A List of Personal Favorites

Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

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  • This early UK pressing is big and rich with superb clarity and three-dimensional space that most pressings barely hint at
  • You won’t believe how good Nothing Compares 2 U sounds here – it’s surely one of the best torch songs ever written, and her performance of it (as well as the arrangement) is perfection
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the album plays like a tour de force in its demonstration of everything O’Connor can do… it’s evidence that, when on top of her game, O’Connor was a singular talent.”

NOTE: The first two tracks on side one are on the low side of the grade. This record is rarely quite and this copy is no exception to that rule.

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, a brilliant and unique piece of work, is widely considered one of the best albums of the ’90s. I positively love the album. The emotion is every bit as naked and compelling as that found on Joni’s Blue, and I do not say that lightly. I know the power of Blue, and this album has that kind of power. This is some heavy heavy stuff. Hearing it sound right is a thrill you won’t soon forget. (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues / Volume III – An Audiophile Record with Honest-go-Goodness Real Music

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More Direct-to-Disc Recordings

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  • This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for Volume III, clearly the best sounding title in the series
  • A superb pressing with energy and presence that just jumps right out of your speakers – this is but one of the qualities that separates the truly Hot Stampers from the pack

What do Hot Stampers give you for this album? It’s very simple. Most copies of this album are slightly thin and slightly bright. They give the impression of being very clear and clean, but some of the louder brass passages start to get strained and blarey. This copy is rich and full. The sound is balanced from top to bottom. You can play it all the way through without fatigue.

Trumpets, trombones, tubas, tambourines, big bass, drums — everything has the true tonality and the vibrancy of the real thing. The reason this record was such a big hit in its day because the recording engineers were able to capture that sound better than anybody else around. That’s also the reason this is a Must Own record today — the sound holds up!

Just listen to that amazing brass choir on Oh Lord, I’m On My Way. It just doesn’t get any better than that. If ever there was a Demo Disc, this is one! (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Mona Bone Jakon

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, this copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you are now revealed as never before 
  • When you play I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This side one has it ALL going on — all the Tubey Magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high-rez yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings, especially the reissues on the second label.

Right off the bat, I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of Folk Pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other Folk Pop recordings that are as good but we know of none that are better.

Mike Bobak was the engineer for these sessions from 1970. He is the man responsible for some of the best sounding records from the early ’70s: The Faces’ Long Player, Cat Stevens’ Mona Bone Jakon, Rod Stewart’s Never a Dull Moment, The Kinks’ Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One, (and lots of other Kinks albums), Carly Simon’s Anticipation and more than his share of obscure English bands (of which there seems to be a practically endless supply).

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this album. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with the richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and remasterings). (more…)

Blondie – Parallel Lines

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Reviews and Commentaries for Parallel Lines

  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy had some of the best sound we have ever heard for Parallel Lines
  • The energy and enthusiasm of the band on this Retro Power Pop Classic really comes through here, and that’s not a claim you can make about very many copies
  • There’s not a bad song to be found anywhere, and lots of great ones: One Way Or Another, Heart Of Glass, Hanging On The Telephone, etc.
  • 5 stars: “Blondie’s best album,” which is actually a bit of an understatement – it’s by far their best album

All the Blondie magic you could ever want is in these grooves. The truly powerful sound of this Power Pop Classic really comes through on this bad boy — and that’s simply not a claim you could make about too many copies out there in record land, which tend to be flat, opaque and compressed. Not so here. This one just plain ROCKS.

Can this kind of music get any better? This album is a MASTERPIECE of Pure Pop, ranking right up there with The Cars first album. I can’t think of many albums from the era with the perfect blend of writing, production and musicianship under the guidance of producer Mike Chapman (The Knack) Blondie achieved with Parallel Lines.

As expected, if you clean and play enough copies of a standard domestic major label album such as Parallel Lines eventually you will stumble upon The One, and boy did we ever. The very best copies in our recent shootout were OFF THE CHARTS with presence, breathy vocals, and punchy drums. On top of that they were positively swimming in studio ambience, with every instrument occupying its own space in the mix and surrounded by air. (more…)

Basia – Time and Tide

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  • This outstanding pressing of Time and Tide boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is rich and Tubey Magical, yet transparent and spacious in the way that only the best vintage pressings ever are
  • Allmusic: “This is sophisticated pop music that sounds ideal for playing in any number of upholstered locations — a black-tie cocktail party, a fashion-show runway, the back seat of a limousine. Basia’s lightly accented voice adds an exotic flavor to the Euro-disco style of the music.”

Man, here is the Audiophile Pop Sound we go absolutely CRAZY for here at Better Records. Toto Shmoto, THIS is Pure Pop for Audiophile Now People like nothing you have ever heard.

You will have a very hard time finding another modern recording (this one is from the ’80s so those of you who don’t like synths steer clear) with the kind of formidable MIDRANGE POWER heard here.

It must be on the tape, right? Who knew?! Somehow it managed to make it to the record.

Demo disc qualities? Too many to list! Spacious, rich, present, punchy bass, yada yada yada, you know all our favorites by now I’m sure. They’re all here and more.

YOU Pronounce It

Basia (nee Barbara Trzetrzelewska) exploded on the scene with this outstanding debut. Songs like New Day For You and Promises were all over AOR radio, which made me immediately dismiss her as a TOP 40 One-or-Two-Hit-Wonder, but I was wrong. This whole album is overflowing with cleverly arranged, beautifully sung, well-written popular songs about the stuff pop songs are mostly written about: love.

Time and Tide

Her one Killer Pop Song for the Ages is here: Time and Tide. If you aren’t impressed by the complexity and sheer length of the melody line, then you are one hard-to-please pop person. That song ranks up with the greatest Three Minute Wonders ever produced.

A Final Note

The CBS Gold CD of the album is far better than the stock copy I own, and actually quite good. But it sure won’t sound like this.

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James Taylor / Sweet Baby James

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Reviews and Commentaries for Sweet Baby James

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  • This STUNNING copy of Sweet Baby James boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too, especially for this album
  • All that lovely echo is a dead giveaway that this pressing has resolution far beyond that of the others you may have heard (and of course the Rhino Heavy Vinyl)
  • Top 100, inarguably a Masterpiece – Fire and Rain and Suite for 20 G (one of JT’s All Time Best) are killer here
  • 5 stars: “Sweet Baby James launched not only Taylor’s career as a pop superstar but also the entire singer/songwriter movement of the early ’70s that included Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, Cat Stevens, and others…”

Vocal reproduction is key to the best sounding copies of Sweet Baby James, as it is on so many Singer Songwriter albums from the era.

To find a copy where Taylor’s vocals are front and center — which is exactly where they should be — but still rich, sweet, tonally correct and Tubey Magical is no mean feat. Only the best copies manage to pull it off.

Out of the dozen or more Green Label early pressings we play every year, relatively few have the full complement of midrange magic we know the best copies can have. As a rule of thumb, the hotter the stamper, the better the vocal reproduction on that copy.

Hot Stamper sound is rarely about the details of a given recording. In the case of this album, more than anything else a Hot Stamper must succeed at recreating a solid, palpable, real James Taylor singing live in your listening room. The better copies have an uncanny way of doing just that. (more…)

Chris Kimsey Engineered Two of My Favorite Records of All Time

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Chris Kimsey is one of our favorite recording and mixing engineers. Click on the links below to find his albums, along with plenty of our famous commentaries.

Chris Kimsey Engineered Albums Available Now

Chris Kimsey Engineered Albums We’ve Reviewed

I have two personal favorites among his many excellent recordings:

  1. A Space in Time (1971)
  2. Wind of Change (1972)

Both are Must Own records in my book. Masterpieces. Desert Island Discs.

In my opinion, both are records that should be more popular with audiophiles. For some reason they are not. If you have not heard one or both of these classics, check them out. They are the very definition of the kind of Big Production Rock I have been listening to since I first fell in love with them back in the early Seventies. That was about fifty years ago and I still play both of them regularly for enjoyment. I have never tired of the music on either of them in all that time and I don’t think I ever will.

I’m sure you have plenty of records you feel the same way about in your collection. These are two of mine.

These are the very definition of Big Speaker albums. The better pressings have the kind of ENERGY in their grooves that are sure to have most audiophile systems begging for mercy.

This is The Audio Challenge that awaits you. If you don’t have a system designed to play records with this kind of SONIC POWER, don’t expect to hear them the way Chris Kimsey wanted you to. Both album want to rock your world, and that’s exactly what our Hot Stamper pressings are especially good at.

Ten Years After and Peter Frampton are two of the most influential and important artists/bands in my growth as a music lover and audiophile, joining the ranks of Roxy Music, Ambrosia, 10cc, Steely Dan, Yes, Bowie and countless others, musicians and bands who seemed to me dedicated to exploring and exploding the conventions of popular music.

My equipment was forced to evolve in order to accurately reproduce the scores of challenging recordings issued by these groups in the ’70s.

You could say that the albums of all of these artists informed not only my taste in music but the actual stereo I play that music on. It’s what Progress in Audio is all about.

I’ve had large scale dynamic speakers for the last four decades, precisely in order to play records recordings such as these, albums with music I fell in love with back in the ’70s.

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Not one of his better efforts, and not one of his better photos, but this is the guy that engineered so truly wonderful sounding albums that I have been playing for practically fifty years. I can’t thank him enough.

The Search for Lush Life – We Broke Through in 2016

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More Breakthrough Pressing Discoveries

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We’ve been searching for years trying to find just what kind of Lush Life pressing — what era, what label, what stampers, mono or stereo, import or domestic — had the potential for good sound.

No, scratch that. We should have said excellent sound. Exceptional sound. We’ve played plenty of copies that sounded pretty good, even very good, but exceptional? That pressing had eluded us — until a few months ago.

Yes, it was only a few months ago, early in 2016 in fact, that we chanced upon the right kind of pressing — the right era, the right label, the right stampers, the right sound. Not just the right sound though. Better sound than we ever thought this album could have. (more…)

The Fleetwood Mac You Don’t Know – Kiln House

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More Recordings Engineered by Martin Birch

Kiln House is one of the all-time great Fleetwood Mac albums. It’s the first they recorded after Peter Green left. With Green gone, Jeremy Spencer’s influence came to the fore. He was apparently quite a fan of Buddy Holly. His songs are straightforward and unerringly melodic.

The co-leader here is Danny Kirwan and he rocks the hell out of this album. Three of the best songs the band ever did, regardless of incarnation, are here: Tell Me All The Things You Do, Station Man and Jewel Eyed Judy, all written by Kirwan (with the help of others). His guitar work on these three songs is blistering.

Any Fleetwood Mac greatest hits collection would be a joke without these tracks. Of course they are consistently missing from all such compilations, at least the ones with which I am familiar. The sad fact is that few people miss them because few people have ever heard them.

And Let’s Not Forget Christine McVie

It’s amazing to realize that this album was made by just four guys. Actually that’s not true. Christine McVie (known as Christine Perfect at the time) not only did the lovely artwork for the cover, but she sings uncredited background vocals on some of the songs. Her contribution to Station Man is especially lovely. She would officially join the band on their next album, a personal favorite of mine, Future Games. (more…)

Sly and The Family Stone – Stand

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  • With stunning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be tough to beat – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • Tired of the crude, congested, hard, harsh and otherwise unpleasant sound of most pressings? The solution is right here!
  • Stand, I Want To Take You Higher, Everyday People, You Can Make It If You Try — what a killer lineup of songs
  • 5 stars: “Stand! is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone’s early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group’s musical vision and accomplishment. …everything simply gels here, resulting in no separation between the astounding funk, effervescent irresistible melodies, psychedelicized guitars, and deep rhythms.”

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