Labels We Love – Reprise

Neil Young- Tonight’s The Night – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

A KILLER COPY of one of the very toughest Neil Young albums to find with Hot Stamper sound is right here for the taking, folks. Side one earned an A++ grade while side two beat all comers to earn its A+++ rating. It is beyond difficult to find good sounding copies of this album. We see maybe one or two clean originals with Hot Stamper potential every year, so don’t expect to see a ton of these hitting the site. The music is OFF THE CHARTS, of course, and the sound here is AMAZING.   (more…)

Frank Zappa – Fillmore East – June 1971 – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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Stick with the label above if you want good sound.


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Avoid the orangey-brown label, they never offer more than a pale shadow of the real recording.

 

KILLER SOUND ON QUIET VINYL — what are the odds? We’re big fans of this album, and Zappa in general, but it’s incredibly difficult to find copies that do justice to the music. The vinyl is typically thrashed, and even the copies in relatively clean condition usually don’t sound good. This one has about the quietest vinyl you could hope for, playing Mint Minus on both sides, and the sound is just about as good as it gets! 

So many pressings don’t let you hear INTO the music. This is a live recording with musicians sprinkled all over the stage — three-dimensional transparency is absolutely KEY to the best pressings, the ones that let you immerse yourself in the spectacle, never losing sight of the individual performances of Zappa and his merry band of obscene nut jobs. This band works BLUE. It will have you in hysterics if you get into the down and dirty spirit of the show. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, steer clear of this one. It’s raunchy as hell, and the raunchiest bits are the most hilarious.

The Greatest Rock Opera Ever

As for the music, it’s a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. This to me is the ultimate rock opera. In point of fact it’s actually a parody of a rock opera, which makes it doubly enjoyable.

The two former leaders of The Turtles (aka Flo and Eddie) variously play groupies (What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are) and members of the band. As the saying goes, hilarity ensues.

What makes this album so special is that the rock songs that are generated out of this story are actually great rock songs. They’re not filler. They’re not connecting tissue. They’re good songs with strong melodies that stand up on their own. Moreover, connected to each other through this crazy story sung by men pretending to be women, they become something even greater: a True Rock Opera. Better than that: A True Rock Opera Parody that’s as hilarious as it is musically satisfying. Zappa missed his calling — he should have dedicated himself to musical theatre. He has a real gift for it. This album is proof.

The entertainment value of this record is as good as it gets. Off the scale. If you’re a fan of The Firesign Theater, Zappa, improv comedy and such like, you will love this album. (more…)

Neil Young – Harvest – Our Shootout Winner in 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame since 2008.

Harvest is undeniably one of the most beloved albums in all of classic rock. We get letters all the time from customers hoping to get their hands on Hot Stamper copies, but we’ll never have the supply to keep up with the demand. It’s a tough nut to crack, because a Hot Stamper Harvest has to get so many things right — the lovely pedal steel guitar on Out On The Weekend, the LSO on A Man Needs A Maid and There’s A World (engineered by Glyn Johns), Neil’s grungy electric guitar on Alabama, and so much more. 

Many copies we played would work for the heavy songs and then fall behind on the softer numbers. Others had gorgeous sound on the country-tinged numbers but couldn’t deliver any whomp for the rockers. (more…)

Neil Young – Hawks and Doves

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  • An exceptional pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and a solid Double Plus (A++) side two – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The trick on this album is to find rich, smooth, edge-free sound, and this copy delivers those qualities like nothing else we played all day
  • “Hawks and Doves has a homey feel. “Little Wing,” bare and haltingly lyrical with its miked harp and unaccompanied acoustic, is simpler than anything on the folky Comes a Time, and the rest of the music is defined by Ben Keith’s laconic dobro and steel and Rufus Thobodeaux’s sawing fiddle.” Robert Christgau (A-)

On side one the second track has an especially intimate vocal, worth checking out. Flip the record over and listen to how full-bodied the piano is on the first track on side two. This is the sound of ANALOG. So many copies are dry and edgy, as is the CD I would guess, but here the sound is smooth, natural and enjoyable. (more…)

Gordon Lightfoot – Summertime Dream

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • Both of these sides are wonderfully rich, warm and full-bodied with a lovely bottom end and tons of space around all of the instruments
  • “With Summertime Dream, Gordon Lightfoot produced one of his finest albums, and wrapped up a six-year period of popularity that he would not recapture… 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.” – All Music, 4 1/2 Stars

(more…)

John Sebastian – John B. Sebastian – Reviewed in 2012

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

This Super Hot side one was clearly better than every other side one we played, with the exception of our shootout winner of course. It’s big, full-bodied and rich; in other words, it has that classic 1970 analog rock sound that we love. Bruce Botnick and his brother are two of the many engineers on the project, along with John Haeny, the man who recorded his share of legendary albums, some of our favorites by Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Judy Collins, Linda Ronstadt and others.

Side One

A++, clear and harmonically rich. Tonally correct and ROCKIN’ too. It’s got a bit of smear and is not resolving at 100% but is awfully good in every other way.

Side Two

A+, it’s big and open but a bit thin, so the rockers don’t rock the way they should. The quieter songs work fine though. (more…)

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

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

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…)

Neil Young – Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This original Two Tone Super Hot Stamper pressing had condition issues — they all do don’t you know — but it also had KILLER Neil Young LIVE ROCK Sound. The best tracks have that Live-in-the-Studio quality, with minimal processing and maximum ENERGY. (Our commentary about Zuma to the left gets more heavily into the subject.) Suffice to say we love that sound.

Full-bodied and transparent, a combination that balances the best qualities of the recording beautifully, this copy has the goods. The sound is Big and Bold in the best Neil Young tradition, with studio ambience bouncing off the walls and into the open mics he favors. Not quite in the league with the likes of Gold Rush or Zuma, the best sounding tracks — and that does not mean all of them by any means — are a rough guide of what was to come as Neil and his engineer David Briggs got better and better, until they were As Good As It Gets. (For which they get no credit outside of Better Records of course.)

Sibilance Is Key

When the sibilance is cut clean, kept to a minimum and not grainy or gritty sounding, that’s the sign you have a copy with real Hot Stamper potential. This is one of those copies. (more…)

Neil Young – On The Beach – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

HOT STAMPERS FOR THIS NEIL YOUNG GEM FINALLY DISCOVERED. We’ve been trying for quite a while to find a copy of this album with the kind of wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling sound we get from the best copies of Zuma and After The Gold Rush, but it’s been quite the tough task. We love the music, but most of the copies we played left us wondering if we’d ever play one worthy of the Hot Stamper designation. Well, folks, I’m pleased to report that we’ve finally confirmed what we had imagined and hoped — that on the best pressings, this album can sound OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Before we get to discussing the sound of this album and this specific copy, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the string of superb albums Neil released from 1970 to 1976. I mean, look at these titles: After The Gold Rush, Harvest, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma. Not a dog in the lot, to say the least. I can’t think of anyone else besides Led Zep (first five titles) and The Beatles (pick ’em!) who put out at least this many killer albums consecutively. We consider each of those albums a work of genius, and after this week’s progress with On The Beach, we can proudly claim to have found copies of each with the sonic credentials necessary to bring you these masterpieces at their absolute best — exactly the way you want to hear them.

That Live In The Studio Sound

On the best copies, the title track is OUT OF THIS WORLD. It’s got that live-in-the-studio sound we recognize and love from Zuma, but in this case it sounds like it was recorded at three in the morning in a room full of pot smoke. When you play a Hot Stamper copy, the soundfield is HUGE — big, wide, and deep — and there’s lots of space around each of the instruments. You will not believe all the studio ambience, and you can probably catch a contact high from it. (more…)

Gordon Lightfoot – If You Could Read My Mind

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•SUPERB sound throughout for this original Reprise pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
•Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, intimacy, and freedom from audio coloration of this wonderful album from 1970, these early pressings are the only way to do it
•An outstanding recording – Lightfoot’s best in our experience – on this killer side one ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ sounds as good as we have ever heard it
•4 1/2 stars: “The entire album is rich in the simple beauty of its folky melodies and personal lyrics… the music here is timeless, still feeling and sounding great many years after its release.” (more…)