Labels We Love – Asylum

Tom Waits – Small Change

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

This is a wonderful album, considered by many to be Waits’s masterpiece. He’s backed with a real jazz combo here, including Lew Tabackin on sax and the great Shelley Manne on drums. Bones Howe does a great job gettin the kind of beatnik-jazz sound out of these songs that they need. On a copy like this, the presence and clarity are absolutely stunning!

According to Wikipedia, when asked in interview by Mojo magazine in 1999 if he shared many fans’ view that Small Change was the crowning moment of his “beatnik-glory-meets-Hollywood-noir period” (i.e. from 1973 to 1980), Waits replied:

Well, gee. I’d say there’s probably more songs off that record that I continued to play on the road, and that endured. Some songs you may write and record but you never sing them again. Others you sing em every night and try and figure out what they mean. “Tom Traubert’s Blues” was certainly one of those songs I continued to sing, and in fact, close my show with. (more…)

Joni Mitchell / Court and Spark – Joni’s Best Sounding Record

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides!
  • The sound is rich, warm and natural with wonderful transparency, ambience and loads of Tubey Magic
  • One of our very favorite Joni albums here at Better Records, and probably her Best Sounding Album
  • “[A] remarkably deft fusion of folk, pop, and jazz … the music is smart, smooth, and assured from the first note to the last.” – AMG 5 Stars

Stunning sound for this White Hot Stamper! Court and Spark deserves to be heard with all the clarity, beauty and power that only the best Hot Stamper pressings can convey.

What you hear is the sound of the real tape; every instrument has its own character, because the mastering is correct and the vinyl — against all odds — managed to capture all (or almost all; who can know?) of the resolution that the tape had to offer.

Tubey Magic Is the Key to Court and Spark (more…)

Tom Waits – Nighthawks At The Diner

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

A stunning Top Copy of this Tom Waits classic! A superb recording, with much credit due to Waits’ constant collaborator Bones Howe who produced and engineered. It’s a live-in-the-studio romp through Los Angeles with Waits playing the role of tour guide, and the results are wonderful.

At its best, this album has the immediacy and energy of a real live performance, but the typical copy just doesn’t bring it to life. This one is a big step up on all four sides, with the kind of life and clarity we just don’t hear often enough! Side two in particular has the kind of superb clarity and three-dimensional soundstage that puts you right there in the studio.

This album was recorded live at The Record Plant back in 1975, and, while I can’t be certain, it sure seems there are no overdubs or post-performance additions. There’s a touch of hardness to the vocals at times, but it was on every copy we played and it’s obviously on the tape. It’s the kind of sound we hear on Johnny Cash records and it just seems like a by-product of the microphones these guys used. It doesn’t seem to far a reach to imagine that an iconoclast like Waits might prefer an old-timey microphone sound that doesn’t soften or smooth his vocal style. (For those in search of buttery vocals, there’s usually an Al Stewart record or two on the site. This ain’t the one for you.) (more…)

Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night

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

Amazing Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides! This music ain’t for everyone, but when you find good sounding Tom Waits pressings like this one the sonics can be out of this world. It’s tough to find clean copies of this stuff these days and even tougher to find ones that really deliver the way this one does. Bones Howe sure knew how to record this kind of music, and a copy like this will really let you appreciate his work.  (more…)

Joe Walsh – But Seriously, Folks…

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

Triple Plus sound, a rarity for this really fun album! Most copies have a tendency to be gritty, thin, and/or edgy — a quality you may recognize from the typical Eagles pressing — but this one is rich, full and smooth in all the right ways.

Life’s Been Good is the big hit here, and it sounds excellent, but there are plenty of other great songs here. It’s one of the more solid rock albums from 1978 to hit our table in a while. Check out the Allmusic review linked above, they rave about the album (4 1/2 stars) and even compare it to Pet Sounds! (more…)

Tom Waits – Heartattack and Vine – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

One of the better copies of Heartattack and Vine we’ve ever heard! We enjoy listening to the music of Tom Waits here because the music and sound can be excellent. His albums are certainly a nice change of pace from the stuff that’s usually on our table. We had quite a few copies of this one and none of the other ones were in a league with this bad boy. The sound is very rich and full with incredible immediacy to the vocals. You just couldn’t get the vocals to sound any better than they do on this copy. (more…)

Tom Waits – Blue Valentine – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO GREAT SIDES on this wonderful album — A++ for the first and A+++ for the second! Both sides have a wonderful bottom end — check out all the WEIGHT to that rich, meaty bass. Many copies we played had a tendency to sound somewhat dull, but this one has all the extension up top you need. The overall sound is rich, full, sweet and warm. The strings have texture, the voice has lots of breath, and I just don’t think you could find a better sounding copy.

Drop the needle on Romeo Is Bleeding for some of the best music on here. When you’ve got the kind of bass definition that this copy offers, the sound for that song can be killer, as it is here. (more…)

Tom Waits – Closing Time

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

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Tom Waits record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are either bright or dark; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the piano and other instruments sound full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have studio ambience like you would not believe); and last but not least, TRANSPARENCY, the effect of being able to see INTO the soundfield all the way to the back, where there is plenty going on in this remarkable studio recording.

Some of the more common problems we ran into during our shootouts were slightly veiled, slightly smeary sound, with not all the top end extension that the best copies have.

You can easily hear that smear on the attack of the piano. More often than not the piano notes are a tad blunted, a quality you notice when you finally hear a pressing with the piano notes rendered clearly. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

WOW! This White Hot Stamper Asylum pressing has TWO AMAZING A+++ SIDES — better than every other copy we played it against. Side one is huge, rich and full. The sound is absolutely jumpin’ out of the speakers and Linda’s vocals are wonderfully present and breathy. Side two is every bit as good. It’s nice and clear with a great top end, present vocals and lovely sounding pianos.

Linda really belts it out on this album — face it, it’s what she does best — and only the rarest copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing

Another key to recognizing the best copies is the fact that they tend to be highly resolving. Two places to check:

Note how breathy her voice is in the quiet passages. Only the least smeared, most transparent copies reproduce that breathy quality in her voice

Next check out the tambourine on Silver Threads and Golden Needles. If the sound is delicate, not gritty or transistory, you have yourself a winner in the resolution department.

NOTE: the balance on side two is slightly off the left on most copies.

Linda’s Problems in the ’70s

The most common problem with these Ronstadt records from the ’70s is grainy, upper-midrangy sound. The average copy of Heart Like a Wheel, the album that followed this one, is pure transistory grain on most copies, making it practically unlistenable.

The average copy of Don’t Cry Now, though not quite as bad as HLAW, shares many of its shortcomings. The smooth copies that still have plenty of presence, life, energy and top end extension are the ones that really get this music sounding RIGHT.

Mobile Fidelity (more…)

Joe Walsh – But Seriously, Folks…

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  • This solo effort boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • A hard album to find with sound like this AND quiet surfaces, but here one is@
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness and presence on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true for whatever godawful Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently being foisted on an undiscerning record buying public
  • 4 1/2 stars: “As far as studio albums go, But Seriously Folks is Joe Walsh’s most insightful and melodic… The album’s introspective outlook glides through rejuvenation (‘Tomorrow,’ ‘Over and Over’), recapturing the simple pleasures of the past (‘Indian Summer’), mid-career indecision, and a melancholy instrumental.”

(more…)