Labels We Love – Atlantic/Atco

J. Geils Band – Bloodshot

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  • A stunning pressing, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from the first note to the last – this copy was rockin’ like no other
  • Credit Bill Szymczyk for the punchy, huge and energetic sound he produced and engineered
  • 4 stars: “The band sounds tighter, meaner, and funkier than on their first two releases… the first Geils album to stake a claim on the major leagues of rock & roll.”

While red vinyl pressings, like this one, sounded great, they are never quiet.

Big bass and lots of energy are essential to this music. In the loudest vocal parts almost all copies — when playing at the good loud levels we prefer — can get a bit harsh. It’s clearly not a problem that Szymczyk is too worried about. One of These Nights and practically any Joe Walsh album have some of it, and of course the badly mastered and badly pressed copies tend to have much too much. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Sticky Fingers

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  • A Sticky Fingers like you’ve never heard — amazing Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Finally, with the best vintage pressings we can hear the power and the beauty of this truly superb recording
  • A landmark Glyn Johns / Andy Johns recording, our favorite by the Stones, a Top 100 Title (of course) and 5 stars on Allmusic (ditto)
  • Q magazine said this was “the Stones at their assured, showboating peak … A magic formula of heavy soul, junkie blues and macho rock.”
  • 5 stars: “With its offhand mixture of decadence, roots music, and outright malevolence, Sticky Fingers set the tone for the rest of the decade for the Stones.”

A Very Special Pressing

On this copy you will find the best sounding side of any Stones album ever made. Nothing in our last few shootouts could touch it. We kept it as reference copy for a year or two, but decided that it would be better if someone enjoyed it rather than have it sit on a shelf in our stockroom.

We used to give a side like this Four Pluses, but we decided not to do that anymore, so the grade you see in the listing is Three Pluses. Make no mistake, these are the best sounding Three Pluses on the site right now, bar none.

Sure, it’s a lot of money for a record with condition issues. However, since almost every copy of Sticky Fingers has condition issues of some sort, they should be more acceptable here than they might be were they found on a different title.

Those of you who want to acquire one of the best copies of Sticky Fingers we’ve ever played — better than the last ten or fifteen we auditioned, and we only buy the ones with stampers that have Shootout Winning potential — may find the price not too out of line with the quality of the goods once the needle hits the groove. (more…)

Mose Allison – Mose Alive!

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  • An outstanding copy of this wonderful live album, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This copy is full-bodied and natural, with a nicely extended top end, plenty of space around the instruments, and relatively few of the problems that plague many of the pressings we played
  • “Allison was one of the finest songwriters in blues of the 20th and early 21st centuries.” – All Music Bio

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Ornette Coleman / Ornette N Tenor – Demo Disc Jazz Sound

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  • A big, bold, KILLER sounding Atlantic pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This is one of the BEST sounding jazz albums we have played in many months – it is ALIVE with energy and dynamic contrasts
  • We had a superb original Plum and Orange Mono pressing and as good as that one may be, this stereo pressing takes the music to another level entirely (on big speakers at loud levels of course)
  • Compare this pressing to anything ever recorded by Rudy Van Gelder and you may be in for quite a shock
  • Engineered by the team of Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle, the men behind some of Coltrane’s most iconic, best sounding albums for Atlantic
  • 5 stars in Downbeat – Allmusic notes: “It’s an understatement to say that Ornette Coleman’s stint with Atlantic altered the jazz world forever, and Ornette on Tenor was the last of his six LPs (not counting outtakes compilations) for the label, wrapping up one of the most controversial and free-thinking series of recordings in jazz history… far ahead of its time.

A Big Speaker Record

Let’s face it, this is a BIG SPEAKER recording. It requires a pair of speakers that can move air with authority below 250 cycles and play at loud levels. If you don’t own speakers that can do that, this record will never really sound the way it should.

It demands to be played LOUD. It simply cannot come to life the way the producers, engineers and artists involved intended if you play it at moderate levels.

This is also the kind of recording that caused me to pursue Big Systems driving Big Dynamic Speakers. You need a lot of piston area to bring the dynamics of this recording to life, and to get the size of all the instruments to match their real life counterparts.

For that you need big speakers in big cabinets, the kind I’ve been listening to for more than forty years. (My last small speaker was given the boot around 1974 or so.) To tell you the truth, the Big Sound is the only sound that I can enjoy. Anything less is just not for me.

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The Rolling Stones – Exile On Main Street

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  • A KILLER copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on sides two, three and four and superb Double Plus (A++) sound on the first side
  • This is Exile raw and real the way it should be – full-bodied and punchy with great presence and energy
  • Fairly quiet vinyl for this Stones album – here is a copy that plays very close to Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on all four sides
  • 5 stars: “Few other albums, let alone double albums, have been so rich and masterful as Exile on Main St., and it stands not only as one of the Stones’ best records, but sets a remarkably high standard for all of hard rock.”

All four sides here have the kind of bass, energy, and presence that is essential for this music to rock the way it wants to. A copy like this conveys the emotional power of The Stones’ performances in a way that most pressings simply fail to do.

This shootout is always a struggle, an uphill battle all the way. You’d have to find, clean and play a ton of copies to come up with four sides that can do this music justice. We’re sure that Stones fans and Hot Stamper die-hards are going to be very pleased with this copy.

This vintage Artisan mastered pressing (the only ones that have any hope of sounding good) 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. (more…)

Otis Redding – The Dock of the Bay

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, and plays as quietly as the originals Atco LPs ever do
  • It’s a well-recorded album – the better copies are big, rich and smooth, yet the vocals are clean, clear and present
  • We love Otis Redding’s albums, but finding clean copies of his classics is all but impossible these days
  • 5 stars: “…this is an impossible record not to love … Cropper chose his tracks well, selecting some of the strongest and most unusual among the late singer’s orphaned songs… No one could complain about the album then, and it still holds more than four decades later.”

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Boz Scaggs – Boz Scaggs

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This original pressing has two excellent sides, which is two more than the typical cardboardy, flat, thin, lifeless copy has. If you like your music dry and clean, try the remixed version, the CD, or perhaps there is a heavy vinyl version out there (at one-tenth the price). That’s not our sound here at Better Records. The best recordings from the era do not have that sound, so when we find that kind of analog richness, sweetness and naturalness on a pressing such as this, we know the record is right.

The nearly 13-minute long version of Loan Me A Dime on side two is out of this world and the best reason to play the album. Another good reason: Duane “Skydog” Allman on guitar! (more…)

Jerry Jeff Walker / Mr. Bojangles

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  • A wonderful find of Jerry Jeff’s from 1968, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Clean and clear, rich and natural, with good vocal presence and wonderful energy throughout
  • The title track sounds amazing, but that’s just one of the great songs with excellent sound on the album
  • The engineering team of Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle really worked their magic on this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Walker favored the country and folk side of folk-rock much more than the rock side.”

This is only the second title by Jerry Jeff that we’ve been able to do shootouts for. Most of the records we’ve played of his from the ’70s left a lot to be desired sonically and more often than not musically, so we gave up on them.

His Vanguard release from 1969 has superb sound, as does this Atco from 1968. There may be one or two more coming down the pike but that could be many years from now. His records never sold all that well, and not many of them can be found in Southern California.

And they are hard to find in audiophile playing condition. (more…)

Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout, this copy of Still’s superb debut is doing just about everything right
  • Love the One You’re With and Sit Yourself Down are to die for, but there’s really not a bad track on the album
  • A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns – this and Deja Vu are the very definition of Big Production Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Listening to this album three decades on, it’s still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them.”

When we say it’s getting harder and harder to find clean copies of albums such as this in the bins of our local record stores, we are not kidding. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – In Through The Out Door

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White Hot Stamper - Led Zeppelin - In Through The Out Door

  • You’ll find solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides of this outstanding copy of Zep’s final release
  • It’s all here: huge amounts of rock-solid bass, grungy guitars, breathy, natural vocals, and jump out of the speakers presence and energy
  • Fool In The Rain and All My Love are two of the best, and best sounding, tracks on the album
  • “The album’s opening number, ‘In the Evening,’ with its stomping rhythms and heavy, staggered riffs, suggests that Zeppelin haven’t deviated from their course, but by the time the rolling shuffle of ‘South Bound Suarez’ kicks into gear, it’s apparent that they’ve regained their sense of humor.”

This may not be Zep’s best album, but there are some great songs here, and the music really works when the sound is this good! (more…)