Difficult to Reproduce Recordings

Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

Albums with Stevie Nicks Performing

  • This STUNNING pressing earned Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or very close to them on both sides
  • Both sides are punchy, big and clear, with plenty of hard rockin’ energy – exactly what you would expect from the team of Shelly Yakus and Jimmy Iovine
  • Two of her biggest hits are here (and they still hold up): Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around and Leather And Lace
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Equally engaging are less exposed tracks like the haunting ‘After the Glitter Fades.’ Hit producer Jimmy Iovine wisely avoids over-producing, and keeps things sounding organic on this striking debut.”

It’s easy to hear what the good pressings are doing. They’re big and rich, never thin nor harsh. They open up on the top end and go down deeper on the bottom. They’re smooth and full-bodied in the midrange. Stevie’s vocals are breathy and present. The energy of her performance drives the music the way you want it to.

In short, the best copies demonstrate the sound one could expect on a good Tom Petty album. Nothing surprising there; this album, like Petty’s, was produced and engineered by the same team, Jimmy Iovine and Shelly Yakus. They’ve made some great records together, Damn the Torpedoes being the best of the bunch for sonics.

Bella Donna may not reach those exalted heights, but it’s still quite good, especially for 1981. As the decade wore on things went south very quickly, sonically and musically, so we must be thankful that this record came out early in the decade and not much later.

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Bernard Herrmann – The Fantasy Film World of…

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Bernard Herrmann Records We’ve Reviewed

  • This early British London pressing offers superb Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides, giving you plenty of blockbuster sound for those who can play a record like this good and loud
  • On the best copies, such as this one, you will hear the power of the orchestra come to life right in your very own listening room
  • The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of wall to wall and floor to ceiling spaciousness that may just leave you in awe
  • A superb Phase 4 recording by Arthur Lilley, taking advantage of the legendary acoustics of Kingsway Hall
  • If like us you’re a fan of Blockbuster Orchestral Recordings, this is a killer album from 1974 that belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1974 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

The soundfield is big, open and transparent, with the kind of three-dimensionality most orchestral recordings simply fail to reproduce. The brass here is weighty and powerful, and you can really hear the pluck of the strings on the harp.

Harry Pearson put the Decca pressing of this title on his TAS List of Super Discs. (We take issue with that choice below.) (more…)

Joe Walsh – So What

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  • 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 only way to go
  • Includes a couple of classic tracks, notably Welcome to the Club and a remake of Turn to Stone
  • You’ll hear most of the Eagles playing on this one, produced and engineered by the redoubtable Bill Szymczyk
  • “So What sees Walsh in top form as a guitarist. Most of the nine tracks feature solos of unquestionable quality in his usual rock style.”

We were impressed with how rich and punchy this copy sounded after hearing dozens of dry, thin, lifeless pressings over the years. Once we had heard at least one copy sound good we proceeded to gather up every LP we could get our hands on and make this shootout happen.

Unfortunately, most of what we ended up playing had the kind of mediocre sound we had been suffering through for decades. The best copies had real energy, surprising dynamics, and lots of that ’70s Tubey Magic we love so much and never tire of talking about. (It’s also a sound that you will have a very hard time finding on most Heavy Vinyl pressings being made these days, as you doubtless know.)

The best pressings have (relatively; this is still Joe Walsh album we’re talking about) rich, warm guitars and vocals, supported by tight, punchy bass. Most copies were far less energetic and dynamic than this one. Excellent transparency as well.

All in all, this is pretty much as good as it gets for Joe Walsh in 1974. The very next year he would become an Eagle and help those boys knock it out of the park with Hotel California. (more…)

Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood

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More Electric Blues

  • Both sides here are incredibly big, full and natural sounding with tons of energy and presence; exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • “It’s hard to overestimate the impact Stevie Ray Vaughan’s debut, Texas Flood, had upon its release in 1983… Vaughan became a genuine star and, in doing so, sparked a revitalization of the blues…” – All Music
  • If you’re a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan, a killer copy of his debut album from 1983 belongs in your collection.

This copy gets Stevie’s room-filling guitar to sound about as rich and powerful as a recording of it can. When playing this record, first make sure the volume is up good and high. Now close your eyes and picture yourself in a blues club, with the volume ten times louder than your stereo will play. Electric Blues played at loud levels in a small club would sound pretty much like this album does, a bit messy but also real.

If you’re one of those audiophiles who insists on proper soundstaging with layered depth and pinpoint imaging, forget it. That’s not in the cards. The producers and engineers were going for the “live in the studio” sound with this one (and most of his other albums it seems), which means it’s a jumble image-wise.

But that’s the way you would hear it performed live, so where’s the harm? (more…)

Yes – Close To The Edge

  • A STUNNING pressing with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – these early pressings are the only ones that can make sense of this challenging music
  • On such a dynamic recording, with so many quiet passages, finding surfaces as quiet as these is a dubious proposition for even the most committed audiophile
  • An incredibly complex recording, with huge organs, light-speed changes and an abundance of multi-tracked parts
  • 5 stars: “Close to the Edge comprised just three tracks, the epic ‘And You and I’ and ‘Siberian Khatru,’ plus a side-long title track that represented the musical, lyrical, and sonic culmination of all that Yes had worked toward over the past five years.”
  • If you’re a fan of adventurous Prog Rock, then this would clearly be a Must Own title for you from 1972.
  • The complete list of titles from 1972 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

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Blood, Sweat & Tears – Child is Father to the Man

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Reviews and Commentaries for Child Is Father to the Man

  • Absolutely amazing sound throughout, with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the first side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the second
  • This copy will show you just how big, full-bodied, lively and POWERFUL this music can be on the right pressing
  • Not many records on this site are harder to find with top quality sound and reasonably quiet surfaces
  • 5 stars: “Child Is Father to the Man is keyboard player/singer/arranger Al Kooper’s finest work, an album on which he moves the folk-blues-rock amalgamation of the Blues Project into even wider pastures… One of the great albums of the eclectic post-Sgt. Pepper era of the late ’60s.”

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Heart / Little Queen – How Wide and Tall Is Your Copy? Compared to What?

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. Love Alive and Barracuda on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power of your system. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the record that will truly show it off. 

You get HUGE meaty guitars, BIG bass, a smooth top end, full-bodied vocals, incredible rock energy and dynamics, loads of richness and incredible transparency.

Wide and Tall

A key quality we look for in Hot Stamper copies of Little Queen is Wide and Tall Presentation. What exactly does that mean you ask? The best copies, the ones that really jump out of the speakers, tend to present some (usually high frequency) information higher and more forward than others. This is not hard to miss.

When you’re playing ten or fifteen copies of the same side of the same album and suddenly a cymbal crashes higher and more clearly than all the others did in the part of the track you are testing, you can’t help but notice it. Wow! How did that get there? Once you hear it you start to listen for it, and sure enough the next copy won’t do it, nor will the next. Maybe the one after that one gets about halfway there, the cymbal crashes higher than normal but not as far as the one that really showed you how high was up.

And of course it all ties in with our Revolutionary Changes in Audio commentary. If you’ve been making steady improvements to your system, or have better cleaning technologies, or better room treatments, or cleaner electricity, maybe ALL the Little Queen pressings do it now. They might ALL do something they never did before, and in fact they SHOULD be doing things better now.

Our last shootout was a while back; many, many parts of the chain have undergone improvement. During this shootout we heard things in the recording we never heard before. This is the point of all this audio fooling around. It pays off, if you do it right. You have musical information waiting to be unlocked in your favorite recordings. It isn’t going to free itself. You have to do the work to set it free. Do it our way or do it some other way, but do it. You, more than anyone else, will be the one to get the benefit.

Biggest Problems Noted Recently

With continual improvements to the stereo in the year or so since we last did this shootout, the goal of which is to get the stereo out of the way of the sound of the record, we noted that many copies suffer from a degree of dryness and hardness. This lack of richness is most easily recognized by the lack of studio ambience in what seems to be a pretty dead studio. Play any good All Tube recording from the ’50s or ’60s and you will hear exactly what a record like this doesn’t do. But those other records don’t rock like this one either.

More Heart

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Heart – Little Queen

  • Killer Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side one (which is the better side, truth be told) – fairly quiet vinyl too
  • Barracuda and Love Alive are two of Heart’s best songs bar none and they are guaranteed to blow your mind here
  • It’s the rare copy that has the powerful dynamics, deep bass, punchy drums and meaty guitars like you get here
  • A Rock and Pop Top 100 album with Demo Disc sound on a very special pressing such as this – it will rock your world

This is a Classic Rock Demo Disc to beat practically anything you could throw at it. Love Alive and Barracuda on this copy will deliver the full Rock and Roll Power your system is capable of. If you’ve got The Big Sound, this is the pressing that will truly show it off.

There are plenty of commentaries that discuss the sound of this recording and what it can really do when you get hold of a good pressing… and have the system that can play it… and turn up the volume good and loud. We proudly present here a copy with the kind of Big Sound that we think backs up every claim we make.

We’re huge Heart fans here at Better Records, and we’re not ashamed to say so. These ladies can really rock, and on the right pressing their music can and will sound absolutely amazing. Here’s a copy that will allow you to hear that magic at home — the sound is super punchy with incredible energy and wonderful clarity. You’ll have a very hard time finding another copy that rocks any harder than this one. (more…)

Dean Martin – Dream With Dean

Reviews and Commentaries for Dean Martin

One of Our Favorite Titles from 1964

  • This hard-to-find Dean Martin Classic of relaxed, intimate vocals returns to the site with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound throughout
  • One of our all-time favorite male vocal LPs – the sound on both sides is both warm and natural, with excellent presence and transparency
  • The early stereo tri-color label pressings are almost impossible to find in audiophile condition these days, but here’s one, and it is a knockout
  • “It sounds as if they tracked the album in one afternoon, and it is not only a very pleasant listening experience, it shows what a tremendous vocalist Dean Martin truly was.”

*NOTE: On side two, a mark makes 3 light ticks, followed by 2 moderate pops in the middle of track 3, Hands Across the Table. A second mark makes 11 light ticks one-quarter inch before the end of track 4, Smile.

An outstanding copy of the classic Dream With Dean!

This is my favorite Dean Martin record of all time; just Dean and a jazz guitar quartet (including no less than Contemporary favorites Barney Kessel and Red Mitchell) behind him doing standards. On the best copies the immediacy is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s a shame that there aren’t more Frank Sinatra records that sound like this.

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Eagles – One Of These Nights

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  • On an exceptionally good sounding copy such as this one, the soaring guitar solo of the title track really comes alive – assuming you have it turned up GOOD and LOUD
  • Lyin’ Eyes and Take It To The Limit sound the way they should – we guarantee you have never heard them sound remotely as good as they do here
  • 4 stars: “…a lyrical stance — knowing and disillusioned, but desperately hopeful — had evolved, and the musical arrangements were tighter and more purposeful. The result was the Eagles’ best-realized and most popular album so far.”

Another in the long list of recordings that really comes alive when you Turn Up Your Volume.

What to listen for you ask? Dynamic, soaring guitar solos! On the best copies the guitar solos are the loudest parts of some songs, which, as everyone who’s ever been to a rock concert knows, is exactly what happens in live rock music.

This is one of the toughest Eagles albums to find with good sound. This album may never sound quite as good as Hotel California or the self-titled debut, but there are some wonderful songs here and a Hot Stamper like this brings them to life in a way most pressings cannot hope to do.

The best copies are richer and sweeter. When you turn them up, they really come to life. When you play the better sides at Rock Music Volumes they really ROCK. When a copy is cut really clean, as the best ones are, the louder you play them the better they sound. They’re tonally correct at loud levels and a bit dull at what we would call “audiophile” levels. That’s the way it should be. (more…)