Record Lists of Various Kinds

Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got

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  • This early UK pressing is big and rich with superb clarity and three-dimensional space that most pressings barely hint at
  • You won’t believe how good Nothing Compares 2 U sounds here – it’s surely one of the best torch songs ever written, and her performance of it (as well as the arrangement) is perfection
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the album plays like a tour de force in its demonstration of everything O’Connor can do… it’s evidence that, when on top of her game, O’Connor was a singular talent.”

NOTE: The first two tracks on side one are on the low side of the grade. This record is rarely quite and this copy is no exception to that rule.

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, a brilliant and unique piece of work, is widely considered one of the best albums of the ’90s. I positively love the album. The emotion is every bit as naked and compelling as that found on Joni’s Blue, and I do not say that lightly. I know the power of Blue, and this album has that kind of power. This is some heavy heavy stuff. Hearing it sound right is a thrill you won’t soon forget. (more…)

The Rolling Stones / Exile On Main Street – A Good Test for Grit and Grain

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More Records that Are Good for Testing Grit and Grain

The best copies will tend to have the qualities detailed below, and the more abundant these qualities are on any given pressing, the higher its grade will be.

Yes, it is a science, an empirical one, which can only be carried out by the use of strict protocols and controls, but it sure ain’t rocket science. All you need is the system, the room, the records, the time and the will to do the painstaking critical listening required to carry out the task.

It can be done, but you could spend a lifetime meeting audiophiles of the vinyl persuasion and never run into a single one who has made the effort more than a handful of times.

To be honest, shootouts are a bitch. If you aren’t getting paid to do them the way we are, finding the motivation to devote the time and energy required to do them right — not to mention the piles of copies of each record you will need — is daunting to say the least.

So, back to the question: what to listen for? (more…)

The Doobie Brothers – Stampede

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  • With two seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides, this copy has a lot going for it – exceptionally quiet vinyl for the most part too
  • These sides are rich and full, with punchy bass and plenty of rockin’-down-the-highway Doobies energy – thanks Donn Landee, you da man
  • Contains contributions from such guest musicians as Maria Muldaur, Ry Cooder, and Curtis Mayfield
  • Allmusic 4 1/2 stars: “The Doobie Brothers’ rootsiest album to date, Stampede was virtuoso soulful countrified rock of a gritty nature, crossing over into blues as well as reaching back to a raw, traditional rock & roll sound…”

The average copy of this album is compressed and congested, recessed and veiled, grainy and thin; in other words, it sounds like an old Doobie Brothers album. It takes a copy like this one to show you just how good the Master Tape must be.

And if we hadn’t had plenty of copies to play with, we would never have found this one. (more…)

Prince – Controversy

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More Soul, Blues, and Rhythm and Blues


  • This copy of Prince’s fourth studio album boasts outstanding Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both sides
  • Prince’s albums will never be demo discs, but the best pressings give you the sound that he was going for in the studio, and you can’t ask for more than that
  • These vintage Prince albums are getting hard to find nowadays – prices have doubled and tripled in the last year or two
  • “Controversy emerged in 1981 at a pivotal time not just for Prince, but for America. It’s often regarded as a bridge between Dirty Mind and 1999, but it’s fascinating record in its own right.” – Pitchfork (9.0)

The best copies sound pretty much the way the best copies of most Classic Rock records sound: tonally correct, rich, clear, sweet, smooth, open, present, lively, big, spacious, with breathy vocals and little spit, grit, grain or grunge. That’s the sound of analog, and the best copies of Controversy have that sound. (more…)

Joni Mitchell – An Overview

Joni Mitchell

1968 Song to a Seagull
1969 Clouds
1970 Ladies of the Canyon
1971 BlueTop 100, TAS List
1972 For the Roses – Some of her best sound
1974 Court and SparkTop 100, TAS List, her best sounding recording

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Toto – Self-Titled

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Toto

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  • This copy of Toto’s debut boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Toto’s albums have the kind of analog sound we love here at Better Records – they’re rich, huge and present, with tons of Tubey Magic and wall to wall spaciousness
  • Lukather’s overdriven guitar adds so much power to the music – the perfect combo of Grungy guitars and Rock Star vocals makes Hold the Line a staple of rock radio to this day
  • 4 stars: “Toto’s rock-studio chops allowed them to play any current pop style at the drop of a hi-hat: one minute prog rock, the next hard rock, the next funky R&B. Singles like “I’ll Supply the Love” made the charts, and “Hold the Line” hit the Top Ten.”

This is analog, make no mistake about it. Those smooth sweet vocals, open top and rich full bottom are a dead giveaway that you are playing a record and not a CD. (I understand the CD for this title is awful; bright, thin and downright painful. This is the problem with the CD: if they do a bad job making it, and you no longer own a turntable, what are your options? Squat, pretty much.)

Pop production techniques were very advanced by 1978, providing plenty of natural sounding roomy reverb around the vocals and guitars. Lukather’s overdriven, distorted guitar has near-perfect tonality; it adds so much power to the music.

Just like the Hot Stampers for Aqualung, when the guitar sounds this good, it really makes you sit up and take notice of the guy’s playing. When the sound works the music works, our definition of a Hot Stamper in seven words or less.

Turn up the volume? You better believe it!

(more…)

Ry Cooder / Jazz

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner
  • These are the stampers that always win our shootouts, and when you hear them you will know why – the sound is big, rich and clear
  • “The complexity of the material on Jazz, as well as the arrangements by Joseph Byrd, dictate that this is Cooder’s most polished and orchestrated effort to date.” — Allmusic

We’re big fans of Ry Cooder here at Better Records, and it’s always fun to hear the eccentric instruments and arrangements he and his cohorts cook up. Of course, it’s even more fun when you have a great sounding pressing like this one that lets you hear what the musicians were up to. (more…)

Janis Joplin – Pearl

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  • Richer, clearer and more tonally correct, with more energy and presence, all qualities that help to bring this music to life
  • Janis’s vocals sound right on the money here – smooth enough to let you crank this one up good and loud without the sound getting hard and edgy
  • 5 stars: “Janis Joplin’s second masterpiece (after Cheap Thrills), Pearl was designed as a showcase for her powerhouse vocals, stripping down the arrangements that had often previously cluttered her music or threatened to drown her out.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in clean shape. Most of them will have at least some amount of ringwear, seam wear and edge wear. We guarantee that the cover we supply with this Hot Stamper is at least VG, and it will probably be VG+. If you are picky about your covers please let us know in advance so that we can be sure we have a nice cover for you.

Both sides are noticeably sweeter and more open up top than the average copy. Most everything that we look for in a Hot Stamper Pearl is happening on this copy: presence to the vocals; weight to the piano; texture and definition to the bass; a Tubey Magical midrange; freedom from grit and grain and so forth.

It’s not a perfect record — no copy of Pearl will ever be — but it’s better in all the ways that make the music really work. That’s what a Hot Stamper is all about!

None of this is to say that you’ll put this one on your top shelf with your Ajas and your Tea for the Tillermans, but this copy has the kind of sound you’d never guess was possible listening to the average copy. (more…)

Cat Stevens – Mona Bone Jakon

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More Reviews and Commentaries for Mona Bone Jakon

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  • With Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second, this copy of Cat Stevens’ brilliant third album will be very hard to beat
  • So transparent, open, and spacious, nuances and subtleties that escaped you are now revealed as never before 
  • When you play I Wish I Wish and I Think I See The Light on this vintage pressing, we think you will agree with us that this is one of the greatest Folk Rock albums of them all
  • “A delight, and because it never achieved the Top 40 radio ubiquity of later albums, it sounds fresh and distinct.”

So many copies excel in some areas but fall flat in others. This side one has it ALL going on — all the Tubey Magic, all the energy, all the presence and so on. The sound is high-rez yet so natural, free from the phony hi-fi-ish quality that you hear on many pressings, especially the reissues on the second label.

Right off the bat, I want to say this is a work of GENIUS. Cat Stevens made three records that belong in the Pantheon of greatest popular recordings of all time. In the world of Folk Pop, Mona Bone Jakon, Teaser and the Firecat and Tea for the Tillerman have few peers. There may be other Folk Pop recordings that are as good but we know of none that are better.

Mike Bobak was the engineer for these sessions from 1970. He is the man responsible for some of the best sounding records from the early ’70s: The Faces’ Long Player, Cat Stevens’ Mona Bone Jakon, Rod Stewart’s Never a Dull Moment, The Kinks’ Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One, (and lots of other Kinks albums), Carly Simon’s Anticipation and more than his share of obscure English bands (of which there seems to be a practically endless supply).

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

Massenet / Le Cid Ballet Music – Now With New and Improved Smile Curve EQ

Klavier Is a Label Best Avoided by Audiophiles

They Make Records Perfectly Suited to the Stone Age Stereos of the Past

Sonic Grade: D

This hi-fi-ish Doug Sax/ Acoustic Sounds butchering of Fremaux’s performance from 1971 is insufferable.

Can this possibly be the sound that EMI engineer Stuart Eltham was after?

Back in the day audiophiles in droves bought this pressing from all the major mail order audiophile record dealers (you know who I’m talking about), apparently not noticing the overblown bass and spark-spark-sparkling top end.  Perhaps the same audiophiles who think that Mobile Fidelity makes good sounding records?

The Smile Curve

If you’ve spent any time on this site, you should know by now that many audiophile records sound worse than the typical CD. The typical CD does not have an equalization curve resembling a smile. The classic smile curve starts up high on the left, gets low in the middle, and rises again at the end, resulting in boosted bass, boosted top end, and a sucked out midrange — the Mobile Fidelity formula in a nutshell.

If your system needs boosted bass and highs, perhaps because your speakers are too small, well, I suppose you could try this Klavier pressing.

Better yet, fix your stereo so you won’t need phony audiophile records like this one to make it sound good. (more…)