Shootout Winners – 2013

Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Jim Reeves – The Intimate Jim Reeves

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

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music found here are enchanting. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1963 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy may be just the record for you.

All the copies we played were stereo. We’ve had very poor luck with mono pressings of Living Stereo recordings and tend to avoid them.

Produced by Chet Atkins in Nashville, 1960, with Bill Porter engineering. This is superb countrypolitan pop by the man who practically invented it.

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Jim Reeves is lucky to have had the Bill Porter and his staff of RCA engineers from the era on his team. Although we love to do these vintage Hot Stamper shootouts, finding clean copies of these albums is getting harder every day.

What do we love about these Living Stereo Hot Stamper pressings? The timbre of every instrument is Hi-Fi in the best sense of the word. The instruments here are recorded with remarkable fidelity. Now that’s what we at Better Records mean by “Hi-Fi”, not the kind of Audiophile Phony BS Sound that passes for Hi-Fidelity these days.

There’s no boosted top, there’s no bloated bottom, there’s no sucked-out midrange. There’s no added digital reverb (Patricia Barber, Diana Krall, et al.). The microphones are not fifty feet away from the musicians (Water Lily) nor are they inches away (Three Blind Mice).

This is Hi-Fidelity for those who recognize The Real Thing when they hear it. I’m pretty sure our customers do, and any of you out there who pick this one up are guaranteed to get a real kick out of it!

Turn Up the Volume on Prez Prado

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Tube smear is common to most pressings from the late ’50s, and this Prez Prado record is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least amount of smear, or none, yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich. Full sound is especially critical to the horns: any blare, leanness or squawk ruins much of the fun, certainly at the loud levels the record should be playing at.

Which brings up a point that needs making. The tonality of this record is correct when it is playing loud. The trumpets do not get harsh at loud volumes the way they will on, say, a Chicago record. The timbre of the instruments is correct when loud, which means that it was mixed loud to sound correct when loud.

The frequency extremes (on the best copies) are not boosted in any way. When you play this record quietly, the bottom and top will disappear (due to the way the ear handles quieter sounds as described by the Fletcher-Munson curve). (more…)

June Christy – June’s Got Rhythm

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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June Christy – June’s Got Rhythm

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame from 1960.

This Super Hot Stamper original stereo Capitol LP from 1958 has SUPERB SOUND on both sides and some of the best June Christy music we’ve ever had the pleasure to play. Just listen to the piano on Gypsy In My Soul; it’s rich, warm and full-bodied. You’ll never hear an RVG recording with a piano that sounds like that. On side two drop the needle on Easy Living to get a taste of some of Capitol’s luscious Tubey Magical midrange.

Musically this album is right up there with the best we know, the creme de la creme of female vocal recordings, albums on the level of Clap Hands and Something Cool and Lady in Satin.

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Backed by an intimate combo of star jazzmen, June swings a set of fresh songs in an eventful album that sings out to the whole world that she has, indeed, got rhythm.

For an album of warm, breathy, intimate female vocals, it really doesn’t get much better than this.

What to Listen For

We had the best luck with copies that were warm and rich yet clear, and not too dry or harsh when June decides to really belt it out. Practically no copies did not have at least some grit, dryness or harshness on June’s vocals at some point. (more…)

Tony Bennett – Alone Together

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Tony Bennett – Alone Together

A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame from 1960.

TWO EXCELLENT SIDES for this Six-Eye pressing, including a near-White Hot A++ to A+++ side two! This album has Bennett singing a collection of ballads, and when you hear it with this kind of transparency and immediacy it REALLY works. He’s one of our favorite singers, so it’s a real treat to find a copy with this kind of sound.

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Side One

A++, rich and full with big time immediacy. The soundfield has real depth, and the transparency is wonderful. So good!

Side Two

A++ to A+++, even better than side one! Albums like this live and die by the reproduction of the vocals, and this side really nails it. There’s plenty of space and openness, and the presence is startling. Tony Bennett is right there in the listening room. Absolutely killer!

Duke Ellington – The Ellington Suites

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Jazz Classics

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Duke Ellington – The Ellington Suites

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

An A++ side one, an A+++ side two and quiet vinyl throughout make this copy an Ellington LP that is sure to impress! Side one of this album features a piece called “The Queen’s Suite” that was recorded in 1959. On this A++ side, you get stunningly Tubey Magical late ’50s jazz sound — something that’s almost impossible to come by on any recording made after that.

1976 Grammy Award Winner for Best Jazz Performance by a Big Band.

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I know of no other Pablo record with sound so rich, full and warm. This one destroyed a big stack of copies we’d been collecting for years in order to do this shootout. Unless you have a good sized batch, ten or more, you will have a tough time finding one with sound anywhere near this amazing.

The Queen’s Suite, which takes up side one, was recorded in 1959 and sounds amazing. As you can imagine, this has one of the best Ellington bands ever assembled, with players like Clark Terry, Paul Gonzalves, Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges… the list of jazz giants goes on and on. If you enjoy the classic albums by Mingus on Atlantic, you’re gonna love this work. The sound is excellent as well, earning an A++ grade — open, spacious and transparent with tight bass and an extended top end.

Side two has material performed by Ellington in the early ’70s, which though not as good musically, is still very enjoyable. On this copy, it sounds amazing, earning an A+++ grade with incredible transparency and immediacy. The overall sound is airy and open with lots of breathy texture to the horns and woodwinds. (more…)

You Too Can Get an Old Buffalo Springfield Record to Sound This Good

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Not long ago we found a White Hot Stamper pressing of Last Time Around that really blew our minds. We were surprised to hear some of the breathiest, silkiest vocals we’ve ever heard on ANY Buffalo Springfield album, with startling presence and immediacy to boot! This side two had BY FAR the most energy and life of any side of any copy we’ve ever played. Man, does it ROCK.

Even as recently as 2010 we would not have expected to find that kind of sound on a vintage ’60s pop/rock album. We know better now.

When you get hold of the right copy and know how to clean it and play it right, these vintage pressings (well, the White Hot ones anyway) are a damn sight better than the vast majority of audiophiles think they are. How is such apparently never-before-possible sound being heard now, 45 years after the record came out? Our answer can be found below. 

Tubey Magical Midrange

 The kind of MIDRANGE MAGIC on this pressing let us hear into the music in a way we (and you too I’m guessing) never imagined was possible.

Most copies have no bass, no real top, and are compressed so badly they sound more like cardboard than vinyl. But not this copy — it breaks the mold, revealing to the world (well, our world anyway, the world at Better Records) that those badly recorded Buffalo Springfield records from the ’60s weren’t so badly recorded after all.

It Only Takes One

Badly mastered, badly pressed, yes, we can all agree on that.

But all it takes is an amazing sounding copy like this one to disprove the theory that these are bad recordings — an inconvenient truth shall we call it? — and we found more than one. The proposition that this band’s records can’t sound good has officially and definitively been falsified. (more…)

McCartney’s Must Own Masterpiece

McCartney

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We have been touting McCartney’s first solo album for more than a decade. Ever read a word about it in an audiophile context elsewhere? Of course you haven’t! The audiophile world doesn’t know and doesn’t care about great albums like this one, but we at Better Records LIVE for albums with sound and music of this caliber. It’s a permanent resident of our Top 100 List for a reason: no other solo album by a Beatle can touch it.

As for surface issues, we wish we could find them quiet, but that is simply not an option, especially considering how dynamic the recording is. We’ve used every trick in the book to try to get copies of this album to play Mint Minus, but it’s not usually in the cards. Maybe I’m Amazed, in particular, seems to be noisy on nine copies out of every ten. If you’re looking for a copy without any surface noise, you’re probably better off tracking down the DCC Gold CD, which is actually quite good.

But no CD is ever going to sound like our record, not now, not ever. This is where I simply can’t understand how the typical audiophile can make the tradeoff for flat, average sound with quiet vinyl — the sound of these Heavy Vinyl reissues that have sprouted up all over the place, each one worse than the last — and the wonderful, but slightly noisy, sound to be found on the best originals.

Of course the obvious answer is that it is simply too much work to find enough original copies to clean and play in order to come across that needle in a haystack: the Hot Stamper pressing.

See all of our Paul McCartney albums in stock

The best tracks here have the quality of LIVE MUSIC in a way that not one out of a hundred rock records do. It sounds like it’s recorded live in the studio, but of course that’s impossible, because Paul plays practically all the instruments himself! It just goes to show how good a multi-track studio recording can sound when done well.

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Behind the Scenes of One of My Favorite Recordings

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An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality. The music by its very nature taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep bass notes; incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record, and then some.

You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can’t even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!

See more of the music of Bernard Herrmann in stock