Labels We Love – Elektra

The Doors – Listening in Depth to The Soft Parade

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

 

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Our shootout from a while back (4/2014) included a minty Gold Label pressing, which did reasonably well, but not great, on side one. Side two however was OFF THE CHARTS and won the shootout on that side handily. The fact that side one wasn’t a knockout is yet more evidence that individual pressings with the same label — even the “right” label — vary dramatically in sound.

The sound of most pressings of The Soft Parade is just plain horrible. The brass that opens side one is so pinched, compressed, grainy and aggressive it will practically make your hair stand on end. Almost all the reissue LPs sound like they are made from sub-generation EQ’d compressed tape copies, what are commonly called cutting masters. So many reissues have such a similar character that it’s hard to imagine they’re not all sourced from the same bad “master.”
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Love – Da Capo

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) stereo sound or close to it from start to finish and one of the few White Hot copies to ever make it to the site
  • The recording quality here is big, rich and Tubey Magical, with lovely breathy vocals and a massive bottom end – thanks Bruce Botnick!
  • “… a truly classic body of work, highlighted by the atomic blast of pre-punk rock “7 and 7 Is” (their only hit single), the manic jazz tempos of “Stephanie Knows Who,” and the enchanting “She Comes in Colors,” perhaps Lee’s best composition (and reportedly the inspiration for the Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow”).”

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1967 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. This Gold Label pressing is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

The Doors – Morrison Hotel

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  • A wonderful early pressing of this hard-rockin’ Doors album, with incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, big and full-bodied, with clarity and energy to spare, this is the way you want to hear the Doors’ Bluesy Rock
  • Roadhouse Blues, Waiting For The Sun and Maggie McGill are KILLER on this pressing – all you Doors fans are gonna flip
  • Circus Magazine praised it as “possibly the best album yet from the Doors” and “Good hard, evil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade.”

Too many pressings aren’t rich and full-bodied enough to reproduce Jim Morrison’s rich baritone. He’s The Lizard King, not The Frog Prince for crying out loud. When he doesn’t sound big, powerful, and borderline scary, what’s the point? Not to worry. On these two sides, he sounds AMAZING. Just listen to him screaming his head off on Roadhouse Blues and projecting the power of his rich baritone on Blue Sunday. Nobody did it any better. By the way, the sound of the organ on that track is crazy good. (more…)

Bread – The Best of Bread

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this pressing will show you just how good Bread’s music can sound on All Analog vinyl
  • A Better Records Desert Island Disc if there ever was one — believe me, there are scores of them
  • This is one of the rare Greatest Hits compilations (and this band had a LOT of hits) that is sonically competitive with the original albums
  • You’ll find most of the best Bread ballads here, including Make It With You, Everything I Own, Baby I’m A Want You, and If
  • All Music on their first album – “… effectively the birth of Californian soft rock…” (We think this applies equally well to all of their early material)

A Better Records Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. Believe me, there are plenty of them.

Listening to these acoustic guitars brings back memories of my first encounter with a British original of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic — that sound knocked me out thirty years ago, and here it is again. I guess I’ve just always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. (I was buying Bread album in the early Seventies while still in high school.) If you are too, then this killer copy of The Best of Bread will no doubt become a treasured disc in your home as well.

When you hear sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. Over the years I’ve even come to enjoy the rockers on side two. I used to consider side two the weak part of the album. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to borrow a good line from Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate the music that came out more than thirty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself, “What went wrong with popular recordings over the last two or three decades? Why do none of them ever sound like this?”

Not to worry. Audiophiles with good turntables have literally an endless supply of good recordings to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you have, you can’t have scratched the surface of the recorded legacy of the last 60+ years. That’s the positive thought for the day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just another step on your journey through the world of music.

One further note. Records like this only get better over time. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in painfully stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings that reveal their phony, lifeless and often just plain weird sound as your stereo and critical listening skills improve. In other words, if you make a change to your stereo and this record starts to sound better, you did the right thing. (more…)

Judy Collins – In My Life

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one, this Elektra Gold Label stereo pressing will be very hard to beat – reasonably quiet vinyl too  
  • Two of the best tracks are here on this Nearly White Hot side two: Sunny Goodge Street and In My Life, and both sound every bit as good as you would expect from a side with such a high grade
  • Here’s the midrange magic that’s missing from the reissues and whatever 180g pressing has been made from the tapes (or, to be clear, a modern digital master copied from who-knows-what-tapes)
  • “Judy Collins was already an accomplished interpretive singer before recording this album, but In My Life found her widening her horizons and revealing an even greater gift than one might have imagined.”

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Judy Collins – Fifth Album

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  • Fifth Album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on the Big Red E label
  • These sides are exceptionally good, especially compared to most of what we played – only the best early pressings managed to get Collins’ voice to sound natural and real
  • “… 5th Album, cut in late 1964, may very well be her definitive folk statement… A trio of Bob Dylan songs act as the album’s centerpiece, clearly showing Collins’ growth into more progressive songs. In addition to these, Gordon Lightfoot’s “Early Morning Rain” is given its classic reading, with Collins’ voice echoing the song’s melancholy and eerie but mellifluent precision and emotion. “

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Love – Forever Changes

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  • The first copy to hit the site in many years and boy was it worth the wait — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Both of these sides are super clean, clear, smooth, dynamic and musical with a lovely bottom end and lots of space around the musicians
  • It’s incredibly tough to find copies of this title that aren’t trashed; this one is as quiet as they come — Mint Minus Minus on both sides
  • “Forever Changes is inarguably Love’s masterpiece and an album of enduring beauty…” – All Music

Two incredible sides! We had a chance to shootout a handful of copies recently and didn’t hear any other copies that could compete with this Elektra Gold Label Original Pressing. We are HUGE fans of Love and this copy will show you why. Both sides are lively and full-bodied and the bottom end is KILLER throughout. In short, it’s EXACTLY the sound you want for this music. Give it a chance and you’ll hear for yourself!

Compared to some other copies, this one had more impact, more power and more energy. The vocals are full-bodied and rich with excellent presence. Most copies we heard were pretty blurry down low, but you can actually make sense of the bass on this one. (more…)

Queen – The Game – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

Two SUPERB SIDES with side one beating all comers to achieve White Hot Stamper status! Throughout this copy you get solid bass, tubey magic, breathy vocals and BIG BOLD sound!

But watch out: this side one kicks it up to a whole ‘nother level, with BIGGER energy, BIGGER bass and even more PRESENT and breathy vocals from Mr. Mercury. This is without a doubt some of the best sound we have ever heard for Queen, no ifs, ands or buts about it.

When reading the above it’s best to keep this in mind: The Game may be the BEST SOUNDING record Queen ever made. The Dirty Little Secret of Queen’s recorded output is that they are mostly pretty mediocre, and often downright dreadful.

Do you see a lot of them going up on the site? No? Well, there’s a reason for that. As much as people love Queen, we just can’t seem to find pressings that do their music justice. Take A Night at the Opera for example. Is this a good sounding record? I’ve played twenty of them over the last ten years — imports, domestics, the DCC, the MoFi – and NONE of them sounding particularly good to me. Don’t rely on your memory. Pull out your own copy and listen closely; you should hear the distortion and smearing and transistory grain that’s there on all the copies I’ve played. It’s a record that’s trying to sound good but just doesn’t, so far anyway. Hope springs eternal.

[This is no longer true, the Hot Stampers were discovered a few years back!] (more…)

Carly Simon – Anticipation – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

TWO INCREDIBLE SIDES ON QUIET VINYL! We just finished our first big shootout for Anticipation in three years, and here’s the copy that finished at the top of the heap. Both sides have the kind of warm, sweet sound that perfectly conveys the emotional qualtity of Carly’s performance. Drop the needle on the song “I’ve Got To Have You” for some of the best Carly Simon sound you will ever hear — we were blown away!

Note that the first song, the title track, has a bit of a “radio EQ” feel and doesn’t sound as good as the rest. It’s a shame but there’s still a whole lot to like here.

The acoustic guitars sound particularly good on this copy, with just the right balance of pluck and body. The vocals are breathy and full-bodied with extraordinary immediacy. The tonality from top to bottom is Right On The Money. I don’t think you could find a much better sounding copy of this album no matter how hard you tried. We went through a lot of copies to find this one, I can tell you that!

If Those Guitars Sound Familiar… 

When you hear the incredibly lush, highly detailed acoustic guitars on this record, you won’t be surprised to find out that the album was produced by Mr. Paul Samwell-Smith, who handles the same duties on Tea For The Tillerman and Teaser And The Firecat. You’ll hear his signature sound all over this album, particularly on the track I’ve Got To Have You. That’s not to say that we’d put this recording on the same level with those audiophile knockouts, but the richness and the sweetness of the midrange on the best copies is exactly what you’d expect from the team of Samwell-Smith and Carly Simon. (We wish the drums had a little more punch, but that’s just our inner rock-and-roller speaking!)

AGAIG! (more…)

The Paul Butterfield Blues Band – East-West

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on this Gold Label stereo pressing of the band’s sophomore release – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s tough to find an original with good sound and audiophile surfaces – a copy that plays this quietly is almost unheard of!
  • Big and full-bodied with a huge bottom end – Elektra was killing it in ’66
  • 5 stars: “… it was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band’s greatest achievement… East-West captures a great group in high flight as the bandmembers join together in something even more remarkable than their estimable skills as individuals would suggest, and its importance as a nexus point between rock, blues, jazz, and world music cannot be overestimated.”

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