Labels We Love – Warners

James Taylor / Mud Slide Slim – This Copy Rocked Like No Other

More of the Music of James Taylor

Reviews and Commentaries for Mud Slide Slim

This Shootout Winning copy from 2008 or thereabouts showed us a Mud Slide Slim we had no idea could possibly exist. We have a name for records like this. We call them Breakthrough Pressings. They are one of the reasons we play so many thousands of records every year. We’re looking for records that sound like this. Experience has taught us that there is no way to find them any other way. 

As you will see from our commentary, the first track on side one, Love Has Brought Me Around, is a great test for energy.

If your copy does not seem very energetic to you, then we recommend you keep buying every green label original you see until you find one that does.

Our commentary from the early days of shootouts can be seen below.


The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

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More Hippie Folk Rock

  • An early Green Label pressing with a STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side one mated to an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two
  • Top 100 album and a truly superb recording of the Dead at the peak of their creativity (along with American Beauty)
  • We love the amazingly big, rich, weighty bottom end found on the better pressings such as this one
  • 5 stars: “The lilting Uncle John’s Band, their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly.”

This original Warner Brothers pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. (more…)

Devo – Oh, No! It’s Devo

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  • An original copy with excellent Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more Tubey Magic, size and rock and roll energy on this vintage pressing than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true of whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently available
  • While this album was much criticized at the time of its release, most Devo fans seem to really enjoy it and we sure had a blast with the shootout!
  • Christgau gives it a B+ and has this to say— “they’ve never sounded catchier…”


Fleetwood Mac – Rumours

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Reviews and Commentaries for Rumours

  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER from start to finish, this early pressing of Fleetwood Mac’s Magnum Opus will be very hard to beat
  • 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!
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these Classic Rock records – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 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.”
  • If you’re a Fleetwood Mac fan, this undeniable classic from 1977 is surely a Must Own
  • The complete list of titles from 1977 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here

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…)

The Faces – Glyn Johns Lets It Rip

More of Glyn Johns’ Best Recordings Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for the Recordings of Glyn Johns

This album was produced by one of our very favorite engineers around here, Mr. Glyn Johns, the man behind tons of Better Records faves — Sticky Fingers, The Eagles’ 1st, Who’s Next, and many, many more.

The proper sound for a band like this is RAW AND ROCKIN.’ Any phony EQ or overproduction would really make a mess of what the band does here, which put simply is kickin’ out the jams. It would be fair to call these guys a bar band, but they’re the best darn bar band I’ve ever heard!

The best Faces pressings have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that somehow manages to convey the power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. What more can you ask for?

You won’t get a minute into this record before you’re blown away by all the ambience and echo. You can really hear the sound of the big room around these guys as they rock out. The vocals sound Right On The Money — smooth, but with all of the raspiness that Rod Stewart is famous for.

The drums are big and punchy and the guitars sound grungy and right.

The sound on both sides is open, spacious, and transparent — nothing like the muddy, congested sound we heard on most of what we played (all green label domestic originals – no reissue or import has ever won a shootout and we don’t really bother much with them anymore).

Here you will find none of the glossy artificiality you might hear on many of the rock records we sell — there’s nothing wrong with that sound, mind you, but this recording captures much more of what the real instruments sound like in the studio.


Petula Clark – These Are My Songs

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More Sixties Pop

  • An original WB Gold Label pressing with outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Both of these sides offer huge space with lots of lovely analog reverb swirling around Pet’s vocals – with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have
  • The big hit is “Don’t Sleep in the Subway” and it sounds Tubey Magically awesome here
  • For this era of recording, 1967, and for such a big production, the sound in these grooves is glorious

Not many original copies survived in clean enough condition to be played on today’s modern audiophile equipment, but we’re glad to report that this one did.

The better copies are huge, rich and Tubey Magical. They were definitely not going for AM Radio sound on These Are My Songs the way they did on some of her albums, and thank god for that. We’ve probably auditioned close to a dozen of Miss Clark’s releases from back in the day and this one seems to us the best sounding of the bunch.

It’s rare for the loud vocal parts not to strain a bit from compressor or limiter distortion, but the really good pressings hold up through the sections where the chorus and the orchestra are their biggest and loudest.


Joni Mitchell – Years Ago We Heard a Piano on a Copy that Really Knocked Us Out

More of the Music of Joni Mitchell

Reviews and Commentaries for Blue

About ten years ago we played a copy of Blue that showed us a piano we had never heard on the album before. We found it on the track The Last Time I Saw Richard.

This is not the thin and hard-sounding instrument that accompanies Joni on every pressing you have ever had the misfortune to audition, hoping against hope that someday you would find that “elusive disc” with sound worthy of such extraordinary music.

No, this piano had real weight; it has body; and it was surrounded by real, three-dimensional studio space. No vinyl pressing we had ever played up to then has managed to capture the sound of the piano on this record any better. Exactly no copies.

For those of you with a certain Heavy Vinyl pressing in your collection, we can only say that the piano on this copy will show you everything that is wrong with the piano on that one.

The piano had no smear, allowing both the percussive aspects of the instrument and the extended harmonics of the notes to be heard clearly and appreciated fully.

Pianos are very good for testing your system, room, tweaks, electricity and all the rest, not to mention turntable setup and adjustment.

A great many more records that are good for testing and improving your playback can be found here.


Alice Cooper – Is This the Warner Bros. House Sound?

More of the Music of Alice Cooper

Reviews and Commentaries for Warner Bros. Records

This White Hot Stamper copy had the two best sides back to back we heard in our shootout, with a Triple Plus side two that really brrough this music to life.

Which is not easy to do, given that the average copy of this album is a sonic mess —

There are a lot of green label Warner Bros. records from the ’70s that sound like that, one might even call it their “house sound.”

When you play the later pressings, it’s obvious that they’ve gone overboard in cleaning up the murk, leaving a sound that is lean, flat and modern — in other words, unmusical, inappropriate and just plain wrong.

Finding the right balance of fullness and clarity, especially on this album, may not be easy, but it can be done. This side two was far and away the best we heard and proves that the album can sound good. (more…)

Ry Cooder – Was Jazz Really a TAS List Superdisc?

Hot Stamper Pressings of TAS List Super Disc Albums

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

The typical pressing of this record doesn’t even hint at how magical this album can sound. If your copy isn’t exceptionally full-bodied, rich, and sweet, you can bet that it will sound edgy and irritating with the extensive amount of listening required to appreciate and fully enjoy this music.

There’s a reason this record is on the TAS list, but you’d never know it by playing the average Warner Brothers pressing. Most copies of this record just sound like an old record. You would never even know how magical this recording is by playing a copy that, for all intents and purposes, appears to be the pressing Harry Pearson is recommending on his Super Disc list.

The catalog number is the same, the sound is not. Unless you have at least a dozen copies of this record you have very little chance of finding even one exceptional side.

This has always been the problem with the TAS list. The pressing variations on a record like this are HUGE and DRAMATIC. There is a world of difference between this copy and what the typical audiophile owns based on HP’s list. I’ve been complaining for years that the catalog number that Harry supplies has very little benefit to the typical audiophile record lover.

Without at least the right stampers, the amount of work required to find a copy that deserves a Super Disc ranking is daunting, requiring the kind of time and effort that few audiophiles could ever devote to such a difficult and frustrating project.

Bonnie Raitt – Home Plate

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More Women Who Rock

  • An outstanding copy of Home Plate with Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – remarkably quiet vinyl too
  • Sound this good means you’re probably hearing the album better than they did when they played back the master tape in the control room — studio monitors being what they are
  • Since this is one of my three favorite Bonnie Raitt albums — the others being Sweet Forgiveness and Nine Lives — and quite possibly the best sounding album she ever made, it goes without saying that this is THE Must Own Bonnie Raitt Hot Stamper Pressing of All Time
  • “. . . a wonderful hybrid of American music, built on a thoroughly impressive set of songs, all delivered with Raitt’s warm, expertly shaded, and undeniably sexy singing.”

Another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. This is a classic case of a record that really starts to work when the levels are up. It’s so free from distortion and phony processing it wants to be played loud, and that’s the level this music works at. It’s the level it was no doubt mixed at, and that mix sounds pretty flat at moderate levels. If you want to hear the real rockin’ Bonnie Raitt you gots to turn it up!

Like a lot of the best recordings from the mid-’70s, the production and recording quality are clean and clear, and we mean that in a good way. There is very little processing to the sound of anything here; drums sound like drums, guitars like guitars, and Bonnie sings without the aid of autotuning — because she can sing on-key, and beautifully. Her vocals kill on every song. (Her dad had a pretty good set of pipes too.)

Click here to see more of our favorite Rock and Pop records with relatively unprocessed sound.