Our Top 100 Rock and Pop List

Neil Young – Harvest


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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this vintage pressing of Neil’s undeniable classic is guaranteed to beat any Harvest you’ve ever heard
  • At Mint Minus Minus this is not an especially quiet copy, but keep in mind that it’s practically impossible to find an early pressing with sound this good that will play quieter – it hasn’t happened in years 
  • A Top 100 album and a sublime recording no audiophile should be without
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the love songs and the harrowing portrait of a friend’s descent into heroin addiction, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” remain among Young’s most affecting and memorable songs.” 

When you have this kind of open, extended top end, the grit, grain and edge just disappear, leaving you with a clear, Tubey Magical sound that’s way beyond anything you have ever heard (or we give you your money back). Let’s take a moment to acknowledge the string of superb studio albums Neil released from 1970 to 1976. Just look at these titles: After The Gold Rush, Harvest, On The Beach, Tonight’s The Night, and Zuma. (more…)

James Taylor – Sweet Baby James – Our Shootout Winner for 2008

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

It took three days, sixty seven copies, and multiple rounds, but SWEET BABY JAMES HOT STAMPERS ARE BACK! Both sides of this bad boy are DEMO QUALITY and ABSOLUTELY STUNNING. Add in the fact that the vinyl is unusually quiet, and you’ve got one heck of a copy here!

It ain’t easy to find copies of this album with great sound on both sides and reasonably quiet surfaces — that’s why you haven’t seen more than one Hot copy hit the site since February ’08. Even though neither side of this copy received the A+++ grade, this has to be considered a White Hot Stamper because of the combination of two stunning sides and quiet vinyl.

This was one of the most massive shootouts in Better Records history. We started out with SIXTY SEVEN copies. After weeding out the copies with obvious condition problems and known second-rate stampers, we were left with three dozen copies to audition. We battled through condition problems, bad stereo days, and listener fatigue to end up with a select number of exceptional copies. It’s a extremely taxing project, and that’s why these are just the second round of SBJ Hot Stampers to EVER hit our site. (more…)

Steely Dan – Pretzel Logic – Our Four Plus Shootout Winner from 2011

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

This BEYOND White Hot side one (A++++) has nothing less than MASTER TAPE SOUND. Our Four Plus ranking is rare enough, but in this case it has the added benefit of conferring upon this very pressing the status of the BEST SOUNDING STEELY DAN RECORDING we have ever heard.

There is no recording better in the Steely Dan catalog, and I don’t think there’s a copy anywhere that’s any better than this one. (more…)

The Rolling Stones – Some Girls – Our Shootout Winner from 2008

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

Side one is an absolute knockout — we’ve never heard one like it and we don’t expect to find a better one. Our standard top grade of A+++ only begins to tell the story here. No other copy we played had bass this deep and meaty, or drums so full and punchy.You aren’t going to believe how hard it rocks, with all the WHOMP and ENERGY we hoped for when we began shooting out this title. The sax solo in Miss You sounds incredible — it actually has some balls, something you just don’t get with the typical pressing. The hi-hats sound incredibly natural and clear, and the vocals are Right On The Money (ROTM).

HARD ROCKIN’ STONES MAGIC! We’ve always loved the music on this album, but we sure didn’t know it could sound like this. Side one has MASTER TAPE QUALITY A+++ SOUND and side two is just a step behind at A++. When you drop the needle on Miss You you are going to FREAK OUT. 

This is probably the Stones’ last truly great album, IMHO. All Music Guide gives it the same 5 star rating that they awarded Beggars Banquet, Let It Bleed, and Sticky Fingers, and with hits like Miss You, Shattered, and Beast Of Burden on here, it’s easy to see why.

One of the keys to getting this album to sound right is fullness. Many copies lack weight to the bottom end, which robs this funky music of its very foundation. Other copies suffer from lean, thin sounding vocals — do you think that’s the sound Mick Jagger was going for?

Side two is close behind at A++. It’s got the life and presence that bring this music to life. Beast Of Burden sounds amazing — warm, rich, and sweet with tons of ambience. The guitars and drums sound great and the overall sound is BIG and BOLD.

Roxy Music – Roxy Music – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

The legendary first Roxy Music album returns to the site in tip top White Hot Stamper form, boasting no less than an incredible A+++ White Hot Side Two coupled with a superb A++ Super Hot Side One! Folks, it doesn’t get much better than this!

In considering both music and sound, this is arguably the best record the band ever made. Siren, Avalon and Country Life are all musically sublime, but the first album has the kind of dynamic, energetic, POWERFUL sound that their other records simply never show us. And we’ve played them by the dozens, so there’s a pretty good chance we will never find copies with the abundant richness and power we found here. (more…)

Outliers & Out-of-This-World Sound

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A while back we did a monster-sized shootout for Blood, Sweat and Tears’ second release, an album we consider THE Best Sounding Rock Record of All Time. In the midst of the discussion of a particular pressing that completely blew our minds — a copy we gave a Hot Stamper grade of A with Four Pluses , the highest honor we can bestow upon it — various issues arose, issues such as: How did this copy get to be so good? and What does it take to find such a copy? and, to paraphrase David Byrne, How did it get here?

Which brings us to this commentary, which centers around the concept of outliers.

Wikipedia defines an outlier this way: “In statistics, an outlier is an observation that is numerically distant from the rest of the data.” In other words, it’s something that is very far from normal. In the standard bell curve distribution pictured below, the outliers are at the far left and far right, far from the vast majority of the data which is in the middle.

In the world of records, most copies of any title you care to name would be average sounding. The vertical line in the center of the graph shows probability; the highest probability is that any single copy of a record will be at the top of the curve near the middle, which means it will simply be average. The closer to the vertical line it is, the more average it will be. As you move away from the vertical line, the data point — the record — becomes less and less average. As you move away from the center, to the left or the right, the record is either better sounding or worse sounding than average. (more…)

Lou Rawls – Live!

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

This is one of the best live vocal recordings we know of, but only a great copy like this will bring that sound to your stereo. Lou is live, singing his heart out in a small club that exists between, behind and maybe even around your speakers. If you can reproduce the three-dimensional space of this club well you are in for a real treat.

The songs are great, the musicians are brilliant, the sound is amazing — what else could you ask for?

This album was a late addition to our 2014 update of our Rock and Pop Top 100 list. or live soul-infused vocals we know of none better. (more…)

Elton John – Tumbleweed Connection

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

A side two for the ages — it beat our best Ref Copy to earn a Four Plus (A++++) grade. Both sides are stunning with superb Demo Quality sound: huge, rich, spacious, dynamic and lively. An incredible recording and longtime member of our Top 100 — our pick for Elton’s very best music and sound. 

We rate records with a Four Plus grade so rarely that we don’t even have a graphic for it on our Sonic Grade chart seen above. The scale only goes up to three pluses, but this side two blew our minds to earn a fourth!  

This is an incredible recording, but finding killer pressings like this is no walk in the park. We’ve had countless copies with promising sound that were just not in any condition to sell, and plenty of clean ones that just didn’t sound good.

This copy really delivers on the sound side — you get stunning immediacy, big-time presence, tons of depth to the soundfield, full-bodied vocals, amazing transparency, and BOATLOADS of Tubey Magic. Elton John fans, today is your lucky day.  (more…)

Pink Floyd – Meddle – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

Side two is where the 20+ minute prog epic Echoes is found, and the sound of it on this copy is MINDBLOWINGLY GOOD. If you’re the kind of guy who will get a thrill from hearing Pink Floyd bangin’ out one of their heaviest psych jams with top quality sonics, this copy will completely knock you out. And side one is no slouch either — it sounds amazing as well! Drop the needle on ’One of These Days’ and listen to how HUGE the soundfield is, it’s big, wide and deep so you can really hear into the music.

Side two has all of the magic that’s lacking from the typical copy. It’s open and spacious with lots of ambience, breathy vocals and silky smooth cymbals. The bottom end is MASSIVE on this one with much less bloat than you get on most copies. The presence and energy are off the charts! The sound on this A+++ side one has the kind of impact and power that let you really FEEL the music. Guaranteed to blow your mind? You better believe it!

Side one is nearly as good. It’s full-bodied with lots of energy and impressive dynamics. The soundfield is open and transparent with good size and real depth. We rate this side A++, far better than most copies out there.

The Brits Are King And Nothing Else Comes Close

We’ve been buying up every clean Import copy we can find, but most copies just don’t have the kind of magic that we know is on the tape. Beyond that, many of them are too noisy to sell — even the minty looking ones. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame and another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume. 

A TRULY STUNNING COPY of this classic album! Both sides here are rich, warm and full-bodied with tons of energy and presence. It just doesn’t get much better than this, folks! We gave side two a Four Plus grade — note that we don’t even have a graphic for that! — and side one was also very strong.

Side two earned the rare Four Plus grade (making it the first copy of Houses ever to do so, I believe) with an insane combination of clarity, presence, size, richness, transparency, bottom end punch and more. Side one is not quite in the same heady league but is certainly very strong with a Double Plus grade. You’re going to have a ridiculously hard time finding another copy that can hold its own against this one. Frankly, I don’t think it can be done without the kind of operation we have here! (more…)