Labels We Love – Asylum

Jackson Browne – The Pretender

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  • STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, making this a Pretender that rocks like no other!
  • One of the all time great rock / pop Demo Discs — the best copies are so rich and full-bodied they make most rock records sound positively anemic
  • Five Stars in Rolling Stone, one of their Top 500 Albums, and a true classic from 1976
  • Without a doubt the best sounding record Jackson Browne ever made – this is the pressing that backs up everything we say and more

As I’m sure you know by now, especially if you own a copy or two, pressings of The Pretender don’t usually sound like Demo Discs. In fact, most copies of this record are mediocre at best — thin, grainy, and flat sounding.

This copy is none of those things. And it positively kills the famous MoFi pressing. (more…)

Eagles – On The Border

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  • An outstanding British SYL copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound for this criminally underrated California Country Rock Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl for this album, because early UK pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile playing condition
  • If you’ve never heard one of these early pressings, you have simply never heard this album sound the way it should
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love (their first No. 1) offer Glyn Johns magically delicious DEMO DISC quality sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot coming from us – we’ve been big fans for decades

NOTE: *On side one, a mark makes 2 moderately loud pops followed by 1 loud pop and 2 moderatly light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, You Never Cry Like a Lover.

Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind of sound you’ll hear on this vintage UK pressing (the only kind we sell of course).

The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume. (more…)

Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy

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  • This superb copy of Zevon’s 1978 release boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is anchored by an exceptionally fat, rich, punchy low end, and this copy delivers on that promise big time
  • Much like The Pretender, this is a superb recording with the kind of Tubey Magical Analog Richness we go crazy for here
  • 4 stars: “Excitable Boy was an actual hit, scoring one major hit single, ‘Werewolves of London,’ and a trio of turntable hits (‘Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner,’ ‘Lawyers, Guns and Money,’ and the title track).”

Just listen to ‘Excitable Boy’ and ‘Werewolves Of London’ to hear how full-bodied the sound of this album can be — the louder you play it the better it gets!

That’s the Big Speaker Quality we live for around here. You turn it up and it starts to really ROCK. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt / Prisoner In Disguise – Give It Up Again For Val Garay

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this copy of Prisoner, the followup to Linda’s Masterpiece, Heart Like a Wheel
  • This is an amazing recording, but it takes a special copy like this one to reveal all the magic that we know must be on the tape
  • 4 1/2 stars – Love Is a Rose, Tracks of My Tears and Heat Wave were hits, but Linda really pours her heart into Hey Mister, That’s Me up on the Jukebox
  • Andrew Gold (so critical to the success of HLAW) is still heavily involved, along with EmmyLou Harris, James Taylor, Lowell George, David Lindley, JD Souther, and of course Peter Asher

The soundfield has a three-dimensional quality that was pretty much nonexistent on most of the other copies we played. Drop the needle on Many Rivers To Cross and check out the amazing sound of the organ coming from the back of the room. Only the highest resolution copies give you that kind of soundstage depth.

The piano sounds natural and weighty. The fiddle on The Sweetest Gift (played by our man David Lindley) is full of rosiny texture.

Emmylou Harris, dueting here with Linda, is SUPERB, with truly Demonstration Quality Sound on the best copies.

The acoustic guitars are tonally Right On The Money throughout — the transient information is captured perfectly. Listen to the opening guitar in the right channel of The Sweetest Gift; we used it as a test track and when that guitar is RIGHT THERE you know you have a copy with Hot Stampers. (more…)

The Asylum Sound We Love – Great in the Seventies, Gone by the Eighties

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Superb engineering by Greg Ladanyi (Toto 4, The Pretender, El Rayo-X, demo discs one and all).

If you know the “Asylum Sound” — think of the Tubey Magical Analog of The Eagles first album and you won’t be far off — you can be sure the best copies of All This and Heaven Too have plenty of it. Rarely do we run into recordings from the mid- to late-’70s with richer, fuller sound. The bass on the best copies is always huge and note-like. In the ’80s the very engineer for this record, Greg Ladanyi, would produce solo albums for the likes of Don Henley with no bass. How this came to be I cannot begin to understand, but record after record that we play from that decade are bright and thin like a transistor radio. This accounts for why you see so few of them on the site.

But Andrew Gold’s albums from the later ’70s are amazingly rich and tubey. That sound never went out of style with us. In fact albums with those sonic qualities make up the bulk of our sales, from The Beatles to The Eagles, Pink Floyd to Elton John, Simon and Garfunkel to Graham Nash. In our world the more “modern” something sounds the lower the grade.

Andrew Gold / Andrew Gold – A Fab Favorite from 1975

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  • A STUNNING sounding copy and the first to hit the site in many years — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • These sides are dripping with Analog magic — transparent, sweet and rich from beginning to end and the bass is especially meaty and well-defined
  • Those of you who have tried our Hot Stampers of JT will know exactly what to expect; Garay LOVES BASS and so do we
  • “An abundance of riches can be heard in Andrew Gold’s first solo album. There are great Beatlesque melodies here, as well as heartfelt love songs that are Gold’s specialties. Playing nearly all of the instruments himself makes this a truly “solo” effort.” – All Music, 4 Stars

As audiophiles we all know that sound and music are inseparable. My comments for this copy note how spacious and present and full of energy it is. After dropping the needle on a dozen or so copies, all originals by the way, you KNOW when the music is working its magic and when it’s not.

As with any pop album there are always some tracks that sound better than others, but when you find yourself marvelling at how well-written and well-produced a song is, you know that the sound is doing what it needs to do. It’s communicating the Musical Values of the material. This Hot Stamper copy brings Andrew Gold’s music to LIFE.

This record is dripping with Analog Tubey Magic. It’s transparent, sweet and rich from beginning to end. The bass is especially meaty and well-defined. Val Garay puts plenty on his recordings, one of the reasons we love listening to them. The vocals are present and clear, the studio is huge, and the snare is FAT the way it always is on Val’s recordings. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – Hejira

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  • An incredible sounding copy and the first to hit the site in NINE years! Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Most copies we played were too compressed or veiled to let the music really flow, but this one has the kind of big, open, rich sound that Joni’s spacey “beatnik jazz” needs to really work its magic
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout with both sides playing Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “Joni Mitchell’s Hejira is the last in an astonishingly long run of top-notch studio albums dating back to her debut… Performances are excellent, with special kudos reserved for Jaco Pastorius’ melodic bass playing… This excellent album is a rewarding listen.” 

We played a ton of copies and heard a lot to dislike. Many copies have a tendency to sound phony, a case of heavy-handed EQ in the mastering perhaps. When a copy sounds glossy, it loses its natural warmth and starts to sound like any old audiophile LP. We’re ideally looking for something akin to Blue here, and not the sound you find on Patricia Barber LPs. (Gratuitous maybe, but it feels like it’s been too long since we took a swipe at that junk. But I digress…)

Plenty of copies had natural sound but no real life or presence to speak of. It’s a sound you could live with until you heard a good one, but there’s no going back once you’ve heard what the album’s really capable of. A copy like this one gives you lots of richness and warmth without sacrificing the texture to the instruments or the breath to Joni’s voice. The percussion really comes through, the bass has more weight and the immediacy of the vocals put Joni front and center, just where she should be.

If you aren’t familiar with this album, it’s a few more steps down the path she started taking on Court and Spark. The musicians include Larry Carlton and Jaco Pastorious, so that should give you an idea about the jazz-fusion direction of the arrangements. It was a fun album to get to know and on a copy like this one, it really rewards multiple listens. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Hasten Down The Wind

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  • Two incredible sides each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, making this the best copy to ever hit the site
  • This copy is doing it all right — huge, rich and lively, with Linda’s vocals reproduced to near perfection
  • “Her big but pretty voice is a stunning instrument for expressing feelings, particularly intense feelings that require a slightly understated delivery… a fine album that begs closer inspection than, I fear, many of us are willing to give to Linda Ronstadt’s art. Like the best moments of the preceding nine, though, the best moments of Hasten Down the Wind will be with us a long, long time.”

The sound is rich, smooth, full-bodied and natural on both sides. In other words, this is Classic Analog from the ’70s, recorded by none other than Val Garay, one of our favorite engineers.

Most pressings of this album have quite obvious problems. If you own the record see if you don’t notice some of them on your own copy. Some have a phony boosted top end, a subject we have discussed on Linda’s records before. Some are just too fat and Tubey. Perhaps the result of too much Aphex Aural Excitement? Some are thick, some are thin, some are too clean, some are not clean enough, every sonic issue you can imagine can be heard on this album if you have enough copies to play, and we had plenty.

We know that this copy is about as correct as can be. We know because we cleaned and played it and listened to it critically in comparison to other copies, and we did it all by ourselves. (Of course we did. There’s really no other way to do it.) (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Get Closer

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  • Superb sound on both sides of this Asylum pressing from 1982 with each earning Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • Engineering prowess provided by Val Garay and George Massenburg, which means the sound is full-bodied, dynamic and lively, with plenty of bottom end punch
  • “Linda Ronstadt’s voice has never sounded better than it does on Get Closer… [her] ringing soprano vibrates with clarity and authority on the record’s best songs…” Rolling Stone, 4 Stars

(more…)

David Lindley – El Rayo-X – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

After hearing Lindley’s white-bread session playing on ’70s albums by Linda Ronstadt, Jackson Browne, et al., you might think the man must have a stick stuck up his butt. His solos never seem to let loose or get loose, and they rarely rock. Mercury Blues on this, his best album, is proof positive that he can rock like a wild man when he wants to. On this album, perhaps for the first time, he really does seem to want to.

The sound on this record is so punchy and dynamic, the rest of your rock records should seem positively anemic in comparison. Most of it sounds live in the studio, and live in the studio is how you get a bunch of guys to play with this kind of enthusiasm and energy.

Engineered in 1981 by Greg Ladanyi, the very next year he would take home the Best Engineering Grammy for Toto IV (one helluva good sounding album and a former member of our Top 100).

Fortunately for us audiophiles, this album catches him before the overly-processed, digital drums and digital echo “sound of the ’80s” had gotten into his blood. (Just play any of the awful Don Henley records he made to hear what we mean.) This record still sounds ANALOG, and even though it may be 1981 and mostly transistorized, the better copies display strong evidence of TUBES in the recording chain. (more…)