Labels We Love – A&M

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…)

Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge – Full Moon

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A Classic Pop Duo album finally available in Hot Stamper form! This copy has an AMAZING A++ TO A+++ SIDE ONE, and an excellent side two. Full Moon is a very well-recorded album, but the typical copy misses a lot of the magic that you hear on the better pressings. This side one gives you amazing immediacy, loads of richness and warmth, and wonderful transparency.

At Mint Minus Minus, this record is not quite as quiet as we would like. Still, if you can live with some surface noise this is an excellent chance to get Super Hot Stamper sound at a substantial discount.

We’ve been digging through some of the early Kristofferson albums here recently looking for Hot Stamper sound (keep an eye out for great copies of his first two albums) and were delighted when a copy of his first duet album with Rita Coolidge hit our table and blew us away with its lovely analog magic. We started picking them up in bulk, but of course, most of them sounded pretty mediocre. Many copies we played lacked the kind of presence and richness that brought out the best in these heartfelt songs. Others lacked transparency and never really opened up. We wen through a big stack of copies and only a handful gave us the kind of sound that really got us involved in the music. (more…)

Styx – The Grand Illusion

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  • This phenomenal pressing of The Grand Illusion boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Both sides are big, full, punchy, energetic, spacious, and they even have a healthy amount of Tubey Magic (which came as quite a surprise)
  • 4 stars: “Other than being their first platinum-selling album, The Grand Illusion led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock. Built on the strengths of Come Sail Away’s ballad-to-rock metamorphosis, which gained them their second Top Ten hit, and on the high harmonies of newcomer Tommy Shaw throughout Fooling Yourself, The Grand Illusion introduced Styx to the gates of commercial stardom.”

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Peter Frampton – Frampton’s Camel

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  • A STUNNING copy of Frampton’s Camel with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • On his second album, Frampton fronts a real rock band, playing his unique style of rock and pop, electric and acoustic, with consummate skill – if you’re a Frampton fan this is a record that belongs in your collection
  • Superb engineering from Chris Kimsey and Eddie Kramer at Olympic and Electric Lady Studios
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Named after Frampton’s touring band at the time, Frampton’s Camel has a harder-rocking feel than its predecessor Wind of Change, with Mick Gallagher’s percussive electric piano and organ taking a prominent position in the mix and Frampton getting a harder sound from his electric guitars (though his acoustic playing is so lush and lyrical that it dominates the album here and there in its quiet way).”

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Humble Pie – Rock On

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Hard rockin’ energy to spare, the kind you will be hard-pressed to find on any modern Heavy Vinyl reissue these days – Shine On is big and bold and simply amazing here
  • A classic Glyn Johns recording – we were knocked out by the full-bodied, Tubey Magical sound of these killer pressings
  • 4 stars: “The record has an undeniable live feel to it, due in part to Glyn Johns’ humble yet precise recording, framing the group as if they were a boogie version of the Band.”

Glyn Johns strikes again — this record is absolutely brimming with TUBEY MAGIC. It’s the sound we love here at Better Records, assuming the pressing in question still maintains some degree of presence, immediacy and transparency. Records like this can easily get thick and muddy; think of the typically dull Who’s Next or Sticky Fingers and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

But oh what a glorious sound it is when it’s working. There’s not a trace of anything phony up top, down low or anywhere in-between. This means it has a quality sorely at odds with the vast majority of audiophile pressiings, new and old, as well as practically anything recorded in the last twenty years, and it is simply this: The louder you play it the better it gets.

For that we must thank Glyn Johns. (more…)

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee – Sonny and Brownie

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  • With superb Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, so natural and relaxed, this is the right sound for this bluesy music
  • This early pressing puts a Folky-Bluesy jam from 1973 live in your living room, showcasing two of the true masters of the form
  • The immediacy, clarity and transparency are excellent, but the key element is Tubey Magical warmth, and these vintage pressings have plenty of it
  • 4 1/2 stars: “John Mayall and John Hammond, Jr. are among the “youngsters” on this powerful statement that includes a definitive version of Randy Newman’s wickedly subtle anti-slavery tune Sail Away.”

This is easily one of better Folkie Blues albums to hit our table in a while. The music is SUPERB. Among the highlights are great covers of Curtis Mayfield’s “People Get Ready” and Randy Newman’s “Sail Away.” (more…)

Cat Stevens – 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 one has it ALL going on — all the tubey magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high resolution yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings. (more…)

Supertramp – Crime of the Century

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side two and a superb Double Plus (A++) side one, this 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…)