Labels We Love – Warners

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

Albums with Stevie Nicks Performing

  • This STUNNING pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Both sides are punchy, big and clear, with plenty of hard rockin’ energy – exactly what you would expect from the team of Shelly Yakus and Jimmy Iovine
  • Two of her biggest hits are here (and they still hold up): Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around and Leather And Lace
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equally engaging are less exposed tracks like the haunting ‘After the Glitter Fades.’ Hit producer Jimmy Iovine wisely avoids over-producing, and keeps things sounding organic on this striking debut.”

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics.

Bella Donna may not reach those exalted heights, but it’s still quite good, especially for 1981. As the decade wore on things went south very quickly, sonically and musically, so we must be thankful that this record came out early in the decade and not much later.

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George Benson – Breezin’

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More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Guitar

  • Breezin’ finally returns to the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • Tubey Magical richness and plenty of note-like bass are two of the important qualities that separate the winners from the also-rans, but smooth, grain-free, present vocals for Masquerade are a big part of the best pressings too, so make that three important qualities
  • This copy will blow the doors off your old copy or any MoFi pressing — guaranteed!
  • It’s got all the elements this smooth masterpiece needs to come to life today, almost 40 years later if you can believe it
  • There’s tons of energy, strong presence, excellent bass and a huge soundfield with real depth
  • You hear right into the music, something that is only possible on the most transparent copies
  • If like us you’re a fan of Jazz Guitar, this is a killer album from 1976 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1976 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This album features the huge hit “This Masquerade” and lots of other strong material as well. Benson is at the top of his game, with blazing guitar lines accompanied by his scat vocals at many times. No one else ever did music like this so well again, in our humble opinion.

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The Turn Up Your Volume Test – Bonnie Raitt’s Home Plate

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.)

Reviews and Commentaries for Records that Sound Their Best on Big Speakers at Loud Levels

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Van Halen – 1984

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More Rock Classics

  • 1984 finally returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • These sides have the kind of BIG, full-bodied sound that lets this rockin’ band come to life exactly the way you want them to
  • Nothing phony here – the sound is natural and balanced, with meaty guitars and big punchy drums
  • Plenty of hits: “Panama,” “Hot For Teacher,” “Jump,” and you won’t believe how good they sound on this copy
  • 5 stars: “It’s the best showcase of Van Halen’s instrumental prowess as a band… the best showcase for their songwriting, just their flat-out best album overall.”
  • If you’re a fan of Van Halen when Diamond Dave was still the front man, a killer copy of their album from 1984 belongs in your collection

Want to hear three of the best songs these guys ever did — “Jump,” “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher”– sound incredible? We recently had a chance to shoot out a bunch of these, and I’m sure it won’t surprise you that far too many copies were unimpressive. Most just do not have the weight on the bottom end that this music needs to work.

Turn your nose up if you like, but this music is Classic Rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but the band on this album definitely knows how to rock. The All Music Guide gives this one 5 Big Stars, and I’m sure that plenty of audiophiles feel just as strongly about it. (more…)

Ry Cooder / Jazz

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Ry Cooder

  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • These are the stampers that always win our shootouts, and when you hear them you will know why – the sound is big, rich and clear
  • “The complexity of the material on Jazz, as well as the arrangements by Joseph Byrd, dictate that this is Cooder’s most polished and orchestrated effort to date.” — Allmusic
  • If you’re a fan of Ry Cooder’s, this classic from 1978 belongs in your collection.

We’re big fans of Ry Cooder here at Better Records, and it’s always fun to hear the eccentric instruments and arrangements he and his cohorts cook up. Of course, it’s even more fun when you have a great sounding pressing like this one that lets you hear what the musicians were up to. (more…)

Marshall Crenshaw / Mary Jean & 9 Others – A Desert Island Disc

This is my favorite roots rock record of all time. I love the album and have played it many, many hundreds of times. It starts off with the driving This Is Easy and never lets up until the very last song, a beautiful ballad, “They Never Will Know.”

The All Music Guide had this to say about MC’s first 3 albums: “…an irresistible combination of masterful pop and vibrant, timeless rock & roll.” They weren’t that impressed with this album, but I cannot for the life of me understand why.

I think this is the album where Marshall got it all together: his best songs, his best production, his most tightly knit band, his best guitar solos — the best the guy had to offer is right here.

How does somebody play the same record 100’s of times? I have it on tape in my car, backed with one of my favorite Bonnie Raitt albums, Nine Lives. I can sing along with every song and know every guitar lick by heart. This music may sound simple on the surface, but it has the essence of great popular music. The songs are both heartfelt and catchy, with the kinds of hooks that remind me of the early Beatles.

If you like Buddy Holly, or any of the people that have been influenced by him to produce straight ahead rock and roll, you should like this.

If you have the kind of “delicate” stereo that can’t play loud, hasn’t much bass, or can’t move much air, this is not the record for you. This record is supposed to ROCK. If you don’t have a big system that can do that, you’re wasting your time trying to get this record to do what it wants to do.

It’s not a particularly good sounding record, which is why you have never seen a Hot Stamper pressing of it on our site. But the music is so good we think you can get past the sound and just enjoy the songs for what they are: great.

Hot Stamper Pressings of Roots Rock LPs

Reviews and Commentaries for Roots Rock LPs

ZZ Top – El Loco

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  • El Loco makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • “El Loco follows through on the streamlined, jet-engine boogie rock of Degüello, but kicking all the ingredients up a notch.”
  • If you’re a ZZ Top fan, a killer copy of their album from 1981 belongs in your collection

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Prince – For You

  • Both sides here are out of this world — incredibly full-bodied, musical and Tubey Magical with a massive bottom end 
  • “On his debut album, For You, Prince shows exceptional skill for arranging and performing mainstream urban R&B and funk…” – All Music
  • If you’re a fan of Prince’s, a killer copy of his album from 1978 belongs in your collection

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Bonnie Raitt – Home Plate

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More Women Who Rock

  • 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.) (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Takin’ It To The Streets

More of The Doobie Brothers

More Recordings Engineered by Donn Landee

  • 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…)