Top 100 Rock and Pop

Neil Young – Comes A Time

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  • A STUNNING copy of Neil Young’s 1978 release, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from first note to last
  • Drop the needle on Comes A Time or Look Out For My Love and hear how rich, warm and Tubey Magical the sound is
  • The best copies of Comes a Time are the sonic equal of the best recordings in Neil’s catalog – and that’s saying a lot
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Comes a Time finally was the Neil Young album for the millions of fans who had loved Harvest, an acoustic-based record with country overtones and romantic, autobiographical lyrics, and many of those fans returned to the fold, enough to make Comes a Time Young’s first Top Ten album since Harvest.”

Here’s a copy of Comes A Time that actually delivers the kind of Tubey Analog Magic you get from the good pressings of his earlier albums.

This superb Demo Disc has been overlooked by the audiophile press for forty years. The best-sounding Neil Young records — just look in our Hot Stamper listings to find them — have Demo Disc sound to beat the band. I defy anyone to play me a better-sounding record than Zuma or Gold Rush. Analog doesn’t get any more magical.

On the best copies, all the Demo Disc qualities are here: breathy vocals with solid body; huge amounts of ambience; super-transparency; dynamics; note-like punchy bass — the list goes on and on.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

The All Music Guide is right on the money with their four and a half star assessment. We also wholeheartedly agree that this is the True Successor to Harvest, and would add that it’s the only Neil Young album to merit that distinction. To be blunt about it, Harvest Moon is no Comes a Time. (more…)

Blood Sweat and Tears – The 30 Second Spinning Wheel Test

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blood, Sweat and Tears

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This test is found in the track commentary for side two of our Hot Stamper listings for the album. If you think you have a hot copy, see if yours does what our best copies do.

We also think that a record like this — a dynamic, full-spectrum recording, not overly concerned with detail — makes a much better Test Disc than the kind most audiophiles seem to prefer. Patricia Barber it is not.

If you’re in the market for new speakers, take this record — or one like it — with you to the audition. Any speaker that can play this record properly deserves your consideration, or at the very least your respect.

In my experience not many speakers have what it takes to do this album justice.

The Blood, Sweat and Tears Spinning Wheel Test 

The first thirty seconds are key. Here is what you should be listening for.

Piano, Cowbell, Snare

Side two starts off with a bang; note that the piano has real weight to it right from the git go. When the cowbell comes in it should not sound muffled in any way (it’s a bell, don’t you know), quickly followed by the solid-as-a-rock-snare (the best on record.)

The Brass

On the killer copies that first blast of brass will be completely free of grain or grunge, yet the brass instruments themselves (trumpets and trombone) have all their leading edge transients, their “bite,” fully intact. They’re not in any way muffled or smeared, yet the sound is never aggressive. If anything, the brass is so free from distortion and so tonally correct it should actually sound smooth.

The Vocals

Some of the vocals on side one can have a bit of honk or edge, but not here. They are natural, rich and sweet as any you will hear on the album.

Bottom End Energy

And don’t forget that there is a tremendous amount of bottom end throughout the song. It’s the very foundation of the music, and it needs to be reproduced properly, no ifs, ands or buts, as in “but I only have a small speaker”. To play this song you need big woofers and lots of them. Small speakers simply make a mockery of this music.

If you’ve ever heard big band up close, you know that there is not a speaker in the world that can do justice to that sound. It’s too big and it’s too powerful. But some speakers do more justice than others, and in my experience those speakers tend to have large cabinets with plenty of dynamic drivers. If you have a system built around such speakers there is a very good chance that this will be the best sounding record you have ever heard, assuming you have one of our Hot Stamper pressings or a good one of your own. If not, we would love to get you one. You won’t believe the sound.

Now You Try

Play your own copy. Everything you need to know about the sound of your LP can be heard in the first thirty seconds of side two. On the Hot Stampers it’s all there. On most copies, however, the reverse is true: Problems raise their ugly heads right off the bat. Thinness, grain, smearing, bloat, edginess — all the failings that records are heir to will be thrown in your face if your copy is not up to snuff, and not many of them are. (more…)

The Doors – Self-Titled

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  • An outstanding copy of the band’s debut with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – we guarantee you’ve never experienced The Doors like this!
  • The sound is incredibly big, rich and spacious, with a rock solid bottom end and energy that puts the lie to the modern veiled, lifeless reissue
  • Only the right Gold Label originals can win a shootout, and few of them are not going to have condition issues, but the two here are fairly minor all things considered
  • A must-own album “whose nonstop melodicism and dynamic tension would never be equaled by the group again, let alone bettered.”
  • 5 stars: “A tremendous debut album, and indeed one of the best first-time outings in rock history, introducing the band’s fusion of rock, blues, classical, jazz and poetry with a knockout punch.”

Superb sound on this copy of the Doors self-titled classic! You won’t believe how good the sound is here — big and rich with plenty of bottom end and an energy level that’s really something to hear! Thanks, Bruce Botnick, you da man!

Honestly, we must return or reject 80% of the copies that come through the door, which should go a long way towards explaining why they hit the site with such irregularity. We know what the best stampers are and have for quite a while. What we have a devil of a time doing is finding anyone selling the album who knows how to grade it properly, especially when it comes to the kind of groove damage that’s common to records played on turntables that lack anti-skate. (more…)

The Real Eagles Sound Comes From the Real Eagles Master Tape

Reviews and Commentaries for The First Eagles Album

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[This commentary is roughly twenty years old. Still true though.]

At one time this was my single favorite Demo Disc. A customer who bought one of these once told me it was the best sounding record he had ever heard in his life. I don’t doubt it for a minute. It’s certainly as good as any rock record I have ever heard, and I’ve heard some awful good ones.

The Real Sound Comes from the Real Master Tape

There’s an interesting story behind this album, which I won’t belabor here. One listen to a later reissue or Heavy Vinyl pressing or Greatest Hits and you’ll know I speak the truth when I say that the tape used to cut this pressing was never used again to cut any other. It is GONE. LOST FOREVER. Most copies of this album are mediocre at best, and positively painful to listen to once you’ve heard the right pressing, the one cut from the real tape.
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The Grateful Dead – Workingman’s Dead

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  • A KILLER original Warner Brothers pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • A Top 100 album, and a truly superb recording of the Dead at the peak of their creativity (along with American Beauty)
  • We love the amazingly big, rich, weighty bottom end found on the better pressings such as this one
  • 5 stars: “The lilting Uncle John’s Band, their first radio hit, opens the record and perfectly summarizes its subtle, spare beauty; complete with a new focus on more concise songs and tighter arrangements, the approach works brilliantly.”

This original Warner Brothers 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. (more…)

Elton John’s and Bernie Taupin’s Co-Masterpiece – Tumbleweed Connection

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  • A KILLER copy of Elton John’s classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides of this original DJM pressing
  • The sound here is richer, with much less transistory grain, and more of the All Important Tubey Magic than every other copy we played
  • An incredible recording and longtime member of our Top 100 — our pick for Elton’s very best music and sound
  • 5 stars: “….their most ambitious record to date… A loose concept album about the American West… draws from country and blues in equal measures…”

The Tubey Magic Top Ten

You don’t need tube equipment to hear the prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic that exist on this recording. For those of you who’ve experienced top quality analog pressings of Meddle or Dark Side of the Moon, or practically any jazz album on Contemporary, whether played through tubes or transistors, that’s the luscious sound of Tubey Magic, and it is all over Tumbleweed Connection

Ranked strictly in terms of Tubey Magic I would have to put this album on our list of Most Tubey Magical Rock Recordings of All Time, right up there with, in no particular order:

  • Sgt. Pepper (1967),
  • Meddle (1971),
  • Dark Side of the Moon (1973),
  • Dire Straits (1977, and clearly the outlier in this group),
  • The Eagles (1972),
  • Tommy (1969),
  • The Doors (1967),
  • Ziggy Stardust (1972),
  • A Space in Time (1970)

This has to be one of the best sounding rock records of all time — certainly worthy of a Top Ten spot on our Top 100 list. Engineered by Robin Geoffrey Cable at Trident, there is no other Elton John recording that is as big and powerful as Tumbleweed.

A copy like this really tells you why we love this album so. The highs are silky sweet, the vocals are full-bodied and breathy, and the tonal balance is perfection from top to bottom. And big drums, monstrously big, can’t forget those. (more…)

Heart – Dreamboat Annie

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  • One of the best sounding copies of Heart’s debut album to ever hit the site – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it on both sides
  • Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end, not many copies can compare to this bad boy (girl?)
  • There is so much more LIFE to this recording than most audiophiles realize, and only the best pressings let that energy come through
  • A Better Records Top 100 album, 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic: “Aggressive yet melodic rockers like ‘Sing Child,’ ‘White Lightning & Wine,’ and the rock radio staples ‘Magic Man’ and ‘Crazy on You’ led to the tag ‘the female Led Zeppelin.'”

Not many records have this kind of big, rockin’ sound, that’s for sure! Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end. If you’re an audiophile who loves classic rock, you just haven’t lived until you’ve heard side one of this album on a Hot Stamper pressing.

We’re pretty fond of these ladies here at Better Records. Their second album, Little Queen, has been a favorite test disc around here for years. When Heart is at their best, the music is wonderful. If you’re lucky enough to own the right pressing, this band can ROCK with the best of them.

What A Hot Copy Gets You

For one thing, the music just JUMPS out of the speakers. There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, and only the best pressings let that energy come through. In a nutshell, those are the ones that earn the name Hot Stamper. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

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  • A stunning copy of this Pink Floyd classic, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Demo Disc Quality Floyd Magic — bigger, richer, more dynamic, with better bass, more immediacy, and more of just about everything that makes a Classic Pink Floyd album a listening experience like no other
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, a Top 100 title and one that is RIDICULOUSLY tough to find with sound this good and surfaces this quiet
  • “Showcasing the group’s interplay and David Gilmour’s solos in particular… the long, winding soundscapes are constantly enthralling.”

The sound of this very special import pressing is HUGE, open, and spacious like nothing you have ever heard.  It’s also exceptionally transparent, with substantial amounts of depth and three-dimensionality.

There is a huge room around the drums that we guarantee you have never heard sound as big and real as it does on this very record.

Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitar reproduction is superb on the better copies of this recording. Simply phenomenal amounts of Tubey Magic can be heard on every strum, along with richness, body and harmonic coherency that have all but disappeared from modern recordings (and especially from modern remasterings).

Here is the size, energy, and presence to bring the music out of the speakers and right into your listening room! (more…)

Maybe the Best Sounding Album Geoff Emerick Ever Recorded

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Records We Only Offer on Import Vinyl

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Bridge of Sighs

We’ve been wandering around in the dark for more than a decade with Bridge of Sighs — that is, until we found a clean early UK Chrysalis pressing. Now we know just how good this album can sound, and that means ASTOUNDINGLY good. Off the top of my head I can’t think of any Geoff Emerick album that sounds as big and clear as this one. The three dimensional space is really something else on the better UK copies.

There is a substantial amount of Tubey Magic and liquidity on the tape, recalling the kind of hi-rez vintage analog sound that makes the luminous A Space in Time such a mind-expanding experience. Recorded a few years earlier, both albums have the kind of High Production Value sound that we go crazy for here at Better Records. You can find many of our favorites in our Rock and Pop Top 100, and if we can find more of this title, it will surely be on the list as well. (more…)

Eagles – Hotel California

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Hotel Ca you’ve heard
  • We are having a devil of a time finding this album in audiophile playing condition these days, which is why you practically never see them on the site anymore, and copies quieter than Mint Minus Minus are practically unheard of
  • A Better Records Top 100 pick – here’s a copy that’s transparent, and hi-rez, with all the energy and Tubey Magic that can only be found on these original pressings
  • 5 stars: “Hotel California unveiled what seemed almost like a whole new band… The result was the Eagles’ biggest-selling regular album release, and one of the most successful rock albums ever.”

We just finished a shootout for this title and this bad boy is truly a Demo Disc Quality Classic Rock LP.

From first note to last, this pressing has Demo Disc Quality Sound. Drop the needle on any track on either side to hear what we’re talking about. The highs are silky and delicate, the bottom end is tight and punchy, and the vocals sound AMAZING. The bass is PERFECTION, which really brings out the feel of the song Hotel California. It’s so deep and loping, the effect is practically narcotic.

Life In The Fast Lane is possibly the toughest song on the album to get right — it tends to have that transistory, compressed sound that we’ve come to expect from Bill Szymczyk. On this copy, it REALLY ROCKS — super-punchy with amazing presence and lots of meaty texture to the guitars. It will always sound a bit harsher than ideal on any copy with real presence, texture, and energy; that’s just the sound they were going for. It is what it is, which makes it not a good track to judge the first side by.

On side two, one of the better sounding tracks is Try And Love Again. On a Nearly White Hot Stamper copy like this one, it’s off the charts. The wonderful clarity and punchy bass here take this song to a whole new level. (more…)