Labels We Love – Reprise

Frank Sinatra – A Swingin’ Affair!

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  • A Swingin’ Affair finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – and the vinyl is as quiet as any we’ve heard on a late-50s Sinatra album
  • This superb pressing will put Frank Sinatra directly between your speakers, with his voice sounding as tonally correct and natural as we heard all day
  • Nelson Riddle and his orchestra back Frank with wonderful arrangements, and a copy like this lets you appreciate everyone’s hard work
  • This record plays Mint Minus Minus – about as quiet as any early Capitol pressing you’re likely to ever hear
  • 5 stars: “[A Swingin’ Affair!] exudes a self-assured, confident aura. It is a hard, jazzy album.”

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The Beach Boys – Sunflower

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  • A KILLER copy of Sunflower with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last
  • This pressing is surprisingly rich and smooth, with excellent bass and the kind of breathy immediacy to the vocals that only vintage vinyl can offer
  • 4 1/2 stars: “[Sunflower] signaled a creative rebirth for the band, a return to the beautiful harmonies and orchestral productions of their classic mid-’60s material.”

This album — like Surf’s Up, which was released just after it — can really sound wonderful on a good pressing. If you love Pet Sounds, you’ll find plenty of the Beach Boys’ signature harmonies here, all recorded with real richness and warmth. (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – Rainbow Bridge

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  • This superb pressing of Rainbow Bridge boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from top to bottom – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Rich, full tonality and good presence and energy throughout
  • A surprisingly good sounding album, one of the best of his posthumous releases
  • “‘Dolly Dagger’ is arguably one of the great pop songs of Hendrix’s career. Written towards the very end of his life, the song sounds like it was written years earlier, and it certainly has the same feel as many of the compositions on Hendrix’s debut, Are You Experienced?. Of course, Hendrix’s guitar work is inspired, but it doesn’t draw attention away from what is essentially a brilliantly crafted song.”

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Neil Young / Rust Never Sleeps – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A great (A++) side one backed with an AMAZING (A+++) side two, this is without a doubt one of the very best sounding copies of Rust Never Sleeps we have ever had the privilege of playing here at Better Records. Side two simply cannot be beat. Drop the needle on Powderfinger to hear the Crazy Horse sound at its best — the raging guitars, the big meaty bottom end, and the kind of immediacy that puts Neil Young and his band of misfits right in your listening room. 

Tubey Magic in 1979? Yes, analog was still alive and well then — both sides of this copy prove it. The disastrously synthesized ’80s were on their way but thankfully they hadn’t gotten here yet.

This is a live recording with minimal overdubs. Crazy Horse is of course widely recognized to be one of the all time killer concert acts of its day, so it’s a bit of a shame that most of the copies we played this week made us want to go to sleep. The not-so-Hot copies failed in a number of ways: thin guitars or vocals, overly dry or edgy sound, and insufficient presence, just to name a few. It was the rare copy that made us forget we were listening to a record and allowed us to really get into the music.

Needless to say we had this record playing very very loud. Twenty db less than at the live event, sure, at least, but very very loud for a 18×20 living room in the suburbs. (more…)

Gordon Lightfoot / Summer Side of Life

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  • Gordon’s wonderful 1971 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • So transparent, open, and spacious that nuances and subtleties that escaped you before are now front and center
  • Everything you want in the sound of a good Folk Rock album is here in abundance – enjoy!
  • “. . . an album that has him curling up with both his guitar and his kind, fragile voice . . . . Summer Side of Life helped strengthen his songwriting and refine his delicate vocal style.”Summer Side of Life helped strengthen his songwriting and refine his delicate vocal style.”

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings). (more…)

Two of Robin Black’s Engineering Masterpieces

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Albums Engineered by Robin Black

Recordings with Exceptionally Tubey Magical Guitars

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Thick As A Brick is quite possibly the BEST SOUNDING ALBUM Jethro Tull ever made. It’s dynamic; has really solid, deep punchy bass; transparency and sweetness in the midrange; Tubey Magical acoustic guitars and flutes; in other words, the record has EVERYTHING that we go crazy for here at Better Records. I can guarantee you there is no CD on the planet that could ever do this recording justice. The Hot Stamper pressings have a kind of MAGIC that just can’t be captured on one of them there silvery discs.

We play quite a few original British and domestic copies of this record when we do these shootouts and let me tell you, the sound and the music are so good I can’t get enough of it. Until about 2007 this was the undiscovered gem (by me, anyway) in the Tull catalog. The pressings I had heard up until then were nothing special, and of course the average pressing of this album is exactly that: no great shakes. But with the advent of better record cleaning fluids and much better tables, phono stages and the like, some copies of Thick As A Brick have shown themselves to be AMAZINGLY GOOD SOUNDING. Even the All Music Guide could hear how well-engineered it was.

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Frank Sinatra – Moonlight Sinatra

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  • You’ll find nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last on this elusive favorite from Ol’ Blue Eyes – exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • We’ve been working on this shootout for years – this is one of the few copies to ever hit the site
  • Master engineer Lowell Frank correctly captured the sound of every instrument here: the guitars, piano, strings, drums, percussion instruments — everything has the natural timbre of the real thing
  • “Driven by a set of lush, sparkling Nelson Riddle arrangements, Moonlight Sinatra is a low-key, charming collection. An enjoyable, romantic listen.”

These Nearly White Hot Stamper pressings have top quality sound that’s often surprisingly close to our White Hots, but they sell at substantial discounts to our Shootout Winners, making them a relative bargain in the world of Hot Stampers (“relative” being relative considering the prices we charge). We feel you get what you pay for here at Better Records, and if ever you don’t agree, please feel free to return the record for a full refund, no questions asked.

The presence and immediacy here are wonderful. Turn it up and Frank is between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. On the best, hard-to-find copies, the sound is big, open, rich and full. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy.

This Blue Green Label LP also has the midrange magic that’s missing from the later reissues. As good as some of them can be, this one is 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 the best pressings have 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…)

Frank Sinatra – Sings of Days of Wine and Roses…

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  • This original Reprise stereo pressing has PHENOMENAL Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • This is one of the best sounding Sinatra recordings we know of from any era – a true Male Vocal Demo Disc
  • It’s big, lively, clear and present, with the kind of Tubey Magical richness we flip out for here at Better Records
  • Don’t judge the album by its cover – the music is wonderful from beginning to end and so is the sound
  • “Featuring a selection of Oscar-winning standards, ranging from 1934’s ‘The Continental’ to 1962’s ‘Days of Wine and Roses,’ Academy Award Winners is professional and stylish album… Sinatra is charming and lively…while Riddle’s charts are light and entertaining.”

For our first Hot Stamper listing in 2014 we had written:

One of the best sounding Reprise-era Sinatra recordings we know of.

Having just listened to a slough of top Sinatra titles, I feel it’s my duty to inform the record buying public — at least that small fraction of the public that comes to this site — that the above statement is somewhat inaccurate. It should have read:

One of the best sounding Sinatra recordings we know of from any era.

And the reason for the change is simple enough: I simply cannot recall ever hearing a better sounding Frank Sinatra record in my life. (more…)

Frank Sinatra-Count Basie – Sinatra At The Sands

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  • This original Blue and Green Reprise Stereo pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides
  • Truly one of the greatest live albums of all time, recorded late at night in the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas
  • This is Basie and Sinatra in their natural habitat and in their prime, putting on the show of a lifetime
  • On the right system this is about as close as you get to hearing Sinatra singing live in your listening room, with the added realism of a live Vegas show
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Basie and the orchestra are swinging and dynamic, inspiring a textured, dramatic, and thoroughly enjoyable performance from Sinatra … the definitive portrait of Frank Sinatra in the ’60s.”

*NOTE: On side three, a mark makes 10 light ticks at the end of Track 3 and 10 moderate pops at the beginning of Track 4.

This double album presents Sinatra and Basie at the height of their powers, in a setting especially conducive to both men’s music, the big room at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. If you missed it — and I’m sure most all of us did — here’s your chance to go back in time and be seated with the beautiful people front row center. This two-disc all tube-mastered analog set is practically the only way you’ll ever be able to hear the greatest vocalist of his generation — in his prime no less — fronting one of the swingingest big bands of the time.

The presence and immediacy here are staggering. 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 records out there offer the kind of realistic, lifelike sound you get from this pressing. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – All Alone

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  • A KILLER pressing of this Classic Sinatra release, and the first to hit the site in more than 5 years, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is 1962, and tubes and ribbon mics are in charge of the live-in-the-studio proceedings
  • With a vintage early label pressing such as this one, you hear the kind of sound they heard
  • Richness, warmth, Tubey Magic, and clarity are important to the sound, and here you will find plenty of all four
  • “Divided between standards and relatively recent tunes, the most distinctive element of the album are the rich, neoclassical arrangements by Jenkins… a necessary listen for dedicated Sinatra fans.”

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