Debut Albums of Interest

Heart – Dreamboat Annie

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  • One of the best sounding copies of this quintessential Heart album to ever hit the site – Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on BOTH sides
  • Punchy and present, open and transparent, with real weight and power to the low end, nothing else in our shootout could compare to this bad boy
  • There is so much more LIFE to this recording than I ever thought possible, 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…)

Chicago – Chicago Transit Authority

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  • An amazing pressing of the band’s debut album with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on all four sides!
  • These sides boast some of the best sounding, boldest arrangements for a horn-based rock band we’ve ever heard
  • Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?, I’m A Man and Questions 67 and 68 are simply incredible here
  • 4 stars: “In April of 1969, the four sides of Chicago Transit Authority unleashed a formidable and ultimately American musical experience… an unheralded synthesis of electric guitar wailin’ rock & roll to more deeply rooted jazz influences and arrangements.”

It’s difficult to find copies that do this big production music justice, but we got hold of a hot one here. If you’re a fan (and we think you should be, of the early band at least) you won’t believe how good this album can sound on the right pressing. All four sides here are rich and full, punchy and solid, with great energy and dynamics. This is a Truly Killer Copy from start to finish!

Huge Sound Can Be Yours!

We love this album here at Better Records. It’s amazing that this hard-rockin’ band from 1968 could be the same band that gave us “You’re The Inspiration” and other power-schlock ballads in the ’80s. Have they no shame?

Fortunately, this isn’t your Mom’s Chicago. Here, with their freshman effort, the band stands on the threshold of becoming True Rock Legends. Even today the album still sounds fresh. Who can argue with the brilliance of tracks such as Beginnings, I’m a Man and Questions 67 and 68? This is as good as the band ever got, man! It’s all here.

All four sides boast some of the boldest arrangements for a horn-based rock band ever. These boys have no problem standing toe to toe with the likes of Blood Sweat And Tears. If you don’t find yourself turning the stereo up during ‘Beginnings’, this music is not for you. The energy they bring to their cover of Spencer Davis’ ‘I’m A Man’ positively puts the original to shame. They jam its rock and roll groove, then take it places nobody else would even think to go. (more…)

Frank Zappa & The Mothers – Freak Out!

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  • Insanely good sound throughout with all four sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to it
  • The overall sound here is incredibly rich, warm and full-bodied yet still super detailed, spacious and dynamic; the energy level is off the charts too!
  • Most pressings of this double album are just awful, if you can even find one that’s clean enough to bother playing
  • “One of the most ambitious debuts in rock history, Freak Out! was a seminal concept album that somehow foreshadowed both art rock and punk at the same time. Its four LP sides deconstruct rock conventions right and left, eventually pushing into territory inspired by avant-garde classical composers.” – All Music

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Emerson, Lake & Palmer – Emerson, Lake & Palmer

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  • This vintage Island Pink Rim import pressing boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally QUIET vinyl too
  • Spacious, rich and dynamic, with especially smooth, present vocals – this is what we love about Eddie Offord’s work here
  • ANALOG at its Tubey Magical finest – you’ll never play a CD that sounds this good as long as you live
  • Lucky Man and Take A Pebble on this copy have Demo Disc Quality Sound like you won’t believe
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Lively, ambitious, almost entirely successful debut album… [which] showcased the group at its least pretentious and most musicianly …there isn’t much excess, and there is a lot of impressive musicianship here.”

If you’ve got the system to play this one loud enough, with the low end weight and energy it requires, you are in for a treat. The organ that opens side two will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. This is bombastic prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels, it actually will rock your world.

This UK Island pink rim import 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 band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

The Byrds Mr. Tambourine Man – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.

Want to hear what the best copies of Mr. Tambourine Man can do? Play Chimes of Freedom, one of the best sounding tracks on side two, if not THE best. Listen to how breathy Jim (later Roger) McGuinn’s vocals are. Byrds records almost never sound like that.

I Knew I’d Want You is another one that sounds amazingly Tubey Magical on the best pressings. (more…)

The Allman Brothers – The Allman Brothers

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  • An excellent copy of the band’s debut, with seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides and reasonably quiet vinyl, especially on side one
  • Forget whatever dead-as-a-doornail Heavy Vinyl record they’re making these days – if you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful album, a vintage pressing like this one is the way to go
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This might be the best debut album ever delivered by an American blues band, a bold, powerful, hard-edged, soulful essay in electric blues with a native Southern ambience. There isn’t a bad song here, and only the fact that the group did even better the next time out keeps this from getting the highest possible rating.”

This album has some of the ABB’s very best music and on a copy like this, sonics, but man is it tough to find a good one. We’ve been picking these up for years and the fact that it took us until 2016 to get any copy at all on the site should tell you something.

Here’s a perfect example of an album that’s so mediocre on the average pressing that we had practically given up hope of hearing the record sound good. But we’re not ones to run away from a challenge, so we kept picking up copies, figuring out a few things in the process. Eventually, we made real progress and today we can proudly post a copy that’s beyond worthy of Hot Stamper status. (more…)

David Lee Roth – Eat ‘Em and Smile

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  • David Lee Roth’s solo debut finally arrives on the site with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The overall sound here is incredibly full-bodied, musical, clear and spacious with tons of energy and a solid bottom end
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Few would argue that David Lee Roth’s first solo EP was a complete comedy send-up, albeit a very successful one that gained him enough favor with the MTV peanut gallery to solidify his potential as a solo artist… arguably Roth’s most legitimate piece of art ever.”

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Our Difficulty of Reproduction Scale

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We’ve mentioned how difficult some records are to reproduce: how the Revolutions in Audio of the last decade or two have profoundly changed the ability of the seriously dedicated audiophile to get records that never sounded good before to come to life musically in a way previously understood to be impossible.

This is one of those records. But you have to have done your homework if you want to play a record like this, as the commentary below explains.

’60s Sound

The problem here is the sound. It’s got a bit of that tinny ’60s pop production sound — too much upper midrange, not enough lower midrange and a slightly aggressive quality when things get loud. Still, it’s quite a bit better than recordings by, say, The Byrds or Jefferson Airplane from the era, and I have no trouble playing and enjoying those records, so…

I can also tell you that if you have a modest system this record is just going to sound like crap. It sounded like crap for years in my system, even when I thought I had a good one. Vinyl playback has come a long way in the last five or ten years and if you’ve participated in some of the revolutionary changes that I talk about elsewhere on the site, you should hear some pretty respectable sound. Otherwise, I would pass.

On the Difficulty of Reproduction scale, this record scores fairly high. You need lots of tubey magic and freedom from distortion, the kind of sound I rarely hear on any but the most heavily tweaked systems. The kind of systems that guys like me have been slaving over for thirty years. If you’re a Weekend Warrior when it comes to stereo, this is not the record for you. (more…)

Sinead O’Connor – The Lion and the Cobra – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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

Big and lively on both sides, and that’s the sound you want. All her early records are hard to find in clean condition these days. 

Side Two

A++, big, open and clear, with breathy vocals. So spacious! A little more weight would have earned this one a White Hot Stamper grade!

Side One

A+ to A++, big and lively, but a bit of smear and congestion compared to side two. (more…)

Dave Grusin – Discovered Again!

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  • This Sheffield Direct to Disc pressing boasts superb nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from first note to last – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • After critically listening to this record good and loud, I have to award the album The Greatest Direct to Disc Recording of All Time
  • The songs, the players, the arrangements, the sound – this is a record that will reward hundreds of plays for decades to come
  • “Everything about this project is just right from the gentle contemporary feel of the music to the superb sound of the [album] itself.”

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