Labels We Love – Warners

Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

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  • Black Sabbath’s fifth studio album finally makes its Hot Stamper debut, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This is the vinyl embodiment of the Classic Analog Rock sound we love – rich, full-bodied, warm, punchy, dynamic and tonally correct
  • “an extraordinarily gripping affair”, and “nothing less than a complete success” — The Rolling Stone
  • 4 1/2 stars: “All things considered… Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was arguably Black Sabbath’s fifth masterpiece in four years, and remains an essential item in any heavy metal collection.”

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These vintage WB pressings are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

No recordings will ever be made that sound like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. There is of course a CD of this album, quite a few of them I would guess, but those of us with a good turntable could care less. (more…)

Rod Stewart – Atlantic Crossing

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  • You’ll find truly exceptional Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides of this vastly underrated Rod Stewart classic
  • One of the few to hit our site over the years, and for that we apologize – Atlantic Crossing should be enjoyed by everyone in Hot Stamper form
  • This is some of the best Muscle Shoals rock- and soul-inflected pop from producer Tom Dowd we know of
  • It’s the last consistently good record Rod Stewart made – I bought it when it came out and I listen to it to this very day
  • AMG awards 4 1/2 stars and raves, “Three Time Loser and Stone Cold Sober catch fire,” and on this copy we guarantee they do

The copies we liked best were the biggest and richest, the least thin and dry. Many of the brighter copies also had noticeable sibilance problems, which the richer and tubier ones did not. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • Tubey Magical Analog – the sound is open, spacious and transparent, with a huge three-dimensional soundfield
  • A Better Records Top 100 title – when you hear it sound as good as it does here, you’ll know why we’ve long considered Rumours an Audiophile Demo Disc
  • If you own the album on two 45 RPM discs (you know the one), allow us to send you a copy that will beat the pants off that modern mediocrity — this one!
  • 5 stars: “Each tune, each phrase regains its raw, immediate emotional power—which is why Rumours touched a nerve upon its 1977 release, and has since transcended its era to be one of the greatest, most compelling pop albums of all time.”

When you hear a good copy of Rumours, it’s very easy to understand why this is one of the best-selling pop music albums of all time. Just about everyone knows how great these songs are, but I bet you didn’t know they could sound like this!

It’s tough finding Hot Stamper copies of this album. With over 75 sets of stamper numbers for each side, it’s an extremely taxing project, even for us. We know some of the better stampers and have been acquiring them since then in preparation for this shootout. (more…)

Christopher Cross – What to Listen For

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Hot Stamper Albums with Choruses that Are Big and Clear

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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.

There’s one test on side two that few copies do well on. The mostly instrumental section in the middle of Ride Like the Wind has a huge chorus singing in a wonderfully reverberant studio. Only the most transparent, most distortion-free copies let you clearly hear all their voices bouncing off the walls.

Take any two copies and listen for just this one effect and you will soon see that no two copies reproduce the reverberations identically, and many barely reproduce them at all.

Overall

The sound is full, rich, lively and even Tubey Magical in the best tradition of the glossy Pop Productions that were all the rage in the late-’70s. If you like Michael McDonald, Toto, The Doobies, Hall and Oates, The Bee Gees and countless other bands we have lovingly found a home for in our Hot Stamper sections you will no doubt find much to like here.

A guilty pleasure you say? When a record sounds this good there is nothing to feel guilty about!

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Chris Isaak / Self-Titled Can Sound Very Good, Heart Shaped World, Not So Much

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This record can have surprisingly good sound.

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Heart Shaped World seen below has never impressed us.

It’s modern and digital sounding. If you like the music, just buy the CD.

  • An incredible sounding copy with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from the first note to the last; the first copy to ever hit the site
  • These sides are KILLER – open and spacious, but with all-important richness, smoothness and Tubey Magic that makes the top quality analog pressing such a special listening experience, and it doesn’t get any better than this record for Chris Isaac
  • Exceptionally quiet vinyl throughout – Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “… 11 songs of smoky, wounded romance and dark menace given great all-around performances. Isaak’s gift for capturing a perfect blend of early rock & roll twang and making it sound perfectly of the now is his greatest strength…

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The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • With the awesome Michael McDonald contributing a batch of great songs, not to mention some Blue Eyed Soul-ful vocals, this has long been a favorite Doobies album here at Better Records
  • Credit must go to Donn Landee for the full-bodied, rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of Hot Stamper pressings such as this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…shows off the new interplay and sounds that were to carry the group into the 1980s, with gorgeous playing and singing all around.”

Who in his right mind thought this record could sound this good? We’ve been buying pressings for years, with very little to show for it. Most copies have no real top or bottom; that’s what separates the men from the boys on Takin’ It to the Streets. That shrunken, flat, two-dimensional, lifeless, compressed, midrangy sound you’re so used to hearing on Doobies Brothers albums is the rule, and these sides are the exceptions.

Why go to all the trouble? Because we love the album! This is the first album to feature Michael McDonald’s infusion of white soul into what was otherwise just another radio-friendly boogie rock band, and ’70s soul is precisely the Doobies sound we love here at Better Records.

Most copies of this record are such a letdown, it’s hard to imagine that many audiophiles could be bothered to take it seriously. But they should; the band cooks on practically every song, and the writing is some of their best, with essential Doobies tracks like Losin’ End and It Keeps You Runnin’ and no real dogs in the bunch. (more…)

James Taylor – Gorilla

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  • Two insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides for one of James Taylor’s best softer rock albums
  • Soulful JT at his best, an underappreciated album by our man and one that belongs in your collection
  • Mexico, How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) and I Was A Fool To Care are standouts – there are no weak tracks here
  • Rolling Stone notes, “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 12 light ticks at the beginning of Track 1, Mexico.

This is soft rock at its best, made up primarily of love songs, and helped immensely by the harmonically-gifted backing vocals of Graham Nash and David Crosby.

Rolling Stone notes that “With Gorilla, Taylor is well on his way to staking out new ground. What he’s hit upon is the unlikely mating of his familiar low-keyed, acoustic guitar-dominated style with L.A. harmony rock and the sweet, sexy school of rhythm and blues.”

To be honest, the recording of Gorilla itself cannot compete with the likes of Sweet Baby James or JT, both of which are Top 100 Titles. It can be a good sounding record, not a great one, certainly not in the same league as those two. (more…)

Emmylou Harris – Luxury Liner

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More Country Rock

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  • Luxury Liner makes its Hot Stamper debut here with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • This copy is full-bodied and natural, with a nicely extended top end, plenty of space around the instruments and vocals, and few of the problems that plagued many pressings we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Luxury Liner ranks as Emmylou Harris’ best-selling solo record to date, and it’s one of her most engaging efforts as well; her Hot Band is in peak form, and the songs are even more far afield than usual”

The sound that Emmylou and her producers were going for here is clean, detailed and low distortion, which is exactly what the best pressings like this one deliver. What really sets the good copies apart, though, is a natural, relaxed quality in the midrange. Emmylou sounds like a real person, with none of the too-clean, too-modern, tube-free sound that ruins many of the pressings of her records.  (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – Self-Titled

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Peter, Paul and Mary - Self-Titled - White Hot Stamper

  • The band’s debut finally arrives on the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) stereo sound throughout – relatively quiet vinyl for a pressing of this vintage
  • This TAS List title has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and Tubey Magical analog warmth the likes of which you may have never heard
  • 4 stars: “The debut album by Peter, Paul & Mary is still one of the best albums to come out of the 1960s folk music revival. It’s a beautifully harmonized collection of the best songs that the group knew, stirring in its sensibilities and its haunting melodies as it crosses between folk, children’s songs, and even gospel”

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). (more…)

James Taylor – In The Pocket

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  • Stunning sound throughout with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it
  • Both of these sides are SUPERB in all respects; there’s plenty of Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album
  • Rich, sweet, and lively — Woman’s Gotta Have It sounds fantastic here
  • An underappreciated album that we’re big fans of here at Better Records!

The quality of the songwriting is what makes this album such a moving listening experience. These songs are superb, individually and collectively, and can hold their own up against those found on Gorilla, an album with which In the Pocket has much in common.

Just as they did on Gorilla, Taylor and his multi-talented, multi-tracking production team polish these songs into three and four minute gems of popcraft, and they do so without ever compromising the emotional heart of the material. I’ve searched and I honestly cannot find a bad song on the album. Better than that, not even a weak one.

Both of these sides are SUPERB in all respects. There’s plenty of Tubey Magic, and that’s one quality that’s hard to come by on this album. They’re super rich, smooth, yet transparent and high-rez. The vocals are breathy, and again, that is not something we heard nearly enough of in our shootout.

And no hardness. This is key. And the best tonal balance, which is also key. (more…)