Labels We Love – Motown

Stevie Wonder – Hotter Than July

More Stevie Wonder

More Soul, Blues and R&B

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Wonder naysayed the trends and continues to do what he did best. Solid songwriting, musicianship, and production are evident in the majority of Hotter Than July… It is the portrait of an artist who still had the Midas touch…”

*CONDITION NOTES: On side two, the last 2-3 seconds of Track 5, Happy Birthday, are somewhat crackly.

Most copies lack the presence, energy and bottom end weight to let these funky songs work their magic, but a copy like this will let you appreciate the music without the mediocre sonics of the average pressing getting in the way.

This album was recorded right at the beginning of the digital era (1980) and most pressings won’t let you forget that. So many copies we played were just too sterile to get into — clean and clear bit lacking richness and fullness. We’re huge Stevie Wonder fans around here and we’ve fallen in love with Innervisions and Songs In The Key Of Life over and over again because of their lush, analog sound on the best pressings. It took a ton of work (and a whole lot of copies) to find a Hotter Than July that we could get excited about. I don’t think there’s a copy out there that can compete with his earlier recordings sonically but at least the Hot Stamper pressings present the music in a way that audiophiles can enjoy. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – The Woman In Red

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  • The Woman In Red finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly good sound, perhaps the best sound Stevie Wonder got after about 1976 – we were shocked as you no doubt are
  • A superb collection, including I Just Called To Say I Love You and Love Light in Flight
  • “An ingenious jump from his trademark, spectacular, blend of Funk, R&B and Soul,contaminated with Pop, Disco, Gospel and Reggae, to a brand new Synthpop/Pop-soul sound that characterizes his ’80s works.”

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Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale

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  • This pressing of the classic 1974 album from Stevie Wonder boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound on both sides and plays about as quietly as any early pressing ever will
  • Finding the right balance between Tubey Magical Richness and Transparency is the trick, and we think this copy strikes that balance as well as any pressing we’ve heard
  • Boogie On Reggae Woman and You Haven’t Done Nothing were the big hits but the other tracks on the album are where the real Stevie Wonder MAGIC can be found
  • 4 1/2 stars [but we give it 5]: “The songs and arrangements are the warmest since Talking Book, and Stevie positively caresses his vocals on this set, encompassing the vagaries of love, from dreaming of it (“Creepin'”) to being bashful of it (“Too Shy to Say”) to knowing when it’s over (“It Ain’t No Use”).”

We’re big fans of Stevie here at Better Records, but it’s always a challenge to find good sound for his albums. Tons of great songs here, including the ones everybody knows, Boogie On Reggae Woman and You Haven’t Done Nothing. Both sound WONDERFUL on this pressing.

But…

For the first time in my life, over the course of the last five years or so I’ve really gotten to know the album well, having found a CD at a local store to play in the car (and now I also have a cassette to play in my Walkman while working out).

I’ve listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale scores of times. I now see that it is some of the best work Stevie Wonder ever did, right up there with Innervisions and ahead of any other Stevie Wonder album, including Talking Book and Songs in the Key of Life.

The best songs on the album to my mind are the quieter, more heartfelt and emotional ones, not the rockers or funky workouts. My personal favorites on side one are: Smile Please. Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away, Too Shy to Say and Creepin’, which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, are all the songs that weren’t hits.

On side two the two slowest songs are the ones I now like best: It Ain’t No Use & They Won’t Go When I Go (famously and brilliantly covered by George Michael on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 in 1990). (more…)

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On

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  • An superb sounding copy of an album that almost never hits the site; Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Both sides are super rich, full and Tubey Magical with plenty of energy and big bottom end — Gaye’s vocals sound wonderful here
  • “What’s Going On is not only Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece, it’s the most important and passionate record to come out of soul music… arguably the best soul album of all time.” — All Music, 5 stars  

Stunning Sound

Way more spacious and transparent than most copies yet still super rich and smooth in the midrange. Listen to the bells and percussion — there’s real ambience around them for once! The vocals are full and present, the bottom end is big and solid, and the soundstage is open and three-dimensional. So good!

I don’t know how many copies like this we’ll be able to track down, so if you’re a fan of this great music you should probably snap this one up. Most copies we’ve brought in were beat to death, full of groove damage or just sonically unimpressive. (more…)

Commodores – Commodores

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  • The band’s illustrious self-titled release finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout
  • Punchy and smooth, with the kind of rhythmic energy that brings out both the pop-soul of “Easy” and the funk of “Brick House”
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more richness, fullness, vocal presence, and ‘life” 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
  • 4 stars: “The Commodores’ early years were spent on the Southern funk circuit, where their energetic, catchy tunes, and keyboard-oriented funk made them both a college and a radio staple… This collection highlights early up-tempo and ballad hits.”

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Stevie Wonder – Talking Book

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, this is the way Talking Book is supposed to sound 
  • Richer, warmer, more natural, more relaxed, this is what vintage analog is all about, that smooth sound that never calls attention to itself and just lets the music flow
  • So many great songs: You Are the Sunshine of My Life, Tuesday Heartbreak, You’ve Got It Bad Girl, Superstition, etc.
  • 5 Stars: “What had been hinted at on the intriguing project Music of My Mind was here focused into a laser beam of tight songwriting, warm electronic arrangements, and ebullient performances — altogether the most realistic vision of musical personality ever put to wax…”

Those of you who are familiar with this record will not be surprised to learn that these shootouts are TOUGH. Very few copies are any better than mediocre.

This copy is more dynamic, open and transparent than most pressings BY FAR. There’s ton of space around all of the instruments, the bass is big and punchy and the vocals are present, warm and tonally right on the money. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Music of My Mind

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  • AMAZING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides of this early Stevie Wonder classic
  • Anyone who has followed the site for a while surely knows how difficult it is to find Stevie Wonder records with excellent sound
  • This pressing gives you everything you ever hoped for from this music and then some — it’s full-bodied and spacious with plenty of extension on both ends
  • “Music of My Mind was also the first to bear the fruits of his increased focus on Moog and Arp synthesizers, though the songs never sound synthetic, due in great part to Stevie’s reliance on a parade of real instruments — organic drumwork, harmonica, organs and pianos — as well as his mastery of traditional song structure and his immense musical personality… his first truly unified record…” 

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The Supremes – Sing Rodgers and Hart – This Is a Motown Record?

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

What an amazing find! You could have knocked me over with a feather when this record started playing. Where was the awful Motown bright, gritty, distorted sound I’d been suffering through all my life? Certainly not on this copy.

The Tubey Magical richness is off the charts on this side one, with a healthy but not quiet equal dose on side two (hence the grade). As everyone knows by now (everyone who comes to our site at least), not every copy has the magic. Having access to a big pile of pressings is the only way to figure out just how much magic the grooves can contain.

This side one is proof that the grooves can indeed contain huge amounts of richness, sweetness, smoothness, naturalness and, above all, Tubey Magic.

Listen to how tight and note-like the string bass is on the second track of side one. What a sound! (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

EXCELLENT SOUND ON BOTH SIDES on this White Hot Stamper pressing of the great follow-up to Innervisions! We’ve been collecting clean copies for ages and were able to have a MASSIVE shootout for this album, so I can say with complete confidence that you will not find a better sounding copy of this album no matter what you do! Both sides are warm, rich and natural with excellent immediacy to the vocals. The drums are clear and crisp, the bass has real weight, and the overall sound is big and lively.

It’s very difficult to find copies of Stevie’s albums that sound great and play quietly. I know many of you are aware of this because we get so many requests for Hot Stamper pressings of his various albums. You might be able to get quiet vinyl on the Japanese Stevie pressings, but you won’t find The Real Sound — no way, no how.

The vinyl on this copy plays between Mint Minus Minus and Mint Minus — not too bad but far from silent. There’s constant light to moderate noise behind the music, particularly audible in the quietest passages. It’s a small price to pay to get sound this good for music this important, but it’s not a record for anyone who demands Minty vinyl. If you can’t live with a little surface noise, you probably won’t ever hear any of Stevie’s classic albums sound as amazing as this one does. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Signed, Sealed and Delivered

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning side one and a better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) side two, this copy is killin’ it – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Much more natural and relaxed, this is what finding the right mastering with the right EQ is all about – it’s the only way to hear tonally correct, distortion-free sound for the album
  • Has anyone ever done a better cover of a Beatles’ tune than “We Can Work It Out” here?
  • Christgau noted that the album was “still the most exciting LP by a male soul singer in a very long time, and it slips into no mold, Motown’s included.” Rolling Stone said that the album “holds more creative singing than you’re likely to find in another performer’s entire body of work.”

Those of you who are familiar with this record will not be surprised to learn that these shootouts are TOUGH. Very few copies are any better than mediocre.

Many copies were gritty, some were congested in the louder sections, some never got big, some were thin and lacking the lovely analog richness of the best — we heard plenty of copies whose faults were obvious when played against two top sides such as these. (more…)