Labels We Love – Bizarre

Frank Zappa / Cruising With Ruben & The Jets – A Desert Island Disc for Yours Truly

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  • A KILLER copy with both sides earning top honors in our recent shootout – Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides here are stunning — clean, clear and present with a big bottom end, tons of energy and lots of space around all of the players
  • It’s a classic of twisted Doo-Wop that belongs in your collection. At least we think you should give it a chance anyway; hearing it sound this good might just make a believer out of you
  • The new CD – with its modernized sound and wrong-headed re-recorded rhythm tracks – is a bad joke next to the top early pressings

Is the thought bubble on the cover the real story behind the album?

Is this the Mothers of Invention recording under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?

Amazing sound for this record of greasy love songs and cretin simplicity to offer to audiophiles and music lovers alike from all corners of the world. We absolutely LOVE this album here at Better Records, or at least that portion of Better Records that remembers it from high school still loves it (which would narrow it down to a subset of just me I guess, but who’s counting?). Anyway, it’s a classic of twisted Doo-Wop that belongs in your collection. At least we think you should give it a chance anyway; hearing it sound this good might just make a believer out of you.

Tubey Magic Is Key

Many copies are just too thin and edgy to be as fun and enjoyable as we have every right to expect from this kind of purposely un-hip, un-cool, goofy retro-pop. We were gratified to find that the top finishers had a healthy dose of the Tubey Magical richness found on the best analog recordings from the latter half of the ’60s (1968 in this case).

This is a very good recording indeed, judged, as is only fair, solely by the best of the pressings we’ve heard. In other words, the bad pressings sound like crap, but that’s no reflection on the quality of the master tape.

As with most Zappa records, an extended top end is devilishly hard to come by. That said, on of a primarily vocal album such as this, the midrange is where the music lives or dies. The copies that were rich and full-bodied, with natural vocal reproduction, tended to score the highest grades in our shootout.

Copies that failed to convey the energy and exuberance of the singers and musicians — their love of this music that time had forgotten even by 1968 — as you may well imagine scored relatively poorly. This music is supposed to be fun, and really not a whole lot else, so the copies that aren’t fun scored sub-Hot Stamper grades. (Lifelessness is of course our main beef with Heavy Vinyl these days. When we play one of these new thick LPs the sound is often so blase that I feel that the longer it plays, the more the air is being sucked out of the room.) (more…)

Frank Zappa – The Grand Wazoo – What to Listen For

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More The Grand Wazoo

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The Tubey Magical keyboards at the start of The Grand Wazoo are amazing sounding on the best copies. How Zappa ever decided to go digital when he managed to record so well in analog (from time to time, let’s be honest) is beyond me.

Problems?

Smear on the horn transients are always an issue on this album (and Zappa’s previous big band album, Waka/Jawaka). After that we would say a lack of top end is the other most common shortcoming we hear. To find a copy that’s not dull and smeary is no mean feat.

The vocals on For Calvin (And His Next Two Hitch-Hikers) are usually slightly spitty. The best copies keep the spit under control.

Blue Labels and Reissues

The Blue Label originals are dramatically better than the later Warner Brother reissues. I would avoid any reissues of Zappa’s albums; we’ve never heard a good one. And that includes the Classic Heavy Vinyl reissue of Hot Rats. (more…)

Frank Zappa – Listening in Depth to Hot Rats

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series.

Side One

Peaches En Regalia

This track tends to be a bit dull and could use a little sweetening on the top end on almost any copy you find. 1 or 2 dB at 10k might be just what the doctor ordered.

Willie the Pimp

This is one of the two extended tracks on the album; the second track on each side is “the long one,” and they both suffer from the same slight upper midrange boost. This song and The Gumbo Variations on side two are both difficult to turn up due to their tendency to be slightly aggressive.

Son Of Mr. Green Genes

One of the best sounding tracks on the album, and probably the best sound to be found on side one.

Side Two

Little Umbrellas

Possibly the best sounding song Zappa ever recorded. With the right pressing, the sound is PERFECTION.

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Frank Zappa & The Mothers – Freak Out!

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  • Insanely good sound throughout with all four sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • The overall sound here is incredibly rich, warm and full-bodied yet still super detailed, spacious and dynamic; the energy level is off the charts too!
  • Most pressings of this double album are just awful, if you can even find one that’s clean enough to bother playing
  • “One of the most ambitious debuts in rock history, Freak Out! was a seminal concept album that somehow foreshadowed both art rock and punk at the same time. Its four LP sides deconstruct rock conventions right and left, eventually pushing into territory inspired by avant-garde classical composers.” – All Music

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The Mothers – We’re Only In It For The Money

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  • This stunning two-pack boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two
  • The sound is huge and spacious with richness and Tubey Magic like nothing you’ve heard
  • Most copies we played were just too thin and crude-sounding to capture our attention — we played a good-sized stack of copies and these two were the ones that stood out and made the music work for us – and it will be quite a while before we are likely able to find any others
  • 5 stars: “… the music reveals itself as exceptionally strong, and Zappa’s politics and satirical instinct have rarely been so focused and relevant, making We’re Only in It for the Money quite probably his greatest achievement.”

Excellent sound for both sides of this wacky album! Any fan of the Mothers should know by now that this isn’t a very sonically impressive recording, but the sound on these Super Hot Stamper sides went far beyond what we heard elsewhere. It was a blast hearing what a serious pressing could do in relation to the mediocre copies I’ve played for so many years. And there are certainly some good sounding parts, but the presentation of the music is so wacky and lo-fi at times that I don’t want to raise expectations to an unreasonable level.

Don’t expect miracles here, nothing is going to turn this album into a stunning Demo Disc. However, those of you who love the music and want to hear what a serious pressing of this insane platter can do should get a kick out of this excellent sounding copy. I don’t think you can find better sound for this album no matter what you do. Your satisfaction is as always 100% guaranteed. (more…)

Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart – Bongo Fury

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  • This classic Zappa & Beefheart album boasts STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • This pressing is head and shoulders above the pack, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands
  • Muffin Man is obviously the high point here – it’s one of my All-Time Favorite songs and never fails to bring a smile
  • “This is the last album to feature the highly technical jazz fusion of Mothers of Invention, whose roots can be traced back to 1973 circa Over-Nite Sensation.”

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Both sides here are big, bold and lively with strong vocal presence and a big bottom end. Many copies have a tendency to get a bit gritty and grainy up top, but just listen to how smooth and sweet the cymbals sound here. Some of its other strengths are that it’s full-bodied, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The bass is meaty and punchy, and the top end is wonderfully extended. You can hear lots of ambience the cymbals and hi-hats. There’s really nothing between you and the music.

Some of this album is recorded live and some of it is studio material. The live tracks offer some of the best live Frank Zappa sound you will EVER hear.

The album is just plain wacky fun. You get the maximum entertainment value with this one. Muffin Man is obviously the high point — it’s one of my personal favorite Zappa tracks. This, in my opinion, is the last record Zappa made that’s any good. (more…)

Frank Zappa / Captain Beefheart – Bongo Fury – Our Shootout Winning Copy from 2006

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Bongo Fury

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

This Minty looking Discreet LP has STUNNINGLY GOOD SOUND ON BOTH SIDES! It’s very transparent and full-bodied from top to bottom. The bass is meaty and punchy, and the top end is wonderfully extended. You can hear lots of ambience the cymbals and hi-hats. It doesn’t sound like there’s anything between you and the music. I can’t remember ever hearing this record sound so good. 

Some of this music is recorded live and some of it is studio material. The live tracks offer some of the best live Frank Zappa sound you will EVER hear.

This recording is just plain wacky fun. You get the maximum entertainment value with this one. Muffin Man is the high point of this album. It’s one of my favorite Zappa tracks. (more…)

Frank Zappa & The Mothers – Freak Out! – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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Freak Out!

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

No Demo Disc by any stretch, this Hot Stamper beat the pants off of what appears to be a true first pressing that we just happened to have on hand. Most pressings of this double album are just awful, if you can even find one that’s clean enough to bother playing. Our copy here earned grades of A Plus on sides one, two and four, and a grade of A Double Plus on side three. No copy in our shootout earned a higher grade than A++, for the simple reason that we just can’t find enough clean original copies with which to do a definitve shootout.  (more…)

Frank Zappa – Chunga’s Revenge – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Chunga’s Revenge

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

This Bizarre Blue Label LP plays about as quietly as they ever do. Zappa in this period provides a musical wild ride on record like no other artist of his day. For those of you who appreciate his music this album is guaranteed to provide plenty of entertainment and will surely reward repeated plays. I listened to it hundreds of times in my high school days; to this day it holds a special place in my collection.

Like many Zappa records from the period, especially the two releases that immediately preceded this one, Weasils and Burnt Weeny, the sound is all over the place. The most you can hope for is that the best sounding tracks sound right, and here they definitely do. Play Twenty Small Cigars on side one, or The Clap on side two to hear that there is good sound on both sides. (more…)

Frank Zappa – Weasels Ripped My Flesh

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Weasels Ripped My Flesh

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  • This lively Zappa pressing boasts two excellent Double Plus (A++) sides – one of the better copies we played in our recent shootout!  
  • All Analog Tubey Magical sound from 1970, with a spacious, three-dimensional soundstage and a big bottom end
  • Clear, high-rez sound, crucial to making sense of this complex music – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • “Zappa’s anything-goes approach and the distance between his extremes are what make Weasels Ripped My Flesh ultimately invigorating.”

The sound is big and bold throughout with excellent clarity, presence, and wonderful transparency.

If you’re not already a Zappa fan, be warned that experimental song structures, feedback, dirty lyrics, avant-garde jazz freakouts and gas mask solos (yes, you read that right) all figure into the mix here. I don’t know of anyone other than Frank Zappa who could shape that all into one amazing, fairly cohesive LP. (more…)