Labels We Love – Arista

Patti Smith Group – Easter

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  • An excellent sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of Smith’s breakthrough from 1978, this is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Easter, produced by Bruce Springsteen associate Jimmy Iovine, was Smith’s most commercial-sounding effort yet and, due to the inclusion of Springsteen’s “Because the Night” (with Smith’s revised lyrics), a Top Ten hit, it became her biggest seller, staying in the charts more than five months and getting into the Top 20 LPs. But Smith hadn’t so much sold out as she had learned to use her poetic gifts within an album rock context.”

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Al Stewart – Time Passages

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  • A stunning Shootout Winning early British pressing – the first “Triple Triple” (A+++) to hit the site in many years
  • Standout tracks include Song on the Radio and Time Passages (an edited version of which made it all the way to #7 on the Pop charts)
  • “… this is exceptionally well-crafted, from Stewart’s songs, where even three-minute songs seem like epics, to Alan Parsons’ cinematic arrangements and productions… one of Al Stewart’s very best albums.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

Our Hot Stampers of Year Of The Cat are always a big hit, and this, the 1978 follow-up, shares many of the same qualities. Alan Parsons is a pretty good producer and engineer it turns out. This copy is richer and sweeter than most, with a big, bold, three-dimensional sound that perfectly suits the kind of Big Productions that are his stock in trade. The bigger the better we say! (more…)

This Is the Most Amazing Record the Dregs Ever Made

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If you want to hear what happens when five virtuoso instrumentalists manage to combine their talent for Jazz, Rock, Classical and Country (thanks god there aren’t any vocals) into a potent mix that defies classification and breaks all the rules, this is the one. It reminds me of Ellington’s famous line that there are only two kinds of music: good music and bad music. This is the kind of music you may have trouble describing, but one thing’s for sure — it’s good. In fact it’s really good.

This is the most AMAZING album the Dregs ever recorded, and now this wild amalgamation of rock, jazz, country, prog and classical music has the kind of sound I always dreamed it could have. It’s rich and smooth like good ANALOG should be. It’s also got plenty of energy and rock and roll drive, which is precisely where the famous half-speed falls apart.

Few audiophiles know this music, and that’s a shame. This record is just a delight from beginning to end.

I’m apparently not the only one who noticed how good the album is. In 1980 Dregs of the Earth received a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Instrumental Performance. (more…)

Grateful Dead – Go to Heaven

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning sides or close to them, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Go to Heaven – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • Bill Kreutzmann noted, “If you go back and (re)listen to it, you’ll find that time has been very kind to Go to Heaven. It plays better now than it did back then. That’s still no excuse for the cover, though – all six of us, dressed all in white disco suits against a white background.”
  • Classic Rock Review wrote, “While this may be a far cry from the group’s lauded stage improvisation, it made for an enjoyable studio album which holds up decades later…. It still sounds good today and shows that this band had some vast talent away from the stage.”

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The Outlaws – The Outlaws

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame

It’s easy to spot the good ones. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deep on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. The guitars ring out. The energy of the performance drives the music the way you want it to.   (more…)

Whitney Houston – Whitney

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  • This KILLER Arista pressing has surprisingly natural sound for an ’80s release – it earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Full-bodied, big, rich and solid, this album has the kind of analog sound we did not expect to find, but were pleasantly surprised, thank goodness
  • Lot of hits here: “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)”, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”
  • “Whitney Houston became an international star with this album. It sold more than ten million copies around the world, yielded a string of number one hit singles across the board…”

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Grateful Dead – Shakedown Street

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  • This original Arista LP earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this one does – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Midrange magic that’s no doubt missing from whatever 180g reissue has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • Grateful Dead fans and completists will surely want to add this to their collection – it’s As Good As It Gets
  • “The rough-edged blues of “I Need a Miracle” and the Caribbean-tinged “Fire On the Mountain” would become set list staples, and their Latin-flavored version of The Rascals’ ’60s rock classic “Good Lovin'” is one of the band’s most beloved covers.” Amazon

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The Alan Parsons Project – I Robot – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame. 

For the first time ever, we’ve found Hot Stamper versions of I Robot! No copy in our shootout fared better than this one, which earned an A+++ on side one, an A++ on side two and played pretty quietly throughout. If you’re a fan of this album who has been playing a typical copy, or — even worse — one of the MoFi versions, you are sure to be very impressed with the kind of sound this White Hot Stamper copy delivers. 

Side one earned our top grade of A+++ and did everything we were hoping for. You get a strong, solid bottom end setting the foundation, which is exactly what you need to make a funky tune like I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You come to life. The overall sound is clean, clear and transparent. Many copies tend to be overly smooth, this one has the kind of clarity that allows the natural textures of the instruments to come through. (more…)

The Kinks – Sleepwalker

More The Kinks

Sleepwalker

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  • A superb copy of the Kinks triumphant return to the charts, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on side two and a solid Double Plus (A++) side one
  • It’s the first copy to hit the site in a year, and it plays on relatively quiet vinyl, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout 
  • The sound is full-bodied, lively and smooth – RL’s mastering contributes the big bottom end you want for this music
  • Juke Box Music represents Ray Davies’ fun and engaging pop sensibilities at their best
  • Rolling Stone raved that “The Kinks’ playing on Sleepwalker is easily their most powerful since ‘Lola.'”

We really enjoy the music of The Kinks here at Better Records, but most of the time the sound of their records is too mediocre (or worse) for serious audiophile listening. I love You Really Got Me as much as the next guy, but it’s insanely tough to find killer copies of old records like that. (Every now and then we manage, but regular visitors to the site know how infrequent that is.) (more…)