Older Reviews – Rock and Pop

The Grateful Dead – American Beauty – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

MASTER TAPE SOUND AND MOSTLY QUIET VINYL ON BOTH SIDES, BABY! We went through all of 2008 without finding a single Hot Stamper copy of this great album, but today I am pleased to report that American Beauty Hot Stampers are back in stock at Better Records! Drop the needle on any track on either side — I guarantee you’ve never heard this band sound so good, or your money back. 

If you’re looking for a mindblowingly good copy of the Grateful Dead’s masterpiece, you’re going to have to act quickly, because our supply is extremely limited. I understand if you want to write the Dead off based on their later output, but you just can’t deny the power of this album. (more…)

Jimi Hendrix – Rainbow Bridge – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Rainbow Bridge

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

THE NEW ALL-TIME CHAMPION FOR SIDE ONE! We played over a dozen copies this week, split evenly between domestics and Brit imports — and this bad boy absolutely MURDERED the competition.

Drop the needle on Dolly Dagger or Pali Gap and prepare to be floored! You won’t believe the big-time presence, the mindblowing energy, or the massive WHOMP factor! This copy has the tightest bass we’ve ever heard for this album, plus an unbelievable amount of Tubey Magic. (more…)

Lincoln Mayorga & Distinguished Colleagues – Volume III – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

DEMO DISC QUALITY SOUND on both sides of this AMAZING Hot Stamper! This Limited Edition Sheffield Lab Direct Disc recording has some of the best sound we have ever heard for this title. The sound doesn’t get any better than this, with CLARITY and that JUMP OUT OF THE SPEAKERS quality we desire from a Hot Stamper. 

We just finished a big shootout of this album [in 2009!] and this Flower label pressing was the undisputed champion. Many copies of this album tend to sound a bit thin and somewhat bright. On this copy, the sound is rich, full, and tonally correct from top to bottom. The horns sound especially wonderful.

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, tamborines, 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…)

The Doors – Waiting For The Sun – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

It’s been over a year, but Waiting For The Sun Hot Stampers are BACK! It’s exceedingly difficult to find a good sounding, reasonably quiet Gold Label copy of this album, let alone enough copies to put together a proper shootout. It wasn’t easy, but a copy like this makes all the trouble worthwhile. Side one is a tubey magical A++, and side two is As Good As It Gets (AGAIG) at A+++.

Side one is WONDERFUL — tubey magical with tons of energy and real weight to the bottom end. The highs are silky sweet, the mids are warm and rich, and the bass is tight and punchy. This is THE BIG SOUND that we look for on Doors records. Morrison’s vocals sound JUST RIGHT here — full-bodied and breathy with incredible immediacy. The transparency is astonishing — you can easily pick out and follow Morrison’s double tracked vocals. (more…)

Bob Dylan – Another Side of Bob Dylan – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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

We played a bunch of these this week and only a very small handful of sides had enough magic to be considered Hot Stampers. The typical pressing loses its steam in (at least) one of two ways: honky mids and veiled vocals. The copies with the honk can be nearly unlistenable when Dylan starts blowing his harmonica, and the copies with veiled vocals and no real immediacy bored us to tears. 

This copy has the magic on side two. The sound is full-bodied, natural, and rich with excellent presence and real depth to the soundfield. (more…)

The Kinks – Something Else – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

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Something Else

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

This Original Reprise Tri-Color Steamboat Label pressing is one of the best sounding Kinks records we’ve ever had the pleasure of playing here at Better Records. It sounds nothing like the typically dull and smeary domestic Kinks LPs we are used to hearing. The overall sound is lively, musical, and natural. Drop the needle on No Return for wonderful sound and music — it’s got a bit of a Jobim vibe. 

After dropping the needle on a wonderful sounding copy a few months back, we started pursuing these in the hopes of getting a proper shootout together. It didn’t happen easily or inexpensively — clean looking copies of this one go for as much as $50 in the local bins, and that’s obviously with no guarantee of good sound or quiet vinyl. We found a few good ones and a few stinkers, but this copy went beyond our expectations. It’s got punchy bass, great energy, and real texture to everything. Most copies tend to be too smooth and veiled, but this one passed our tests with flying colors.

Play David Watts or No Return on side one for the best sound, and Afternoon Tea or Waterloo Sunset on side two for the same. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Rumours – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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

This Hot Stamper Rumours has FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUND! It’s been YEARS since we even tried to find 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!  (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Future Games

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  • An awesome pressing with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades on both sides, just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too! 
  • The sound is HUGE on this early pressing – it’s also wonderfully sweet and spacious, two qualities that are key to the best sounding copies of Future Games
  • Fleetwood Mac practically invented Space Rock, which reached its apotheosis in 1973 on Mystery to Me, my personal favorite by the band
  • A criminally underrated Fleetwood Mac album which is unlike anything you’ve heard, and a Better Records favorite for more than 40 years 

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Joan Baez – 5

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

Natural, unprocessed, clear, breathy vocal reproduction is the key to any Joan Baez album, and this side two will clearly demonstrate just how well-recorded Joan’s voice (and guitar) were by the Vanguard engineering team. We heard immediately that this side one was excellent. We had no idea the sound could get as good as it is on side two. It takes the sound and music to an entirely new level.

With just guitar, vocal and occasional cello, the “truth” of recording quality is hard to fault. After only a few moments there’s really no sound, only music. (more…)

Fleetwood Mac – Future Games – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

Finally, SUPERB SOUNDING STAMPERS have been discovered for this wonderful Fleetwood Mac album, a personal favorite from 1971! We can GUARANTEE you have never heard one that sounds like this, because practically every copy we’ve ever played sounded like an old cassette. Unless you have a very special copy — domestic, not Brit, more about that later — and know how to clean it right, the pressing you own of Future Games will have virtually no top end, no real ambience, and no presence to speak of.

The band will sound like it’s playing somewhere near the back wall of your listening room, maybe even behind it. In other words dead as a doornail. This is exactly how the album sounded for the first thirty years or so that I was listening to it. 

Not long ago I ran across a copy that blew my mind and I’ve been digging them up in preparation for this shootout ever since. Of course the stereo has gotten quite a bit better of late, which helped the album immensely; check out our Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary for the latest improvements.  (more…)