Labels We Love – Capitol

Linda Ronstadt / The Stone Poneys – Skip the Originals

More Linda Ronstadt

More Folk Rock

  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this was one of the better copies we played in our shootout for these later pressings – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Much more folk than pop, for the most part the sound here is tubey, rich and sweet
  • Re-released when HLAW hit big, this album features three great tracks with Linda singing solo
  • “It doesn’t have “Different Drum,” but the first Stone Poneys album is their folkiest and best, dominated by close harmonies and strong original material by the group’s guitarists, Bob Kimmel and Ken Edwards.”
  • The originals from 1967 have never impressed us much. Click on the links below for more records that sound best to us on the right reissue pressing 
  • Here are some currently available Hot Stamper pressings that we think sound their best on the right reissue (the ones we sell, obviously; there are plenty of reissues that don’t have good sound, but the ones we offer handily beat the originals we’ve — and no doubt you’ve — heard)
  • Here are all the titles we’ve reviewed to date that have the potential to sound their best on the right reissue

On this album the sound varies a fair amount from track to track.

The best tracks are rich, tubey and clear; the worst thin, bright and hard. Some What to Listen For advice follows.

If you are interested in digging deeper, our Listening in Depth commentaries have extensive track by track breakdowns for some of the better-known albums we’ve done multiple shootouts for.

The first track on side one rarely stayed clean when loud, but here for the most part it does. It’s a good test for whether or not you have a copy with high quality, low distortion mastering. Listen for the least amount of smear and congestion and the most resolution.

The second track is richer and tubier – it proves that side one is mastered correctly.

On side two the first track is rough, the second track better, the third richer, sweeter and smoother still. (more…)

Paul McCartney / Wings at the Speed of Sound – In 2016 We Had to Raise the Bar

More of the Music of Paul McCartney

More of the Music of The Beatles

More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries Like This One

Okay, we are not too proud to admit it. We Was Wrong about Wings at the Speed of Sound as a recording.

Yes, that kind of thing happens when you regularly play thousands and thousands of records year after year. The right pressing can show you that your understanding of a given recording was, shall we say, incomplete.

The great thing about our business is that, whenever we have new data that serves to corrects a previously mistaken judgment, the result is that we are then able to offer even better sounding pressings to our customers.

That way everybody wins. We’ve never pretended to know it all, and there’s no reason to start now.

Back to Wings at the Speed of Sound. Previously we had written:

I can’t even begin to convey to you what a rough shootout this was. Copy after copy bored us to tears and most of them were too noisy. It was one of those shootouts that almost defeated us, but we persevered and managed to find a few Hot Stampers. They didn’t do miracles and turn Speed Of Sound into a stunning Demo Disc, but they sounded musical, correct and enjoyable, and that seems to be all you can ask for on this album. 

This is not true. We played a copy that earned our very special grade of Four Pluses (on one side, two sides would have been too much to ask for) because it showed us an At the Speed of Sound that we had no idea could possibly exist, this after having played dozens of imports and domestic pressings over the previous twenty years or so.

It was DRAMATICALLY bigger and more transparent, with no sacrifice in richness or smoothness. Here was a Wings at the Speed of Sound we had no idea could possibly exist, simply because we had never managed to clean and play a copy with the right stampers that could show us the kind of sound that must be on the master tape.

Before we did this shootout, we had no idea how high to set the bar. Which leads us to:

This Key Takeaway 

In that respect we were in exactly the same place as every record loving audiophile on the face of the Earth.

How good can the record sound? How high is up?

We discussed this all-too-common mystery [1] in a listing we wrote for an amazing sounding copy of Heart’s Little Queen album we discovered many years ago, linked here.

In our old listing, we noted: Now that we know what stampers to look for, future pressings are likely to be very, very good sounding, if everything goes the way we hope it will.

[Things did go our way, with plenty of Shootout Winning White Hot copies having been found since we made that breakthrough all the way back in 2016. The right stampers are about five times more rare than the wrong ones, but they can be found. You just have to know what to look for.] 


[1]  What is the synonym of mystery?

Mirriam-Webster answers:

“Some common synonyms of mystery are enigma, problem, puzzle, and riddle.
While all these words mean “something which baffles or perplexes,” mystery applies to what cannot be fully understood by reason or less strictly to whatever resists or defies explanation.”

Welcome to the mysterious world of records!

We had written about the subject many years ago under the heading: Graham Nash’s Wild Tales and Their Mysteries Many and Deep. A relevant excerpt from that commentary:

What hurts so many pressings of this album is a lifeless, compressed quality and a lack of presence.

Were the stampers a bit worn for those copies, or was it bad vinyl that couldn’t hold the energy of the stamper, or perhaps some stampers just weren’t cut right?

These are mysteries, and they are mysteries that will always be mysteries, if for no other reason than that the number of production variables hopelessly intertwined at the moment of creation can never be teased apart no matter how hard one tries.

As we never get tired of saying, thinking is really not much help with regard to finding better sounding records.

Not surprisingly, we’ve found that cleaning them and playing them seems to work the best.

Those two things work the best because nothing else works at all.


June Christy – Gone For The Day

More June Christy

More Pop and Jazz Vocal Recordings

  • After many years, Gone For The Day is back on the original Capitol Turquoise Mono pressing, this time with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead on correct tonality, and wonderfully breathy vocals, not to mention boatloads of Capitol Tubey Magic- everything that we listen for in a great record is here
  • Side two had the most space, the richest brass, the most tonally correct and note-like bass, and virtually no vocal strain – this and more is the kind of sound that wins shootouts
  • Take this one home and play it against whatever audiophile pressings you own – it’s guaranteed to SMOKE any and all versions you have in your collection, or your money back
  • “One of June Christy’s two 1957 Capitol LPs, Gone for the Day boasts Pete Rugolo arrangements and a 12-piece group of mostly West Coast all-stars…includ[ing] trumpeter Don Fagerquist, trombonist Frank Rosolino, altoist Bud Shank, and Bob Cooper on tenor.”

Side two of this White Hot Stamper June Christy record on the original Capitol Turquoise label is AMAZING, both musically and sonically. It has all the TUBEY MAGIC we know these old records are famous for.

I can honestly say I have never heard any June Christy record sound as good as this copy does.

(We had a fantastic Something Cool a while back, but that was before we moved the system into our new, larger studio. The sound is better now than it was then, making comparisons all but meaningless.)

Musically this album is right up there with the best female vocal records we have ever played, the creme de la creme, albums on the level of Julie Is Her Name, Clap Hands and Something Cool. It really doesn’t get much better than this.

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Paul McCartney and Wings – Wings at the Speed of Sound

More Paul McCartney

More Beatles

  • An outstanding pressing of Wings’ follow-up to Venus and Mars, with excellent sound on both sides
  • This copy has a “cinematic” quality – it’s just plain bigger, with more depth to the soundfield, and more energy than we remember from the last time we did the shootout
  • The big hits, “Let ‘Em In” and “Silly Love Songs,” as well as minor gems such as “Beware My Love,” are outstanding here, with good body and a smoother, more natural, but still extended top end
  • The right stampers are key on this title, and these are definitely the right stampers
  • “A full-band effort, where everybody gets a chance to sing, and even contribute a song.”

The better copies such as this one had the qualities that really make the songs come to life and give you a taste of the old McCartney magic. (more…)

Grand Funk – We’re An American Band

More Grand Funk

  • You won’t believe how big, rich and lively this album can sound on a copy this good
  • It’s incredibly tough to find good Grand Funk sound, and it’s even harder to find audiophile quality vinyl, but we’re doing the best we can, folks
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Sonically, the record was sharp and detailed and the band’s playing was far tighter and more accomplished… The album’s title song, an autobiographical account of life on the road written and sung by Brewer, was released in advance of the album and became a gold-selling number one hit, Grand Funk’s first really successful single.”

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The Band / Northern Lights – Southern Cross

More of The Band

More Roots Rock

  • These sides are bigger, more natural, more warm and more solid than those of any other copy you’ve heard or your money back
  • This is The Band’s undiscovered gem, containing the most powerful tearjerker they ever wrote: “It Makes No Difference”
  • 4 stars: “…the Band’s finest since their self-titled sophomore effort … “Acadian Driftwood” stands out as one of Robertson’s finest compositions, the equal to anything else the Band ever recorded.”
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. This album by The Band is a good example of a record many audiophiles may not know well but should.

Thankfully both sides here are rich and full-bodied. This pressing is not nearly as dry and flat as the vast majority of pressings we run across. Both sides have a nicely extended top end to go along with the weighty bottom. The guitars and keyboards are Tubey Magical as well, a quality we we focused on, and one that we believe is essential if the album is to sound its best. (more…)

Dean Martin – This Time I’m Swingin’

  • STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them on both sides of this vintage Capitol Stereo pressing
  • Classic Capitol big, full-bodied, Tubey Magical sound — Deano’s vocals are present and natural in the best tradition of rat-mate Frank Sinatra in the early ’60s
  • With Nelson Riddle arranging, you can be sure the album has plenty of swing all right — and the brass sounds amazing here
  • If you want to find your own copies and do your own shootout, be prepared for a lot of ebay heartache – the beat-up, thrift-store, trashy LPs that we regularly get sent are truly shocking
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…an easy swinging collection…”

If you’re a fan of the Capitol Sinatra sound you’ll love this record. It’s an exceptionally difficult title to find in anything but trashed condition. I’ve been a fan of this record for many years but this is the first copy we’ve been able to find that’s clean enough to go up on the site with White Hot Stamper grades.  (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – An Album You Need to Hear

More of the Music of Linda Ronstadt

Reviews and Commentaries for Heart Like a Wheel

We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

The list is purposely wide-ranging. It includes some famous titles (Tumbleweed Connection, The Yes Album), but for the most part I have gone out of way to choose titles from talented artists that are less well known (Atlantic Crossing, Kiln House, Dad Loves His Work), which simply means that you won’t find Every Picture Tells a Story or Rumours or Sweet Baby James on this list because masterpieces of that caliber should already be in your collection and don’t need me to recommend them.

Which is not to say there aren’t some well known masterpieces on the list, because not every well known record is necessarily well known to audiophiles, and some records are just too good not to put on a list of records we think every audiophile ought to get to know better.

Out of the thousands of records we have auditioned and reviewed, there are a couple of hundred that have stood the test of time for us and we feel are deserving of a listen. Many of these will not be to your taste, but they were to mine.

Heart Like A Wheel

I’ve been playing HLAW since the year it came out, roughly 48 years by my calculation, and I can tell you it is no easy task to find this kind of smooth, sweet, analog sound on the album. Folks, we heard it for ourselves: the Heart Like A Wheel magic is here on practically every song.

A Must Own Pop Record

Linda’s Masterpiece, and a recording that should be part of any serious Popular Music Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.

Junior Mance – Get Ready, Set, Jump!!!

More Junior Mance

More Big Band Jazz

  • Wonderfully big, rich and LIVELY, with boatloads of Tubey Magic and three-dimensional space
  • This vintage stereo pressing boasts exceptionally natural piano sound and the live-in-the-studio energy of a swingin’ group of veteran horn players
  • 4 stars: “Mance is joined by some of the cream of the West Coast studio and jazz players for a session that features Mance doing his blues thing on piano while the band swings at various tempi… resembling somewhat the style of the Count Basie Orchestra.”
  • If you’re a fan of Big Band Jazz, this album from 1964 probably belongs in your collection.

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Rabin / The Magic Bow – Another TAS List Oversight?

Hot Stamper Pressings Featuring the Violin

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

This original Capitol record with Michael Rabin is ONE OF THE VERY BEST VIOLIN RECORDINGS we have ever played here at Better Records. The sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD! The immediacy of the violin tone is unbelievable — Rabin is in the room with you throughout the entirety of the record in a way that few recordings in our experience could hope to equal.

What more can we say, other than the music is every bit as good as the sound. If you love the Classical Romantic period, and who doesn’t?, these selections will have you in a world of sound and music rarely matched by anything but the best in live performance.

Another TAS List Oversight

This is another record that is not on the TAS List, but would certainly take top honors in a head to head shootout with any of the violin works to be found there.

TAS List Super Discs with Hot Stampers

Records that Do Not Belong on a Super Disc List

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