Labels We Love – A&M

David Grisman – Hot Dawg

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  • David Grisman’s 1978 release finally arrives on the site – this STUNNING pressing boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These vintage stereo sides are As Good As It Gets – they’re rich, smooth and full-bodied, with the Tubey Magic that’s missing from most copies
  • Transparency, speed and freedom from smear are key to the best copies – this one showed us just how good the record can sound
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” Grisman’s lively “Dawg’s Bull” and guitarist Tony Rice’s upbeat “Devlin'” set a high standard at the opening of the album, yet the remaining tracks continue to meet the high watermark of the first two songs.”

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Joe Cocker – With A Little Help From My Friends

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  • This outstanding copy boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • There’s a reason this album is so tubey and real – it was recorded at Olympic and Trident in the halcyon days of 1968
  • The sound is solid, present and rich – you’re unlikely to find a better sounding pressing, and if you own the mediocre Speakers Corner pressing from years back, a world of sound will open up to you that you never knew was there
  • 4 stars: “Joe Cocker’s debut album holds up extraordinarily well across four decades, the singer’s performance bolstered by some very sharp playing… Tracks like “Just Like a Woman,” with its soaring gospel organ above a lean textured acoustic and light electric accompaniment… help make this an exceptional listening experience.”

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Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Equinox

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  • With a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two married with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one, this original A&M pressing had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Equinox, Sergio’s follow-up to his massively successful debut
  • The breathy intimacy of the two wonderful female leads – Lani Hall and Janis Hansen – were brilliantly captured by the engineering team of Bruce Botnick and Larry Levine at A and M
  • Watch What Happens, Night and Day, Wave – Mendes brings his innovative Bossa Nova arranging skills to these timeless classics
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equinox continues the scrumptiously winning sound that Sergio Mendes cooked up in the mid-’60s… Again, the mix of American pop tunes old and new and Brazilian standards and sleepers is impeccable, and the treatments are smooth, swinging, and very much to the point.”

These Sergio Mendes records can be surprisingly dynamic, and only the better copies (such as this one) will allow those dynamics to explode naturally, with the kind of ease that only analog is capable of reproducing correctly in our experience.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, we’re the world’s biggest fans of Sergio Mendes here at Better Records. Brasil ’66, Stillness, and this album are ALL Desert Island Discs for us, and we even enjoy the hell out of some of the later albums. You can search all you want, but outside of The Beatles you are going to have a very tough time finding the diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the breathy, multi-part female vocals, their unusually voiced multi-tracked harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us not forget, Mendes’ superb keyboard work anchoring as well as jazzing up the whole production.

His stuff never sounds dated to us, and we’ve never heard another artist do anything in the ’60s samba idiom nearly as well. We love Astrud Gilberto’s albums from the period, which no doubt served as a template for the style Sergio wanted to create with his new ensemble, but Brazil 66 is clearly a step up in every way: songwriting, arranging, production, and quality of musicianship.

Just play the group’s amazing versions of Watch What Happens, Night and Day, or Jobim’s Wave to hear the kind of Mendes Magic that makes us swoon. For audiophiles it just doesn’t get any better. (Well, almost. Stillness is still the Ultimate, on the level of a Dark Side of the Moon or Tea for the Tillerman, but Equinox and the first album are right up there with it.) (more…)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

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Reviews and Commentaries for Crime of the Century

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  • This UK copy of Supertramp’s Masterpiece will be very hard to beat
  • Ken Scott engineered this one to have Cinerama-sized height, width and depth to rival the best rock albums you’ve ever heard
  • Clearly their Magnum Opus, a great leap forward and a permanent member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 Album List
  • “The tuneful, tightly played songs, pristine clarity of sound, and myriad imaginative sound effects, helped create an album that Sounds magazine likened to ‘Genesis, The Beach Boys…a smattering of [Pink] Floyd.'”

CONDITION NOTES: A mark at the start of track two makes about twenty light to very light intermittent ticks, with a few a bit louder.

This is engineer Ken Scott’s (and the band’s) MASTERPIECE, but the average copy sure can’t get your blood pumping the way this one will. We’ve long recognized that Crime of the Century is a true Demo Disc in the world of rock recordings, a member of our Rock & Pop Top 100 list right from the get go.

When you hear the guitars come jumping out of your speakers on School or Bloody Well Right you can be sure that you’re playing a very special pressing of a very special recording indeed. (Yes, you need both. That’s why we’re here.) (more…)

The Tubes – The Tubes

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  • An outstanding copy of The Tubes self-titled debut with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • We guarantee the sound is dramatically bigger, richer, fuller, and livelier than any pressing you have ever heard
  • Their music is definitely not for everyone – I saw them live many years ago and they did put on one helluva show, but you have to be a fan of eccentric pop or none of it will make any sense
  • “Produced by Al Kooper, this debut by the notorious San Francisco group is best known for the blazing anthem “White Punks on Dope.” Although the Tubes’ raison d’être was their shock-rock stage dynamic, Bill Spooner, Fee Waybill, and company could, on occasion, deliver some offbeat pop splendor.

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Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge – Full Moon

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  • A KILLER pressing of Full Moon with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This stunning copy gives you amazing immediacy, loads of richness and warmth, and wonderful transparency
  • The vocals are wonderfully breathy and sweet, the bass is killer and everything is natural and musical – so good!
  • 4 stars: “Despite Kristofferson’s greater celebrity, the LP was made with Coolidge’s strengths in mind. . . The songs were set in her key, with Kristofferson crooning along in an unusually high register. The tempos were mostly slow, emphasizing the dreamy quality of Coolidge’s voice.”

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Styx – Pieces Of Eight

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  • A KILLER copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • Here is the kind of sound we want on our ELP, Yes and Queen-like multi-layered Proggy Pop Rock – big, full-bodied and lively
  • 4 stars: “Styx’s feisty, straightforward brand of album rock is represented best by ‘Blue Collar Man,’ an invigorating keyboard and guitar rush… reaching number 21, with the frolicking romp of ‘Renegade’ edging in at number 16 only six months later… the rest of the album includes tracks that rekindle some of Styx’s early progressive rock sound, only cleaner. Tracks like ‘Sing for the Day,’ ‘Lords of the Ring,’ and ‘Aku-Aku’ all contain slightly more complex instrumental foundations…”

Who likes their Wall of Sound small and closed-in? Certainly not Big Speaker guys like us. By all accounts this band wanted their records to sound good, or at least as good as their contemporaries (and the bands that inspired them, name-checked above). There’s no shortage of production polish here and on the best pressings, the sound really works. (more…)

Baja Marimba Band – Rides Again

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Yet Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound

  • Baja Marimba Band returns with this superb copy of Rides Again, boasting Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides and vinyl that is about as quiet as we can find it
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • If you are familiar with other top recordings released by A&M engineered by Larry Levine, the killer Herb Alpert and Sergio Mendes albums just to mention a few, you know the sound of Rides Again
  • Super tubey, with low end weight and performance energy that leave most other records from 1965 in the dust

Larry Levine was the resident engineering genius at A&M Records, the man responsible for many of the best sounding Sergio Mendes albums.  What most people don’t realize is how good the best Herb Alpert recordings are, as well as the ones Herb produced, such as the second Baja Marimba Band album here.

The reason is simple: most of the A&M pressings out there only hint at the wonderful recording quality of these albums.

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Supertramp – Paris

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  • A Killer Copy: Triple Plus (A+++) on side two, nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) on side one, and Double Plus (A++) on the rest
  • This British original pressing may have been mastered in America but it sure sounded better than most of the domestic vinyl we played
  • Key elements in the sound of the best pressings were size, richness, Tubey Magic and energy, and these sides have a sizable helping of all four
  • Amazon reviewers love the album – 86% of them as of this writing have given it Five Stars

Listen to side two of this copy to hear exactly what the best sounding copies can do! (more…)

Sting – The Dream Of The Blue Turtles

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Sting surrounded himself with legitimate jazz musicians and together they created an album that incorporates the loose, relaxed feel of jazz into Sting’s distinct pop sensibility
  • Exceptionally big, full-bodied and musical, with exceptional presence for the most important element of the recording, Sting’s voice
  • 4 stars: “Sting incorporated heavy elements of jazz, classical, and worldbeat into his music, writing lyrics that were literate and self-consciously meaningful… he proves that he’s subtler and craftier than his peers.”

This album has long been a favorite among audiophiles and it’s pretty easy to see why. What Sting does here with jazz music is very similar to what Paul Simon later did with African music on Graceland. Sting surrounded himself with legitimate jazz musicians and together they’ve created an album that gives you the loose, relaxed feel of jazz mixed with Sting’s distinct pop sensibility. There are elements of worldbeat, reggae, and soul here as well, but the album never feels disjointed; Sting managed to pull it all together to create a sound that is somehow unique and familiar at the same time. (more…)