Masterpieces of Rock and Pop

Harry Nilsson – Son of Schmilsson – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

We had a great time shooting out a big stack of these, as we’re just wild about Harry here at Better Records. Unfortunately, most copies out there are too dark and grainy to get all that excited about. Here’s a copy that tells a much different story —both sides have good energy, smooth and sweet vocals, and nice extension up top. Drop the needle on Turn On Your Radio or The Lottery Song and we bet you fall in love with this one!

What Shootout Winning sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above

Ken Is The Man

It’s yet another triumph from one of our favorite engineers, KEN SCOTT (Ziggy Stardust, Magical Mystery Tour, Honky Chateau, Crime of the Century and many more).

This is one of Nilsson’s best albums, sonically and musically. (With Ken Scott at the board at Trident Studios the sound has to be good, doesn’t it?) Side one is amazingly good from start to finish. On the two CD set of Nilsson’s greatest hits (which is excellent, by the way) almost all of side one from this album is used, as well as the best material on side two here, which includes Spaceman and The Most Beautiful World In The World. In other words, this album has more than half a dozen of the best songs Nilsson ever wrote.

Nilsson Schmilsson and the album simply titled Harry are the other two superb Nilsson records that I highly recommend. Harry is my favorite of all his albums, maybe because it was so different from anything that I’d ever heard up to that point. A Little Touch… is also a personal favorite — standards done in the Nilsson style — is wonderful.

By the way, if the documentary Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talkin’ About Him?) is on the box, you should definitely check it out. Most of us here have seen it by now and it’s a ton of fun. (more…)

Don McLean – American Pie

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

An incredible ‘Triple ‘Triple’ copy of American Pie giving you amazing sound for the famous title track. This Number One album from 1971 has KILLER sound on both sides. It’s dynamic too — the end of American Pie gets good and loud, with a very solid piano holding it all together.

Beware of copies that are thin, dry or edgy; they take much too much of the fun out of the music.

Full vocals and a big, solid piano are key to balancing the singers and musicians correctly.

Tubey Magical guitars can be heard on the better copies of course. This is 1971 after all: they still remembered how to get that sound on tape. On the better side ones, Vincent can have rich, sweet, harmonically correct guitars to rival the best recordings from that era.

A little smear, thickness or opacity is not the end of the world — lots of very enjoyable records from 1971 have such issues and they still sound right. Tapestry, Mud Slide Slim and Tupelo Honey come immediately to mind. It would not be hard to name dozens of others. (more…)

Paul McCartney – McCartney – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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

This stunning 2-pack of McCartney’s solo debut has AMAZING A+++ SOUND FROM START TO FINISH! It’s been AGES since we’ve heard a copy like this. Both sides have the kind of clarity, transparency and immediacy you need for this album to sound its best. Those qualities let you hear all the detail, nuance, and texture to the instruments that you just don’t get on the average pressing.

Both of the copies in this 2-pack have one amazing side and one side that just didn’t meet our standards, so we combined them to give you excellent sound for the entire album.

We recently finished another challenging shootout for this Better Records favorite and were thrilled to come up with a copy like this. It’s always been tough to find great sound and quiet vinyl for this album, and this time around was a NIGHTMARE. Most copies just don’t deliver, and most of the ones that do don’t pass our stringent condition check.

The presence and immediacy of this copy on both sides are OFF THE CHARTS! The sound is HUGE — wide, open, and SUPER transparent. There’s tons of ambience, lots of breath to the vocals, real depth to the soundfield and INCREDIBLE amounts of energy.

You don’t find many copies with this much Tubey Magic. Paul’s vocals are rich and full bodied, and the acoustic guitars are warm and sweet. The bass is tight and punchy, just the way we like it. If this copy sounded any better, my head might explode. (more…)

King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

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

Over the last five years or so we have been prepping for this shootout by buying and trying lots of different pressings. Right from the start we could hear that no domestic pressing was, or was likely to ever be, remotely competitive with the best Brits.

Most later reissues — domestic or import — were as flat and lifeless as a cassette, although we admit that some were clearly better than others.

The MoFi pressing is one of their best. Unfortunately we have little tolerance for the dynamic compression, overall lifelessness and wonky bass heard on practically every record they ever remastered. One of the reasons your MoFi might not sound wrong to you is that it isn’t really “wrong.” It’s doing most things right, and it probably will beat whatever you can find to throw at it.

But it’s lacking some important qualities, and a listen to one of our Hot Stampers will allow you to hear exactly what you’re not getting when you play an audiophile pressing of In The Court Of The Crimson King, even one as good as MoFi’s.

Side by side the comparison will surely be striking. How much energy, size and power and passion is missing from the record you own? There’s only one way to find out, and it’s by playing a better copy of the album. This one will do nicely. (more…)

The Knack – Get The Knack – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

This Monster Power Pop Debut by the Knack is an AMAZINGLY well-recorded album, with the kind of Wall to Wall Big Beat Live Rock Sound that rivals Back in Black and Nevermind — if you’re lucky enough to have a copy that sounds like this one! (If you’re not then it doesn’t.)

Side two here has White Hot Stamper sound, and let me be clear: this is a Rock Demo Disc that is very likely to lay waste to whatever rock demo disc you currently treasure. My Sharona is simply OUT OF THIS WORLD here. You just can’t record drums and bass any better!

And let’s not forget the song Lucinda on this side. It’s got exactly the same incredibly meaty, grungy, ballsy sound that Back in Black does, but it managed to do it in 1979, a year earlier!

Mike Chapman produced this album and he is a recording GENIUS. How much better could it get you ask? The answer is: None more better. (more…)

Crosby Stills & Nash – Crosby Stills & Nash – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

Here’s a big one that we know many of you are waiting for: WHITE HOT STAMPERS for both sides of CSN’s amazing debut album. I’m pretty sure we get more emails about this album than any other; everyone wants a great sounding copy, but they’re oh-so-hard to find, especially in clean condition.

We’ve paired up a MONSTER side one with an equally amazing side two to create this White Hot Stamper 2-Pack. We’ve noticed many of you steer clear of the 2-Packs, but this one is a STUNNER.

If you’re waiting for a single copy to hit the site with two sides this good, we advise you to grab a comfortable chair and a cooler — you’re gonna be waiting a LONG TIME. (more…)

Hall and Oates – Abandoned Luncheonette

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  • This early Atlantic pressing was clearly bigger, smoother and more open than practically any other copy we played – exceptionally quiet vinyl too 
  • By far the best sounding record these guys ever made, and for our money nothing in their recorded canon can touch it 
  • A Better Records favorite, a longtime member of our Top 100, and an absolute thrill when it sounds like this!
  • 5 stars: “Hall & Oates’ second album was the first indication of the duo’s talent for sleek, soul-inflected pop/rock. It featured the single “She’s Gone,” which would become a big hit in 1975 when it was re-released following the success of “Sara Smile.”

I’ve always liked this record, but now I consider it a classic. I could listen to it every week for a year and never tire of it.

Don’t write these guys off as some Top 40 blue-eyed soul popsters from the ’70s that time has forgotten. They are all of the above, but they don’t deserve to be forgotten, if only on the strength of this album. Without question this is their masterpiece. We also consider it a Desert Island Disc and a true Demo Disc.

If you’re looking for a big production pop record that jumps out of your speakers, look no further. This record is ALIVE! Until I picked up one of these nice originals, I had no idea how good this record could sound. For an early ’70s multi-track popular recording, this is about as good as it gets. It’s rich, sweet, open, natural, smooth — most of the time (although the multi-tracked vocals might be a little much on some songs, depending on your front end) — in short, it’s got all the stuff we audiophiles LOVE. (more…)