Debut Albums of Interest

Supertramp – Supertramp

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More Prog Rock

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  • Supertramp’s self-titled debut finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • It’s even more Tubey Magical than an album like ’Crime Of The Century,’ which is more about slam and presence than a record like this, which has amazingly sweet, natural sounding acoustic guitars
  • Condition was the problem with these original British pressings – none of the best sounding copies did not have issues, hence the exceptionally low price for our Shootout Winner here
  • “Harmonious in themes but varied in tones, alternating short and lengthy pieces with a sophisticated sound and classy arrangement, it features all the distinctive elements of prog rock. And as with any prog album, it only makes full sense when listened to in its entirety.”

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Toto – Self-Titled

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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!

Our Recent Shootout

This shootout got off to a very rocky start; we were on the verge of giving up after playing two very bad, sub-generation side ones, cut at The Mastering Lab just like all the rest, but so bad even the CD might be better. If you have an awful copy, we feel your pain.

But Copy Number Three showed us the real Toto sound: the kind of sweetness and warmth we had been hoping to hear and fearing might not exist. Sure, Toto IV has killer sound, but that’s no guarantee that the first album would be recorded (or mastered or pressed) as well. In the world of audio — vinyl, equipment, what have you — there are no guarantees. The average 180 gram remastered audiophile pressing should be all the proof you need. Good intentions don’t count for much in this business or anywhere else for that matter.

Enough about bad audiophile records. Copy number three also had jump-out-of-the-speakers presence without being aggressive, gritty or strident, no mean feat for a pop record from this era. Like all the best rock records, the good ones make you want to turn up the volume; the louder they get the better they sound. Yes, some copies of Toto IV are so rich and sweet you would think they were recorded ten years earlier. (The clarity and tremendous dynamics seem a tad more modern, which is a good thing, right?)

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Peter, Paul & Mary – Self-Titled

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Peter, Paul and Mary - Self-Titled - White Hot Stamper

  • The band’s debut finally arrives on the site with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) stereo sound throughout – relatively quiet vinyl for a pressing of this vintage
  • This TAS List title has real depth to the soundfield, full-bodied, present vocals, plenty of bottom end weight, and Tubey Magical analog warmth the likes of which you may have never heard
  • 4 stars: “The debut album by Peter, Paul & Mary is still one of the best albums to come out of the 1960s folk music revival. It’s a beautifully harmonized collection of the best songs that the group knew, stirring in its sensibilities and its haunting melodies as it crosses between folk, children’s songs, and even gospel”

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). (more…)

Al Di Meola – Land Of The Midnight Sun

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  • A stunning copy of this Fusion Guitar classic with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • Both sides are incredibly lively, full-bodied, open and present — the sound, in a word, is HUGE
  • 4 1/2 stars: ” A very impressive beginning to di Meola’s solo career”
  • 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…)

Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True – Our Off the Charts Shootout Winner from 2016

Hot Stampers of My Aim Is True

Letters and Commentaries for My Aim Is True

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STUNNING! This insanely good pressing earned the rare FOUR PLUS (A++++) grade on side one — it’s OFF THE CHARTS! Side two is incredible as well, earning our standard top grade of Triple Plus (A+++) The sound is incredibly lively, punchy, and powerful; with all due respect, it should MURDER whatever copies you may have. Relatively quiet for this album, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus on both sides.

We award this copy’s side one our very special Four Plus A++++ grade, which is strictly limited to pressings (really, individual sides of pressings) that take a recording to a level never experienced by us before, a level we had no idea could even exist. We estimate that less than one per cent of the Hot Stamper pressings we come across in our shootouts earn this grade. You can’t get much more rare than that.

This is an amazing album, but a pressing like this takes it to a whole new level! The average copy of this record is aggressive and unpleasant. You either have to work very hard to find a good one (which means buying, cleaning and playing lots and lots of them), or you have to luck into a good one by accident.

More Outlier Pressings with Out of this World Sound Quality

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Jethro Tull – This Was

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More British Blues Rock

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  • A KILLER copy of Tull’s debut with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • We’ve only had a handful of copies go up since 2013 – it’s tough to find these vintage UK pressings in clean condition with this kind of sound
  • Guaranteed to soundly trounce any Pink Label Island original you may have heard – these are the Hot Stampers and it doesn’t take a pair of golden ears to hear it
  • Melody Maker thoroughly recommended the album in 1968 for being “full of excitement and emotion” and described the band as a blues ensemble “influenced by jazz music” capable of setting “the audience on fire.” Wikipedia

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Stephen Stills – Stephen Stills

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  • With outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout, this copy of Still’s superb debut is doing just about everything right
  • Love the One You’re With and Sit Yourself Down are to die for, but there’s really not a bad track on the album
  • A triumph of engineering for Bill Halverson and Andy Johns – this and Deja Vu are the very definition of Big Production Rock
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Listening to this album three decades on, it’s still a jaw-dropping experience, the musical equal to Crosby, Stills & Nash or Déjà Vu, and only a shade less important than either of them.”

When we say it’s getting harder and harder to find clean copies of albums such as this in the bins of our local record stores, we are not kidding. (more…)

Randy Newman – 12 Songs

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  • With two nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sides, this copy of what some consider Randy Newman’s strongest album is close to the BEST we have ever heard, right up there with our Shootout Winner – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • An excellent pressing, with a very strong bottom end, lovely richness and warmth, real space and separation between the instruments and wonderful immediacy throughout
  • The clarity of the piano and guitar perfectly support and complement Randy’s heartfelt vocals
  • 5 stars” “Superb material brilliantly executed, 12 Songs was Randy Newman’s first great album, and is still one of his finest moments on record.”

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Bad Company – Bad Company

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  • This outstanding pressing of Bad Co’s ’70s classic debut boasts solid Double Plus (A++) grades or close to them on both sides
  • Both sides are huge, present, punchy, lively, and solid as a rock
  • A member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Top 100, and a Must Own Classic Rock title from 1974
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Bad Company’s 1974 self-titled release stands as one of the most important and accomplished debut hard rock albums from the ’70s … it was one of the most successful steps in the continuing evolution of rock & roll.”

Vintage covers for this album are hard to find in exceptionally 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.   

Practically every side two of this album has some surface noise in the left channel. Since it occurs on so many copies we suspect an acetate issue, not a vinyl issue, which means it was probably there on the copy you might have cracked open yourself in 1974.

Now on to the good news!

This one’s got what you’re looking for from this kind of Classic Rock album — clarity, punchy bass, big drums, and lots of energy. The guitars sound right: grungy and distorted with loads of tubey richness.

You’re going to want to play this one good and loud to let it REALLY ROCK!

And, if you’re playing it good and loud, you’ll feel like you’re in the room with the boys as they kick out the jams. Ready For Love sounds great here — shocking clarity, tons of ambience, and silky sweet highs. The overall sound on both sides is lively, full-bodied, and transparent with Tubey Magical guitars and good weight to the bottom end. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I

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Reviews and Commentaries for Led Zeppelin I

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  • A truly INCREDIBLE import of Zep’s amazing debut with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound on both sides – this is very close to As Good As It Gets folks, and on quiet vinyl to boot!
  • Arguably the biggest, clearest and most Tubey Magical Zeppelin album ever recorded, thanks to the engineering genius of Glyn Johns (and production genius of Jimmy Page, who paid for the whole thing out of his own pocket)
  • Just look at the track list – the lucky owner of this LP will be hearing those songs come to life like never before
  • 5 stars: “Taking the heavy, distorted electric blues of Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Cream to an extreme… But the key to the group’s attack was subtlety: it wasn’t just an onslaught of guitar noise, it was shaded and textured, filled with alternating dynamics and tempos.”

For the real Led Zep magic, you just can’t do much better than their debut — and here’s a copy that really shows you why. From the opening chords of Good Times Bad Times to the wild ending of How Many More Times (“times” start the album and end it too it seems) this copy will have you rockin’ out!

Both sides have THE BIG ZEP SOUND. Right from the start we noticed how clean the cymbals sounded and how well-defined the bass was, after hearing way too many copies with smeared cymbals and blubbery bass.

When you have a tight, punchy copy like this one, Good Times Bad Times does what it is supposed to do — it REALLY ROCKS! With this much life it’s light years ahead of the typically dull, dead, boring copy. The drum sound is PERFECTION.

Drop the needle on Babe I’m Gonna Leave You to hear how amazing Robert Plant’s voice sounds. It’s breathy and full-bodied with in-the-room presence. The overall sound is warm, rich, sweet, and very analog, with tons of energy. Dazed and Confused sounds JUST RIGHT — you’re gonna flip out over all the ambience!

Communication Breakdown sounds superb — the sound of Jimmy Page’s guitar during the solo is shockingly good. (more…)