Reviews from Earlier Days

Tchaikovsky / Nutcracker Suite / Karajan – Reviewed in 2005

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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This import pressing has some astonishing qualities, qualities we are not used to hearing on vintage Golden Age recordings such as this (or or any other recordings, truth be told). This 1964 release — our pressing is the whiteback reissue, which we tend to prefer — has 3-D-like clarity and spaciousness that we could hardly believe. The stage is DEEP and you can hear all the way to the back of it. The width of the stage is dramatically wider than practically any record I can remember playing in the last year or two. I felt as though my listening room got bigger when playing this record.

And the dynamics are explosive. This pressing can really get LOUD when it wants to.

In some respects it’s hard to beat. But not, alas, hard to fault.

It lacks weight down low, whomp as we like to call it.

The details: (more…)

Aerosmith – Toys in the Attic – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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Looking for killer sound for both sides of this fun album? You’ve come to the right place! This unusually lively pressing combines a stunning A+++ side one with an equally wonderful, giving you White Hot Stamper sound from start to finish! The transparency here is exceptional, allowing you to hear all the musician’s contributions without the veiling and congestion that you get on most pressings. Sweet Emotion is a KNOCKOUT on this copy.  

Both A+++ sides have the kind of tight, meaty bottom end that is absolutely essential to this kind of music. While many copies we played suffered from a grainy, unpleasant top end, this one is smooth in all the right ways. It’s also got the kind of energy that makes this music still work well all these years later. Hot Stampers give you more presence, more weight down low and more fullness all around — the qualities that you really want for music like this.

I never really cared much for this band until recently, when I heard Sweet Emotion on my local classic rock station (The Octopus!) and realized that it would probably sound pretty amazing on a Hot Stamper vinyl version. Boy, was I right! It took quite a few copies and a whole lot of work, but the best sounding tracks on this one sound AMAZING. Sweet Emotion and Walk This Way are going to rock you!

Of course, not every copy sounds like this one. We’ve been picking these up for the last few months and I’m sorry to report that most of them leave much to be desired. This is bluesy hard rock a la The Faces, and if your copy is dull or smeared (as many of them are) you won’t get the full effect of this raw, ballsy rock ‘n’ roll. This ain’t polite music — you’re playing it for one reason and one reason alone: to ROCK OUT.

It’s hard to understand why this album didn’t get more love from audiophiles, while bands like Boston and Foreigner have gotten the full MoFi treatment. [No doubt somebody has recut this record on Heavy Vinyl by now.] All you have to do is drop the needle on the intro to Sweet Emotion and you’ll see why we decided to roll with this shootout. That’s not to say this is an amazing, top-shelf recording, but it certainly beats most of the dreck out there that passes for Audiophile-style classic rock. (If you disagree, I’ve got a nice copy of the Sheffield Track Record to sell you.)

TRACK LISTING (more…)

Art Pepper – Meets The Rhythm Section

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  • You’ll find very good Hot Stamper sound on both sides of this wonderful pressing – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear this wonderful album sound the way it is supposed to, a Hot Stamper pressing like this one is the way to go
  • Widely considered Art Pepper’s masterpiece and we couldn’t agree more
  • 5 stars: “… this recording convinced [Pepper] that emotion was the paramount impulse of jazz performance… a diamond of recorded jazz history.”

Many consider this to be the best record Art Pepper ever made, along with Art Pepper + Eleven, and I agree completely. Recorded in 1957 (the same year Way Out West was recorded) by the legendary Roy DuNann, the sound is absolutely wonderful.

The best pressings have all the Tubey Magic of the best black label originals, without their even worse vinyl and bloated bass. We get black label original Contemporary pressings in from time to time, but few of them are mastered right and most never make it to the site.

Some are pure muck. Some have bloated bass that is hard to believe. Don’t buy into that record collecting slash audiophile canard that Original Equals Better. That’s pure BS. It just doesn’t work that way, and anyone with two good ears, two good speakers and a decent-sized record collection should know better. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Symphony #6 (Pathetique) / Monteux

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

More Records that Sound Better on the Right Reissue

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This remastered Victrola version of the original Living Stereo pressing (LSC 1901) is guaranteed to KILL any and all originals — Shaded Dogs, White Dogs, Red Seals — you name it, this pressing will beat the pants off of it, guaranteed. I’ve played many copies of the earlier RCAs and I have surely never heard one sound like this, with so much LIFE and CLARITY. Where is all the old cutter head distortion, congestion and frequency limiting? It’s sure not here!

Side one is Super Hot (A++) and side two is EVEN BETTER, earning our coveted Top Grade of A Triple Plus! You may have noticed that not many vintage RCA recordings make it to the site with stellar grades such as these, so that makes this a very special pressing indeed. (more…)

Neil Young / Rust Never Sleeps – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A great (A++) side one backed with an AMAZING (A+++) side two, this is without a doubt one of the very best sounding copies of Rust Never Sleeps we have ever had the privilege of playing here at Better Records. Side two simply cannot be beat. Drop the needle on Powderfinger to hear the Crazy Horse sound at its best — the raging guitars, the big meaty bottom end, and the kind of immediacy that puts Neil Young and his band of misfits right in your listening room. 

Tubey Magic in 1979? Yes, analog was still alive and well then — both sides of this copy prove it. The disastrously synthesized ’80s were on their way but thankfully they hadn’t gotten here yet.

This is a live recording with minimal overdubs. Crazy Horse is of course widely recognized to be one of the all time killer concert acts of its day, so it’s a bit of a shame that most of the copies we played this week made us want to go to sleep. The not-so-Hot copies failed in a number of ways: thin guitars or vocals, overly dry or edgy sound, and insufficient presence, just to name a few. It was the rare copy that made us forget we were listening to a record and allowed us to really get into the music.

Needless to say we had this record playing very very loud. Twenty db less than at the live event, sure, at least, but very very loud for a 18×20 living room in the suburbs. (more…)

Thomson / The River & The Plow That Broke The Plains

TAS List Records Available Now

Reviews and Commentaries for TAS Super Disc Recordings

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Super Hot Stamper sound on BOTH sides! This later label Vanguard pressing has CLARITY and TRANSPARENCY that I would be very surprised to hear on the original Stereolab LP. There is practically no smear to the sound of this side one, which means the texture of the strings and the bite of the brass are here for all to savor. Old school tube mastering, the kind that would have been used to make the originals, rarely manages to avoid this kind of sound.

Of course Tubey Magic and smear go hand in hand, so this more modern mastering can’t give you all the Tubey Magic of the originals either. These are trade-offs to be sure. But this pressing sounds RIGHT in a way that not many original classical recordings from 1960 ever do.

This record sounds, for lack of a better word, ACCURATE. The instruments in this orchestra sound correct to my ear. I like Tubey Magic as much as the next guy, but when everything else is so good, as it is here, I can live without it. I don’t need it on every record. It’s a nice coloration, but it IS a coloration let’s not forget.

Side One

A++ Super Hot sound! Not all the richness one would hope for, but it does sound rich in its own way. So clear and so 3-D, this is what modern mastering (from the ’70s, not the crappy mastering of the last twenty plus years) can do amazingly well. It’s so TRANSPARENT you can hear all the way to the back of the hall, with layers of depth clearly delineated.

Side Two

A++, as good but different (of course). Big bass, bigger than the bass on side one. Very dynamic too. The horns are a bit shrill at the start but they calm down soon enough. Overall very similar tonality and spaciousness. A great record! (more…)

Ravel / Concerto in G – Munch/ Boston Symphony

More of the music of Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)

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DEMO QUALITY SOUND!

Boy does this record ever sound good! It’s alive. Dynamic and immediate, like a good Mercury but with plenty of ambience and sweet strings — the best of both worlds.

This is one of the great RCAs. Classic Records did a passable job with this title, which is about the best they ever do. It’s a far cry from the sound heard here but for those of you who do not want to spend the money, or insist on quiet surfaces, check that one out.

The performance is excellent as well, and of course the Ravel Concerto is a piece of music that belongs in any serious collection. (more…)

Strauss / Waltzes / Reiner

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Harry Pearson put this record on his TAS List of Super Disc LPs, but it’s the rare copy that deserves such an exclusive ranking. This copy delivers the sonic goods on side one with Super Hot Stamper sound.

Side two is not quite up to the standards set by side one. It’s darker, not as open and lacks some of the richness of the first side. That said, it’s still better than the average copy we’ve played and worlds better than any reissue.

Both sides have some deep powerful bass and are fairly dynamic.

(more…)

Festival of Russian Music / Reiner – Reviewed in 2008

Living Stereo Titles Available Now

200+ Reviews of Living Stereo Records

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Excellent sound, more mid-hall than some other RCAs. This is the Victrola version of the Shaded Dog of Festival. Some of these pieces are amazing in Reiner’s hands, Marche Slave, for example. Russlan and Ludmilla is also superb here. The sound is quite dynamic and powerful with very little distortion or noticeable compression. Reiner is excellent on music like this.

It should go without saying that this pressing kills the awful Classic Records pressing.

Art Pepper / Intensity – Thoughts on One of the Most Dynamic Contemporary Recordings

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A Classic Case of Audio Progress

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[This commentary was written in 2008.]

Intensity is right — this is some SERIOUSLY GOOD SOUNDING alto saxophone led quartet jazz. AMG was right to give this one 4 1/2 stars — the musicianship is top notch and Pepper’s playing is INSPIRED throughout. 

The real surprise was how well recorded this album from 1963 is. I can’t recall a more DYNAMIC Contemporary. Pepper’s sax gets seriously LOUD in some passages. This is very much a good thing. Not only is he totally committed to the music, but the engineers are getting that energy onto the record so that we at home can feel the moment to moment raw power of his playing.

(Pepper was famous for saying that his playing is best when he just plays whatever he feels in the moment, and this record is the best kind of evidence for the truth of that claim.)

Of course, since this is a Roy Dunann recording, all the tubey magical richness and sweetness are here as well, but what is surprising is how transparent, spacious and clear the sound is. Some of Roy’s recordings can sound a bit dead (recording in your stockroom is not always the best for spaciousness) and sometimes are a bit thick as well. Not so here. But it should be pointed out that we liked what we heard from a previous shootout too.

Last time around we wrote:

This record has superb sound: you can actually hear the keys clacking on the man’s alto. And that sort of detail does not come at the expense of phony brightness as it would with your typical audiophile recording. The tonality of the sax, drums, and bass are right on the money, exactly the way we expect Roy DuNann’s recording to be.

This time around we got more extension out of the cymbals. Either these copies are better, were cleaned better, or were helped quite a bit by our new Townshend SuperTweeters. (Probably the last two more than the first one.) (more…)