Labels We Love – Columbia/Epic

Willie Dixon – I Am The Blues

More Willie Dixon

More Soul, Blues and R&B

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  • This early Columbia pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Notably richer and livelier than most, with plenty of Tubey Magic and good weight down low
  • A longtime favorite of ours, with unusually good sound for a blues recording, even one from as late as 1970
  • Features updated versions of many Dixon Classics: Spoonful, Hoochie Coochie Man, I Can’t Quit You Baby and more
  • “The material is superb, consisting of some of Willie Dixon’s best-known songs of the 1960s, and the production is smoothly professional…”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the end of Track 3, (I’m Your) Hoochie Coochie Man.

The material here is TOP NOTCH — Dixon was one of the blues’ greatest songwriters, responsible for Spoonful, Hoochie Coochie Man, Little Red Rooster, Back Door Man and other songs you’ve probably heard your favorite classic rock band covering. A copy such as this gives you more detail and texture, more extension up top and real weight to the bottom end — absolutely crucial for this music. (more…)

Whomp Factor on Little Queen – Testing with Love Alive – Parts One and Two

More Heart

More Women Who Rock
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Heart’s Little Queen has long been a favorite Test Disc. It works especially well as a test for something we here at Better Records like to call Whomp — the energy found at the low end of the frequency spectrum. Some call it slam, we prefer whomp.

The commentary is here to help guide you as you make changes to your system, insuring that you end up with more whomp without sacrificing equally important qualities found in the midrange and top end of your system.

Reality Check Parts One and Two

Take the song Love Alive.

The beginning section is chock full of lovely and quite subtle details (such as the autoharp and tabla) that seem to lose their magic on most systems. The autoharp is rich and chimey, and the tabla has some real low end extension. The recorders and flutes that join them are breathy and sweet, while the acoustic guitars heard throughout display all the tubey-magical harmonic richness found on our favorite Hot Stamper recordings, from the Eagles first album to Teaser and the Firecat. These qualities easily get lost in the sauce if you’re listening to the average copy, or the typical audiophile stereo. That’s Part One of the test — the opening. (more…)

Janis Joplin – Pearl

More Janis Joplin

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  • Two stunning sides each earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades – a big step up over every other copy from our recent shootout
  • Richer, clearer and more tonally correct, with more energy and presence, all qualities that help to bring this music to life
  • Janis’s vocals sound right on the money here – smooth enough to let you crank this one up good and loud without the sound getting hard and edgy
  • 5 stars: “Janis Joplin’s second masterpiece (after Cheap Thrills), Pearl was designed as a showcase for her powerhouse vocals, stripping down the arrangements that had often previously cluttered her music or threatened to drown her out.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.

Both sides are noticeably sweeter and more open up top than the average copy. Most everything that we look for in a Hot Stamper Pearl is happening on this copy: presence to the vocals; weight to the piano; texture and definition to the bass; a Tubey Magical midrange; freedom from grit and grain and so forth.

It’s not a perfect record — no copy of Pearl will ever be — but it’s better in all the ways that make the music really work. That’s what a Hot Stamper is all about!

None of this is to say that you’ll put this one on your top shelf with your Ajas and your Tea for the Tillermans, but this copy has the kind of sound you’d never guess was possible listening to the average copy. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home

More Bob Dylan

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  • This Red Label ’70s reissue pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound on both sides
  • These pressings can be quite good – lively, transparent, and fairly rich, with dramatically more immediacy in the midrange than anything to be pressed in the modern era
  • 5 stars: “With Bringing It All Back Home, he exploded the boundaries, producing an album of boundless imagination and skill. And it’s not just that he went electric, either, rocking hard on “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” “Maggie’s Farm,” and “Outlaw Blues”; it’s that he’s exploding with imagination throughout the record.”

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Kansas – Leftoverture

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  • Just the second Triple Triple (A+++) Shootout Winning copy to hit the site since 2011 – this copy is a KNOCKOUT
  • Both sides earned our top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) with real Prog Rock Energy and a huge punchy bottom end
  • Carry On My Wayward Son on this Triple Plus side one is guaranteed to blow your mind – the spaciousness and the amount of bass on this side are off the charts
  • “Undoubtedly their finest album, Leftoverture warrants Kansas a spot right alongside Boston and Styx as one of the fresh new American bands who combine hard-driving group instrumentation with short, tight melody lines…” Rolling Stone

Clearly Kansas’s most consistent and engaging album, their true masterpiece by our lights, a copy as good as this will show you the awesome ENERGY the band brought to their music.

On the hottest of our Hot Stampers the recording is a glorious example of the Big Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling barely begins to do it justice. Like so many of the great rock recordings we offer, when you play one of our Hot Stampers the sound commands your attention. (more…)

Art Garfunkel – Breakaway

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Top sound for some of the best tracks: My Little Town, I Only Have Eyes for You, 99 Miles from L.A. and more
  • Superb space and clarity, with the rich, tubey smoothness that’s missing from most copies
  • The keyboards are full and rich, the guitars ring sweetly
  • Richard Perry went for the Big Sound here and he got it – this copy will show you just how well recorded the album really is

The problem with this album is that, for whatever reason, practically every copy you find is to some degree grainy, harsh and shrill in the loudest passages of the music. When the music gets loud, the sound often becomes strained and unpleasant. A copy like this one that doesn’t do that is the exception, not the rule.

Listen to the song ‘Disney Girls’ on side one. If you own the average pressing – odds are your copy is in fact quite average unless you went through a pile of copies and played them in order to find a good one – parts of that song will sound painfully hard and shrill, assuming your playing the record at the kinds of levels we do.

Which is the main reason I’ve never understood what qualified this record to be on the TAS Super Disc list. Now, having heard the best of the best copies sounding so big, rich and tubey, I can certainly say I hear what impressed HP (he likes that sound, as do we). It may indeed be a very well recorded album, but it clearly falls short for our own Rock and Pop Top 100 List. As you know we play a lot of amazing albums around here. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Underground

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  • An incredible copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Charlie Rouse – featured on many of the tracks here – is particularly wonderful on sax. His saxophone is full-bodied and natural with breathy texture and just the right amount of honk
  • So many copies just sound like an old jazz record, but this one lets you feel like you are right there as the music happens
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The instantly recognizable stride piano lines are delivered with the same urgency and precision that they possessed over two decades earlier…”

This is an outstanding Monk album from 1968. Thanks to Columbia’s state of the art engineering — still using tubes I’d wager, based on the sound – the recording really comes to life, or at least it does on a copy that sounds as good as this one does.

Monk’s piano comes through with powerful dynamics and real weight to the keys.

So many copies just sound like an old jazz record, but this one lets you feel like you are right there as the music happens. What more could you ask for?

Unlike a lot of Columbia jazz records, both the 360 originals and the early Red Label reissues can sound good on this title (more…)

The Byrds – Turn! Turn! Turn!

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  • This outstanding 360 Label pressing of the band’s sophomore release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • You will not believe how punchy, lively, dynamic, and exciting some of these tracks sound here
  • One of the better sounding Byrds recordings, with a number of their best songs, including the title track
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…more Bob Dylan covers were included, as well, and “Satisfied Mind” was their first foray into country-rock, a direction they would explore in much greater depth throughout the rest of the ’60s.”

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Billy Joel – Glass Houses

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  • An incredible pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • The sound is just right for this album full of rockers — big, rich and punchy with great space and dynamics
  • This title has some of his biggest hits: You May Be Right, Don’t Ask Me Why and It’s Still Rock & Roll To Me
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Instead of turning out to be a fiery rebuttal to his detractors, the album is a remarkable catalog of contemporary pop styles … That’s not a detriment; that’s the album’s strength.”

A truly stunning copy of one of Billy Joel’s best-loved albums! We recently finished a massive shootout for Billy Joel’s hard-rockin’ 1980 release and most copies were pretty dreadful. Thankfully for us (and the Billy Joel fans out there) we managed to find a few copies that really work! This one absolutely nails it — they just don’t get much better than this, folks. (more…)

Simon & Garfunkel – Wednesday Morning, 3 AM

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  • Earning solid Double Plus (A++) grades for sound on both sides, this early 360 stereo pressing is outstanding from first note to last
  • It’s clean, clear, open and spacious with lovely breathy vocals and plenty of Columbia Tubey Magic
  • You won’t find this kind of transparency or clarity on the typical vintage pressing, and the red label reissues are completely hopeless
  • Their one true Folk Duo album, featuring the original version of The Sound Of Silence

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