Labels We Love – Elektra

Carly Simon – How Clearly Can You See the Hi-hat?

Hot Stamper Pressings of Carly Simon’s Albums Available Now

Carly’s soulful version of You Belong To Me is what made this album a Must Own back in the day (and still does). During our shootout, as we listened to the song over and over again on copy after copy, it became clear that the best pressings allowed us to easily hear the drummer’s hi-hat within the dense mix of this heavily produced pop song. On most copies it’s buried and all but inaudible.

If the pressing you own is full-bodied and tonally correct, and you can easily pick out the rhythmic contribution of the hi-hat within the mix, you have a copy with the kind of transparency that few we played managed to achieve.

Transparency (and all the other stuff we talk about) can and does make a big difference in your enjoyment of the music. If the average record sounded even close to right nobody would need us to find good sounding copies for them, copies would be in every record bin in town and we would have to find some other records to sell. Copies of this album may be in every bin in town — that’s where we found this one — but the sound sure isn’t.

Of course this has to be a multi-miked, multi-tracked, overdubbed pop record — they don’t make them any other way — but it doesn’t have to FEEL like one.

When you get a good copy it feels like all these guys and gals are playing together live in the studio.  They may have their own mics, and they are certainly being placed artificially in the soundfield to suit the needs of the track (piano over here, guitar over there, drummer behind the singer), but the transparency of the better pressings makes them sound like they are all in the same room performing together.

And without the very best cleaning technologies, the ones invented only recently as a matter of fact, there is no chance of achieving the kind of transparency our best copies have. We consider it one of the most important Revolutions in Audio of the last twenty years. If you want your records to sound their best, we would love to help you do it.

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The Doors – How Do the Butterfly and Small Red E Pressings Sound?

More of the Music of The Doors

More Hot Stamper Pressings of Psych Rock Albums

The Butterfly and Small Red E labels are so contemptibly thin and harsh they are not worth the vinyl they were pressed on.

You would be much better off with the DCC Gold CD than any of the reissue vinyl we’ve played.

Good digital beats bad analog any day.


This a Must Own Record, a 1967 recording with unbelievable RAW POWER. Most audiophiles very likely have no idea how well recorded this album is, simply because most pressings don’t do a very good job of translating the energy and life of the master tape onto the vinyl of the day.

The second Doors album is without a doubt one of the punchiest, liveliest, most POWERFUL recordings in the entire Doors catalog, right up there with their debut.

I’m guessing this statement does not comport with your own experience, and there’s a good reason for that: not many copies of the album provide evidence of any of the above qualities. Most pressings are opaque, flat, thin, veiled, compressed and lifeless. They sound exactly the way so many old rock records sound: like any old rock record.

Botnick Knocks It Out of the Park

But this album is engineered by Bruce Botnick. The right pressings give you the kind of low-end punch and midrange presence you hear on Love’s first album (when you play the right gold label originals). Botnick engineered them both, and what’s even more amazing is that The Doors second is in many ways an even better recording than Love’s!

All tube from start to finish, the energy captured on these Hot Stampers has to be heard to be believed. Not to mention the fact that the live-in-the-studio musicians are swimming in natural ambience, with instruments leaking from one mic to another, and most of them bouncing back and forth off the studio walls to boot.

But the thing that caught us most by surprise is how much LIFE there is in the performances on the better Hot Stamper copies. Morrison pulled out all the stops on songs like Love Me Two Times and the last track on the album, When the Music’s Over. Unless you have a very special pressing there is almost no chance you will ever hear him with this kind of raw power.

Top 100? If we could find more than a sporadic few clean, good sounding copies each year it would surely make the list, joining the other three of the band’s first four albums on there now.

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Carly Simon / Hotcakes – What to Listen For

More of the Music of Carly Simon

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Carly Simon

Hot Stamper Pressings of Richard Perry Productions

Many copies of this album suffer from (at least) one of two problems: unnatural hi-fi sound or considerable grit and grain.

Both are in large part due to the processing-intensive production of Richard Perry. On the best copies it’s easy to understand his choices as the sound is quite lovely. Unfortunately that rich, sweet sound he obviously got on to the master tape didn’t quite make it to the average vinyl pressing of the album.

The effects used on Carly’s vocals turn her voice into a gritty, grainy mess on most copies — certainly not the kind of sound that audiophiles want to hear. It took a few exceptional copies to make us understand what Simon and Perry were going for. Compare this Hot Stamper to the typical copy and you’ll hear it for yourself right away. (You DEFINITELY want your electricity really cookin’ for this shootout, because bad electricity will certainly exacerbate problems with grit and grain.)

You Haven’t Got Time For The Pain, But We Do

It’s one of Carly’s best songs and the title perfectly sums up our selling point for these Hot Stampers. Anyone can do this shootout on his own; these records are in every used record bin out there. Of course, I don’t know if anyone but us would WANT to do this shootout, because so many copies sound just plain awful! If, like Carly, you haven’t got time for the pain, save yourself the trouble and take home a Hot copy. Your free time is valuable — spend it listening to good records and leave the bad ones to us.

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Love / Self-Titled – Killer Sound from Bruce Botnick

More Love

More Psych Rock

  • An original Gold Label stereo pressing of Love’s debut album with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl doesn’t begin to do this one justice – I simply cannot remember a time that a copy with sound this good played this quietly, and we have been doing shootouts for Love for 15 years or more
  • A classic from 1966, a combination of proto-punk and psychedelia featuring “My Little Red Book,” “Hey Joe” and more
  • The first Love album is without a doubt the punchiest, liveliest, most POWERFUL recording in the Love catalog
  • Engineered by none other than Bruce Botnick, here is the kind of massive bottom end weight and energy that we like to call WHOMP
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Love’s debut is both their hardest-rocking early album and their most Byrds-influenced…”

Some of you may not know this music, but it’s a true Must Own Psychedelic Gem from the ’60s, a record no rock collection should be without, along with other groundbreaking albums from the ’60s such as Surrealistic Pillow, The Doors’ debut, the first Spirit album and too many others to list.

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Carly Simon / Torch – Surprisingly Rich, Natural Analog Sound for the Eighties

More Carly Simon

  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly rich, natural and analog considering the recording date – very little sound of the sound of the day — the kind that ruined most of what was made in the ’80s — is on display here, and thank god for that
  • “Carly Simon’s Torch is a gorgeous throwback to the Fifties and early Sixties… By blending old and new material, and by incorporating a hint of jazz-fusion music into a studio-orchestra sound, Simon and her producer, Mike Mainieri, begin to suggest a continuity between Fifties torch and Eighties pop.”
  • If you’re a fan of Carly’s, this is a Top Title from 1981 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1981 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Bread – Notes on the Shortcomings of a Hot Stamper

See all of our Bread albums in stock

Radio Friendly Pure Pop Albums Available Now

Back in the 2000s, we felt we owed our Hot Stamper customers a more complete picture of the good and bad qualities we heard in our shootout for practically every record we played.

The idea was that the buyer could listen along for what the record was doing well and what it might not be doing so well. If you noticed that the top end was a little soft, well, that’s what we might have heard too. We would put that shortcoming, and any others we thought worth mentioning, right there in the listing.

Over the years, in order to avoid having to write every listing from scratch, we streamlined the process and dropped the criticisms.

Below you can see a typical example of an older listing. This is how we used to recognize when a record was Super Hot as opposed to White Hot.

This commentary on the famous recording of The Firebird with Dorati discusses the same issues in more depth.

Side One

A++, with good balance and lots of rockin’ energy. It’s transparent — just listen to how clear the drums are on the first track. It’s a bit dry and doesn’t have all the top end extension of the best, so Super Hot is a fair grade we think.

Side Two

A++! Big and clear, yet rich, open, and Tubey Magical without being compressed or thick. None of the smear that plagues the average copy either. Could use more top end to help the harmonics on the percussion and guitars, but this is still a STRONG A++ side.


FURTHER READING

Basic Concepts and Realities Explained

Record Collecting for Audiophiles – A Guide to the Fundamentals

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

The Doors – Strange Days

More of The Doors

  • This excellent copy of Strange Days boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • An outstanding-sounding pressing of one of the most difficult-to-find records in the world of Hot Stampers
  • Demo Quality sound for so many classics: “When The Music’s Over,” “Moonlight Drive,” “Love Me Two Times,” and more
  • “… if The Beatles had Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club and The Beach Boys had Pet Sounds, then The Doors’ answer was Strange Days. This experimentation can be heard in the very first notes of the title track, as Ray Manzarek’s spacey keyboards set the tone for Morrison’s eerie, distorted warning, ‘Strange days have found us.’ It’s the perfect introduction to a perfectly strange album.”
  • If you’re a fan of The Doors, this early pressing from 1967 surely belong in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1967 All Tube Analog sound can be, this copy will can do just that.

It’s 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 anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

The Doors – Absolutely Live

More of The Doors

More Live Albums of Interest

  • Absolutely Live debuts on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on all FOUR sides of this original Elektra pressing
  • 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
  • Recorded at concerts in 1969 and 1970, this double-LP set features two original songs – the haunting “Universal Mind” and the blues-rocker “Build Me a Woman” – not found on any of studio albums, as well as extended versions of “Soul Kitchen,” “Break On Through,” and “When the Music’s Over”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, their live album from 1970 surely belongs in your collection

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Judy Collins – Who Knows Where The Time Goes

More Judy Collins

Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Judy Collins

  • The sweetness and transparency to the guitars and vocals on this wonderful pressing won us over
  • “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” – one of our favorite Judy Collins songs – is achingly powerful here
  • 4 stars: “Enthusiasts of Judy Collins rank this among their favorite recordings and it is likewise a perfect touchstone for the burgeoning listener as well.”
  • If you’re a fan of Judy’s, this early pressing from 1968 surely belongs in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Finding the Best Sound

Most copies were a bit thinner than ideal, and even the best pressings we heard had a bit of that quality. Frequency extension high and low was also hard to come by.

If the sound is rich and full-bodied, yet clear and transparent, you probably have yourself one of the few that were mastered and pressed properly — and one of the few that survived the turntables of their day to be playable forty-plus years later on the revealing equipment you undoubtedly own.

If you don’t own such a copy, and with all due respect chances are you don’t, we have a lovely copy right here for you, only a click away.

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The Music of Bread – It’s Pure Pop for Now People, and We Love It

See all of our Bread albums in stock

Pure Pop Albums Available Now

100+ Reviews of Our Favorite Pure Pop Albums

The best copies of Bread’s third album have amazingly sweet and rich 1971 ANALOG sound on both sides. That big rich bottom end and the volume of space that surrounds all the instruments and singers are the purest and most delightful form of Audiophile Candy we know.

The acoustic guitars? To die for. Talk about Tubey Magical Analog, this copy will show you just what’s missing from modern remastered records (and modern music generally). Whatever became of that sound?

This record put Bread’s heavily Beatles-inflected Pure Pop back on the charts after their the single from their previous album, On The Waters, made it to Number One, that song of course being Make It With You. “If”, the big hit off this album, went to number five, but we like it every bit as much as that earlier chart topper. Both represent the perfect melding of consummate songcraft and pure emotion.

We used to think that only the Best of Bread album could get those two songs to sound as luscious and Tubey Magical as they do when they’re playing in our heads, but it seems we were wrong — they’re positively amazing on the best copies of Manna.

A Double Edged Sword

Manna has the clear signature of Elektra from the late ’60s and early ’70s. It’s unmistakably ANALOG, but that double-edged sword cuts both ways. Richness and Tubey Magic (the kind you had in your old ’70s stereo equipment) often comes at the expense of transparency, clarity, speed and transient information (the things your ’70s equipment probably had more trouble with).

We heard a lot of copies that were opaque, smeary and dull up top, so the trick for us (and for those of you doing your own shootouts) is to find a copy with the resolving power and transparency that can cut through the thickness. Look for breath on the vocals (reverb too!) and extended vocal and guitar harmonics; if those two qualities are strongly evident you can’t be too far off the mark. More presence, bigger bass (the bass is HUGE on the best copies), more size, energy and space: these will help take you to the highest (Super Hot and White Hot) levels.

Speaking of bass, notice how prominent, big and clear the bass guitar is on many of these songs. This is not a sound we hear nearly enough. During the shootout we were lovin’ it. The Legacy Focus in our reference system has three twelve-inch woofers per channel. They do a lovely job with this kind of big-bottom-end recording, the kind of recording for which Botnick and The Doors (and Love too, let’s not forget them) are justly famous.

Where is that sound today? We miss it.

Engineering

On the better Hot Stamper copies, the ones with especially sweet and rich ANALOG sound, the credit obviously must go to their brilliant engineer, Armin Steiner, the man responsible for recording some of the best sounding, most Tubey Magical Chart-Topping Pop Rock for this band throughout the ’70s. As would be expected from success on such a scale, Steiner has more than a hundred other engineering credits. He’s also the reason that Hot August Night is one of the best sounding live albums ever recorded.

When you find his name in the credits, there’s at least a chance that the sound will be very good. You need the right pressing of course, but the potential for good sound should be your working hypothesis. Now all it takes is some serious digging in the record bins, tedious cleaning and even more tedious critical listening to determine if you’ve lucked into a diamond in the rough. Or, if you prefer, allow us do all that work for you. After 30 years in the business, we’re gotten pretty good at it.

Pure Pop For Now People

When you hear sound this good, it allows you to appreciate the music even more than the sound. This is in fact the primary raison d’etre of this audiophile hobby, or at least it’s supposed to be. 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 quote the famously waggish Nick Lowe.

Analog Heaven

In many ways this recording is state-of-the-art. Listening to the acoustic guitars on the best copies brings back memories of my first encounter with an original Pink Label Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic– that sound knocked me out twenty plus years ago [now 30 plus], and here it is again! Of course I’m a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. If you are too then this will no doubt become a treasured demo disc in your home as well.

Pay close attention to the sound of the drums. We really like the way famous session player Mike Botts’ kit is recorded, not to mention his Hal-Blaine-like — which means god-like — drumming skills.

An Endless Supply

Audiophiles with high quality turntables literally have an endless supply of good recordings such as this to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you own, you can’t possibly have even scratched the surface of the vast recorded legacy of the last sixty years (the first stereo recording dating from 1954, the year of my birth, good timing on the part of my parents). That’s the positive thought for the day.

We here at Better Records are happy to help you in your quest to find recordings that do justice to the music you have yet to hear.

Old Records Age Well

One further note. As your stereo improves, records like this only get better. Here I speak from experience. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings flooding the market these days, which to us perfectly embody the worst kind of desiccated, lifeless and often just plain weird sound we excoriate in listing after listing in our Audiophile Hall of Shame.

If you make a change to your stereo (or room or cleaning regimen or something else that affects the fidelity) and this record sounds better, more than likely you did the right thing.