Labels We Love – A&M

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Mona Bone Jakon

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, this copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you are now revealed as never before 
  • When you play I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This side one has it ALL going on — all the Tubey Magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high-rez yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings, especially the reissues on the second label.

Right off the bat, I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of Folk Pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other Folk Pop recordings that are as good but we know of none that are better.

Mike Bobak was the engineer for these sessions from 1970. He is the man responsible for some of the best sounding records from the early ’70s: The Faces’ Long Player, Cat Stevens’ Mona Bone Jakon, Rod Stewart’s Never a Dull Moment, The Kinks’ Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One, (and lots of other Kinks albums), Carly Simon’s Anticipation and more than his share of obscure English bands (of which there seems to be a practically endless supply).

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with the richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and remasterings). (more…)

Sergio Mendes – Look Around

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More Bossa Nova

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  • This superb pressing boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We go CRAZY for the breathy multi-tracked female vocals and the layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, as well as the piano work and arrangements of Sergio himself
  • “The Look of Love” and “With a Little Help from My Friends” are the epitome of the group’s ability to create Bossa Nova Magic
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sergio Mendes took a deep breath, expanded his sound to include strings lavishly arranged by the young Dave Grusin and Dick Hazard, went further into Brazil, and out came a gorgeous record of Brasil ’66 at the peak of its form.”

As you may have noticed, we here at Better Records are HUGE Sergio Mendes fans. Nowhere else in the world of music can you find the wonderfully diverse thrills that this group offers. We go CRAZY for the girls’ breathy multi-tracked vocals and the layers and layers of harmonies, the brilliant percussion, and, let us never forget, the crucially important, always tasteful keyboards and arrangements of Sergio himself.

Most copies of Look Around are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled, smeary and full of compressor distortion in the loud parts. Clearly, this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure. Our Hot Stamper pressings are the ones that are as far from that kind of sound as we can find them. We’re looking for the records that have none of those bad qualities. I’m happy to report that we have managed to find some awfully good sounding copies for our Hot Stamper customers. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Mad Dogs And Englishmen

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  • A superb copy of Mad Dogs and Englishmen with all four sides earning nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades or BETTER – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is rich and tubey, with driving energy and the top end and clarity that was simply missing from far too many of the copies we had to work through in order to find this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Unlike a lot of other “coffee table”-type rock releases of the era, such as Woodstock and The Concert for Bangladesh, people actually listened to Mad Dogs & Englishmen — most of its content was exciting, and its sound, a veritable definition of big-band rock with three dozen players working behind the singer, was unique.”

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Diminishing Returns in Audio?

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Diminishing returns? Sez who? In our opinion, it’s another Old and Pernicious Myth.

I often read this comment in audio magazines regarding the piece of equipment under review, as if to say that we are so close to audio perfection that a gain of a few percent is the most we can hope for from this or that new megabuck amp or speaker. In my experience the exact opposite is true. 

There are HUGE improvements to be made on a regular basis, even without spending all that much money (keeping in mind that this is not exactly a poor man’s hobby).

If you are actively involved in seeking out better equipment, trying new things, and tweaking the hell out of your system as much as time and patience permit, I think an improvement of 10-25% per year in perceived sound quality is not an unreasonable expectation. (more…)

Wes Montgomery – Road Song

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

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  • Wes Montgomery’s final album makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • Full-bodied, musical, warm and smooth – this should sound far better than any copy you’ve heard
  • Features the limitless talents of Herbie Hancock, Ed Shaughnessy, Richard Davis, and more
  • “These songs are short, sweet, and supported by classical-tinged string and woodwind arrangements. This is not heavy jazz in any sense. Wes sounds to be just relaxing and having fun with it…”

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Sergio Mendes – Room Treatments Bring Out The Big Speaker Whomp Factor

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Reviews and Commentaries for Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66’s Debut

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Only the best copies are sufficiently transparent to grant the listener the privilege of hearing all the elements laid out clearly, each occupying a real three-dimensional space within the soundfield. 

With recent changes to some of our room treatments, we now have even more transparency in the mids and highs, while improving the whomp factor (the formula goes like this: deep bass + mid bass + speed + dynamics + energy = whomp) at the listening position.

There’s always tons of bass being produced when you have three 12′ woofers firing away, but getting the bass out of the corners and into the center of the room is one of the toughest tricks in audio.

For a while we were quite enamored with some later pressings of this album — they were cut super clean, with extended highs and amazing transparency, with virtually none of the congestion in the loud parts you hear on practically every copy.

But that clarity comes at a price, and it’s a steep one. The best early pressings have whomp down below only hinted at by the “cleaner” reissues. It’s the same way super transparent half-speeds fool most audiophiles. For some reason audiophiles rarely seem to notice the lack of weight and solidity down below that they’ve sacrificed for this improved clarity. (Probably because it’s the rare audiophile speaker that can really move enough air to produce the whomp we are talking about here.)

But hey, look who’s talking! I was fooled too. You have to get huge amounts of garbage out of your system (and your room) before the trade-offs become obvious. When you find that special early pressing, one with all the magic in the midrange and top without any loss of power down below, then my friend you have one of those “I Can’t Believe It’s A Record” records. We call them Hot Stampers here at Better Records, and they’re guaranteed to blow your mind.

Funky Brazilian Music For Audiophiles

This is one of my favorite albums, one which certainly belongs in any Audiophile’s collection. Better sound is hard to find — when you have the right pressing. Unfortunately those are pretty hard to come by. Most LPs are grainy, shrill, thin, veiled and full of compressor distortion in the louder parts: this is not a recipe for audiophile listening pleasure.

But we LOVE this album here at Better Records, and have since Day One. One of the first records I ever played for my good audio buddy Robert Pincus (Cisco Records) to demonstrate the sound of my system was Sergio’s syncopated version of Day Tripper off this album. That was more than thirty years ago, and I can honestly say I have never tired of this music in the decades since.

Joe Jackson – Night and Day

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich solid piano tone, lively drums, tight powerful bass and strong vocal presence – it’s all here and more
  • From that opening big drum on ‘Another World’, you’ll know this pressing has the Night and Day magic
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…his blend of percolating Latin rhythms, jazzy horns and pianos, stylish synths, and splashy pop melodies uncannily feel like a bustling, glitzy evening in the big city.”

You’ll want to turn this one up good and loud to get the full effect because the music really swings on a copy that sounds as good as this one does. It not only swings, it ROCKS.

From that opening big drum on ‘Another World’ you know you’re in for some wonderful sound: BIG, spacious, transparent, dynamic — you name it, this record pretty much has it all.

Night and Day is Joe Jackson’s masterpiece. It’s simply WONDERFUL from start to finish. This is adult popular music that belongs in any serious thinking person’s record collection. Not many records from the ’80s sound as natural as this one. It’s analog, that’s for damn sure. (more…)

Supertramp / Crime of the Century – Loud Levels and Big Woofers

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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

The bass on the best copies is AWESOME. Playing a Hot Stamper copy at loud levels with big woofers will have your house quaking. Add to that the kind of ENERGY that the better pressings have in their grooves and the result is an album guaranteed to bring most audiophile systems to their knees, begging for mercy. 

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, don’t expect to hear Crime of the Century the way Ken and the boys wanted you to. The album wants to rock your world, and that’s exactly what our Hot Stamper pressings are capable of doing.

The typical Brit copy is dull, and that quality just takes all the magic out of the recording. The three dimensional space and clarity of the recording rely heavily on the quality of the top end. The MoFi, on the best copies, shows you what is missing from the typical Brit, domestic or other import LP. This is what impressed me back in the ’70s when I bought my MoFi. It was only years later that I realized what was missing and what was wrong. (more…)

Joe Cocker – Joe Cocker!

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  • Cocker’s sophomore release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Consistently stronger material than his debut – did Cocker ever release an album with more good songs than these?
  • How’s this for a track listing: Dear Landlord; Bird on the Wire; She Came in Through the Bathroom Window; Something; Delta Lady; Darling Be Home Soon – and there’s more
  • 4 stars: “Cocker mixed elements of late-’60s English blues revival recordings (John Mayall, et al.) with the more contemporary sounds of soul and pop; a sound fused in no small part by producer and arranger Leon Russell, whose gumbo mix figures prominently on this eponymous release and the infamous Mad Dogs & Englishmen live set.”

*NOTE: Side two Track Four, Hello, Little Friend, is slightly noisier, on the low end of Mint Minus Minus.

This is a surprisingly good recording. Cocker and his band — with more than a little help from Leon Russell — run through a collection of songs from the likes of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and the Beatles, and when you hear it on a White Hot Stamper copy it’s hard to deny the appeal of this timeless music.

This album is a ton of fun, with Cocker and his band putting their spin on some of the best songs of the era. You need energy, space and full, rich, Tubey Magical sound if this music is going to sound right, and on those counts these copies deliver. (more…)

Cat Stevens’ Albums – Lee Hulko Cut Them All – Good, Bad and Otherwise

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Is the Pink Label Island original pressing THE way to go? That’s what Harry Pearson — not to mention most audiophile record dealers — would have you believe.

But it’s just not true. And that’s good news for you, Dear (Record Loving Audiophile) Reader.

HOT STAMPER COMMENTARY FROM JOHN BARLEYCORN

Since that’s a Lee Hulko cutting just like Tea here, the same insights, if you can call them that, apply. Here’s what we wrote: (more…)