Labels We Love – Shelter

J.J. Cale – Okie

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Plenty of top notch songs that were later covered by other artists — I Got The Same Old Blues (which Bryan Ferry covered so well on The Bride Stripped Bare), Anyway The Wind Blows and Cajun Moon, to name a few.

If you’re a fan of the low-key bluesy vibe of Troubadour and Naturally, you’ll find much to like here. (more…)

J.J. Cale – Troubadour

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  • Outstanding sound for this classic JJ Cale album – both sides earned sonic grades of Double Plus (A++)
  • Cale fans take note: this early Shelter pressing was doing almost everything right — rich, full and musical with great bass
  • Eric Clapton described the man as “one of the most important artists in the history of rock.”
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “J.J. Cale’s albums are so steeped in his introspective style that they become interchangeable. If you like one of them, chances are you’ll want to have them all.”

If you’re hankerin’ to hear Cocaine on the authentic original, you will really have to work hard to hear it sound any better than it does on this very pressing.

Wikipedia lists his many styles as “Americana, Cajun, blues, swamp rock, country rock, Red Dirt, Tulsa Sound” but we think Americana is probably all you really need. (more…)

J.J. Cale – Naturally

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  • An outstanding pressing of J.J. Cale’s debut, with solid Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too    
  • This copy is balanced and natural, with the kind of rich, full-bodied sound that no one seems to know how to record anymore
  • “Cale included a new version of “After Midnight” on the album, but the true meat of the record lay in songs like “Crazy Mama,” which became a hit single, and “Call Me the Breeze,” which Lynyrd Skynyrd later covered. On these songs and many others on Naturally, Cale effortlessly captured a lazy, rolling boogie that contradicted all the commercial styles of boogie, blues, and country-rock at the time.”

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J.J. Cale – 5

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  • Stunning sound from start to finish and the first copy to ever hit the site — Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The overall sound here is rich, full-bodied and musical with lots of Tubey Magic and a solid bottom end; the perfect sound for this laid-back blues-rock
  • “While Cale remains the ultimate laid-back Blues artist, he still manages to conjure up the spirit of Country, Soul and subdued Funk in each of the tracks on 5, making this album one of the best loved in his catalog.”

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It! – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

This Minty looking Shelter original LP has THE TWO BEST SOUNDING SIDES we have ever heard for this album! It’s a freak in the world of Tom Petty records, which tend to have NO good sounding sides. And this is the band’s MASTERPIECE to boot, with four or five of their best and Hardest Rockin’ songs. Both sides come flyin’ out of the gate with uptempo straight ahead rockers that have the Big Sound we go crazy for here at Better Records. Side one was so unbelievable that we had to award it the rare Four Plus (A++++) rating.

Of course the sound is punchy and alive — with Hot Stampers, what else would they be? — but where did all that studio ambience come from? Simple: the best copies have the RESOLUTION that’s missing from the average pressing. You know the kind of run-of-the-mill LP I’m talking about: punchy but crude and just a bit too aggressive to really enjoy.

Oh, but not this bad boy. Sweetly textured guitars, breathy vocals — all the subtleties of a Top Quality Recording are here, along with prodigious amounts of bass and powerful dynamics. (Check out that drum sound!) If you can play this one loud you will be shocked at how good it sounds. (more…)

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – You’re Gonna Get It!

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You’re Gonna Get It!

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  • A solidly hard rockin’ copy with seriously good grades of Double Plus (A++) or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich and open with a killer bottom end, musically it’s surely the best record Tom Petty ever made – a late ’70s Rock Classic 
  • Three of Petty’s best songs are on this one – Restless, I Need To Know and Listen To Her Heart – and they sound amazing
  • “Overall, the current LP boasts an impressive stylistic cohesiveness with its predecessor, but what makes the album exciting are the fresh hints of openness and expansion just beneath the surface. The rhythms are a bit looser, and there’s a new emphasis on Petty’s rough, driving, rock & roll guitar in the mix.” Rolling Stone

Sweetly textured guitars, breathy vocals — all the subtleties of a High Quality Recording are here, along with prodigious amounts of bass and powerful dynamics. Check out that drum sound! If you can play this one at the levels it demands you might just be shocked at how good it sounds. (more…)

Tom Petty – Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

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

Big and punchy with great energy, this copy really rocks. And rockin’ is what this album is all about — this is fun, high-energy music, but it takes a Hot Stamper copy like this to bring it life.

This is the classic first album, with two of their best songs: Breakdown and American Girl. It’s straight ahead rock and roll, with sonics to match.

This is not purely an audiophile album. The sound is a little spitty and transistory as a rule. But when you find a copy with Hot Stampers, the elements start to work together, and the good far outweighs the bad. If somebody tried to EQ this album differently, they’d probably end up taking away some of the Raw Rock Energy. (more…)

Leon Russell – Leon Russell

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More Leon Russell – Leon Russell

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  • With a solid Double Plus (A++) side one and a side two that’s right up there with it, this outstanding UK pressing of Russell’s debut release has much to recommend it
  • His first and best album, engineered by our man Glyn Johns, but it only sounds this brilliant on these UK original pressings – the domestic LPs are dead on arrival
  • Delta Lady, A Song for You and Roll Away the Stone are all here, which makes this a true Must Own for fans of the Classic Era
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Leon Russell never quite hit all the right notes the way he did on his eponymous debut. He never again seemed as convincing in his grasp of Americana music and themes, never again seemed as individual, and never again did his limited, slurred bluesy voice seem as ingratiating.”

*NOTE: A mark makes 3 loud pops at the beginning of track 4, Shoot Out On The Plantation.

The best copies of Russell’s debut album have excellent sound, as expected from a record engineered by Glyn Johns in 1970. Surprisingly, a number of copies suffered from somewhat dry sound, especially in the vocals. Our best copies are rich and Tubey Magical, which is the sound these songs need in order to sound their best. (more…)

Leon Russell’s Carney – Classic Analog from 1972

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More Carney

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  • The best copy to ever hit the site! Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side, better than Double Plus (A++ to A+++) on the first
  • Carney as a recording is classic analog from 1972 – the best vintage copies are exceptionally rich, solid and smooth
  • Russell’s highest charting album, making it all the way to Number Two if you can believe that, no doubt on the strength of the hit single, “Tight Rope,’ but “This Masquerade” is on here too
  • “The music is good, the lyrics are entertaining, the album worthwhile. Leon Russell – the only man around that can pull it off when he’s not trying.” – Cameron Crowe (San Diego Door, Aug. 1972) 

 

If you have full-range speakers (the bigger the better) some of the qualities you may recognize in the sound of the piano are weight and warmth. The piano is not hard, brittle or tinkly. Instead the best copies show you a wonderfully full-bodied, warm, rich, smooth piano, one which sounds remarkably like the ones we’ve all heard countless times in piano bars and restaurants.

In other words, like a real piano, not a recorded one. Bad mastering can ruin the sound, and often does, along with worn out stampers and bad vinyl and misaligned tonearms that scrape off the high frequencies. But some copies survive all such hazards. They manage to capture these wonderful musical performances on vinyl, revealing to us the kind of sound we would never expect from an old Leon Russell record. (more…)

Leon Russell and the Shelter People – His Best Sounding Album?

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More Leon Russell and the Shelter People

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  • You’ll find excellent Double Plus (A++) from first note to last on this original British pressing 
  • Engineered by Andy and Glyn Johns, this is his best sounding album, especially on a copy that sounds as good as this one does
  • No other Leon Russell album has the richness, the sweetness, and the Tubey Magic of this, his second album from 1971
  • “Russell practically invented what might as well be called Okie rock — with that shit-kicker Gospel sound, heavy on Baptist-revival piano and chorus [a template Elton John found more than a little useful for his first ten albums or so] – and it gets as good on this album as you’ll ever hear.”

Stranger in a Strange Land, which leads off side one, might just be the best song the man ever wrote. What a joy it is to hear it sound so big and powerful.

Domestic Vs. Import

The domestic pressings of Leon Russell and the Shelter People that we’d auditioned over the years always seemed flat, dry, and closed-in. We know that sound well; it’s the sound you hear on records that have been made from dubbed tapes (and it’s the hallmark of the modern Heavy Vinyl reissue, truth be told). It bores us to tears, and had us questioning what we could possibly have seen in the album in the first place. What happened to the glorious sound of early ’70s analog we were expecting to find? (more…)