Labels We Love – Motown

Lionel Richie – Self-Titled

  • A KILLER sounding copy with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from the first note to the last, just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • 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: “The key to its success — is that Richie doesn’t even make a pretense of funk here… The ballads, of course, provided two big hits with “My Love” and “Truly,” two numbers that illustrate that he was moving ever-closer to mainstream pop, since these are unapologetic AOR slow-dance tunes. [It’s] a dynamic mainstream pop-soul record, one of the best the early ’80s had to offer.”

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Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale

More Stevie Wonder

More Soul, Blues and R&B

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  • 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’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know better, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life. Fulfillingness’ First Finale is a good example of a record most audiophiles don’t know well but should.
  • If you’re a Stevie Wonder fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1974 is clearly one of his best, his two best in our opinion, just a tad behind his masterpiece, Inner Visions
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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…)

Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down

More Lionel Richie

More Soul, Blues, and Rhythm and Blues

  • An outstanding copy of Richie’s second solo studio album, with very ANALOG sound from start to finish
  • Rich, smooth and natural, the sound here is guaranteed to please – recall that the 12″ of All Night Long was on the TAS List back in the day (and yes, I used to sell it!)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “In 1999, Q magazine included Can’t Slow Down on its list of the best Motown records of all time and stated, “Production values are high, his songwriting craft is at its peak and at least one track – the global smash ‘All Night Long’ – is an anthem to good times that makes the heart sing and feet twitch.””

This vintage Motown pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. (more…)

Stevie Wonder – Music of My Mind

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  • A STUNNING copy of this Stevie Wonder classic, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Anyone who has followed the site for a while surely knows how difficult it is to find the pre-Innervisions Stevie Wonder titles with top quality sound and clean surfaces
  • This pressing gives you everything you ever hoped for from this music and then some — it’s full-bodied and spacious with plenty of the all-important Tubey Magic that only the right pressings have to offer
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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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Commodores – Self-Titled

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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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  • 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, and many, many more
  • 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…)

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

More Smokey Robinson

More Soul, Blues and R&B

  • These sides are tonally correct and highly resolving, as well as relaxed and smooth – Motown’s trademark phony upper midrange boost is gone
  • Here is the sound we wish we could find on more Motown records – believe me, we’ve tried
  • We don’t offer Greatest Hits albums often but this one sounds too good to ignore
  • 4 stars: “Scrumptious! All hits, except for two excellent B-sides: the exquisite ‘Choosey Beggar,’ a marvelous ballad with an Asiatic feel, and the poignant ‘Save Me’…”

Both sides are outstanding from start to finish. Motown’s trademark phony top end boost is gone. Most copies we played had some of that sound, including a boosted upper midrange, but our Hot Stampers will keep the problems under control while at the same time giving you presence, energy and space, layered on a good solid base of low end. (more…)

Marvin Gaye / Tammi Terrell / Easy – Reviewed in 2009

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This Minty looking Tamla LP has AMAZING SOUND on both sides. Some songs sound better than others here but the ones that do sound good, WOW, they are out of this world!

Drop the needle on California Soul on side one to hear some tubey magical and sweet sound.

The best sounding track on side two is How You Gonna Keep It.

Some of the tracks have that slightly pinched Motown vocal EQ but that’s a small price to pay for this kind of sound.

We rate both sides A++ (on the best sounding songs). 

AMG Review

Along with the hit, the best songs here are “This Poor Heart of Mine,” an uptempo number and good workout for the duo, and “Love Woke Me Up This Morning,” an endearing exercise in romanticism.

Marvin Gaye / Let’s Get It On – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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AMAZING SOUND for one of the best soul albums of all time! This is the first Hot Stamper copy of Let’s Get It On to ever hit the site, and it is KILLER on side one, giving you better sound for the classic title track than you probably ever dreamed of! It’s not easy to find clean original copies, and even when you manage to track them down they often don’t sound all that hot. This side one takes the music to a whole new level — the vocals are smooth and sweet, the bottom end is punchy with real weight, and the vocals have the kind of presence that carries them out of the speakers and front and center into your listening room. Let’s get it on indeed!

If you’ve ever sat through a few copies of this album, I’m sure you know how plain the sound can be. We had a big stack of copies (it took us ages to pull so many together) and most of them left us cold. When I’m listening to music this important, I don’t want to miss a thing. I need the sound to fall into place and give me the kind of magic that the artist intended. This side one does EXACTLY that. We heard subtleties in the music that had completely escaped us before. It was a truly special experience to hear this music sound like this, and you’re a fan of this kind of stuff you will be BLOWN AWAY.

Side two is excellent as well, but not quite in a league with the first side. The sound is rich and full with good presence and energy. The transparency and clarity are both wonderful and the vocals sound great. The first side just performs a bit better in the extremes — punchier down low and silkier up top — but it won’t be easy to find a side two much better than this one. (more…)

Marvin Gaye – Let’s Get It On

More Marvin Gaye

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last
  • One of the better sounding Marvin Gaye records we do shootouts for – this copy is big and rich, just the way we like ’em
  • 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 groundbreaking album from 1973, you need a vintage pressing that sounds as good as this one does
  • 5 stars: “… no other record has ever achieved the kind of sheer erotic force of Let’s Get It On, and it remains the blueprint for all of the slow jams to follow decades later — much copied, but never imitated.”

It’s surprising how good some of the classic soul albums from the early ’70s can sound. Let’s Get It On is up there with Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions as albums that offer sound every bit as good as the music.

We had a big stack of copies (it took us ages to pull so many together) and many of them left us cold. When I’m listening to music this important, I don’t want to miss a thing. On the best copies, it was a truly special experience to hear Gaye’s music sound so good. (more…)