Labels We Love – Polydor

Roxy Music – Manifesto

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  • An incredible early UK import pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s simply BIGGER and RICHER than any other copy we played, with rock solid energy to beat them all
  • Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever crappy Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – the Tubey Magic on this pressing and the others in our shootout prove again and again that the UK LPs are the only way to fly on Manifesto
  • “The songs ending each side fade out with real grace and leave you hanging, wanting more — drenched in a romance out of reach.”
  • If you’re a Roxy fan, this title from 1979 surely deserves a place in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1979 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Bryan Ferry / Boys And Girls – Two Tracks Are Key

More of the Music of Bryan Ferry

More Albums with Key Tracks for Critical Listening

The song Valentine, the second track on side two, is a key test for that side. Note how processed Ferry’s vocals are. On even the best copies they will sound somewhat bright. The test is the background singers: they should sound tonally correct and silky sweet.

If Ferry sounds correct, they will sound dull, and so will the rest of the side. That processed sound on his vocal is on the tape. Trying to “fix” it will ruin everything.

You can be pretty sure that whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing has been made for this album that they tried to fix the hell out of it. Doubtless the result is not a pretty one. It rarely is.

On the top copies the lead on the very next track, Stone Woman, is tonally right on the money.

These two tracks, two of the best on the album, together make it easy to know if your copy is correct in the midrange.

Track two: background vocals.

Track three: lead vocal.

What could be easier?

Key Listening Test for Both Sides

The quality of the percussion is critical to much of the music here. There’s tons of it on Boys and Girls, even more than on its predecessor Avalon, and unless you have plenty of top end, presence and transparency, all that percussion can’t work its magic to drive this rhythmic music.

How About the British Pressings?

Bryan Ferry is British, as is bandmate David Gilmour and the recording and producing team headed by the amazing Rhett Davies. And yes, the recording was done at many studios, most of them overseas.

But the album is mixed by Bob Clearmountain at The Power Station and mastered by Robert Ludwig at Masterdisk, and that means the master tape was right here in America when it came time to get the sound of the tape onto vinyl.

The British pressings are made from dubs and sound like it.

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Derek and the Dominos – Layla

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Eric Clapton

  • Some of our favorite Clapton songs are here: Bell Bottom Blues, Tell The Truth, Little Wing, Layla and Have You Ever Loved A Woman?
  • One of the most difficult albums to find audiophile sound for, but a lot easier for us now that we know what pressings can actually sound good
  • Clapton’s greatest album: “But what really makes Layla such a powerful record is that Clapton, ignoring the traditions that occasionally painted him into a corner, simply tears through these songs with burning, intense emotion.”

Outstanding sound for all four sides of this classic album. Unless you plan on playing a very big pile of copies you will be hard-pressed to find a copy with sound like this. (more…)

Buckingham Nicks / Self-Titled

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  • A superb pressing of Lindsay Buckingham and Stevie Nicks’ one and only album, with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich and Tubey Magical with a massive bottom end – this is a true Bass Demo Disc (much like the first Mac album they sang on)
  • Recording Engineer great Keith Olsen went for a very rich, very smooth sound, in the tradition of Classic British Folk 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.

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Jimi Hendrix – Electric Ladyland

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More Rock Classics

  • A superb copy of Electric Ladyland with roughly solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all FOUR sides of this UK import
  • Forget the Track originals – they can’t hold a candle to the Hot Stamper reissues like the one we are offering here
  • Big, clear, tubey, sweet ANALOG sound – we played it good and loud and it was ROCKIN’!
  • Probably the best-recorded of Hendrix’s studio albums – huge studio space and the Tubey Magical richness of analog are key to the best sound
  • 5 stars: “…not only one of the best rock albums of the era, but also Hendrix’s original musical vision at its absolute apex.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jimi and his band, this UK import of his 1968 classic belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1968 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Some of Jimi’s best songs can be found here, including “Crosstown Traffic,” “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and his incendiary cover of Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” All four sides have truly killer sound, big and full-bodied with a MUCH better low end than you’ll find on most. You get enough energy and weight to make the rock songs really ROCK, and enough clarity and transparency to bring out the more spacey, psychedelic elements that Jimi and Eddie Kramer worked so hard on.

Ready to go on a trip? You’ve come to the right place. While the sound is not Demo Quality on every track, the acid-drenched soundscapes created by Jimi and producer Eddie Kramer are certainly going to be exciting to the kind of audiophile who still digs Classic Rock. Unfortunately, most copies are missing a lot of the magic — the space, the tubes, the ambience, the size, the weight.

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Roxy Music / Self-Titled

  • An excellent UK pressing of Roxy Music’s debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – this is some of the most dynamic sound the band achieved
  • Andy Hendriksen’s engineering (over the course of a week!) is superb in all respects – we think the best pressings of this first album reveal a recording that is superior to any other by the band
  • A Top 100 album, Roxy’s Masterpiece, and a Must Own Desert Island Disc of Glamorous Arty Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “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.

The guitar solo at the end of “Ladytron” rocks like you will not believe.

In both music and sound, this is arguably the best record the band ever made. Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album has the kind of dynamic, energetic, POWERFUL sound that their other records simply fail to show us. And we’ve played them by the dozens, so there’s a pretty good chance we will never find copies with the abundant richness and power we find here.

We hope you will agree with us that it was entirely worth the wait, as this album is a MASTERPIECE of Art Rock, Glam Rock and Bent Rock all rolled into one.

AMG calls Roxy Music the “most adventurous rock band of the early ’70s” and I’m inclined to agree with them. Roxy is certainly one of the most influential and important bands in my growth as a listener and audiophile, along with the likes of Supertramp, Ambrosia, 10cc, Steely Dan, Yes, Bowie and others, groups of musicians dedicated to exploring and exploding the conventions of popular music.

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The Who – Who By Numbers

More of The Who

More Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

  • An outstanding pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last
  • Glyn Johns’ MAGIC is on display here, with open mics in a big studio space creating the 3-D Soundscapes we love
  • Features two of their most iconic songs, Slip Kid and Squeezebox, and both sound great on this copy
  • In our opinion this is the best — and best sounding — Who album released post-Quadrophenia
  • 4 Stars – Rolling Stone raves: “They may have made their greatest album in the face of [their personal problems]. But only time will tell.”
  • If you’re a Who fan, this title from 1975 is surely a Must Own.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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Cream – Live Cream

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More Live Recordings of Interest

  • An outstanding copy of Live Cream, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Super lively and clear with the kind of bass that most pressings simply don’t have in our experience
  • 4 stars: “Foreground and background seem to dissolve as all three musicians take charge, using the full range of their instruments. And where Bruce goes with his bass, especially on ‘Sweet Wine,’ is every bit as rewarding as the places that Clapton’s guitar takes us; and Ginger Baker’s playing is a trip all its own. Performances like this single-handedly raised the stakes of musicianship in rock.”
  • If you’re a Cream fan, this live classic from 1970 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Cream were certainly no slouches in the musicianship department, and this live performance captures them at the peak of their powers.

When you get a good copy of this album you’re sure to hear what we heard — that this is truly one of the great live rock albums (with a bit of studio material on side two as well). This has the Big Rock Sound that we go crazy for at Better Records. The best pressings, the ones that are full-bodied and smooth, let you crank the levels and reproduce the album good and loud the way it was meant to be heard.

When it’s all working, you’re front and center for a fiery Cream concert with these guys delivering one heckuva performance. And where else are you gonna get that these days?

Over the last 18 years that we’ve been doing our Hot Stamper thing we’ve heard scores of Cream albums; we know their music well, and they are hard to beat when playing live. (more…)

The Who By Numbers – More Bass or More Detail, Which Is Right?

With Doug Sax mastering from the real tape, you get a Rock Solid Bottom End like you will not believe. Talk about punchy, well-defined and deep, man, this record has BASS that you sure don’t hear too often on rock records. 

And it’s not just bass that separates the Men from the Boys, or the Real Thing from the Classic Reissue for that matter. It’s WEIGHT, fullness, the part of the frequency range from the lower midrange to the upper bass, that area that spans roughly 150 to 600 cycles.

It’s what makes Daltry’s voice sound full and rich, not thin and modern.

It’s what makes the drums solid and fat the way Johns intended.

The good copies of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia have plenty of muscle in this area, and so do the imports we played.

But not the Classic. Oh no, so much of what gives Who By Numbers its Classic Rock sound has been equalized right out of the Heavy Vinyl reissue by Chris Bellman at BG’s mastering house.

Some have said the originals are warmer but not as detailed. I would have to agree, but that misses the point entirely: take out the warmth — the fullness that makes the original pressings sound so right — and you of course hear more detail, as the detail region is no longer masked by all the stuff going on below it.

Want to hear detail? Disconnect your woofers — you’ll hear plenty of detail all right!

Keep that in mind when they tell you at the store that the record you brought in to audition is at fault, not their expensive and therefore “correct” equipment. I’ve been in enough of these places to know better. To mangle another old saying, if you know your records, their excuses should fall on deaf ears. (more…)

Blind Faith – Self-Titled

More Eric Clapton / More Steve Winwood

Reviews and Commentaries for Blind Faith

  • From the moment we dropped the needle and heard all that fluffy, correct-sounding tape hiss, we knew we were in for a treat – the sound on both sides is punchy, open, spacious, big, bold, and ALIVE!
  • If you doubt this record can sound as good as you remember from back in the day, assuming you are an old goat like me, this pressing will be a revelation
  • 4 stars: “Blind Faith’s first and last album, more than 30 years old and counting [we are up to 52 now], remains one of the jewels of the Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, and Ginger Baker catalogs. . . it merges the soulful blues of the former with the heavy riffing and outsized song lengths of the latter for a very compelling sound unique to this band.”
  • If you’re a Classic Rock fan, this band’s debut from 1969 is an absolute Must Own, especially when it sounds as good as this copy does
  • The complete list of titles from 1969 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Here is the Blind Faith you’ve been waiting for: Tubey Magical, Transparent, full of Life and Energy — dear friends, it’s all here. And the vinyl is some of the quietest we’ve ever heard for this album.

Sick of buying one harsh, thin, distorted, veiled, closed-in, smeary LP after another in a vain attempt to find a copy that reminds you of why you LOVED this record so much when it came out back in 1969?

(Assuming you’re as old as I am; we had the 8 track tape that could play in the car and the house — music was so convenient back then. Of course I had the domestic original vinyl – I was 15 years old, I had never seen an import record in my life.)

This is no audiophile made-from-the-master-tape snake oil. This is the real thing. This copy is guaranteed to blow the bad memories of all those other versions you’ve owned in the past right out of your memory banks.

A short list of the pretenders: the MoFi LP and Gold CD, the Simply Vinyl LP, the new Heavy Vinyl version if there is one, and anything else that comes out from here until the end of time.

Face it: It’s all JUNK compared to a record like this.

Why mince words? We’ve played all those records (except for the bad ones that have yet to be pressed of course). (more…)