Reviews from Earlier Days

Frank Sinatra – All The Way

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

This vintage ’60s Capitol pressing was our clear winner, with Triple Plus sound on both sides. It has the all the Tubey Magic one could ask for, allowing Sinatra’s rich baritone to work its magic on every phrase. As you can well imagine, finding clean, scratch-free ’60s Sinatra records like this one, in stereo no less, is no walk in the park.

This group of singles and B-sides was recorded from 1957 to 1960 – it contain some of Sinatra’s better known songs arranged by Nelson Riddle. (more…)

Weather Report – Heavy Weather

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  • With outstanding Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish you will not believe how BIG and BOLD this copy is
  • Birdland on this pressing has some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl
  • Joe Zawinul and Jaco Pastorius are both here and at the absolute peak of their creative powers – this is a work of GENIUS
  • Allmusic 5 Stars: ”Birdland’ is a remarkable bit of record-making, a unified, ever-developing piece of music that evokes, without in any way imitating, a joyous evening on 52nd St. with a big band.”

The hottest of the hot stamper pressings demonstrate that this is a truly amazing recording, with some of the most dynamic, wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling jam-packed sound ever committed to vinyl. The grit, grain and grunge of most pressings is nowhere to be found on these killer sides, and that alone puts them in a very special league indeed.

What To Listen For (WTLF)

We’ve discovered that the key to the hottest sounding pressings is a fairly simple one: the copies with high frequency extension and the tremendous rhythmic energy that results from it are consistently the best sounding.

You may have read elsewhere on the site that what separates many of the best Columbia LPs from their competition is an open, extended top end. For some reason, Columbia, seemingly more than any other label, had a bad habit of making slightly dull records. Slightly dull does not work for this album.

My notes on Palladium in the Track Listing sum it up: when the highs on the record are right, it almost always comes together. Unfortunately, most copies don’t have those highs. There’s more to it of course: some copies lack bass, some sound a bit grainy and gritty — the normal problems associated with vinyl records are all here.

But when you have good highs, you are way more than halfway hom; you are about 80 to 85% of the way toward a Hot Stamper. Just fill in the last few details (bass, dynamics, etc.) and the sound will more than likely blow your mind. (more…)

Sibelius / Finlandia / Mackerras on VICS 1069 – A $50 Hot Stamper from 2004(!)

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DEMO QUALITY SOUND and quiet surfaces too.

I don’t know when I’ve heard this album with better sound. This one may be better than the best Shaded Dog for all I know — it’s that good.

You’ll notice that there is a copy of this very same record on the website for $1.99. That one sounds dull. I don’t think you’ll be able to find a better sounding copy of this record than the pressing we are selling here, because it really is an exceptionally good sounding record. If it weren’t, it would be more like $1.99.

[Yes, we used to sell some records for $1.99. Probably should have donated them to the Goodwill. Most of our run-of-the-mill classical goes there now. The local record stores don’t want them anymore. That ship has sailed.]

Rossini-Respighi / La Boutique Fantasque – Reversed Polarity Copy

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This is one of the pressings we’ve discovered with Reversed Polarity.

This is a WONDERFUL sounding, very quiet original Shaded Dog pressing of one of the rarest Living Stereo titles. Dropping the needle on side one was a shock — the sound was terrible: thin, shrill and practically unlistenable. Since I know this to be an exceptionally good sounding record, there was only one possibility: reverse absolute phase. Sure enough, the magic of Living Stereo reappeared. If you can’t reverse your polarity, this is not the record for you! 

Are they all that way? I have no way of knowing. I run across a clean quiet copy like this once every ten years or so. If any of you out there own this record and yours is not reversed phase let me know what your stamper numbers are, I’d be very interested.

This has always been a favorite title with audiophiles. It’s full of lovely orchestral colors, much like The Nutcracker. As usual, Fiedler and the Boston Pops are accorded superb sound.

Love – Da Capo

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  • Insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) stereo sound or close to it from start to finish and one of the few White Hot copies to ever make it to the site
  • The recording quality here is big, rich and Tubey Magical, with lovely breathy vocals and a massive bottom end – thanks Bruce Botnick!
  • “… a truly classic body of work, highlighted by the atomic blast of pre-punk rock “7 and 7 Is” (their only hit single), the manic jazz tempos of “Stephanie Knows Who,” and the enchanting “She Comes in Colors,” perhaps Lee’s best composition (and reportedly the inspiration for the Rolling Stones’ “She’s a Rainbow”).”

If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1967 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. This Gold Label pressing is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it. (more…)

Grossman & Renbourn on East World Direct to Disc

This is an East World Direct-To-Disc Japanese Import LP.

Lovely acoustic music; the best cuts are the first two tracks on side two. They sound like a classic Vanguard recording from the ’60s. One of the best East World titles.

The record comes complete with the tablature/lyric sheet and extensive liner notes on the recording process. 

Roy Orbison – Roy Orbison’s Greatest Hits

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

You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or close to it on both sides of this Monument stereo pressing. The amazingly talented Bill Porter recorded many of Orbison’s classic songs from the early ’60s that are found on this compilation. Only a copy this good shows you how phenomenal these timeless songs can sound – rich, open, clear, solid and musical.

If you think that buying original pressings of an album like this one is the way to find the best sound, you are sorely mistaken. The originals and most reissues on the Monument label are mostly dreadful sounding.

The monos sound bad and the originals sound bad, which means that all the conventional wisdom of record collectors and audiophiles alike has failed to produce the desired result: a good sounding pressing of the album. What’s a mother to do?

Well, you could do what we did: try them all! If you keep at it long enough eventually you will run into the right pressing, and then you can focus on getting a large enough batch which will allow you to find one that sounds great and plays quietly.

Or you could just buy this one. We already did all that other stuff and this is the pressing that resulted from our labors. (more…)

Rabin / The Magic Bow / Slatkin – Reviewed in 2010

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This original Capitol record with Michael Rabin is ONE OF THE VERY BEST VIOLIN RECORDINGS we have ever played here at Better Records. The sound is OUT OF THIS WORLD! The immediacy of the violin tone is unbelievable — Rabin is in the room with you throughout the entirety of the record in a way that few recordings in our experience could hope to equal.

What more can we say, other than the music is every bit as good as the sound. If you love the Classical Romantic period, and who doesn’t, these selections will have you in a world of sound and music rarely matched by anything but the best in live performance.

Another TAS List Oversight

This is another record that is not on the TAS List, but would certainly take top honors in a head to head shootout with any of the violin works to be found there. (more…)

Al Stewart – Past, Present & Future

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One of the few good copies of this album we’ve ever heard! Side one of this domestic pressing is a stunner, rating between A++ and A+++ with excellent sounding bass, incredible transparency and lots of energy. The vocals sound just right and the overall sound is wonderfully clean and clear. Side two wasn’t quite as amazing but still beat the pants off most of the copies we had — it was rich and full enough to earn an A+ grade.  

It took us ages to track down copies of this album that didn’t sound flat, boring, and stuck in the speakers. We played a large number of Brit and domestic copies, and while both versions can sound lovely on the best pressings, there are certainly plenty of bad sounding versions out there from both countries.

This is the album that comes before Modern Times, Year Of The Cat and Time Passages in the Al Stewart discography, so if you’re a fan of any of those albums I imagine you’ll find a lot to like here. (more…)

Thelonious Monk – Criss-Cross

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  • This wonderful pressing of Thelonious Monk’s second studio album has outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Columbia records produced by Teo Macero in the early ’60s have consistently open, natural sound – this one from ’63 is no exception
  • The piano sounds amazing here — natural and dynamic, letting Monk’s passionate playing shine
  • 4 stars: “Thelonious Monk’s second album for Columbia Records features some of the finest work that Monk ever did in the studio with his ’60s trio and quartet … This is prime Monk for any degree of listener.”

I wish more Blue Note records had this kind of sound — natural, full-bodied, and sweet up top. The bass here is well-defined with real weight and lots of punch. Monk’s piano sounds correct from the highest notes all the way down to the lower register, and the sax sounds tonally right on the money. The clarity and transparency are superb throughout. (more…)