Labels We Love – Columbia/Epic

James Taylor – JT

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  • This KILLER copy of an exceptionally well-recorded album boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • It’s a superb recording – a member of our Top 100, in fact – but it takes a pressing like this to show you just how BIG and LIVELY it can sound
  • The big hits Your Smiling Face and Handy Man both sound great here – thanks Val Garay!
  • 4 stars: “JT was James Taylor’s best album since Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon because it acknowledged the darkness of his earlier work while explaining the deliberate lightness of his current viewpoint, and because it was his most consistent collection in years.”

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Sade – Diamond Life

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  • Triple Triple” for this British import pressing of Sade’s debut — both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++)
  • The right UK pressings are dramatically better than the domestic and Dutch pressings we played
  • The key to the best copies is Tubey Magical richness and sweetness, and this vintage analog copy has plenty of both
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[Sade] projects a wised-up sensuality, and the record neither creaks with the revivalism of Harry Connick nor the sterility of Simply Red, to name but two of Sade’s neo-cocktail rivals.”

This copy gives you the kind of present, breathy vocals absolutely critical to this music. There’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it. All it takes is a top copy such as this to make her talents — and those of her bandmates — abundantly clear. (more…)

Every Label Made Bad Sounding Records – Columbia Released Mariah Carey’s Debut in 1990

More Bad Sounding Digital Recordings on Vinyl

Very digital sounding, with way too much sizzle on the top end. Best to give this one a pass if you are looking for audiophile sound. If you are looking for audiophile sound quality, this site is full of the best sounding records ever made.

We play mediocre-to-bad sounding pressings so that you don’t have to, a public service from your record loving friends at Better Records.

You can find this one in our Hall of Shame, along with more than 350 others that — in our opinion — qualify as some of the worst sounding records ever made. (On some records in the Hall of Shame the sound is passable but the music is bad.  These are also records you can safely avoid.) (more…)

Frank Sinatra – A Swingin’ Affair!

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More Nelson Riddle

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  • A Swingin’ Affair finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – and the vinyl is as quiet as any we’ve heard on a late-50s Sinatra album
  • This superb pressing will put Frank Sinatra directly between your speakers, with his voice sounding as tonally correct and natural as we heard all day
  • Nelson Riddle and his orchestra back Frank with wonderful arrangements, and a copy like this lets you appreciate everyone’s hard work
  • This record plays Mint Minus Minus – about as quiet as any early Capitol pressing you’re likely to ever hear
  • 5 stars: “[A Swingin’ Affair!] exudes a self-assured, confident aura. It is a hard, jazzy album.”

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Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Looking for killer sound for both sides of this fun album? You’ve come to the right place! This unusually lively pressing combines a stunning A+++ side one with an equally wonderful, giving you White Hot Stamper sound from start to finish! The transparency here is exceptional, allowing you to hear all the musician’s contributions without the veiling and congestion that you get on most pressings. Sweet Emotion is a KNOCKOUT on this copy.  

Both A+++ sides have the kind of tight, meaty bottom end that is absolutely essential to this kind of music. While many copies we played suffered from a grainy, unpleasant top end, this one is smooth in all the right ways. It’s also got the kind of energy that makes this music still work well all these years later. Hot Stampers give you more presence, more weight down low and more fullness all around — the qualities that you really want for music like this.

I never really cared much for this band until recently, when I heard Sweet Emotion on my local classic rock station (The Octopus!) and realized that it would probably sound pretty amazing on a Hot Stamper vinyl version. Boy, was I right! It took quite a few copies and a whole lot of work, but the best sounding tracks on this one sound AMAZING. Sweet Emotion and Walk This Way are going to rock you!

Of course, not every copy sounds like this one. We’ve been picking these up for the last few months and I’m sorry to report that most of them leave much to be desired. This is bluesy hard rock a la The Faces, and if your copy is dull or smeared (as many of them are) you won’t get the full effect of this raw, ballsy rock ‘n’ roll. This ain’t polite music — you’re playing it for one reason and one reason alone: to ROCK OUT.

It’s hard to understand why this album didn’t get more love from audiophiles, while bands like Boston and Foreigner have gotten the full MoFi treatment. [No doubt somebody has recut this record on Heavy Vinyl by now.] All you have to do is drop the needle on the intro to Sweet Emotion and you’ll see why we decided to roll with this shootout. That’s not to say this is an amazing, top-shelf recording, but it certainly beats most of the dreck out there that passes for Audiophile-style classic rock. (If you disagree, I’ve got a nice copy of the Sheffield Track Record to sell you.)

TRACK LISTING (more…)

Cheap Trick – At Budokan

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  • You’ll find STUNNING sound on this true classic from Cheap Trick, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sonic grades or close to them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This one is doing everything right, with deeper bass, less distortion, grungier guitars, and the kind of LIVE ROCK and ROLL ENERGY that Cheap Trick is known for
  • One of only two Cheap Trick albums that cuts it for us sonically and musically (the other being Dream Police)
  • 5 stars: “With their ear-shatteringly loud guitars and sweet melodies, Cheap Trick unwittingly paved the way for much of the hard rock of the next decade, as well as a surprising amount of alternative rock of the 1990s, and it was At Budokan that captured the band in all of its power.”

The first pressings of this record come with an OBI strip and a Japanese style lyric and photo booklet, giving the impression that this is a Japanese pressing. But it’s clearly domestic, so kudos have to go to Epic Records for doing a wonderful imitation that would practically fool any record collector.

Most of the copies we have to offer will come with the booklet, while the OBI strips are long gone.

This is probably the only Cheap Trick record most casual fans will ever need. The live versions of ‘Ain’t That A Shame’ and ‘I Want You To Want Me’ are AS GOOD AS IT GETS. Where would Classic Rock Radio be without catchy pop like this? Nowhere man! (more…)

Journey – Escape

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  • This outstanding copy of the band’s 1981 release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • This copy was big and bold, with huge choruses that really come alive – just the way we like our Journey albums to sound
  • A #1 album jam-packed with hits: Don’t Stop Believin’, Stone in Love, Who’s Crying Now and Open Arms
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Outside of the singles, there is a certain electricity that circulates through the rest of the album. The songs are timeless, and as a whole, they have a way of rekindling the innocence of youthful romance and the rebelliousness of growing up, built from heartfelt songwriting and sturdy musicianship.””

We’ve been trying to find good sound on Journey records for close to a decade, and finally we have something to show for all that work — killer sound on their only Number One album, with monster jams like Don’t Stop Believin’, Stone in Love, Who’s Crying Now — the first three tracks on side one! — and the big closer for side two, Open Arms.

Most greatest hits albums don’t have this many classic rockers. Not sure how we’ll fare with the rest of their catalog, but this one is a good place to start if you’re a fan of the band.

The vocals on Who’s Crying Now are sweet and breathy like no copy you’ve heard. Texture without grit — now that’s hard to do on a Journey album. (Or Queen, see below.) (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Monk’s Dream

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  • A great sounding copy with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – this one was nearly as good as our Shootout Winner, hence the Nearly Triple Plus grades
  • These sides are rich, spacious, big and Tubey Magical, with virtually none of the smear on the piano that holds so many other copies back
  • Here’s proof that the sound found on these early Columbia 360 Label Stereo pressings is absolutely the right one for Monk’s music
  • 5 stars: “Although he would perform and record supported by various other musicians, the tight — almost telepathic — dimensions that these four shared has rarely been equalled in any genre… Monk’s Dream is recommended, with something for every degree of Monk enthusiast.”

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Bob Dylan / Hard Rain

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  • An outstanding vintage stereo pressing of Dylan’s live 1976 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • This copy is hard to fault – big, open, clear, with space and three-dimensionality that modern pressings can only dream of
  • “At times, Hard Rain sounds bloated, featuring performances that are sometimes too ragged; though knowing the subtext of the events, some moments feel triumphant: musical and personal. We may not know Bob Dylan, but it’s an awfully close look at a stranger.” – Magnet Magazine

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Janis Ian – Aftertones

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More Singer-Songwriter Albums

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  • Janis Ian’s superb 1975 release returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “… Ian’s advanced folk sensibilities are emotional progressions away from the weepy and introspective nature heard from her mid-’70s singer/songwriter contemporaries. Part of Ian’s enticement is the marriage between achingly beautiful melodies and thoroughly personalized lyrics. The album commences with the title track setting the tenor and sonic ambiance.”

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