Debut Albums of Interest

Roberta Flack – First Take

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  • Roberta Flack’s stunning debut album finally arrives on the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish 
  • The sound here is richer, fuller, more musical and more natural – Flack’s breathy voice is reproduced with a solidity and immediacy that’s not easy to find on vinyl
  • 5 stars: “Roberta Flack’s debut album, titled First Take in true underachiever fashion, introduced a singer who’d assimilated the powerful interpretive talents of Nina Simone and Sarah Vaughan, the earthy power of Aretha Franklin, and the crystal purity and emotional resonance of folksingers like Judy Collins… one of the most fascinating soul debuts of the era.”

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Barbra Streisand – The Barbra Streisand Album

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

A killer 360 original stereo pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – the first copy to hit the site in many years. We recently did a shootout for this album and were thrilled at how natural and immediate the sound on the best copies can be. Good Ol’ Babs (actually, a very young Babs here) sounds LOVELY on this pressing — her voice is rich, breathy and textured with stellar presence. The orchestra backing her sounds wonderful and there’s plenty of bass to set a nice foundation for the music.

Excellent, natural, unprocessed sound. And she does a very nice job with this set of standards. This, and the album Guilty, are the two Streisand records I’m most likely to play. (more…)

Shawn Colvin – Steady On

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  • With a nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) side one and a seriously good Double Plus (A++) side two, this copy will be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • We guarantee there is dramatically more space, richness, vocal presence, and performance energy on this copy than others you’ve heard, and that’s especially true if you made the mistake of buying whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing is currently on the market
  • 4 stars: “Steady On is a triumph, with its emotional intimacy captured with smooth precision. Vocally, Colvin’s tender, sometimes whisper-like performances are astonishing and haunting, provocative and seductive all at once. Then there are the songs that flow so effortlessly into one another that to remove even one would seemingly upset the entire balance of the cosmos as we know it.”

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The Alan Parsons Project – Tales of Mystery & Imagination – Our Shootout Winner from 2015

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

Alan Parsons’ concept album based on the stories of Edgar Allen Poe was a TAS Super Disc for a while back in the day, and one can easily see why. The sound on the better pressings is big, solid and full-bodied with amazing resolving power and dynamics.

The best copies usually have exceptionally extended top ends. The best top ends are difficult to come by but they sure make a difference in the sound, revealing three-dimensional space that most copies do no better than to hint at. 

The upper harmonics of the instruments are reproduced beautifully here, and there’s ambience and air that are simply not audible on the average original pressing.

This was the first Alan Parsons Project album, and it features songs based on the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. It’s crazy music for sure, certainly not for everyone, but the recording is excellent, as you might expect from the man who engineered Dark Side Of The Moon, Abbey Road and mixed the first Ambrosia album.

The Raven is a highlight, featuring vocoder-enhanced vocals, a boy’s choir, big rock guitars and crazy synthesizers. Click the “AMG Review” tab above to learn more — they do an excellent job communicating what’s interesting about the music on this album. Those of you who like the first Ambrosia album may get a kick out of this one, as all four members participate in the festivities. (more…)

John Lennon – Plastic Ono Band

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  • Incredible sound for this early UK pressing with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades, an excellent way to hear these amazing songs
  • Working Man’s Hero, Love, Mother — these are immortal Lennon tracks, all with stunning sound on these White Hot sides
  • 5 stars: “It’s an unflinching document of bare-bones despair and pain, but for all its nihilism, it is ultimately life-affirming; it is unique not only in Lennon’s catalog, but in all of popular music. Few albums are ever as harrowing, difficult, and rewarding as John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band.”

Incredible sound for this John Lennon classic! I would be hard pressed to tell you whether this or Imagine is his best sounding recording, because on the very best copies they can both be killer. Our first White Hot copy only made it to the site in 2016 — it took us a long time to find the right pressings of this album, and then years more to get enough in stock to do a major shootout. As you can imagine, clean early UK pressings of Lennon’s albums are hard to come by and pricey when you find them. (more…)

Talking Heads – Talking Heads: 77 – Our Shootout Winner from 2011

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

AMAZING SOUND ON BOTH SIDES of this White Hot Stamper LP. Side two rates A+++ and side one is not far behind at A++ – A+++. This copy murdered the typical pressings in an incredibly enjoyable shootout.We couldn’t believe how amazing this album can sound on a top copy. I’d even say that it’s a sonic step up from More Songs About Buildings and Food, Fear Of Music and Remain In Light, probably tying with Little Creatures for top Talking Heads honors.

We’re huge Talking Heads fans at Better Records, but we’ve never tried to shoot out this album before this year because the copies we had played to this point were no great shakes. Regular copies of this album are now getting priced up to $17.99 at our local stores, so we just hadn’t bothered to pick up too many until we heard a surprisingly good copy earlier this year. We started stocking up on them and we ended needing a big stack, because only a few of them were able to show us what this album can really do. (more…)

The Band – Music From Big Pink

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  • Two strong Double Plus (A++) sides AND quiet vinyl make this a consistently impressive copy of this all-time classic album
  • Forget all those lifeless, ambience-free, vague sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings – THIS is the sound of the album
  • It’s big, punchy and dynamic, and resolves all the intricacies of the recording that make it so interesting to us audiophiles
  • 5 stars on Allmusic: “Over time, Music from Big Pink came to be regarded as a watershed work in the history of rock, one that introduced new tones and approaches to the constantly evolving genre.”

We guarantee you have never heard Music from Big Pink sound remotely as good as it does on this very copy. (more…)

Al Di Meola – Land Of The Midnight Sun

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

A Top Copy of this Fusion Guitar classic! Both sides are incredibly lively, full-bodied, open and present — the sound, in a word, is HUGE. A great lineup including Chick Corea, Jaco Pastorious, Stanley Clarke, Lenny White, Steve Gadd and more.  

If you’ve enjoyed the sonics on one of our Hot Stamper Return To Forever, Weather Report or Santana LPs, I think you’d find a lot to like about this record. (more…)

Julie London – Lonely Girl

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

A Knockout recording of female vocal with guitar: Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side, seriously good Double Plus (A++) on the second. Julie is in the room with you – intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like practically nothing you’ve ever heard. For late night listening this is surely one of the best Sultry Female Vocal recordings ever made – you won’t believe how real the sound is.

After hearing this amazing copy in our shootout we felt that it might be a bit too noisy to list, but another scrub cleaned it up nicely and now it’s about typical for an exceptionally clean copy of the album. No marks play — the noise one hears is mostly just the vinyl of the day.

I bought this very record in 1998. It took me close to twenty years to be able to clean it and play it right! (more…)

Gabor Szabo with Gary McFarland – Gypsy ’66

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One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy for the instruments or vocals in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

And most of the time those very special pressings have much more energy. When you hear a copy that does all that, it’s an entirely different listening experience.

Heavy Vinyl

Speakers Corner did a very good version of this album on Heavy Vinyl back in 2002, which we recommended at the time.

Our Hot Stamper pressings will of course be dramatically more transparent, open, clear and just plain REAL sounding, because these are all the areas in which heavy vinyl pressings fall short, with very few exceptions. (more…)