Labels We Love – Reprise/Bizarre

Neil Young – Comes A Time

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  • A STUNNING copy of Neil Young’s 1978 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from first note to last
  • Drop the needle on Comes A Time or Look Out For My Love and hear how rich, warm and Tubey Magical the sound is
  • The best copies of Comes a Time are the sonic equal of the best recordings in Neil’s catalog – and that’s saying a lot
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Comes a Time finally was the Neil Young album for the millions of fans who had loved Harvest, an acoustic-based record with country overtones and romantic, autobiographical lyrics, and many of those fans returned to the fold, enough to make Comes a Time Young’s first Top Ten album since Harvest.”

Here’s a copy of Comes A Time that actually delivers the kind of Tubey Analog Magic you get from the good pressings of his earlier albums.

This superb Demo Disc has been overlooked by the audiophile press for forty years. The best-sounding Neil Young records — just look in our Hot Stamper listings to find them — have Demo Disc sound to beat the band. I defy anyone to play me a better-sounding record than Zuma or Gold Rush. Analog doesn’t get any more magical.

On the best copies, all the Demo Disc qualities are here: breathy vocals with solid body; huge amounts of ambience; super-transparency; dynamics; note-like punchy bass — the list goes on and on.

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).

The All Music Guide is right on the money with their four and a half star assessment. We also wholeheartedly agree that this is the True Successor to Harvest, and would add that it’s the only Neil Young album to merit that distinction. To be blunt about it, Harvest Moon is no Comes a Time. (more…)

Randy Newman – Self-Titled

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More Singer Songwriter Albums

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  • Newman’s debut finally arrives on the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • The sound here is rich and full-bodied with much less grain and much more Tubey Magic than every other copy we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “”Randy Newman creates something new under the sun,” read the banner on the back of Newman’s debut album, but it was more that, in keeping with the intended irony of the statement. . . this was an audacious first album by a major, if extremely quirky, talent.”

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Neil Young – Freedom

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  • Freedom finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Freedom, which was a major critical and commercial comeback after a decade that had confused reviewers and fans, seemed to be a selection of the best tracks from several different unissued Young projects. …[W]hat made it all work was that Young had once again written a great bunch of songs. The romantic numbers were carefully and sincerely written. The long imagistic songs were evocative without being obvious.”

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Fleetwood Mac – Future Games

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More Recordings Engineered by Martin Birch

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Future Games you’ve heard
  • You’ll find HUGE sound on this copy – it’s big, bold and lively – this is clearly the right sound for Future Games
  • Fleetwood Mac practically invented Space Rock, which reached its apotheosis in 1973 on Mystery to Me (my favorite by the band)
  • A criminally underrated album unlike anything you’ve heard and a Better Records favorite for more than 40 years
  • It’s also a record that has disappeared off the face of the earth – we would love to do more shootouts for the album, but we just never see them anymore (more…)

Frank Sinatra / Count Basie – It Might As Well Be Swing

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More Count Basie

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  • A KILLER sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last
  • These side are doing it all right — big, rich and Tubey Magical yet still clean, clear and present with lovely breathy vocals
  • “It Might as Well Be Swing, was a more structured, swing-oriented set than Sinatra-Basie, and in many ways the superior album… , what makes [it] more successful is the consistently high level of the performances. On their previous collaboration, both Sinatra and Basie sounded a bit worn out, but throughout this record they play with energy and vigor.” 

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Joni Mitchell – Clouds

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More Singer-Songwriter Albums

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  • Triple Triple! A stunning copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish- this is As Good As It Gets, folks! 
  • Check out the clear transients on Joni’s guitar — you can really hear her moving her hands around the fretboard and pulling on the strings
  • It’s tough to find this album in clean shape with this kind of warm, natural sound (something the new reissue is no doubt profoundly lacking)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Clouds is a stark stunner, a great leap forward for Joni Mitchell. Vocals here are more forthright and assured than on her debut and exhibit a remarkable level of subtle expressiveness. Guitar alone is used in accompaniment, and the variety of playing approaches and sounds gotten here is most impressive.”

Everything you could ask for from this album is here on this copy: stunning clarity and transparency, breathy vocals, richness, sweetness, warmth, and tons of ambience.

Check out the clear transients on the acoustic guitar — you can really hear her moving her hands around the fretboard and pulling on the strings. The immediacy is mindblowing — Joni and her guitar are right there in the room with you, without being forced into your lap.

The best sounding copies of Clouds are the ones that put Joni and her guitar right there in your living room. The copies with veiled vocals really don’t allow the music to come to life, and the copies where her voice is too forward come across as unnatural and hi-fi-ish. It takes an exceptional copy to strike the right balance and put both the voice and guitar right between your speakers, not under a blanket or in your lap.

The intimacy of the recording is simply breathtaking, but most pressings can’t begin to do it justice. This is especially true of the reissues, which tend to be thin, edgy and sorely lacking in Tubey Magic. You have not begun to hear these songs with this kind of realism and power unless, like us, you’ve cleaned and played plenty of copies and lucked into a truly killer Hot Stamper. (more…)

Frank Sinatra – Trilogy: Past, Present and Future

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  • An outstanding copy of Sinatra’s superb 1980 release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound on all SIX sides
  • The sound here is rich and full-bodied with much less grain and much more Tubey Magic than most of the other copies we played
  • Credit the brilliant engineering of Frank Laico for the excellent sound – this record doesn’t sound like 1980, and that’s a very, very good thing
  • “An audacious, ambitious way to stage a comeback, each of the album’s three records was conceived as an individual work, and each was arranged by one of Sinatra’s major collaborators. . . the best moments are triumphant, proving that the Voice was still vital in his fourth decade of recording.”

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Frank Sinatra – The Concert Sinatra

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More Pop and Jazz Vocal Albums

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  • The Concert Sinatra finally returns to the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish on this original Reprise LP
  • Sinatra’s voice on this exceptionally good pressing always sounds natural even at its loudest – there is no strain or hardness, and that makes it a very special copy indeed
  • The 73 musicians you see stretched out across the soundstage at Samuel Goldwyn Studios behind Sinatra will give you some idea of the size and scope of the sound – with 24 mics feeding 8 tracks onto 35MM recording film, this was the sonic equivalent of Gone With the Wind
  • “It’s not exactly the swinging Sinatra of myth and legend, but it does make for a stunning musical experience; the Chairman is in great voice, and he scales the explosive orchestral peaks of Riddle’s arrangements with the confidence of a mountain climber on methedrine. His versions of “Ol’ Man River” and “Soliloquy” are big improvements over his Columbia-era attempts, and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” “My Heart Stood Still,” and “Lost in the Stars” are positively breathtaking.”

Folks, when we say that clean, good-sounding Sinatra records are hard to come by, we are not kidding. It took us five years to find enough copies of this title to do a proper shootout. In that time an awful lot of bad LPs passed through our hands: the monos (never heard a good one), the reissues (ditto), imports, and, most commonly, original stereo pressings in beat-to-death condition. People loved Sinatra and played his records until the grooves were gone.

This album ranks right up there with the best of the Reprise era musically; recorded in 1963, Sinatra was still in his prime.

For audiophiles, the amount of effort that went into the recording, effort that actually paid off, is what will impress the most about The Concert Sinatra. Fortunately for those of us who are still playing records forty-odd years on, this special project took place before the advent of the transistor, which means that all the Tubey Magic of the singer and his all-encompassing orchestra was captured on the “tape”.

Ah, but how much of that sound made it to the record itself, that’s always the rub with records isn’t it?

In this case, plenty. There may be a touch of smear (you can most easily hear it in the strings) but the sound is so RICH and Tubey Magical that you will barely be aware it. Your attention should instead be focused on the superb feel the man has for this music.

One thing to pay special attention to, especially if you have other copies of the album, is Sinatra’s voice, which sounds natural from first note to last, even at its loudest. There is no strain or hardness. That, among many other things, is what separates the best copies from the also-rans (and, of course, all the reissues, which tend to have gritty, harsh vocals which quickly get unbearably edgy in the louder parts). (more…)

The Kinks / Kinda Kinks – Stick with the Mono Tri-Color Pressings

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  • This outstanding copy of The Kinks’ sophomore release has Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first
  • This Pink and Green Reprise original MONO pressing is lively, balanced and vibrant, with a healthy dose of the Tubey Magical Richness the Kinks’ recordings need in order to sound the way they should
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…this album showcased a much more sophisticated sound… it also put them right in the front of the British Invasion pack for seriousness and complexity, out in front of where the Beatles or almost any of the competition were in early 1965…”

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Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, making this one of the more enjoyable copies we played in our recent shootout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • It’s not easy to find copies that get both the quieter, acoustic material and the big, rockin’ Crazy Horse stuff right, but this one managed it
  • 5 stars: “His strongest collection since Tonight’s the Night, its obvious antecedent was Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home, and, as Dylan did, Young divided his record into acoustic and electric sides while filling his songs with wildly imaginative imagery.”

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