*Our Record Overview – The Good

Lionel Richie – Can’t Slow Down

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  • An outstanding copy of Richie’s second solo studio album, with solid Double Plus (A++) very ANALOG sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, smooth and natural, the sound here is guaranteed to please – recall that the 12″ of All Night Long was on the TAS List back in the day (and yes, I used to sell it!)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “In 1999, Q magazine included Can’t Slow Down on its list of the best Motown records of all time and stated, “Production values are high, his songwriting craft is at its peak and at least one track – the global smash ‘All Night Long’ – is an anthem to good times that makes the heart sing and feet twitch.””

This vintage Motown pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. (more…)

Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child is Father to the Man

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A QUIET White Hot Stamper on side one for BS and T’s debut, one of my favorite albums of all time. Why do we so rarely list amazing copies of this album? Let me ask you this: have you played one recently? The average copy of this record is a sonic MESS. Even the best copies have problems.

We present here a FREAKISHLY GOOD SOUNDING SIDE ONE. This copy blew the doors off the competition, earning our highest grade of A Triple Plus and giving us a whole new appreciation for what this record can really sound like! Who knew? The brass has power on this copy like we almost never hear for this album. The bass was bigger and bolder than any other; finally, here is the kind of rock sound we are always looking for on the album but is so elusive. (more…)

Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones

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  • Insanely good Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish; we rarely have these on the site!
  • Both sides here are incredible — big, rich, full-bodied and super spacious with tons of energy and presence
  • “…the dominant sounds on the record were low-pitched horns, bass instruments, and percussion, set in spare, close-miked arrangements…”
  • Allmusic 5 stars: “Swordfishtrombones marked an evolution of which Waits had not seemed capable”

This is yet another wonderful sounding Tom Waits recording, though it’s very different from the earlier titles from his catalog that have been featured on our site before. While we’re huge fans of the sound Waits and engineer Bones Howe put together on albums like Small Change and Heartattack and Vine, this album marked a turning point for Waits and the sound of his albums. (more…)

Big Brother & The Holding Company – Cheap Thrills

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

We’ve rarely been able to get this shootout off the ground, but we finally managed to stumble upon enough clean copies to get this round going. It’s been well over two years since we’ve had any copy of this album on the site!

This album has got that trippy ’60s San Francisco sound, no doubt about it. Those of you who are familiar with Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow or the early Grateful Dead albums know what I’m talking about. The tubey magic of the guitars is worth the price of admission alone; you just don’t hear this kind of sound on modern records.

Like you might expect from this mixture of blues and psychedelic rock, the sound can be a bit raw. Of course, that’s probably the way the band wanted it to be — I don’t see what a mastering engineer might have done to make this music work any better. Much of this material is recorded at The Fillmore (check out the one and only Bill Graham introducing the band at the beginning) and the sound is surprisingly good for live ’60s sound. (more…)

INXS – Kick

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  • INXS’s one true Masterpiece album comes to the site with two KILLER sides each rating a Triple Plus (A+++) or close to it – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly rich and full-bodied, the best copies really ROCK with big bass and punchy drums.
  • The Big Rock sound is courtesy of Chris Thomas’ production and Bob Clearmountain’s mix
  • “Kick is an impeccably crafted pop tour de force, the band succeeding at everything they try. Every track has at least a subtly different feel from what came before it; INXS freely incorporates tense guitar riffs, rock & roll anthems, swing-tinged pop/rock, string-laden balladry, danceable pop-funk, horn-driven ’60s soul, ’80s R&B, and even a bit of the new wave-ish sound they’d started out with.”

For a recording from 1987 there is a surprising amount of rich, Tubey Magical Analog sound to be found here.

There is almost always a trace of hardness in the loudest vocal parts; that’s where the 1987 recording technology raises its head, but the better copies such as this one keep it to a bare minimum.

The copies that were the richest and had the biggest bottom end, without being smeary or dark from a lack of top tended to do the best in our shootout. The copies that lacked weight or lower midrange fullness were most often rejected; rhythmically driven Funk Rock simply doesn’t work without plenty of richness and bass. (more…)

Miles Davis – Thelonious Monk – Miles & Monk at Newport

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

This Columbia 360 LP has EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD LIVE JAZZ SOUND, but only on the Monk side. It sounds, to my mind, probably as good as this record can sound. It’s very rich and full-bodied with a very strong bottom end. The energy and presence are WONDERFUL! Monk’s piano has real weight and the brass sounds just right. We played this against a few other copies and none of them came close. We give side two an A++ — I don’t think you can find one that sounds any better.

Of special note is the excellent work of Frankie Dunlap on drums, and of course Charlie Rouse is always interesting. Add to those top players somone you wouldn’t normally associate with Monk — Pee Wee Russell on clarinet, here proving that he’s every bit the bop jazz musician that these other guys are.

The Miles side sounds like what you’d expect from an old jazz concert recording — somewhat thin, flat, and lifeless. We didn’t give it a grade, and we’ve never heard one that sounded very good. I just don’t think Hot Stampers for the Miles side are in the cards.  (more…)

Black Sabbath – Our Shootout Winner from 2015


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Yet another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volum.

We played the album very loud, as loud as we could, and still we wanted more volume! That’s what a good record is all about — the louder you play it the better it sounds.

If you like the raw, rockin’ sound of early Zep, you should have a blast with this album. It’s a shockingly good recording, and the music is of course as heavy as it gets for 1970.

This Warner Brothers Green Label pressing DESTROYED the import copies we played it against with startling immediacy, tons of ambience, and loads of texture. The soundfield is HUGE — back wall to front wall, floor to ceiling, and WIDE. The bass is Right On The Money — deep, well-defined, and punchy.

If you want this effect:

“Sabbath’s slowed-down, murky guitar rock bludgeons the listener in an almost hallucinatory fashion, reveling in its own dazed, druggy state of consciousness.”

You need a copy that sounds the way this one does!  (more…)

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

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  • A stunning sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish; exceptionally quiet vinyl too!
  • Both sides are incredibly big, rich and Tubey Magical with a lovely bottom end and tons of energy
  • We don’t offer Greatest Hits albums often but this one sounds too good to ignore!
  • “Scrumptious! All hits, except for two excellent B-sides: the exquisite “Choosey Beggar,” a marvelous ballad with an Asiatic feel, and the poignant “Save Me”…” – All Music, 4 Stars

Both sides are simply amazing from start to finish. Motown’s trademark phony top end boost is gone. Most copies we played had some of that sound, including a boosted upper midrange, but our Hot Stampers will keep the problems under control while at the same time giving you presence, energy and space, layered on a good solid base of low end. (more…)

Charles Mingus – Oh Yeah

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  • This insanely good original stereo pressing of Mingus’s brilliant Oh Yeah from 1962 boasts outstanding Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A++++) sound from first note to last
  • Tubey Magical, lively and clear, with three-dimensionality that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • Phil Iehle and Tom Dowd made up the engineering team for these sessions, which explains why the best copies of the album sound so damn good
  • A raucous (and ROCKIN’) deviation from traditional jazz, this compilation incorporates R&B and soul influences – Mingus even lends his rich vocal stylings to a few songs
  • 5 stars: “Oh Yeah is probably the most offbeat Mingus album ever, and that’s what makes it so vital.”

This original Atlantic stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records rarely even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the Mingus, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

Engineering Excellence

The engineering duties were handled by Phil Iehle, a man who recorded some of Coltrane’s most iconic albums for Atlantic, Giant Steps (1960) and Coltrane Jazz (also in 1961), and the venerable Tom Dowd, who also did Giant Steps (1960), Coltrane Jazz (1961), Coltrane’s Sound (1964) and many others. (more…)