Labels We Love – Sire

Talking Heads – Remain In Light – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

HOT STAMPERS DISCOVERED AT LAST! We’ve been trying to find a great sounding copy of this album forever, and this is the week we finally succeeded. It takes an exceptional pressing to get all the elements correct — the funky bottom end; the processed, multi-tracked vocals; the Brian Eno production weirdness and so on.

This is a brilliant album but a typically problematic record. Most copies get some things right but fail miserably in other areas. There are smeary copies that can’t deliver the punchy bottom you need, grainy copies that make the vocals painful to listen to, and plenty of copies that are just too dark or flat sounding for anyone to enjoy. Note that the first track on both sides will sound the worst. The sound gets better, though, as you get further into the album. (more…)

Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77 – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES of this White Hot Stamper LP. Side two rates A+++ and side one is not far behind at A++ – A+++. This copy murdered the typical pressings in an incredibly enjoyable shootout.We couldn’t believe how amazing this album can sound on a top copy. I’d even say that it’s a sonic step up from More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear Of Music and Remain In Light, probably tying with Little Creatures for top Talking Heads honors.

We’re huge Talking Heads fans at Better Records, but we’ve never tried to shoot out this album before this year because the copies we had played to this point were no great shakes. Regular copies of this album are now getting priced up to $17.99 at our local stores, so we just hadn’t bothered to pick up too many until we heard a surprisingly good copy earlier this year. We started stocking up on them and we ended needing a big stack, because only a few of them were able to show us what this album can really do. (more…)

Talking Heads – Speaking in Tongues – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

White Hot Stampers discovered, hot enough to burn down the house! We just finished a HUGE shootout for the last great Talking Heads album and were as pleased as punch to finally hear a few copies of this album that deliver the same kind of magic that we’ve been getting on the better pressings of Little Creatures. Most copies of Speaking In Tongues are too flat, dry and veiled to get worked up about, but this one shows you that excellent sound for this album is indeed possible, albeit very difficult to find.

We’re serious Talking Heads fans here at Better Records, as you may have gathered by now. Not only is their music completely innovative and original, but their recordings are as well. That’s not to say that their records are Demo Discs along the lines of Tea For The Tillerman, Fragile or Abbey Road, but when you find a killer copy of any of their albums you can’t help but notice how much work they put into making them.

We played a ton of copies before we even heard a hint of the magic we were hoping for. Most of them sounded like CDs. When you turned up the volume, sure they got louder, but they didn’t really get any better. That’s a sure sign of a mediocre pressing, and it just kept happening over and over again in the shootout. Just as we were about to throw up our hands and give up, a copy hit the table with enough analog qualities to rope us back in. We added a little extra volume and started to hear the qualities that we needed from this music: rich, full mids; punchy bass; breathy vocals; and above all, ENERGY. On a Hot Stamper copy with the traits listed above, the music becomes involving and vital. If Burning Down The House doesn’t get you moving to the beat, what’s the point? (more…)

Talking Heads – More Songs About Buildings and Food – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

THE BEST SIDE ONE WE’VE EVER HEARD — BAR NONE! I will stop short of awarding it more than three pluses, because the recording certainly has its share of limitations, but never before have we heard these songs sound so BIG, BOLD and ALIVE! Side two is darn good as well, rating a very strong A++. If you thought you’d never hear a truly great pressing of this album, here’s the copy that will prove you wrong!

This side one does it all. We’re crazy about this album — we’ve done this shootout many times and found some really exceptional copies, but I don’t remember ever hearing a side one quite like this. The top end is extended and sweet, the bottom end is big and punchy, and the overall sound is as rich and full-bodied as you could expect from this zany art-rock. Side two misses just a bit of the energy of side one, but it’s still much better than the average copy.

The vocals have the kind of presence that put David Byrne right there in your living room, and not under a blanket or behind the speakers as on a majority of pressings we’ve played.

You’ve got to play a whole lot of copies to find one with this kind of energy, clarity, and high resolution. The kick drum is really punchy, the synths and organ sound incredible, and the vocals sound just right.

The bass on this copy is the best we’ve heard for More Songs — tight, punchy, and as deep as it’s ever gonna get. We sure wouldn’t mind if some of the tracks were mixed with a bit more punch to the bottom end, but far be it from us to tell Brian Eno and Rhett Davies how to do their jobs! At least on this copy, the bass has the kind of power that brings a song like Take Me To A River to heights you probably wouldn’t have imagined before. (more…)

Talking Heads – Fear of Music – Our First White Hot Stamper – 2015

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

The Talking Heads and producer Brian Eno certainly weren’t shy about adding multiple layers of effects and processing, and the average pressing of this record turns some of the more complicated parts into grainy mush. The material here is darker than the songs on the first two albums, so a copy that lacks any extension up top will have trouble bringing the music to life. The texture of Eno’s synthesizers gives the music depth and character, and a copy with smear issues forsakes much of that. It takes a special pressing to make this music really work, but this one really gets it right.

Much like Remain In Light, this is a brilliant album but a typically problematic record. The Talking Heads and producer Brian Eno certainly weren’t shy about adding multiple layers of effects and processing, and the average pressing of this record turns some of the more complicated parts into grainy mush. The material here is darker than the songs on the first two albums, so a copy that lacks any extension up top will have trouble bringing the music to life. The texture of Eno’s synthesizers gives the music depth and character, and a copy with smear issues forsakes much of that.

… But This One Sure Does!

As huge fans of this band, it was a major thrill for us to finally hear a copy that sounded as good as this one. Both sides really have the goods here: wonderful transparency, meaty bass, big time energy and lots of top end extension.

Drop the needle on the opening track “I Zimbra” and listen to how clear and correct the percussion sounds. On the average copy they might as well be banging on cardboard, but on a Hot Stamper like this you can clearly hear the sound of the skins.

Many copies make a mess of David Byrne’s voice, leaving him sounding pinched and edgy, but here the vocals are full-bodied, smooth, and present. There’s dramatically less grit and grain here than on most pressings, and the synths and effects all sounded just right to us.

One Of Our Very Favorite Bands Of This Era

We’re huge fans of late ’70s / early ’80s art-rock and new wave music, and these guys are obviously some of the best in the biz. I’d be hard pressed to name another act from the era who put out so many good records. Along with this album, More Songs About Buildings And Food, Remain In Light, and Little Creatures are all works of genius.

’77 is full of good ideas, but it doesn’t sound like a fully realized work of art the way the next four albums did.

Speaking In Tongues has some nice material, but doesn’t quite rank up there with their earlier stuff. (more…)

Talking Heads / More Songs About Buildings and Food – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of the album.  

With Our Love turned out to be one of our favorite tests for side one. The picking of the rhythmic guitar in the intro told us just about everything we needed to know about smear, veiling and resolution. On most copies the instrument is simply blurry, the notes mashed together. When you’ve got a copy with its transients intact, resolving properly and clearly right there in front of you, you have the makings of a Hot Stamper side one.

My other test track for side one was Warning Signs. This is a great track for evaluating transparency and bass. On the average copy you’d never know how much ambience exists around the drums. Hint: it’s a lot.

Our favorite copies have a fair amount of WHOMP down low, giving the bass guitar that rich, beefy sound that we’re simply crazy for here at Better Records. Once you’ve heard a copy with well-defined, note-like bass, nothing less will do.

Artists Only

A great test track for side two is Artists Only. The guitars in the intro section are almost unbearable to listen to on most copies. I recognize that I am somewhat sensitive to harsh high frequencies, but I’m literally in pain when I listen to an overly compressed, overly midrangy copy. There’s got to be a better way! (more…)

Talking Heads – Little Creatures – I Ask You: What Album from 1985 Has Better Sound?

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More Little Creatures

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We’re huge fans of Little Creatures here at Better Records and we think when you hear one of our Hot Stamper copies you’ll know exactly what we love about it. Not many records from this era sound as amazingly rich as this one, not in our experience anyway. (As I write this there are four Hot Stamper pressings from 1985 on the site, and one of them is Brothers in Arms, hardly anyone’s idea of audiophile quality sound I venture to say.)

The recording is simply outstanding — punchy, smooth & so ANALOG, with an especially beefy bottom end, the kind a good Big Beat Pop Album record needs. (For a mental reference think Get The Knack or Parallel Lines.)

The best copies boast the kind of tight, punchy, surprisingly deep note-like bass that absolutely makes or breaks the sound on Little Creatures. Without the proper bass foundation this funky beat-crazy Talking Heads album can’t BEGIN to do what it’s trying to do: get your feet tappin’ and your body rockin’ to the music. (more…)

Talking Heads – The Name of this Band is Talking Heads

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More The Name of this Band is Talking Heads

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  • This superb double album boasts Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on all four sides  
  • Excellent sound for one of the best live bands of the era
  • This copy plays bout as quiet as we can find them — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • ” The excitement of this material is palpable, and the muscular band rips into these tunes with more power than the originals in most cases… arguably one of their finest releases.” – All Music

We recently had a big shootout for this live double album and were very impressed with how good some of this material can sound, particularly on the first side which was recorded before the band got huge and started playing bigger venues. A lot of copies we played were too thick and compressed to break through the challenges that live recordings face, but this one really nailed it. (more…)

The Pretenders’ Debut Album

More The Pretenders

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  • Insanely good sound throughout — Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – we rarely have copies that rock the way this one does
  • This is one of engineer Bill Price’s better efforts behind the boards, and Chris Thomas’s production is State of the Art
  • Relatively quiet vinyl throughout this early UK pressing – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • Five Stars: “Few rock & roll records rock as hard or with as much originality as the Pretenders’ eponymous debut album. A sleek, stylish fusion of Stonesy rock & roll, new wave pop, and pure punk aggression, Pretenders is teeming with sharp hooks and a viciously cool attitude.”

What really separated this copy from the pack was the lack of edge on the vocals. It’s not duller — it’s bigger and clearer yet less distorted and cut cleaner than most of the other sides we played. (more…)