Labels We Love – Polydor

The Who – Who Are You

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  • Outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – you’ll have a hard time finding a copy that sounds remotely as good as this one does
  • This copy has the Glyn Johns BIG, BOLD sound we demand from this famous producer/engineer
  • The title song sounds great on this killer copy — the dynamic power of the recording comes through loud and clear

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 8 light ticks near the end of Track 4, Sister Disco.

Big, tubey and rockin’, this copy has The Who sound we know from Who’s Next so well. Huge and pacious, with lovely three-dimensional depth, the sound has that patented Live in the Studio quality that Johns’ practically trademarked. Breathy vocals and great life and presence to every instrument, this is the way to hear it!

Forget the domestic pressings, forget the DD Labs half-speed, forget whatever lame reissues have come or will come down the pike — if you want to hear this album right, a Hot Stamper British pressing is the only way to go.

This copy has the Glyn Johns Who Sound we demand from one of the most famous producer/artist collaborations in the history of rock music. (Johns’ work with the Stones is even more legendary I would argue.)

This is certainly not the equal of the beyond brilliant Who’s Next — what is? It’s an undisputed Masterpiece — but the best songs here are certainly in that league. The title track is one I used to demo my system with twenty years ago and, with a copy like this, would be happy to again. (more…)

Brian Eno – Before And After Science

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  • This outstanding copy of Before And After Science on the Island Black Label boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Here you will find that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end, with huge amounts of space in the middle, three qualities among many that make this album an especially magical listening experience
  • I know whereof I speak- I must have played this album at least two hundred times in the 43 years that have passed since I first bought a copy
  • If you’re a fan of Art Rock or Prog Rock or just like something a little different, this is an album that belongs in your collection
  • 5 stars: “Despite the album’s pop format, the sound is unique and strays far from the mainstream. The music on Before and After Science at times resembles Another Green World (“No One Receiving”) and Here Come the Warm Jets (“King’s Lead Hat”) and ranks alongside both as the most essential Eno material.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 1 loud stitch followed by 1 moderate pop one-quarter inch from the end of Track 3, Kurt’s Rejoinder. On side two, a mark makes 1 moderate, then 1 moderately light, stitch a quarter inch from the end of Track 1, Here He comes.

Side one, the rock side, strongly relies on its deep punchy bass to make its material come to life and rock (or should we say art rock?). Eno’s vocals are clear and present with virtually no strain. Phil Collins’ drumming is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work. (more…)

Cream / Wheels of Fire and its Glaring Lack of Bass

See all of our Eric Clapton and Cream albums in stock

 

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It’s EXCEPTIONALLY difficult to find even decent sounding copies of this album. We’ve played SCORES of original domestic copies, original imports, and all kinds of reissues — trust me, most of them would make you cringe.

When you get a good copy, this music is AWESOME! For ’60s power trio hard rock, you just can’t do much better than the studio material.

White Room, Sitting On Top Of The World, Politician, Born Under A Bad Sign — this is the very essence of Classic Blues Rock. Unfortunately, the typical copy barely hints at the potential of this recording, and the audiophile pressings are even worse.

The DCC Gold CDs are especially bad in our opinion; they sound nothing like the good pressings we’ve played over the years.

Where’s The Bass?

Most early pressings you find these days are thrashed beyond belief. We used to pick up every clean Plum & Gold label copy we’d find back in he day, but no more. We gave up. The Cream magic was just plain missing from the early domestic pressings. The problem is simple: a glaring lack of bass.

Let’s think about that. Cream is a power trio. The music absolutely demands a solid, weighty bottom end. Sacrifice the bass and the sound is just too lean to rock.

We can sum up the sound of the whomp-less copies in a word: fatiguing. As is always the case, some copies sound better than others, but none could give us the kind of bass that we were hoping for. (more…)

The Hollies – Hollies

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  • A superb pressing of The Hollies’ 1974 release, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound of this early UK pressing is big, full-bodied and dynamic with Tubey Magic to die for – forget the dry, edgy sound of the domestic LPs, this is the real master tape, baby!
  • The Air That I Breathe is the monster track here, and on these killer British Polydor pressings it’s out of this world thanks to the engineering prowess of none other than Alan Parsons

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Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham Nicks

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  • An incredible copy with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich and Tubey Magical with a massive bottom end – this is a true Demo Disc for bass (much like the first Mac album they sang on)
  • Recording Engineer great Keith Olsen mastered the perfect mix, with rich, full sound, in the great tradition of English Rock
  • “An engaging listen and served as a proving ground of sorts for both artists’ songwriting chops and for Buckingham’s skills as an emerging studio craftsman. Crisp, ringing acoustic guitars and a bottom-heavy rhythm section framed the pair’s songs…”

We really enjoy playing this album here at Better Records. It’s an obvious preview of things to come for these two (and the engineer too!). Check out the wonderful early version of Crystal. On the better copies, it is warm, rich, and sweet — just like it is on the better copies of the Fleetwood Mac self-titled LP. In fact, many parts of this album bring to mind the best of ’70s Fleetwood Mac. Fans of the self-titled LP and Rumours are going to find A LOT to like here.

Those of you who read our commentary for Commoner’s Crown will recognize this bit, lifted practically in its entirety from that listing.

The British Sound? This record has it in spades:

The sound is rich and full in the best tradition of English Rock, with no trace of the transistory grain that domestic rock pressings so often suffer from. The bass is deep, punchy, full up in the mix and correct. There’s plenty of it too, so those of you with less than well-controlled bass will have a tough time with this one.

But never fear; it’s a great record to tweak with and perfect for evaluating equipment.

Things have changed as we never tire of saying here at Better Records, but in a way you could say they have stayed the same. This used to be a demo disc, and now it’s REALLY a Demo Disc. You will have a very hard time finding a record with a punchier, richer, fuller, better-defined, dare I say “fatter” bottom end than the one found on both these sides.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky-sweet and Tubey Magical, THIS IS THE SOUND WE LOVE.

What We’re Listening For on Buckingham Nicks

There are a couple of qualities that set that better copies apart from the pack. The biggest problem with this record is sound that gets too fat and too rich. There has to be transparency to the sound that lets us listen into the studio. When Stevie is singing, almost always double-tracked by the way, Lindsay is often doing harmony vocals well behind her, double-tracked as well. You want to be able to hear PAST her all the way back to him and hear exactly what he’s doing. Most copies don’t let you do that.

Another problem is smeary guitar transients. The multi-tracked acoustic guitars tend to be rich and sweet on practically every copy you can find; this is not the problem. When they lack transient information, or “pluck”, they also tend to lack harmonic information, the overtones of the notes. Put those two together and you get a blobby mass of smeared guitars overlaid onto one another — not an irritating sound, but not an especially pleasing one either.

And, lastly, we take off lots of points for copies that have the edgy, boosted upper mids we mentioned earlier.

In these shootouts, we are always trying to find copies with the right BALANCE. When everything fits together nicely, when the mix sounds right and all the parts are working their magic separately and together, you know you are on the road to Hot Stamperville. You may not be hearing the best copy ever pressed, but you are undoubtedly hearing a copy that has The Kind of Sound You Want This Music to Have.

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Brian Eno – His First Four Albums Are Best on Import, Right? – Well, Almost…

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[This commentary is quite old. You should take it with a grain of salt.]

The domestic pressings of Before And After Science are typically grainy and hard sounding — hardly competitive with the smoother British Polydors. But our best Hot Stamper pressing isn’t an import; it was made right here in the good old U. S. of A.

Say what? Yes, it’s true. We were SHOCKED to find such hot stamper sound lurking in the grooves of a domestic Eno LP. It’s the One and Only. In thirty plus years of record playing I can’t think of any domestic Eno LP that ever sounded this good.

Now hold on just a minute. The British pressings of Eno’s albums are always the best, aren’t they?

For the first three albums, absolutely. But rules were made to be broken. This pressing has the knockout sound we associate with the best British originals of Eno’s albums, not the flat, cardboardy qualities of the typical domestic reissue.

Kinda Blind Testing

Since the person listening and making notes during the shootouts has no idea what the label or the pressing of the record is that he is evaluating — this is after all a quasi-scientific enterprise, with blind testing being the order of the day — when that domestic later label showed up at the top of the heap, our jaws hit the floor.

Both sides have that rare combination of silky highs and deep low end that make any record magical. Side one, the rock side, strongly relies on its deep punchy bass to make its material come to life and rock (or should we say art rock?). Eno’s vocals are clear and present with virtually no strain. Phil Collins’ drumming (how did these guys get together? We forget that Collins was in the proggy Brand X) is energetic and transparent and perfectly complemented by Percy Jones’ simultaneously acrobatic and hard-driving bass work. (more…)

Roxy Music’s Debut Is a Masterpiece

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  • Andy Hendriksen’s engineering (over the course of a week!) is superb in all respects and practically faultless
  • A Top 100 album, the band’s Masterpiece, and truly a Must Own Desert Island Disc of Glamorous Arty Rock
  • “Falling halfway between musical primitivism and art rock ambition, Roxy Music’s eponymous debut remains a startling redefinition of rock’s boundaries. Simultaneously embracing kitschy glamour and avant-pop, Roxy Music shimmers with seductive style and pulsates with disturbing synthetic textures.”

Folks, this is a true Demo Disc in the world of Art Rock. It’s rare to find a recording of popular music with DYNAMICS like these. (more…)

Roxy Music – Flesh + Blood

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

The British Original Polydor Super Deluxe pressings are the only way to go on this album. No domestic pressing or other import was better than passable; we know, we played them. The British LP is cut by one of my favorite mastering houses in England, which no doubt accounts — at least partly — for the excellent sound.

The estimable Robert Ludwig cut the domestic pressings. Unfortunately for us Americans, it sounds to us like they gave him a dub tape to master from. (The same thing happened on Avalon by the way.)

This is a transitional album. Some of it sounds like Avalon (Oh Yeah, Over You, etc) and some of it sounds more like their earlier material. It may not be as consistent as Avalon but it’s well worth owning for its best songs (listed below) and highly recommended for fans of the band. (more…)

John Mayall – Empty Rooms

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

With only keyboards, guitars, saxes and flutes — the absence of a drummer is especially noteworthy — the group creates a mystical, low-key atmosphere in the studio within which JM tells his stories. In other words, it’s different. When it comes to John Mayall’s recorded works, that’s not a bad thing. 

We’ve auditioned a good dozen or more of his albums over the years, most of which we found interesting but not especially compelling (not at our prices anyway). He averaged about two albums a year through the ’60s and ’70s and on most of the ones we’ve played it seems that he struggled to come up with material good enough to fill them all.

That said, we took a liking to this one and proudly offer it here for the first time.

Side One

Excellent energy and vocal presence. Clear and full, with good lots of studio space.

The second and third tracks tended to sound better to us than the first by the way.

Side Two

Natural and balanced, with rich and tubey 1970 sound. The second track is especially Tubey Magical and smooth in the right way. (more…)

John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Milk and Honey

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish and the first copy to ever hit the site! 
  • Both sides here are doing everything right — big, full-bodied and wonderfully present with a huge bottom end and lots of space around all of the instruments
  • Milk and Honey is certainly not the greatest album John (and Yoko) recorded… but it is vital if only for completing the musical story of John Lennon… [it] finds Lennon in a happy state of mind, which is not a bad way to end a story at all.” – Pop Matters

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