A List of Live Albums of Interest

Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive

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  • All four sides of this double album earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to it for their Big, Bold Live Rock sound – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Mixed and mastered so that the guitar solos soar the way they do in live music — what a thrill it is to hear them finally sounding the way they should
  • A killer copy like this one is a potent reminder of why we all went so crazy for this album back in the ’70s – I did anyway
  • Allmusic agrees with us that many tracks here are “much more inspired, confident, and hard-hitting than the studio versions.”

On the better copies, the guitar solos are the loudest parts of some of the songs, which, as everyone who’s ever been to a rock concert knows, is exactly what happens in live rock music. Fancy that!

Not many live albums are mixed to allow the guitar solos to rock the way these do. Since Frampton is one of my favorite players, hearing his work get loud on this album is nothing less than a thrill. It’s hard to turn up the volume on most copies — they tend to get aggressive in a hurry — but that simply doesn’t happen on our hottest Hot Stampers. They sound right when they’re loud. (more…)

Cannonball Adderley – Mercy, Mercy, Mercy!

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  • With a Triple Plus (A+++) Shootout Winning side one and a superb Double Plus (A++) side two, this pressing one of Adderley’s most enjoyable albums will be very hard to beat
  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than practically any other we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • Joe Zawinul (Weather Report) wrote the title song, which became a big hit for Adderley (and later The Buckinghams), and he plays on the album
  • 5 Stars: “Adderley’s irrepressible exuberance was a major part of his popularity, and no document captures that quality as well — or with such tremendous musical rewards — as Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.”

Don’t worry about surface noise on this copy. With the audience making so much noise, you’ll never get a chance to hear it. If you do it will be barely audible under the music and crowd sounds.

I dropped the needle on a copy of this record a year or so ago and heard amazing you-are-there live jazz club sound, and, more importantly, a hot session from one of our favorite saxophone players of all time, the man who contributed mightily to the likes of Kind of Blue, Somethin’ Else, Know What I Mean? and many more. For an Alto player Cannonball is just about as good as it gets.

Fast forward one year and we now have in our possession enough copies to do a proper shootout – originals and reissues on a variety of labels.

These were of course two of the best sides we played. They’re big, rich and natural. The music does manage to sound like a live club, even though it’s live in the studio, playing to an audience. (The AMG review has more on that.)

For mainstream jazz it’s hard to think of any album on our site that would be more enjoyable. (more…)

Neil Young – Live Rust – Our Shootout Winner from 2012

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

SUPERB SOUND ACROSS ALL FOUR SIDES! Neil Young and Crazy Horse are really tearing it up here, and on a White Hot copy like this the sound is amazingly REAL. Full and spacious with plenty of weight and presence, this gets you as close to the stage as any copy of this album can.

This KILLER live set, the ultimate Neil Young concert collection, combines brilliant early material, such as “After the Gold Rush,” with his wonderful middle-era material, including the amazing “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue)” and “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)” and “Tonight’s the Night.” (more…)

The Band – The Last Waltz

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  • The Band’s second live album returns with outstanding Double Plus (A++) Hot Stamper sound or close to it on all SIX sides – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, dynamic and natural sounding with low end weight, midrange smoothness and powerful, punchy bass
  • Features an A-list of brilliant artists, including Van Morrison, Ringo Star, Joni Mitchell, and Muddy Waters, just to name a few
  • 4 stars: “It’s the Band’s “special guests” who really make this set stand out — Muddy Waters’ ferocious version of “Mannish Boy” would have been a wonder from a man half his age, Van Morrison sounds positively joyous on “Caravan,” Neil Young and Joni Mitchell do well for their Canadian brethren, and Bob Dylan’s closing set finds him in admirably loose and rollicking form.”

(more…)

Junior Wells – It’s My Life

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  • A superb copy of Junior Wells’ recording from Chicago in ’66 (this is the read deal, folks!) with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound – just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of that “you-are-there-immediacy” of a live performance that set the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else might be out there
  • “Cut from the same cloth as Wells’ classic Hoodoo Man Blues LP from the same period, It’s My Life, Baby! captured the Junior Wells-Buddy Guy team in great form, both in the studio and live at Pepper’s Lounge on 43rd Street. This album tends a bit more towards slow blues, including a rare example of Wells’ chromatic harmonica playing on ‘Slow, Slow,’ but there are fine uptempo pieces…”

(more…)

Frank Zappa – Fillmore East – June 1971 – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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Stick with the label above if you want good sound.


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Avoid the orangey-brown label, they never offer more than a pale shadow of the real recording.

 

KILLER SOUND ON QUIET VINYL — what are the odds? We’re big fans of this album, and Zappa in general, but it’s incredibly difficult to find copies that do justice to the music. The vinyl is typically thrashed, and even the copies in relatively clean condition usually don’t sound good. This one has about the quietest vinyl you could hope for, playing Mint Minus on both sides, and the sound is just about as good as it gets! 

So many pressings don’t let you hear INTO the music. This is a live recording with musicians sprinkled all over the stage — three-dimensional transparency is absolutely KEY to the best pressings, the ones that let you immerse yourself in the spectacle, never losing sight of the individual performances of Zappa and his merry band of obscene nut jobs. This band works BLUE. It will have you in hysterics if you get into the down and dirty spirit of the show. If that doesn’t sound like your thing, steer clear of this one. It’s raunchy as hell, and the raunchiest bits are the most hilarious.

The Greatest Rock Opera Ever

As for the music, it’s a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. This to me is the ultimate rock opera. In point of fact it’s actually a parody of a rock opera, which makes it doubly enjoyable.

The two former leaders of The Turtles (aka Flo and Eddie) variously play groupies (What Kind Of Girl Do You Think We Are) and members of the band. As the saying goes, hilarity ensues.

What makes this album so special is that the rock songs that are generated out of this story are actually great rock songs. They’re not filler. They’re not connecting tissue. They’re good songs with strong melodies that stand up on their own. Moreover, connected to each other through this crazy story sung by men pretending to be women, they become something even greater: a True Rock Opera. Better than that: A True Rock Opera Parody that’s as hilarious as it is musically satisfying. Zappa missed his calling — he should have dedicated himself to musical theatre. He has a real gift for it. This album is proof.

The entertainment value of this record is as good as it gets. Off the scale. If you’re a fan of The Firesign Theater, Zappa, improv comedy and such like, you will love this album. (more…)

The Kinks – To The Bone

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  • The Kinks’ 1994 live release makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound on this rare UK pressing is full-bodied and lively, with solid, present vocals, as well as excellent clarity all around
  • “… the bandmembers financed their acoustic greatest-hits record To the Bone themselves, releasing it on the U.K. independent label Grapevine. Naturally, Ray Davies’ songs work well in such a stripped-back setting… featuring a lovely version of “Waterloo Sunset,” possibly the most beautiful song of the rock & roll era.”

(more…)

Elvis Presley – That’s The Way It Is

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  • KILLER sound for this Elvis release from 1970 with both sides earning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades
  • Big, open, and clear, this album captures both live and studio performances – a unique collection vital to any Elvis fan
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… [That’s The Way It Is] captures a peerless performer putting his amazing band through the paces… Elvis would record more great music in the next few years, but this record captures him at a pivotal moment when he retained the power of his 1968 comeback and had yet to succumb to all the glitz of Vegas.”

Good Elvis Is Tough

Most of his records don’t sound good on most of the pressings we play, and far too often the best sounding pressings are just too noisy to be of much interest to audiophiles.

But we found this one, and it beat the copies we played against it. It’s got the glorious sound of 1970 (!) in its grooves. (more…)

Little Feat – Waiting For Columbus

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  • With Double Plus (A++) grades, or close to them, on all four sides, this copy of Waiting for Columbus is outstanding from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Some of the best sounding live rock and roll sound you will ever hear outside of a concert venue
  • One of our all-time favorite live recordings and their single best release – a true Masterpiece
  • 4 1/2 stars: “There’s much to savor on Waiting for Columbus, one of the great live albums of its era, thanks to rich performances that prove Little Feat were one of the great live bands of their time.”

This is an amazingly well-recorded concert, and what’s more, the versions the band does of their earlier material are much better than the studio album versions of those same songs in every case.

Fat Man In A Bathtub on this album is out of this world, but you could easily say that about a dozen or more of the tracks on this double album. Which simply means that you will have a very hard time listening to any of the studio versions of these songs once you’ve heard them performed with the kind of energy, enthusiasm and technical virtuosity Little Feat brought to this live show. (I saw them twice with Lowell and they were amazing both times.) (more…)

Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps – Our Shootout Winner from 2010

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

A great (A++) side one backed with an AMAZING (A+++) side two, this is without a doubt one of the very best sounding copies of Rust Never Sleeps we have ever had the privilege of playing here at Better Records. Side two simply cannot be beat. Drop the needle on Powderfinger to hear the Crazy Horse sound at its best — the raging guitars, the big meaty bottom end, and the kind of immediacy that puts Neil Young and his band of misfits right in your listening room. 

Tubey Magic in 1979? Yes, analog was still alive and well then — both sides of this copy prove it. The disastrously synthesized ’80s were on their way but thankfully they hadn’t gotten here yet.

This is a live recording with minimal overdubs. Crazy Horse is of course widely recognized to be one of the all time killer concert acts of its day, so it’s a bit of a shame that most of the copies we played this week made us want to go to sleep. The not-so-Hot copies failed in a number of ways: thin guitars or vocals, overly dry or edgy sound, and insufficient presence, just to name a few. It was the rare copy that made us forget we were listening to a record and allowed us to really get into the music.

Needless to say we had this record playing very very loud. Twenty db less than at the live event, sure, at least, but very very loud for a 18×20 living room in the suburbs. (more…)