. And your copy is awesome. (more…)

Tom Petty – Hard Promises – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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The best copy we’ve heard in years, with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides — “The Waiting” sounds superb. You get incredible energy and presence, full extension up top and real weight down low. Many copies can get thin and edgy — especially on the vocals — but not this one.

This pressing had sound on BOTH sides we never expected to hear on Hard Promises, an album that’s typically bright, thin, edgy, pinched and gritty — radio friendly, maybe, but not especially audiophile friendly.

We hate that sound but we are happy to report that some copies manage to avoid it, and this is one of them. Is that richer, fuller sound the sound of what’s on the master tape or did the mastering engineer “fix” it? We’ll never know, now will we? What we can know is the sound of the pressings we actually have to play, so let’s get right to it. (more…)