Labels We Love – Atlantic/Atco

Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett – Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Piano

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  • This superb collaboration finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • Huge space, size and clarity, with Tubey Magical richness befitting the 1970 recording dates of these sessions
  • Dave Sanders’ engineering is brilliant as usual – if you go to the blog you can see some of his finest recordings, with this soon to join the group
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This combination works. . . Elements of pop music, rock, country, and the jazz avant-garde are used in the mixture of styles and the results are quite logical.”

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Otis Redding – The Immortal Otis Redding

More Otis Redding

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  • Redding’s posthumous release finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
  • This ’60s LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce
  • This vintage Plum and Tan label LP plays pretty darn quietly for an original Atco pressing – we’ve never heard one quieter
  • “…any Otis Redding recordings should be considered welcome (if not mandatory) additions to all manner of listeners.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Loves Cole

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  • Ella’s superb 1972 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • This copy is balanced and natural, with the kind of rich, full-bodied sound that no one seems to know how to record anymore
  • Fitzgerald’s second artful collection of Cole Porter masterpieces, arranged by the great Nelson Riddle
  • The legendary engineer Val Valentin put this one on tape, brilliantly – he’s the man behind some of our All Time favorite albums on Verve and Pablo

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AC/DC – Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

More AC/DC

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  • You’ll find KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this stunning copy of the band’s 1976 release
  • We learned something in this shootout about the Australian pressings that surprised us and may be of interest to you
  • These sides have plenty going on down low, real meat on the bones, all the life and energy you could ask for – pretty much everything that the average copy was lacking
  • 5 stars: “… it captured the seething malevolence of Bon Scott, the sense that he reveled in doing bad things, encouraged by the maniacal riffs of Angus and Malcolm Young who provided him with their most brutish rock & roll yet.”

Here’s what we wrote about the last Australian pressing we had on the site:

“This is a SUPER RARE Minty looking EMI Australian Import LP. We dropped the needle on this one and heard EXACTLY what we were looking for: loud grungy guitars; tight, punchy bass; and vocals so front and center the boys are practically in the room with you. There is NO QUESTION this bad boy is made from the original master tape. You can be sure the domestic pressings aren’t. The heavy vinyl pressing is no doubt made from a dub since almost everything made these days is.”

Well, folks, it’s not exactly a We Was Wrong situation, but we didn’t realize that master tape or not, the best domestic pressings rock harder and just plain sound better than the best Australian copies. The typical domestic copy sucks, but when you get hold of a seriously Hot one they are KILLER.

The better Aussie pressings give you incredible Master Tape clarity, but I’m more interested in hearing a copy that rocks my socks off with the kind of ballsy power you know these guys project when they play live. I can’t tell you if it’s a case of having better mastering equipment or better mastering engineers here in the States — we can’t know that stuff, we can only guess at it — but I can tell you with certainly that this blows the doors off most other pressings.

If you love this band as much as we do here at Better Records — Back in Black being a Top 100 Title — and have the kind of system a record like this demands, we ask only one small favor: please give your neighbors a heads up so they can be prepared for the sonic assault that is to come. And one more thing: For those about to rock, we salute you. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll

More Rolling Stones

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  • A KILLER early pressing of this Rolling Stones classic of Stripped Down Rock and Roll, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • What earned this pressing Top Grades was its extraordinarily textured, practically grain- and grit-free midrange – the bad copies tend to be smeary and gritty in the midrange (where the music is) and that’s just not our sound
  • The superbly talented Andy Johns engineered, so you can be sure that this is the sound the Stones were aiming for
  • “Throughout, the Stones wear their title as the “World’s Greatest Rock & Roll Band” with a defiant smirk, which makes the bitter cynicism of “If You Can’t Rock Me” and the title track all the more striking, and the reggae experimentation… all the more enjoyable.”

It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll is a consistently good, straight-ahead, no-frills rock album from the Stones with Mick Taylor still in the band. It was the last of its kind for a while; their next release was the reggae-influenced Black and Blue. The sound can be a bit gritty and grainy at times, but you gotta believe that that’s precisely the sound the Stones heard in the booth and were totally cool with. Andy Johns engineered and he’s made as many super-tubey, super-rich and super-smooth recordings as anybody this side of Bill Porter.

The Stones didn’t want that sound this time around. The Stones wanted this sound.

This album may have some of the best The Rolling Stones music, but those looking for top quality sonics for the Stones should head in the direction of Beggars Banquet, Sticky Fingers, or Let It Bleed. They’re simply more audiophile-friendly recordings. (more…)

Buffalo Springfield – Retrospective – The Best Of…

More Buffalo Springfield

  • STUNNING throughout with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides of this original Atco pressing
  • Big, full-bodied, clear and present, the Tubey Magical richness of the best pressings is a joy to hear on modern highly resolving equipment
  • Kind Woman and I Am A Child are just two of the best sounding songs – listen to all that space around the voices and instruments
  • And the Pysch stuff – On the Way Home, Broken Arrow and Expecting to Fly – is even more three-dimensional
  • 5 stars on Allmusic – this is Must Own Music from one of the most groundbreaking and accomplished groups of the late-’60s (even though they never cracked the Top 40 Album chart)

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David Crosby – If I Could Only Remember My Name…

More David Crosby

More Hippie Folk Rock

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  • Crosby’s 1971 release finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • “Exceptionally quiet vinyl” doesn’t begin to cover how hard it is to find an early pressing that plays as well as this one does – it has been a very long time since we heard a copy this quiet with sound this good
  • The ultimate Hippie Folk Rock Demo Disc – both sides are shockingly transparent, with huge amounts of bass, silky highs, in-the-room vocals and TONS of Tubey Magic
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” If I Could Only Remember My Name is a shambolic masterpiece, meandering but transcendentally so, full of frayed threads. Not only is it among the finest splinter albums out of the CSNY diaspora, it is one of the defining moments of hungover spirituality from the era.”

Here it is, folks… a TRUE ROCK DEMO DISC! A White Hot Stamper copy such as this will show you why we’ve long considered it one of the All Time Top Ten Rock Albums for Sound and Music. You will not believe how Tubey Magical and three-dimensional this album can be when you have a pressing with this kind of sound. The harmonic complexity and extension on the acoustic guitars are absolutely stunning!

Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Discs, not exactly a tough call it seems to us. Who can’t hear that this is an amazing sounding recording? (We do applaud his decision not to add the Classic pressing of this title to the list, the way he did with so many other Classic pressings that have no business on anything called a Super Disc list.)

You Don’t Have to Be High to Hear It

When you drop the needle on this record, all barriers between you and the musicians are removed. You’ll feel as though you’re sitting at the studio console while Crosby and his no-doubt-stoned-out-of-their-minds Bay Area pals (mostly Jefferson Airplaners and Grateful Deads, see list below) are laying down this emotionally powerful, heartfelt music.

The overall sound is warm, sweet, rich, and full-bodied… that’s some real ANALOG Tubey Magic, baby! And the best part is, you don’t have to be high to hear it. You just need a good stereo and the right pressing. (more…)

Roxy Music / Siren – The Atco Pressings Are the Only Game in Town

More Roxy Music

More Five Star Albums Available Now

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  • You’ll find insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides of this early pressing of Roxy’s Art Rock classic from 1975
  • The sound here is richer, with much less transistory grain, and more of the All Important Tubey Magic than most other copies we played
  • Some of Bryan Ferry’s strongest and most consistent songwriting – Love Is The Drug, End of the Line, Sentimental Fool and more
  • 5 stars: “Abandoning the intoxicating blend of art rock and glam-pop that distinguished Stranded and Country Life, Roxy Music concentrates on Bryan Ferry’s suave, charming crooner persona for the elegantly modern Siren.”

Siren is one of our favorite Roxy albums, right up there with the first album and well ahead of the commercially appealing Avalon. After reading a rave review in Rolling Stone of the album back in 1975 I took the plunge, bought a copy at my local Tower Records and instantly fell in love with it.

As is my wont, I then proceeded to work my way through their earlier catalog, which was quite an adventure. It takes scores of plays to understand where the band is coming from on the early albums and what it is they’re trying to do. Now I listen to each of the first five releases on a regular basis. Even after more than thirty years the band’s music never seems to get old. That seems to be true of a lot of the records from the era that we offer on our site. Otherwise, how could we charge so much money for them?

Imports? Not So Fast

The British and German copies of Siren are clearly made from dubbed tapes and sound smeary, small and lifeless.

To be fair, Siren has never impressed us as an exceptionally good sounding recording. Like other middle period Roxy, records such as Country Life and Manifesto (the albums just before and after), it simply does not have Demo Disc analog sound the way For Your Pleasure, Stranded or the eponymous first album do (the latter two being the best sounding in their catalog).

One would be tempted to assume that the import pressings of Siren would be better sounding, the way the imports of the first four Roxy albums are clearly better sounding. There has never been a domestic Hot Stamper pressing of any of those titles and, since we never buy them or play them, there probably never will be.

But in the case of Siren it’s the imports that are made from dubs. It may be a British band, recorded in British studios with a British producer, but the British pressed LPs are clearly made from sub-generation tapes, whereas the domestic copies sound like they’re made from the real masters.

Go Figure. And another thing: when it comes to records, never assume.

The typical domestic pressing is flat, bass-shy and opaque, sounding more like compressed cardboard than analog vinyl. Unsurprisingly, the CD, whether imported or produced domestically, is clean and clear and tonally correct but lacks the warmth and richness of the better vinyl pressings. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

More Led Zeppelin

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FREAKISHLY GOOD LIVE ZEP SOUND! This Swan Song LP is just full of the Zep Magic — super lively and full-bodied with a whole lotta WHOMP. Bonzo’s drum sound is LARGER THAN LIFE on this copy. Three of the four sides here rate ABOVE A++. 

We’ve never heard a copy of this album sound anywhere near amazing before. Most of the copies we’ve played sound like bad, second-generation bootleg cassettes. We still pick them up every time we see them — hey, it’s Zep, man — but we weren’t sure we’d ever hear a decent copy. We dropped the needle on this one and were SHOCKED at how hard it rocked. Inspired, we pulled out all of our clean copies, — as we imagined, none of them came anywhere close to this monster!

How big is the difference between our top dog here and the rest of the pack? Our second place winner had four and a half pluses between the four sides — this one has NINE PLUSES. Furthermore, no other side on ANY other copy we play rated higher than A++, while this one rates above A++ on three sides. Talk about a landslide! (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – So Far

More Crosby / More Stills / More Nash / More Young

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  • This stunning copy offers exceptionally good Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • The two tracks exclusive to this album, Ohio and Find the Cost of Freedom, are amazingly well recorded – both have Demo Disc quality sound on this killer side one
  • Huge, rich and energetic, this pressing brings the gorgeous harmonies of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to life like nothing you have ever heard
  • If you’ve made the mistake of buying any Heavy Vinyl pressing containing any of these songs, this record will show you just exactly what you’ve been missing

When you get hold of a pressing as good as this one, the sound is so correct it makes a mockery of the phony EQ and just plain bad mastering and pressing of the Heavy Vinyl and Half-Speed Mastered versions.

The MoFi and the Classic 200g LP are both clearly wrong in important ways. This record will make it clear exactly what’s wrong with them, assuming you have the critical listening skills to recognize the differences. If you are on this site chances are very good you do.

Once you hear this copy you will never be able to enjoy those audiophile pressings again, of that we are quite confident. (more…)