Labels We Love – A&M

Richie Havens – The End Of The Beginning

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  • A stunning A&M pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides, just shy of out Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides here are super open and transparent with more bottom end weight and presence than just about every other copy we played
  • “1976’s The End Of The Beginning certainly represents a radical stylistic departure – Havens is backed by Booker T & The MGs and tries his hand, fairly successfully, at covering 10cc’s I’m Not In Love, Bob Dylan’s If Not For You, Van Morrison’s Wild Night and The Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Running.” – Record Collector Mag

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Peter Frampton – Frampton’s Camel

The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now

Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • 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).”
  • If you’re a Frampton fan — I sure am — then this title from 1973 comes heavily recommended.
  • All titles from 1973 we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Joe Cocker / With a Little Help From My Friends – A Masterpiece of Blue Eyed Soul

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We just finished our first shootout in over FIVE [2012 or so] years for the album and were SHOCKED by how amazing the best copies can sound, even better than we remember them from last time around. Turn this one up good and loud and you’ll have Joe Cocker in all his raspy glory belting out With A Little Help From My Friends right in your very own listening room! (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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The Police – Outlandos d’Amour

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  • One of the best copies to hit the site in quite a while – Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Few audiophiles (I’m guessing) know how well recorded this album is – you need just the right UK pressing to show you what’s really on the tape
  • Roxanne, So Lonely, Can’t Stand Losing You all sound amazing on these Shootout Winning (or close to them) sides
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Although Sting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland were all superb instrumentalists with jazz backgrounds, it was much easier to get a record contract in late-’70s England if you were a punk/new wave artist, so the band decided to mask their instrumental prowess with a set of strong, adrenaline-charged rock, albeit with a reggae tinge. ” 

Import soft cardboard covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is VG+.

What’s amazing about this copy? There are SWEET HIGHS and AMBIENCE that we didn’t think were possible – and it ROCKS! Whatever it’s doing, it sure doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it.

Not only does the high end exist, but it sounds sweet and doesn’t rip your ears out of your earsockets (trust me, I’m a doctor). This is vitally important in songs like “Roxanne” where Andy Summers’ reggae influenced guitar can sound squawky and brittle if there is too much compression.

Sting’s vocals are detailed, present, and you can really hear his background vocals separate themselves away from the lead, obvious on this copy in a denser track like “So Lonely”.

There’s a ton of punchy bass which actually equates to a ton of life and energy on this album. If Stewart Copeland’s kick drum isn’t punching you in the chest, then you’re missing out on some of the fun. We even heard ambience around the cymbals, and that is information most copies of the album simply cannot resolve.

This is clearly one of the BEST copies of Outlandos d’Amour we have ever heard. (more…)

Rita Coolidge – It’s Only Love

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Fans of Linda Ronstadt’s ’70s music are going to find a lot of Tubey Magical sound to like here – spending some time with Rita and getting reacquainted with her albums is just the kind of thing that makes record collecting fun
  • John Haeny, the principal engineer for Rita and hubby Kris Kristofferson during the ’70s, in fact worked on some of Linda’s albums, as well as those by Judy Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Little Feat and many others
  • If you’re a fan of Rita’s, this 1975 release is one of her best and surely belongs in your collection

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Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66 – Fool on the Hill

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Fool on the Hill you’ve heard
  • Sergio’s unique rearrangement of two songs in particular here make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and title trackl
  • Top engineers for A&M, Henry Lewy and Larry Levine, capture the natural, breathy intimacy in the voices of these wonderful female leads – Lani Hall, Karen Philipp and Gracinha Leporace
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Even though he had become thoroughly embedded in the consciousness of mainstream America, Mendes still managed to have it three ways, exposing first-class tunes from little-known Brazilian talent, garnering commercial hits, and also making some fine records.”

Two songs in particular make this a Must Own album: Scarborough Fair and The Fool On The Hill. Both of them are given wonderfully original treatments. These songs hold their own against the originals, and that’s saying something.

Sergio took on many of the heavyweights of his day, and most of the time he succeeded in producing a uniquely satisfying version of well-known material. Superb original tracks by The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, Buffalo Springfield, Joni Mitchell and others were given the Sergio Mendes latin pop treatment and came out much the better for it.

This vintage A&M 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.

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Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee – Sonny and Brownie

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  • 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.”
  • If you’re a fan of Folky Blues, this is a Must Own Title from 1973. Other titles from 1973 can be found here.

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…)

Peter Frampton – Wind of Change

The Music of Peter Frampton Available Now

Peter Frampton Albums We’ve Reviewed

  • Frampton’s solo debut returns, now with Double Plus (A+++) sound on both sides and fairly quiet vinyl for an early UK pressing circa 1972
  • This vintage British pressing is the very definition of TUBEY MAGIC, with sound so rich and sweet it will make you want to take all your CDs and dump them in the trash (now that record stores don’t even want them anymore)
  • The best copies like this one keep what’s good about the recording while letting us hear into the soundfield with glorious transparency
  • 4 stars: “The sound is crisp, the melodies catchy, and Frampton’s distinctive, elliptical Gibson Les Paul guitar leads soar throughout…“

This is some of the best High-Production-Value rock music of the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of effort that went into the recording of this album is comparable to that expended by the engineers and producers of bands like Supertramp, Yes, Jethro Tull, Ambrosia, Pink Floyd, Elton John and too many others to list. It seems that no effort or cost was spared in making the home listening experience as compelling as the recording technology of the day permitted.

The best song Peter Frampton ever wrote (and performed) is on this very record, in White Hot Stamper sound no less: All I Wanna Be (Is by Your Side). It has the Tubey Magical sound WE LOVE here at Better Records.

However, the richness that makes British recordings from the era so good can easily go over the edge, turning the sound into a thick, mucky stew in which the individual sonic components become difficult to separate out. Think of the typically dull Who’s Next or early Genesis or Jethro Tull albums and you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Only a select group of pressings are able to strike the right balance between Tubey Magic and clarity. This is one of those.

And as far as we can tell it’s the only version of the album that’s pressed from the master tape. The domestic A&M LPs are clearly made from dubbed tapes. They are as flat, small, smeary, veiled and opaque as any Heavy Vinyl pressing being made today, and we long ago gave up on them (i.e., domestic pressings of this album and Heavy Vinyl in general). (more…)

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…)