Older Reviews – Rock and Pop

Devo – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo

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  • Devo’s superb debut finally returns to the site after more than a year, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • This pressing is head and shoulders above the pack, with the kind of big, punchy, full-bodied sound this music absolutely demands
  • Tons of great songs on here, including Uncontrollable Urge, Jocko Homo, Too Much Paranoias, and their killer cover of The Stones’ Satisfaction
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A seminal touchstone in the development of American new wave… had a conceptual unity that bolstered the consistent songwriting, making it an essential document of one of new wave’s most influential bands.”

Let the Devolution begin! 

While Devo’s music may never sound as rich, warm, and tubey as the typical classic rock album, that certainly doesn’t mean we need to accept completely anemic, sterile sound for this album. It took a big stack of copies, but here’s one that made us sit up straight, pay attention and enjoy!

Tons of great songs here, including Uncontrollable Urge, Jocko Homo, Too Much Paranoias, and their killer cover of The Stones’ Satisfaction. (more…)

Manfred Mann – The Best Of… – Reviewed in 2008

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This EMI British Import Mono LP (an early reissue from the ’70s I’m guessing) has SHOCKINGLY GOOD sound, by far the best I have ever heard for this music and worlds better than expected. We cleaned this one up and gave it a listen; we couldn’t believe how good it sounded! These songs are actually very well recorded — and most were made way back in the early days of the British Invasion: ’64 to ’66! This is not your midrangey Mamas and Papas and Kinks; these recordings are rich and full-bodied in the best tradition of what was to follow in British Rock with The Beatles, Jethro Tull, Zep, Floyd and the like.

Obviously Manfred Mann is not exactly in that league, but these are still some great songs, from Do-Wah-Diddy Diddy to Sha-La-La and Got My Mojo Working. A good time is guaranteed for all. We had a blast.

By the way, if you want to know where Bruce Springsteen found (or stole if you like) much of his sound, play this album and I think you will hear it too. (more…)

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

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  • A KILLER copy with Demo Disc Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • 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…)

Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains The Same – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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FREAKISHLY GOOD LIVE ZEP SOUND! This Swan Song LP is just full of the Zep Magic — super lively and full-bodied with a whole lotta WHOMP. Bonzo’s drum sound is LARGER THAN LIFE on this copy. Three of the four sides here rate ABOVE A++. 

We’ve never heard a copy of this album sound anywhere near amazing before. Most of the copies we’ve played sound like bad, second-generation bootleg cassettes. We still pick them up every time we see them — hey, it’s Zep, man — but we weren’t sure we’d ever hear a decent copy. We dropped the needle on this one and were SHOCKED at how hard it rocked. Inspired, we pulled out all of our clean copies, — as we imagined, none of them came anywhere close to this monster!

How big is the difference between our top dog here and the rest of the pack? Our second place winner had four and a half pluses between the four sides — this one has NINE PLUSES. Furthermore, no other side on ANY other copy we play rated higher than A++, while this one rates above A++ on three sides. Talk about a landslide! (more…)

Frank Zappa / Hot Rats – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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It takes us YEARS to find copies that sound like this one. Bernie’s version for Classic beats a lot of copies out there, but it can’t hold a candle to this one.

I’ve been listening to Hot Rats since I was in high school. It’s still remarkably fresh and original, even now. This is not music for the faint of heart. Audiophiles who prefer a steady diet of Patricia Barber and her like will find little of interest here. But for those of you who want to explore something completely original and a bit “out there,” this should be right up your alley — and be sure to check out Waka Jawaka too.

Reading in the liner notes today, I see that one of the engineers on this album is Jack Hunt, the famous half-speed mastering engineer who cut records for Mobile Fidelity and Direct Disc Labs. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Side One

Excellent tonal balance from top to bottom, with more transparency and top end than the typical copy.

Side Two

Rich and tubey with nice top extension and a spacious, three-dimensional quality. (more…)

Gino Vannelli / Powerful People – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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This is some of the best sound we heard in our shootout, coming in right behind our winning sides. Few copies were as BIG and BOLD as this, and that is unquestionably our sound. 

Overall this copy is far richer and fuller than most, and that’s a big deal on Powerful People, an album which is almost always pure midrange — no bottom, no top, just midrange. Until we did this shootout I wasn’t sure we would ever find a copy with any real bass or top end. For that very reason we had more than once abandoned this project in past years.

Then, a few months back I came across a cheap CD of the album in my local record store and started playing the hell out of it in my car. I had completely forgotten how good the music was, but it all came rushing back to me — once I had cut the CD’s treble and boosted the bass so that it sounded rich and smooth like the MoFi vinyl. Soon enough I knew we had to do the shootout, and fortunately for all involved the best copies of the album sounded amazingly good, much better than I remember and a whole lot better than the seriously flawed MoFi I used to play. (more…)

Cat Stevens / Teaser & The Firecat – A Top Ten Title

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  • This timeless Classic Folk Rock recording on the British Island label offers superb Demo Disc Quality sound on both sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • With Double Plus (A++) grades this copy is guaranteed to rock your world with their richness, clarity, transparency, and ENERGY
  • AMG 5 Stars and a Top 100 album – it just may be the Best Sounding record Cat Stevens ever made – quiet vinyl too
  • Tuesday’s Dead, Morning Has Broken, Bitterblue, Moonshadow, Peace Train – and that’s just side two! What side of any album has five songs of such quality?

Teaser & The Firecat is an amazing recording — a permanent member of our Top 100 in fact — but the average pressing only hints at just how good it can sound. A copy like this, with plenty of Tubey Magic, clarity and presence, is practically a different album.

Before I get further into the sound of this record, let me preface my remarks by saying this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made two records which belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of folky pop, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other recordings that are as good but there are no other recordings that are better.

When you hear The Wind, Changes IV, or If I Laugh on this copy, you will be convinced, as I am, that this is one of the greatest popular recordings in the history of the world. I don’t know of ANY other album that has more LIFE and MUSICAL ENERGY than this one. (more…)

Billy Squier – Don’t Say No

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side two and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side one, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • HUGE Rock Sound — the guitars and drums are positively jumping out of the speakers with dynamic energy, presented on a stage that’s exceptionally wide and tall — which means the two monster hits In The Dark and The Stroke both rock like crazy, with more bottom and top end extension than practically any of the other copies we played
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Billy Squier truly arrived with 1981’s Don’t Say No… The album is a near-perfect example of early-’80s melodic hard rock… as far as studio albums are concerned, Don’t Say No is undoubtedly his best.”

There’s a reason this album sounds big and lively. It was produced by Reinhold Mack (“& Billy” according to the liner notes), Mack being the man who produced a truly amazing sounding Queen album, The Game. If you’ve ever heard a serious Hot Stamper of that album, you know what we’re talking about when we say it delivers the Big Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Turn it up and rock out! (more…)

The Hollies – Live Hits

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This is a Minty and wonderful British import Red Label Polydor LP from 1976. The sound is quite good — a bit of hardness creeps in to the loud sections from time to time, but the music is so enjoyable it’s easy to look past that. The Hollies wrote and performed so many great songs in the sixties that I grew up with, playing this record was a real joy. Allan Clarke has such an incredible pop voice, and his bandmates harmonize with him beautifully, it reminds me of how good the radio used to be when I was growing up. They sure don’t sing ’em like this anymore!

Graham Nash is missing, and his high harmony vocal would be a nice addition, but you can’t have everything. What you can have is a  beautifully sung pop album full of great songs.

Queen / News Of the World – Our Shootout Winner from 2007

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This EMI import LP has TWO SUPERB DEMO DISC QUALITY SIDES! Each received an A+++, making this BY FAR THE BEST SINGLE COPY we have ever heard. This copy set a new standard for the sound of this album; we’ve never heard anything like it! 

Both sides boast rich, lively sound, with some of the sweetest vocals we’ve ever heard on ANY Queen album. In a world filled with ridiculously compressed, lifeless sounding pressings, this album blasted out of the speakers that made all other Queen albums sound anemic in comparison. MASTER TAPE SOUND? You better believe it. (more…)