Labels We Love – EMI/Harvest

Grace Williams / Fantasia On Welsh Nursery Tunes / Groves – Reviewed in 2012

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Super Hot Stamper sound for this TAS List title, containing the most famous piece for which Grace Williams is known. The sound is BIG and RICH, two adjectives we rarely apply to a ’70s EMI. Big maybe — lots of EMI’s are big, but the reason you see so few EMI Hot Stampers on our site is that they are usually big in a vague, phasey way, which is a sound I frankly have never seen the need to take seriously, TAS Listing or no TAS Listing. (Screen speakers tend to sound that way to me, and I’ve never been a fan of them either.)

But rich — now that’s a sound we do like! It’s also not shrill and hard like most EMI’s. Instead it’s transparent, lively and tonally correct from top to bottom.

Add it all up and you have a very special EMI record that qualifies for Super Hot Stamper status. You will have a very hard time finding a copy of the album that sounds like the side one here. (more…)

Holst and Previn – A Planets for the Ages

More on The Planets

More of the music of Gustav Holst (1874-1934)

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  • After a lengthy shootout hiatus we proudly present the best side two of this album to hit the site since 2013
  • Out Of This World sound on side two, where it earned a Four Plus sonic grade for its MINDBLOWING orchestral power
  • Side one earned a seriously good grade of Double Plus (A++) – it’s rich, clear and dynamic, with weighty brass
  • A TAS List Super Disc, with a performance by Previn and the LSO that’s as spectacular as the sound
  • This copy has some condition issues – those of you looking for a quiet copy will have to wait for the next shootout in 2018 or thereabouts

This copy has a side two that is so off the charts we ended up giving it Four Pluses. A Four Plus copy has to meet a standard higher than our regular top grade, and we define that standard as “better than we ever imagined any copy could ever sound.” (more…)

Bizet-Shchedrin / Carmen Ballet Suite / Rozhdestvensky

More of the music of Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

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  • Unbelievable Shootout Winning Demo Disc quality sound on side one – this Triple Plus (A+++) side had more energy and snap than practically any we played
  • Side two was not especially good, but that’s really not a problem since side one has by far the better music – it’s where the most exciting, most percussive movements can be found
  • To be honest, the copy I owned for years still had a pristine side two, mostly because I never bothered to play it much
  • When you come to the end of side one you will not be wanting more – you will have heard everything that’s good about this remarkable composition
  • This gloriously exciting and fun music belongs in any audiophile’s collection

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Tchaikovsky / Symphony No. 1 ’Winter Dreams’ – Muti – Reviewed in 2009

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EMI Postage Stamp pressing with EXCELLENT SOUND and a remarkably energetic and nuanced performance. This is the first recording of this symphony that I’ve ever liked. Muti gets it! And the sound is actually quite good for EMI in this period, 1976.

Stuart Eltham is the recording engineer and he is to be commended for getting some real dynamics and power into the grooves of this record.

Vivaldi – Cello Concertos — Paul Tortelier – Reviewed in 2011

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This is a minty EMI British Pressing from 1981 featuring Paul Tortelier on the cello. The sound is very good in the EMI tradition, but even better, the music is WONDERFUL. These Vivaldi concertos are lovely. I was unfamiliar with them, so discovering this music today was a joy. 

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Saint-Saens – Symphony No. 3 (“Organ”) / Fremaux

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  • For the first time in three years, one of Saint-Saens’ greatest masterpieces returns to Better Records with truly superb nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too, the quietest copy to ever hit the site
  • Clear and transparent and natural – your ability to suspend disbelief requires practically no effort at all
  • What this copy did better than practically any other was show us just how rich, smooth and Tubey Magical 1973 EMI sound could be
  • “The whole work is a magnificent and fantastical symphonic machine that’s an apotheosis of the orchestral technology of the late 19th century.”

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Paganini – Violin Concertos 1 & 2 / Menuhin / Erede

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  • A superb UK pressing with a Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one, mated to a very good sounding side two – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • Two of the truly great virtuoso/romantic violin concertos, boasting superb 1961 EMI Golden Age Analog Sound
  • The complete first Violin Concerto on this vintage LP has killer sound, right up there with our Shootout Winner from the last go around
  • It’s simply bigger, more transparent, less distorted, more three-dimensional and more REAL than most others
  • The best balance of orchestra and soloist we know of for both works, with sound to rival the greatest concerto recordings we’ve played

Another remarkable Demo Disc from the Golden Age of Vacuum Tube Recording Technology, in this case 1961, with the added benefit of mastering using the more modern cutting equipment of the ’70s. (We are of course here referring to the good modern mastering of 40 years ago, not the bad modern mastering of today.)

This combination of old and new works wonders on this title as you will surely hear for yourself on this wonderful copy.

The sound of the best copies is transparent, undistorted, three-dimensional and REAL, without any sacrifice in solidity, richness or Tubey Magic. The illusion of disappearing speakers is one of the more attractive aspects of the sound here, pulling the listener into the space of the concert hall in an especially engrossing way. (more…)

Mussorgsky & Ravel – Pictures at an Exhibition

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  • An outstanding pressing, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Our favorite performance by far, with BIG, BOLD and POWERFUL sonics like no other recording we know
  • The brass clarity, the dynamics, the deep bass and the sheer power of the orchestra are almost hard to believe
  • No vintage recording of these works compares with Muti’s – and Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite is an extra special added bonus on side two

This EMI pressing gives you the complete Pictures at an Exhibition with a TOP PERFORMANCE and SUPERB SONICS from first note to last.

As this is my All Time Favorite performance of Pictures, this record naturally comes very highly recommended. Pictures is a piece of music that has been recorded countless times, and I’ve played scores of different recordings, but the only one that truly satisfies is this one, Muti’s 1979 recording with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Much like Previn and the LSO’s performance of The Planets, he finds the music in the work that no one else seems to. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Meddle

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  • An outstanding British copy of this shockingly well recorded album with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides
  • These sides have presence, size and space we guarantee you have never heard on this album in all your born days
  • An audiophile Demonstration Quality Recording on a par with Dark Side of the Moon, which is really saying something!
  • A mark plays during the opening “pinging” on side two, but find me a good sounding copy with a quiet intro for side two and I will eat it
  • 4 1/2 stars:”Pink Floyd were nothing if not masters of texture, and Meddle is one of their greatest excursions into little details, pointing the way to the measured brilliance of Dark Side of the Moon and the entire Roger Waters era.”

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Kim Carnes – Mistaken Identity

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  • Kim Carnes makes her site debut here with this superb copy of her 1981 release, Mistaken Identity
  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The immediacy of the vocals is striking, putting a living, breathing Kim Carnes right between your speakers
  • Bette Davis Eyes was the biggest selling single of 1981, but you can be sure no one until now has ever heard it sound as good as it does on this very LP
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars, Grammy Nomination for Album of the Year – the Big As Life Rock Sound Val Garay’s engineering and production achieved with this album surely deserve much of the credit

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