Labels We Love – Reprise/Bizarre

Sinatra At The Sands on Dahlquist DQ-10s – My Neophyte Audiophile Mind Is Blown

More of the Music of Frank Sinatra

Making Audio Progress

Back in the early ’70s this was actually the album that first introduced me to honest-to-goodness “audiophile” sound.  

I was at my local stereo store listening to speakers one day, and the salesman made a comment that the speakers we were listening to (the old Infinity Monitors with the Walsh tweeter) sounded “boxy.” I confessed to him that I didn’t actually know what that meant or what it would sound like if it weren’t boxy. 

So he hooked up a pair of Dahlquist DQ-10s and put Sinatra at the Sands on. I was amazed at how the sound just floated in the room, free from the speakers, presenting an image that was as wide and deep as the showroom we were in. That speaker may have many flaws, but boxiness is definitely not one of them.

This description is pretty close to what I thought I heard all those years ago

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. Very few records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

This vintage stereo LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is dramatically more real sounding. It gives you the sense that Frank Sinatra is right in front of you.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Or so I thought at the time.

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Dean Martin – Dream With Dean

  • This hard-to-find Dean Martin Classic of relaxed, intimate vocals returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • One of our all-time favorite male vocal LPs – the sound on both sides is both warm and natural, with excellent presence and transparency
  • The early stereo tri-color label pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile condition these days, but here’s one, and it is a knockout
  • “It sounds as if they tracked the album in one afternoon, and it is not only a very pleasant listening experience, it shows what a tremendous vocalist Dean Martin truly was.”
  • One of Our Favorite Titles from 1964
  • Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Dean Martin

An outstanding copy of the classic Dream With Dean!

This is my favorite Dean Martin record of all time; just Dean and a jazz guitar quartet (including no less than Contemporary favorites Barney Kessel and Red Mitchell) behind him doing standards. On the best copies the immediacy is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Frank Sinatra records that sound like this.

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Jethro Tull / Thick As a Brick – A Milestone Title from 2007

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More of the Music of Jethro Tull

Reviews and Commentaries for Thick as a Brick

More Milestone Events in the History of Better Records

Until about 2007 this was the undiscovered gem (by me anyway) in the Tull catalog. The pressings we had heard up until then were nothing special, and of course the average pressing of this album is exactly that: no great shakes.

With the advent of better record cleaning fluids and much better tables, phono stages, room treatments and the like — taking full advantage of the remarkable number of revolutions in audio that have occurred over the last two or three decades –some copies of Thick As A Brick have shown themselves to be truly amazing sounding. Even the All Music Guide could hear how well-engineered the album was.

Marking Two Milestones from the Past

The 2007 commentary you see below discusses the pros and cons of both the British and Domestic original pressings. With continuing improvements to the system, room, etc., it would not be long before we realized that the British pressings were simply not competitive with the best domestic ones.

You might say this record helped us mark two important milestones in the developing history of Better Records.

The first, around 2007, was recognized by the fact that we had improved our playback to a very high level, one high enough to reproduce the album with all the clarity, size and energy we were shocked we were actually able to hear at the time.

The second milestone would result from the audio changes we continued to make for the next couple of years, from 2007 to 2010, which allowed us to recognize that the best British pressings, as good as they might be, were not in the same league as the best domestic ones. We broke down in detail exactly what we were listening for and what were hearing in this commentary, and the Brits were clearly not cutting it at the highest levels by 2010.

If you find yourself with one of more British copies of the album that you think have superior sound to the domestic, we would love to send you one of our Hot Stampers so you can hear what you are missing.

The Brit is a great sounding record, don’t get us wrong. Head to head against our killer domestic pressings, its shortcomings should be obvious. This is why we do shootouts, and why you must do them too, if owning the highest quality pressings is important to you.

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Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night

More Neil Young

More 5 Star Albums

  • An outstanding copy of Neil Young’s brilliant sixth studio album – you’ll find excellent Double (A++) grades on both sides of this original (and very cool) Black Label Reprise pressing
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • With no marks that play and minimal signs of use, this copy has surfaces that even picky audiophiles (are there any other kind?) can appreciate
  • 5 stars: “…Young’s musical expression of grief, combined with his rejection of the stardom he had achieved in the late ’60s and early ’70s … was immediately recognized as a unique masterpiece by critics, and it has continued to be ranked as one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever made.”

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Gordon Lightfoot – Summertime Dream

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More Singer-Songwriter Albums

  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Summertime Dream you’ve heard – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • 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
  • 4 1/2 stars: “With Summertime Dream, Gordon Lightfoot produced one of his finest albums, and wrapped up a six-year period of popularity… Lightfoot and his band deliver a tasty smorgasbord of intelligent, grown-up music. As for ‘Edmund Fitzgerald,’ its continued popularity more than 20 years after its release attests to the power of a well-told tale and a tasty guitar lick.”
  • If you’re a fan of Gordon Lightfoot, his 1976 release is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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Neil Young – Harvest

More Neil Young

Reviews and Commentaries for Harvest

  • With Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides, this STUNNING vintage copy of Neil’s undeniable classic is guaranteed to be the best you’ve ever heard
  • Apologies for the high price, but it has been years since we found a copy this nice, and it wasn’t for a lack of trying
  • It’s practically impossible to find an early pressing with sound this good and vinyl that plays as quietly as this
  • Scratches are the rule, not the exception, but thankfully this copy has none
  • A Top 100 album and a sublime recording no audiophile should be without
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the love songs and the harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” remain among Young’s most affecting and memorable songs.”
  • If you’re a Neil Young fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1972 is clearly one of his best
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

When you have this kind of open, extended top end, the grit, grain and edge just disappear, leaving you with a clear, Tubey Magical sound that’s way beyond anything you have ever heard (or we give you your money back). Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the string of superb studio albums Neil released from 1970 to 1976.

Just look at these titles:

After The Gold Rush,

Harvest,

On The Beach,

Tonight’s The Night, and

Zuma.

I can’t think of anyone else besides Zeppelin (first six titles) and The Beatles (you pick ’em!) who put out this many killer albums consecutively. We consider each of those albums a work of profound creativity, and we can proudly claim to have found copies of each with the sonic credentials to bring these masterpieces to life.

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Joni Mitchell – Song To A Seagull

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joni Mitchell

  • Song To A Seagull FINALLY returns to the site on this early Reprise pressing with Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • Our favorite early (pre-Blue) Joni album by far – as good as her others are, this one has a special charm we can find on no other record, by her or anyone else
  • Side one gives you breathy, clear vocals and sound that is rich, full, and Tubey Magical with especially lovely guitar tone
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “What sets this release apart from those of other confession-style singer/songwriters of the time is the craft, subtlety, and evocative power of Mitchell’s lyrics and harmonic style… “

I loved this album from the minute I first heard it; all of side one is magical in a way that no other Joni album is. Is it the particular guitar tunings she was using? The minor key melodies? Whatever she did, however she did it, the result is an absolutely SUBLIME folk album, as unique in its own way as Leonard Cohen’s debut.

I put this one right up with her best, which are of course the ones we’ve done Hot Stamper shootouts for, of course, and on any given day I would rather play side one of this album than any of the others. (more…)

Frank Sinatra and Duke Ellington – Francis A. & Edward K.

More Frank Sinatra

More Duke Ellington

  • A superb original Reprise pressing with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Sinatra is both natural and present – he actually sounds like he is standing on the same stage as Ellington’s band
  • The highs are extended and silky sweet, the bass is tight and punchy – this copy gives you more life and energy than most by a long shot
  • “Recorded on Sinatra’s birthday in 1967, this collaboration between America’s most popular singing icon and pre-eminent jazz composer still endures as one of Sinatra’s most enjoyable Reprise-era albums.” – Amazon

Recorded one year after the remarkable Sinatra-Jobim record that we treasure here at Better Records, Sinatra takes the opportunity to work with one of the greatest bandleaders in the history of jazz, the Duke himself. We had good luck with the stereo originals on the lovely Blue and Green Reprise labels — they can be as big, rich and warm as Sinatra’s legendary Capitol recordings when you find the right pressing, and that’s really saying something.

You Are There

The presence and immediacy here are really something. Turn it up and Frank is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime.

The sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy. And this copy gives you more life and energy than most by a long shot. Very few Sinatra records offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing.

He’s no longer a recording — he’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. His voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you. (more…)

Randy Newman – Good Old Boys

More Randy Newman

More Singer Songwriter Albums

  • A superb original pressing of Good Old Boys, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy 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
  • 5 Stars: “Good Old Boys is one of Newman’s finest albums; it’s also one of his most provocative and infuriating, and that’s probably just the way he wanted it.”

With Lenny Waronker and Russ Titelman producing, and Lee Herschberg and Donn Landee engineering, this album has the exceptionally smooth, rich, analog sound you would expect to find on a production guided by these men. It also happens to be a sound we love here at Better Records.

It’s the sound of vintage Reprise from 1974. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Penguin

  • This early Reprise LP is a huge step up from most – this copy is full-bodied, smooth and musical – classic Fleetwood Mac sound
  • One of my favorite songs on the album is one of Christine McVie’s best from this period, Did You Ever Love Me – on this pressing it’s rich and sweet exactly the way it should be
  • “Fleetwood Mac’s first album made after the departure of Danny Kirwan features the additions of guitarist Bob Weston and singer Dave Walker… This album gave Fleetwood Mac its best U.S. chart showing yet…”

On the best pressings, the sound is positively JUMPING out of the speakers in a way that is completely unexpected. We often talk about the size of the soundfield on a particular pressing, side to side, bottom to top, and even more often about the energy found on one copy relative to another.

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