A List of Records that Are Usually Noisy

Aretha Franklin – Lady Soul

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  • This superb copy of Aretha’s 1968 release boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER throughout – reasonably quiet vinyl too 
  • Surprisingly rich, full-bodied and Tubey Magical, with plenty of natural ambience – Aretha’s vocals are present, breathy, and explosively dynamic
  • You’d need either a lot of copies, a lot of luck, or both, to come up with a pressing that sounds this good and plays this quietly
  • 5 stars: …an inspired blend of covers and originals from the best songwriters in soul and pop music…”

We’ve been playing a lot of Aretha Franklin records lately, working our way through her catalog, but it’s hard to find pressings that separate themselves from the pack to give you audiophile-friendly sound. Too many seem to be optimized more for the radio than for your hi-rez audio rig.

Every now and then, however, we luck into a copy that has the real soul magic in its grooves. On this album, that means Chain Of Fools and Aretha’s great version of Natural Woman will sound just the way you want them to. (more…)

The Band – Music From Big Pink

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Forget all those veiled, lifeless, ambience-free, vague sounding Heavy Vinyl pressings – THIS is the sound of the album
  • This copy resolves the intricacies of the recording that make repeated plays the order of the day for us audiophiles
  • 5 stars: “…as soon as “The Weight” became a singles chart entry, the album and the group made their own impact, influencing a movement toward roots styles and country elements in rock. Over time, [the album] 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 as good as it does on this very copy. There’s plenty of the all-important Tubey Magic and real weight to the bottom. You’ll have a VERY hard time finding one that sounds this good, if our experience is any guide.

This copy has the kind of sound we look for in a top quality Band record: immediacy in the vocals (so many copies are veiled and distant); natural tonal balance (most copies are at least slightly brighter or darker than ideal; ones with the right balance are the exception, not the rule); good solid weight (so the bass sounds full and powerful); spaciousness (the best copies have wonderful studio ambience and space); and last but not least, transparency, the quality of being able to see into the studio, where there is plenty of musical information to be revealed in this sophisticated recording. (more…)

Sly and The Family Stone – Stand

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  • A killer sounding copy with Double Plus (A++) sound from the first note to the last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Stand, I Want To Take You Higher, Sing A Simple Song, Everyday People, You Can Make It If You Try – what a phenomenal 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.”

(more…)

Stevie Wonder – Fulfillingness’ First Finale

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  • This pressing of the classic 1974 album from Stevie Wonder boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A++) sound on both sides and plays about as quietly as any early pressing ever will
  • Finding the right balance between Tubey Magical Richness and Transparency is the trick, and we think this copy strikes that balance as well as any pressing we’ve heard
  • Boogie On Reggae Woman and You Haven’t Done Nothing were the big hits but the other tracks on the album are where the real Stevie Wonder MAGIC can be found
  • 4 1/2 stars [but we give it 5]: “The songs and arrangements are the warmest since Talking Book, and Stevie positively caresses his vocals on this set, encompassing the vagaries of love, from dreaming of it (“Creepin'”) to being bashful of it (“Too Shy to Say”) to knowing when it’s over (“It Ain’t No Use”).”

We’re big fans of Stevie here at Better Records, but it’s always a challenge to find good sound for his albums. Tons of great songs here, including the ones everybody knows, Boogie On Reggae Woman and You Haven’t Done Nothing. Both sound WONDERFUL on this pressing.

But…

For the first time in my life, over the course of the last five years or so I’ve really gotten to know the album well, having found a CD at a local store to play in the car (and now I also have a cassette to play in my Walkman while working out).

I’ve listened to Fulfillingness’ First Finale scores of times. I now see that it is some of the best work Stevie Wonder ever did, right up there with Innervisions and ahead of any other Stevie Wonder album, including Talking Book and Songs in the Key of Life.

The best songs on the album to my mind are the quieter, more heartfelt and emotional ones, not the rockers or funky workouts. My personal favorites on side one are: Smile Please. Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away, Too Shy to Say and Creepin’, which, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, are all the songs that weren’t hits.

On side two the two slowest songs are the ones I now like best: It Ain’t No Use & They Won’t Go When I Go (famously and brilliantly covered by George Michael on Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1 in 1990). (more…)

The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed

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  • This outstanding pressing of The Moody Blues’ Masterpiece earned solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – relatively quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is huge, rich and lively throughout – you need this kind of space for the orchestral parts to work their Moody Magic
  • An Album Experience beyond practically anything that had come before (Sgt. Pepper excluded)
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Days of Future Passed became one of the defining documents of the blossoming psychedelic era, and one of the most enduringly popular albums of its era.”

This album is more than 40 years old for god’s sake! In those 40 years I’d forgotten how good it is.

“Tuesday Afternoon” is the Perfect Pop Song, with the whole of side two flowing effortlessly from it as each song (each day) is linked by means of the surrounding orchestrations until it reaches its zenith with the climax of “Nights in White Satin.”

The sound is very much a part of the entire experience. The strings of the orchestra sound as sweet as any Decca, the soundstage wide and deep as a symphony. For those of you who still think Mobile Fidelity is the king on this one, here’s a record that demonstrates what a real orchestra sounds like. The Moodies used Decca’s best classical engineers, not their pop ones, and those guys know the way unamplified instruments should sound. (more…)

Elton John – Empty Sky

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  • This outstanding pressing of Elton John’s debut solo album boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound throughout
  • With plenty of energy, killer bass, and clear, present vocals, this pressing has all the key qualities we look for in an Elton John record
  • About as quiet a copy as we can find, they’re usually pretty beat which is why you so rarely see them on the site
  • “… it also marked the beginning of his long and fruitful collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin. Empty Sky is quite indicative of the post-Sgt. Pepper’s era. With its ambitious arrangements and lyrics, it’s clear that John and Taupin intended the album to be a major statement…”

The undiscovered gem in the Elton John catalog! This original British Import demonstrates just how good a recording this is. The sound is excellent and the music is surprisingly good — and weird in a fun way! It certainly bears little relation to the middle-of-the-road pop songs Elton’s been making since the ’80s. These guys were young and figuring out their sound here, and this album takes Elton to some pretty interesting places. A fun debut album that is certainly worth a listen if you’re a fan of the classic albums that were soon to follow.

We’ve had dozens of these on our shelves for years but struggled to get this shootout done until recently. The main thing holding us back was how noisy most copies are, even the minty looking ones. Anyone who’s played DJM Brit pressings knows those guys had a very hard time pressing quiet vinyl.

This isn’t the best sounding Elton John album, but it’s certainly one of the best sounding copies of his debut we could find out of the dozen or so we played. While it varies a bit from track to track, the overall sound here is wonderful.

This is a bunch of young guys figuring things out — some of it works very well and some of it not so well — but I think any Elton fan is going to enjoy hearing this early material with sound that’s always correct and often wonderful. It’s been a long time coming, but we think in the end the music is worth all the trouble we went through to find quiet enough vinyl with good sound. (more…)

Neil Diamond – Stones

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  • A Shootout Winner – Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – this is the way to hear Neil Diamond!
  • Armin Steiner engineered the album, and it’s Neil’s best recorded release (that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers)
  • Stones and I Am… I Said are killer on the A+++ side one, but both sides have outstanding sonics
  • 4 Stars: “Stones is a stronger album than most of Neil Diamond’s late-’60s records. An engaging collection of mainstream pop.”

I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and only a small number held our interest. (more…)

Led Zeppelin – Presence

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  • With two Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sides, we guarantee you’ve never heard anything like the massive amounts of Zeppelin Rock and Roll energy that are on this copy
  • Here is a pressing with the power, the dynamic contrasts, the low end whomp, as well as the in-the-room midrange presence (pun only slightly intended) you’ve been waiting for
  • Featuring a stripped down, harder rock sound, Presence really benefits from the killer bottom end found on this early LP
  • “Presence has more majestic epics than its predecessor, opening with the surging, ten-minute Achilles Last Stand and closing with the meandering, nearly ten-minute Tea for One.”

We just finished a massive shootout for this album and were reminded just how HARD this album rocks. Achilles Last Stand, For Your Life and Nobody’s Fault But Mine are KILLER on a Hot Stamper pressing like this one. (more…)

The Doors – Morrison Hotel

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  • A wonderful early pressing of this hard-rockin’ Doors album, with incredible Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • 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.”

Too many pressings aren’t rich and full-bodied enough to reproduce Jim Morrison’s rich baritone. He’s The Lizard King, not The Frog Prince for crying out loud. When he doesn’t sound big, powerful, and borderline scary, what’s the point? Not to worry. On these two sides, he sounds AMAZING. 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. By the way, the sound of the organ on that track is crazy good. (more…)

Eagles – On The Border

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  • An outstanding British SYL copy with solid Double Plus (A++) sound for this criminally underrated California Country Rock Classic – exceptionally quiet vinyl for this album, because early UK pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile playing condition
  • If you’ve never heard one of these early pressings, you have simply never heard this album sound the way it should
  • You Never Cry Like A Lover and The Best Of My Love (their first No. 1) offer Glyn Johns magically delicious DEMO DISC quality sound
  • We’re HUGE fans of the album here at Better Records; it’s some of the most sophisticated, well-crafted, heartfelt music these guys ever made, and that’s saying a lot coming from us – we’ve been big fans for decades

NOTE: *On side one, a mark makes 2 moderately loud pops followed by 1 loud pop and 2 moderatly light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, You Never Cry Like a Lover.

Many of you have probably forgotten how good this album is (assuming you were ever familiar with it in the first place) probably because the typical domestic copy you would have played back in the day is fairly hard on the ears. Most pressings, even the British ones, barely hint at the kind of sound you’ll hear on this vintage UK pressing (the only kind we sell of course).

The LIFE and ENERGY of this pressing are going to knock you right out of your seat. Most copies leave you with a headache, but this one will have you begging to turn up the volume. (more…)