A List of Records that Are Usually Noisy

Sly and The Family Stone – Stand

More Sly & The Family Stone

  • Tired of the crude, congested, hard, harsh and otherwise unpleasant sound of most pressings? The solution is right here!
  • Stand, I Want To Take You Higher, Everyday People, You Can Make It If You Try — what a killer lineup of songs
  • 5 stars: “Stand! is the pinnacle of Sly & the Family Stone’s early work, a record that represents a culmination of the group’s musical vision and accomplishment. …everything simply gels here, resulting in no separation between the astounding funk, effervescent irresistible melodies, psychedelicized guitars, and deep rhythms.”
  • This is a Must Own Soul Classic from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1969 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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The Eagles – Hotel California

More Eagles

More Joe Walsh

  • With superb Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER on both sides, this copy is guaranteed to blow the doors off any other Hotel Cal you’ve heard
  • If you have any modern remastered pressing of the album, PLEASE order this one so you can hear what you have been missing all these years
  • A Better Records Top 100 pick – here’s a copy that’s transparent, and hi-rez, with all the energy and Tubey Magic that can only be found on these original pressings
  • 5 stars: “Hotel California unveiled what seemed almost like a whole new band… The result was the Eagles’ biggest-selling regular album release, and one of the most successful rock albums ever.”

We are having a devil of a time finding this album in audiophile playing condition these days, which is why you practically never see them on the site anymore, and copies quieter than Mint Minus Minus are rare indeed

We just finished a shootout for this title and this bad boy is truly a Demo Disc Quality Classic Rock LP.

From first note to last, this pressing has superb, mind-blowing, Demo Disc Quality Sound. Drop the needle on any track on either side to hear what we’re talking about. The highs are silky and delicate, the bottom end is tight and punchy, and the vocals sound AMAZING. The bass is PERFECTION, which really brings out the feel of the song “Hotel California.” It’s so deep and loping, the effect is practically narcotic.

“Life In The Fast Lane” is possibly the toughest song on the album to get right — it tends to have that transistory, compressed sound that we’ve come to expect from Bill Szymczyk. On this copy, it REALLY ROCKS — super-punchy with amazing presence and lots of meaty texture to the guitars. It will always sound a bit harsher than ideal on any copy with real presence, texture, and energy; that’s just the sound they were going for. It is what it is, which makes it not a good track to judge the first side by.

On side two, one of the better sounding tracks is “Try And Love Again.” On a superb copy like this one, it’s off the charts. The wonderful clarity and punchy bass here take this song to a whole new level.

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Jackson Browne – His Debut Is Still His Best Album

More Jackson Browne

More Asylum Label Recordings

  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this copy was a big step up from most of what we played, particularly on side two
  • “… Jackson Browne’s first album is among the most auspicious debuts in pop music history”
  • 5 stars: “… the album has long since come to seem a timeless collection of reflective ballads touching on still-difficult subjects — suicide (explicitly), depression and drug use (probably), spiritual uncertainty and desperate hope — all in calm, reasoned tones, and all with an amazingly eloquent sense of language.”
  • If you’re a Jackson Browne fan, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this title from 1972 is clearly one of his best, and one of his two best sounding, the other one being The Pretender.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival – Pendulum

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More Roots Rock LPs

  • This early Fantasy stereo pressing boast a KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated to an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Bigger and bolder, with more bass, more energy, and more of that “you-are-there-immediacy” of ANALOG that set the best vintage pressings apart from reissues, CDs, and whatever else you care to name
  • Those of you who are familiar with this record will not be surprised to learn that these shootouts are TOUGH – very few copies are any better than mediocre
  • 4 stars: “John Fogerty spent time polishing the production, bringing in keyboards, horns, even a vocal choir. His songs became self-consciously serious and tighter, working with the aesthetic of the rock underground — Pendulum was constructed as a proper album, contrasting dramatically with CCR’s previous records, all throwbacks to joyous early rock records where covers sat nicely next to hits and overlooked gems tucked away at the end of the second side.”

This copy will surely beat any pressing you put it up against. This will be especially true if you put it up against the Analogue Productions Heavy Vinyl from years back, which will sound thick, opaque, airless and congested next to a properly mastered Fantasy pressing (deep groove or otherwise) such as this one. (more…)

Carole King – Tapestry

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Reviews and Commentaries for Tapestry

  • This vintage Ode pressing boasts outstanding grades from start to finish
  • Big, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, yet still clean, clear and open – finally, the dark veil obscuring the sound of most copies has been lifted
  • This album is clearly Carole’s masterpiece – it’s loaded with great songs, and they all sound solid and correct here, two qualities which are critically important to the sound of the album
  • 5 stars: “…an intensely emotional record, the songs confessional and direct; in its time it connected with listeners like few records before it, and it remains an illuminating experience decades later. A remarkably expressive and intimate record, it’s a work of consummate craftsmanship.”

Audiophile sound is not easy to find on Tapestry. As we’ve been saying for twenty years, most copies are either dull and murky or edgy and thin, and on half the ones that do sound good, the vinyl is noisy.

On a copy like this, though, the sound gets out of the way and lets you focus on the MUSIC — and make no mistake, the music on this album is as good as it gets from Carole King.

We went nuts for this album during our big shootout. Since most of the time we’re playing testosterone-fueled, raging classic rock, it was a nice change of pace for us — and certainly easier on our poor eardrums. Our man JT makes an appearance playing acoustic guitar on a number of tracks, most notably You’ve Got A Friend, and his pals Russ Kunkel and Danny Korstchmar turn up too, with Kootch handling most of the electric guitar duties.

Carole returned the favor, playing the piano and singing on Taylor’s wonderful but underappreciated Mud Slide Slim album.

What’s surprising, if you haven’t played this album in a while, is how good non-hit tracks like “Home Again” can be. But there aren’t many of those non-hits on this album, and that’s a good thing; almost every song was a hit or received a lot of radio play. The quality of the material is that good.

What We’re Listening For on Tapestry

Transparency and Richness

One quality that we had no trouble recognizing on the better copies was transparency. The more transparent copies made it possible to hear through the mix to Carole’s piano, which is usually placed toward the back of the mix. There it serves to underpin the music, playing more of a supporting role than a leading one, very unlike the piano on a Joni Mitchell album for example.

The best copies let you easily follow Carole’s playing all the way through every song, from start to finish, no matter how quiet her part or how far back in the mix she may be placed.

If the pressing has a thinner sound (here are some examples of thin sounding records), obviously it becomes easier to pick up on the percussive nature of the instrument and “see” it more clearly. However, a thin piano tone on this album is the kiss of death. The best copies allow you to hear the full range of notes — including those played with the left hand — and for that, you need both richness and transparency.

This is a tricky balancing act; rarely in our experience do any two copies find precisely the same balance throughout an entire side.

Tough Sledding with Tapestry

There’s a reason you don’t see Tapestry Hot Stampers on the site very often. Folks, take it from us, even in Mint Minus Minus condition it ain’t that easy to find them. People loved Tapestry — it was Number One on the Billboard 200 for fifteen straight weeks, which is still the record for a female solo artist, and charted for more than 300(!).

It’s a classic and it got played to death. Furthermore, the Ode vinyl the originals were pressed on was never all that quiet to begin with. We probably look at twenty or thirty for every one we find that’s not scratched or worn out. So this exceptional copy, with no scratches that play and no groove damage to speak of, is nearly unheard of. Sound-wise, our copies will trounce any copy you’ve ever heard, or your money back.

The Reissues Won’t Get You There

The CBS Half Speed is ridiculously bright — can you imagine a worse way to present this intimate music?

Bernie Grundman’s heavy vinyl pressing isn’t terrible, but it isn’t all that musical and never really comes to life. We dropped the needle on it for a few moments and were bored to tears.

Quite a number of our customers have written us about our Hot Stamper pressings of Tapestry, and their letters can be found here.

The Washington Post article that Geoff Edgers wrote includes a video of a little shootout we did for Tapestry, using, without my knowledge, the MoFi, a Hot Stamper and a regular reissue of the album. In the video you see me describe the sound for the first go around, more of a warmup than a real shootout.

When we went back and played each of the pressings again, the differences were much more pronounced. The MoFi still sounded like a CD, the current Columbia reissue was still no better than passable, and the Hot Stamper became even better sounding than it had been earlier, with sound the other two could not begin to offer. You can see that it took me a few minutes to get deep into the sound, but once I was there, it turned out to no contest. The Hot Stamper showed us just how good Tapestry could sound.

This customer, along with a number of others, talks about a similar experience he had with one of our Hot Stamper pressings.

A real shootout, like the one that produced this very copy, would have involved 6-10 early domestic pressings, since those are the only ones that sound good to us these days.

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Joni Mitchell – Blue

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Reviews and Commentaries for Blue

  • With two Double Plus (A++) or BETTER sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard Joni’s 1971 masterpiece sound this good
  • Full-bodied and balanced with the kind of smooth musicality that’s not always easy to find for Blue
  • A Better Records Top 100 title that belongs in any audiophile music collection worthy of the name
  • 5 stars: “Sad, spare, and beautiful, Blue is the quintessential confessional singer/songwriter album. Forthright and poetic, Joni Mitchell’s songs are raw nerves, tales of love and loss (two words with relative meaning here) etched with stunning complexity…”
  • Everything changed for us in 2007 with the release of the Hoffman/Gray-mastered Rhino pressing of Blue, a record that made us ask ourselves, “Why are we selling records that we would not want to own or listen to ourselves?”
  • It was truly a kicked-in-the-head-by-a-mule moment for all of us here at Better Records, and I am glad to say one kick was all it took

The best copies bring out the breathy quality to Joni’s voice, and she never sounds strained. They are sweet and open, with good bass foundation and transparency throughout the frequency range.

The best pressings (and our better playback equipment) have revealed nuances to this recording — and of course the performances of all the players along with it — that made us fall in love with the music all over again. Of all the tough nuts to crack, this was the toughest, yet somehow copies emerged from our shootouts that made it easy to appreciate the sonic merits of Blue and ignore its shortcomings.

Hot Stampers have a way of doing that. You forget it’s a record; it’s now just Music. The right record and the right playback will bring this music to life in a way that you cannot imagine until you hear it. That is our guarantee on Blue — better than you ever thought possible or your money back.

The Sound of Vintage Vinyl

This vintage Reprise pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back. (For proof just check out the mediocre pressing Steve Hoffman mastered for Rhino on Heavy Vinyl. (more…)

The Doors – Morrison Hotel

More of The Doors

  • A wonderful early pressing of this hard-rockin’ Doors album, with top quality sound from start to finish
  • Rich, big and full-bodied, with clarity and energy to spare, this is the way you want to hear the Doors’ Bluesy Rock
  • Roadhouse Blues, Waiting For The Sun and Maggie McGill are KILLER on this pressing – all you Doors fans are gonna flip
  • Circus Magazine praised it as “possibly the best album yet from the Doors” and “Good hard, evil rock, and one of the best albums released this decade.”
  • If you’re a fan of Jim and the boys, this classic from 1970 deserves a place in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1970 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

A great many pressings are neither rich nor present enough to get Jim Morrison’s voice to sound the way it should. He’s The Lizard King, not The Frog Prince for crying out loud. When he doesn’t sound present, big, powerful, and borderline scary, what’s the point?

Not to worry. On these sides he sounds just fine. Just listen to him screaming his head off on “Roadhouse Blues” and projecting the power of his rich baritone on “Blue Sunday.” Nobody did it any better.

All the other elements are really working too — real weight to the piano, amazing punch to the bottom end, lovely texture to the guitars and so on. The sound is clean and clear but not overly so; you still get all the Tubey Magic you need.

The sound of the organ on “Blue Sunday” is really something, check it out. Where has that sound gone?

It’s hard to find clean Doors records at all these days, we find a small handful each year — not nearly enough to do these shootouts as often as we would like.

Both sides here have the deep, powerful bottom end this music absolutely demands. You’ve got to hand it to Bruce Botnick — he knows how to get real rock-’em, sock-’em bottom end onto a piece of magnetic tape.

And sometimes that bottom end whomp actually makes it onto the record, as is the case here, making for one helluva Demo Disc for Bass (if you have speakers big enough to play it, of course.)

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Aretha Franklin – Soul ’69

More Aretha Franklin

More Soul, Blues and R&B

  • This early Atlantic pressing brings Aretha’s underrated Soul Album from ’69 to life with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • If you want to hear the Tubey Magic, size and energy of this wonderful record, a vintage pressing like this one is the only way to go
  • Tough to find this quiet – Aretha made a lot of amazingly good records in the ’60s and they got played good and hard
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of her most overlooked ’60s albums, on which she presented some of her jazziest material. Her vocals are consistently passionate and first-rate, as is the musicianship; players include the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, and respected jazzmen Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, et al.”
  • This is a Must Own Soul Classic from 1969 that belongs in every right-thinking audiophile’s collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1969 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The music, of course, is top notch, and it’s even better when you don’t have the bad sound and groove distortion of the average copy getting in the way. I imagine the Queen Of Soul herself would be very impressed with the way she sounds on this Hot Stamper LP.

So many copies are smeary, recessed and lifeless you’d think you were playing a heavy vinyl reissue, not a vintage Atlantic pressing. With a lovely copy such as this, the music comes to life in front of you and the shortcomings quietly recede into the background (assuming you can handle the surfaces).

This is the way of all good pressings. We’ve played thousands of them. We call them Hot Stampers but let’s face it, “good sounding pressings” is just as accurate, if not quite as catchy.

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June Christy – The Misty Miss Christy

More June Christy

  • An original Turquoise Label Capital Mono LP with INCREDIBLE Shoutout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Both sides here are wonderfully rich and sweet – it’s hard to imagine June sounding much better than she does here
  • All the top West Coast jazz guys are here: Shelly Manne, Bud Shank, Bob Cooper, and the arrangements are by the wonderfully talented Pete Rugolo
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “… The Misty Miss Christy mostly stays on auto-stroll with a wealth of subtle and sophisticated orchestral charts. The jazz-pop environs come courtesy of longtime arranger Pete Rugolo and optimally frame the singer on highlights like “That’s All,” “I Didn’t Know About You,” and “Dearly Beloved.” Both an essential Christy title and one of the best vocal albums from the ’50s.”
  • If you’re a fan of Miss Christy’s, or vintage Pop and Jazz Vocals in general, this is a Top Title from 1956 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1956 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

Both sides of this ’50s All Tube Recorded and Mastered record are just as rich and relaxed as you would expect. The balance is correct, because the top is there as well as the bottom.

June is no longer a recording — she’s a living, breathing person. We call that “the breath of life,” and this record has it in spades. Her voice is so rich, sweet, and free of any artificiality, you immediately find yourself lost in the music, because there’s no “sound” to distract you.

Need a refresher course in Tubey Magic after playing too many modern recordings or remasterings? These June Christy records are overflowing with it. Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead-on correct tonality — everything that we listen for in a great record is here.

If you’re a fan of vintage female vocals –- the kind with no trace of digital reverb — you may get quite a kick out of this one. And unless I miss my guess, you’ll be the first and only person on your block to own it! (That’s not a bad thing considering the average person’s taste in music and sound these days.)

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Aretha Franklin – Aretha Arrives

More Aretha Franklin

More Soul, Blues, and R&B

  • With excellent Double Plus (A++) grades throughout this Atlantic Green & Blue label pressing, we guarantee you’ve never heard the Queen of Soul’s 1967 release sound remotely as good as it does here
  • Both of these sides are outstanding – big, full-bodied and Tubey Magical yet still clear, spacious and open
  • The presence, breath and resolution to the vocals is superb, bringing Aretha out of the speakers and into your listening room
  • Tons of great material here, including Aretha’s fun version of the Stones’ “Satisfaction” and the rockin’ classic “96 Tears.”
  • “Recorded in 1967 after the first flush of back-to-back successes with ‘Respect’ and ‘I Never Loved a Man,’ this captures Aretha Franklin in peak form. An essential addition to her discography.”
  • If you’re a fan, this early pressing from 1967 surely belong in your collection
  • The complete list of titles from 1967 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

We finally pulled together enough clean copies for a big shootout recently and most of them sounded the way you’d probably expect — thin, bright, and grainy. But not this one! It was doing pretty much everything we wanted it to, giving you the kind of life and energy this music needs to work its magic.

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