Labels We Love – Shelter

Leon Russell – The Imports Are the Only Way to Go on Leon’s Debut

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.

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.

Domestic Vs. Import

The domestic pressings of Leon Russell’s debut 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). That sound 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?

It was only when we dropped the needle on a good British copy that the scales fell from our eyes. We found ourselves dumbfounded by the truly wonderful Tubey Magical richness, space and clarity of the real master tape. Finally, the key to the mystery had been found.

American artist, American pressing? A good rule of thumb but one that breaks down badly on this album, and for one obvious reason: the very British engineering of Glyn Johns.

Records We Only Sell on Import Vinyl

More Albums that Sound Their Best on Import Vinyl

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J.J. Cale – Troubadour

More J.J. Cale

More of Our Favorite Titles from 1976

  • 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 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.

AMG  Review

Producer Audie Ashworth introduced some different instruments, notably vibes and what sound like horns (although none are credited), for a slightly altered sound on Troubadour. But 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. This one is notable for introducing “Cocaine,” which Eric Clapton covered on his Slowhand album a year later.

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Although “Cocaine” would be a major hit for Clapton in 1977, the first single released by Cale from Troubadour in 1976 was the restless “Travelin’ Light” with “Hey Baby” as the b-side. Critics from the music website Alltime Records reviewed the recording: “‘Travelin’ Light’, with its funky James Burton–style guitar that Jimmy Page tried to copy on “The Crunge”, along with great xylophones to fill out the sound – it moves and cooks and rolls and rocks and has just an absolutely earthy quality.”

Wikipedia

Cocaine

Troubadour was produced by Audie Ashworth, who had also produced Cale’s first three studio albums. In the 2004 documentary To Tulsa and Back, Cale recalled, “I wrote ‘Cocaine’, and I’m a big fan of Mose Allison…So I had written the song in a Mose Allison bag, kind of cocktail jazz kind of swing…And Audie said, ‘That’s really a good song, John, but you oughta make that a little more rock and roll, a little more commercial.’ I said, ‘Great, man.’ So I went back and recut it again as the thing you heard.”

The song’s meaning is ambiguous, although Eric Clapton describes it as an anti-drug song. He has called the song “quite cleverly anti-cocaine”, noting:

It’s no good to write a deliberate anti-drug song and hope that it will catch. Because the general thing is that people will be upset by that. It would disturb them to have someone else shoving something down their throat. So the best thing to do is offer something that seems ambiguous—that on study or on reflection actually can be seen to be “anti”—which the song “Cocaine” is actually an anti-cocaine song.

If you study it or look at it with a little bit of thought … from a distance … or as it goes by … it just sounds like a song about cocaine. But actually, it is quite cleverly anti-cocaine.

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

More Tom Petty

More of Our Favorite Titles from 1978

  • 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

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG.

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…)

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

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More of Our Favorite Artists’ Best Sounding Albums 

Some Records, Like This One, Are Just Too Noisy for Us to Find

  • 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…)

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 – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last on this superb copy of the Tom and the band’s debut album – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is present and punchy with excellent bass, freedom from grain and real rockin’ energy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Petty & the Heartbreakers feel underground on this album, at least to the extent that power pop was underground in 1976… the highlights — ‘Rockin’ Around (With You),’ ‘Hometown Blues,’ ‘The Wild One, Forever,’ the AOR staples ‘Breakdown’ and ‘American Girl’ — still illustrate how refreshing Petty & the Heartbreakers sounded in 1976.”

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. 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 – Self-Titled

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • His first and best album, engineered by our man Glyn Johns, but it only sounds as brilliant as it should on the right 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: On side one, Track 1, A Song For You, plays M– to EX++.

Forget the dubby domestic pressings and whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of Leon’s wonderful debut album, a vintage UK pressing like this one is the only way to go.

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 UK copies suffered from somewhat dry sound, especially in the vocals. Our best copies are rich and Tubey Magical, which is what these songs need to have in order to sound their best. (more…)

J.J. Cale – Okie

More J.J. Cale

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  • This pressing boasts very good Hot Stamper sound from the first note to last – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Plenty of top notch songs that were later covered by other artists — I Got The Same Old Blues, 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

This vintage Shelter Recording pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

J.J. Cale – Naturally

 

  • 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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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…)