Compilation Albums with Potentially Very Good Sound

The Pentangle / Pentangling

More Pentangle

More British Folk Rock

  • Boasting INCREDIBLE Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on the second side and solid Double Plus (A++) sound on the first, this vintage UK import pressing had close to the BEST sound we have heard for Pentangle’s shockingly well-recorded music
  • The unprocessed quality found throughout the album has its audiophile credentials fully in order, especially in the area of guitar harmonics, as well as drums that sound like real drums actually sound
  • The true foundation of the music is provided by two legendary guitar heavyweights, Bert Jansch and John Renbourn, with Jacqui McShee’s almost unbearably sweet vocals soaring above them
  • The best material from Pentangle’s amazing first six albums, with sound that’s full of British Analog Tubey Magic that no modern record can begin to reproduce
  • Not many compilation albums offer top quality wound, but this one does, and these are some others
  • If you’re a Pentangle fan, this compilation has to be considered a Must Own from 1973.
  • The complete list of titles from 1973 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

This album presents the classic 1969 lineup at its best, with superior sonics to boot.

When I was selling audio equipment back in the ’70s this was one of our Demo Discs. The song Pentangling has beautifully recorded drums and string bass. The first track, “I’ve Got A Feeling,” is lovely as well.

Notice how there is nothing — not one instrument or voice — that has a trace of hi-if-ishness. No grain, no sizzle, no zippy top, no bloated bottom, nothing that reminds you of the phony sound you hear on audiophile records at every turn. Silky sweet and Tubey Magical, this is the sound we love here at Better Records. (more…)

America / History: America’s Greatest Hits

More America

More Hippie Folk Rock

  • With excellent grades from start to finish, this early Warner Bros. Palm Tree pressing is doing just about everything right
  • These sides are BIGGER and RICHER and have more of the rock solid energy that’s missing from the average copy
  • “Master Tape” sound lets this compilation of gems hold its own against the originals
  • 4 1/2 stars: “History: Greatest Hits perfectly spotlights both the polished and layered production of British studio legend George Martin and the West Coast tones of the band’s folk-pop style. An essential collection for fans who like their ’70s folk with a pop sheen, loads of hooks, and top-drawer arrangements.”
  • If you’re a fan of the band, and what audiophile wouldn’t be?, this classic from 1975 belongs in your collection.
  • The complete list of titles from 1975 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.

THE BIG SOUND on both sides lets this Greatest Hits compilation hold its own against the originals. They have plenty of bottom end that drives these songs with energy and life. Listen for the bells on ‘Tin Man‘; they have the correct transients and harmonics.

You never quite get back all of the Tubey Magic of the originals, but the detail and richness should be enough to make you fall in love with this high quality George Martin (re)production.

(more…)

Illinois Jacquet / How High the Moon – A Killer Two-Fer Thanks to David Turner

More Jazz Recordings Featuring the Saxophone

More Recordings by Rudy Van Gelder

  • This superb Prestige Two-Fer boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and outstanding double plus (A++) sound on the other three
  • Compiled from four Jacquet albums released in 1968 and 1969, including favorites like “Bottoms Up,”The Blues; That’s Me”, and “The King”
  • Jacquet’s one of the creators of the big, soulful tenor sax sound – I know of no one who does it better 
  • “… a fine sampler to Jacquet’s music… it features Illinois in a variety of settings (ranging from a quartet to a mini-big band)…”

The album combines material from four different Illinois Jacquet albums (Bottoms Up, The King, The Soul Explosion, and The Blues; That’s Me!). The sound is AMAZING and Jacquet plays with wonderful emotion and skill throughout.

Check out the man’s bassoon playing on ‘Round Midnight, the last track on side four — now there’s a sound you don’t hear too often on a jazz record!

As a bonus, they selected only about half the material from each of these classic albums, turning over to each of them about one side of these two discs. Which simply means that the quality and variety are consistently high on all four of these sides. No unreleased material or alternate takes; in other words, no filler. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – Taking Care Of Business (Work Time, Tenor Madness and Tour de Force)

More Sonny Rollins

  • The complete Tenor Madness album is found here, with big, full-bodied, MONO jazz sound at its BEST, courtesy of the great one, Rudy Van Gelder
  • This is what classic ’50s jazz is supposed to sound like – they knew how to do these kinds of records forty years ago, and those mastering skills are in short supply nowadays, if not downright extinct
  • The transfers from 1978 by David Turner are in tune with the sound of these recordings – there’s not a trace of phony EQ on this entire record
  • “Tenor Madness was the recording that, once and for all, established Newk as one of the premier tenor saxophonists, an accolade that in retrospect, has continued through six full decades and gives an indication why a young Rollins was so well liked, as his fluency, whimsical nature, and solid construct of melodies and solos gave him the title of the next Coleman Hawkins or Lester Young of mainstream jazz.”

This Two-Fer includes all of Tenor Madness and most of Work Time and Tour De Force.

Top jazz players such as Ray Bryant, John Coltrane, Red Garland, Kenny Drew, Max Roach and Paul Chambers can be heard on the album.

If you want all the tubey magic of the earlier pressings, a top quality pressing of the real Tenor Madness album on Prestige is going to give you more of that sound. David Turner’s mastering setup in the ’70s has a healthy dose of tubes, but it can’t compete in that area with the All Tube cutting systems that were making records in the ’50s and ’60s.  Without one of those early pressing around to compare, we don’t think you’re going to feel you are missing out on anything in the sound with this killer copy.

And where can you find an early Prestige pressing with audiophile playing surfaces like these?   (more…)

King Crimson – The Young Persons’ Guide To King Crimson

More King Crimson

More Prog Rock

  • Forget the Polydor and EG reissues (and anything that’s come along lately) – these early British pressings are the only way to hear this album sound the way it should
  • Contains the rare pre-Crimson Robert Fripp demo of I Talk To The Wind, recorded with a female lead vocalist [which can be found at the end of side one]
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…rounded up an excellent, if somewhat idiosyncratic, survey of the group’s seven years together, its contents ranging from the unimpeachable classics to unimaginable rarities… the definitive study of the original King Crimson.”

(more…)

Sly and The Family Stone – Greatest Hits

More Sly and the Family Stone

More Soul, Blues, and R&B

  • An INCREDIBLE pressing of this nearly perfect Sly record, with Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • The sound is huge – big, wide, deep, and open, with a punchy bottom end and rhythmic energy to spare, as well as cleaner, smoother, sweeter upper mids and a more extended top
  • You will find real high-resolution sound on this pressing, not the congestion, opacity and smear you would expect from a greatest hits compilation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “This summarizes their first four albums perfectly, adding the singles ‘Hot Fun in the Summertime,’ ‘Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),’ and ‘Everybody Is a Star,’ possibly the loveliest thing they ever recorded… Greatest hits don’t come better than this — in fact, music rarely does.”

Both sides here have lively punchy drums; a big soundfield, front to back and side to side; tonally correct vocals (which obviously are key and sound edgy and thin on most copies), and real resolution to the sound overall, not the opacity and blur you would expect from a greatest hits compilation.

Also, and just as importantly, you lose the sibilance most copies suffer from and the smear on the horns goes away, thank goodness.

(more…)

Fleetwood Mac / Greatest Hits

More Fleetwood Mac

More British Blues Rock

  • An excellent vintage British pressing on the original CBS Solid Orange label with Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Big, rich, energetic, with tons of Analog Tubey Magic, this original Orange Label UK pressing has exactly the right sound for this music
  • “Oh Well, Parts One and Two,” “Black Magic Woman,” “Man of the World,” and the surprise Number One single “Albatross” are all here and guaranteed to blow your mind
  • Peter Green is hands down our favorite British Blues Guitarist of All Time – play this record and you will surely see why we feel that way
  • We’ve recently compiled a list of records we think every audiophile should get to know, along the lines of “the 1001 records you need to hear before you die,” but with less of an accent on morbidity and more on the joy these amazing audiophile-quality recordings can bring to your life.

If you’re a fan of Fleetwood Mac, this copy is guaranteed to blow your mind. Like all the best vintage British pressings, the sound is smooth, rich and full. This is Old School ANALOG, baby. They don’t make ’em like this anymore because they don’t know how to.

(more…)

Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – Greatest Hits, Vol. 2

More Smokey Robinson

More Soul, Blues and R&B

  • These sides are tonally correct and highly resolving, as well as relaxed and smooth – Motown’s trademark phony upper midrange boost is gone
  • Here is the sound we wish we could find on more Motown records – believe me, we’ve tried
  • We don’t offer Greatest Hits albums often but this one sounds too good to ignore
  • 4 stars: “Scrumptious! All hits, except for two excellent B-sides: the exquisite ‘Choosey Beggar,’ a marvelous ballad with an Asiatic feel, and the poignant ‘Save Me’…”

Both sides are outstanding from start to finish. Motown’s trademark phony top end boost is gone. Most copies we played had some of that sound, including a boosted upper midrange, but our Hot Stampers will keep the problems under control while at the same time giving you presence, energy and space, layered on a good solid base of low end. (more…)

Roy Orbison – The All-Time Greatest Hits of Roy Orbison

More Roy Orbison

Reviews and Commentaries for Roy Orbison

  • You’ve never heard Roy Orbison sound better than he does here
  • Rich, smooth, sweet, full of ambience, dead on correct tonality – everything that we listen for in a great record is here
  • The phenomenally talented Bill Porter recorded many of Orbison’s classic songs from the early ’60s that are found on this compilation
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… no one conveys pain and longing more sublimely or succinctly than Roy Orbison. But his songs are also masterpieces of production: so technically precise that his deceptively simple tunes and lush melodies flow even more smoothly behind his desperate baritone croon and quivering falsetto.”

(more…)

Bread – The Best of Bread

  • With two seriously good sides, this pressing will show you just how good Bread’s music can sound on All Analog vinyl
  • A Better Records Desert Island Disc if there ever was one — believe me, there are scores of them
  • This is one of the rare Greatest Hits compilations (and this band had a LOT of hits) that is sonically competitive with the original albums
  • You’ll find most of the best Bread ballads here, including Make It With You, Everything I Own, Baby I’m A Want You, and If
  • All Music on their first album – “… effectively the birth of Californian soft rock…” (We think this applies equally well to all of their early material)

A Better Records Desert Island Disc if ever there was one. Believe me, there are plenty of them.

Listening to these acoustic guitars brings back memories of my first encounter with a British original of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. Rich, sweet, full-bodied, effortlessly dynamic — that sound knocked me out thirty years ago, and here it is again. I guess I’ve just always been a sucker for this kind of well-crafted pop. (I was buying Bread album in the early Seventies while still in high school.) If you are too, then this killer copy of The Best of Bread will no doubt become a treasured disc in your home as well.

When you hear sound this good, it makes you appreciate the music even more than the sound. Over the years I’ve even come to enjoy the rockers on side two. I used to consider side two the weak part of the album. To hear the vocal harmonies that these guys produced is to be reminded of singers of the caliber of the Everly Brothers or The Beatles. It’s Pure Pop for Now People, to borrow a good line from Nick Lowe.

Of course, by Now People, I’m referring to people who appreciate the music that came out more than thirty years ago. Whenever I hear a pop record with sound like this, I have to ask myself, “What went wrong with popular recordings over the last two or three decades? Why do none of them ever sound like this?”

Not to worry. Audiophiles with good turntables have literally an endless supply of good recordings to discover and enjoy. No matter how many records you have, you can’t have scratched the surface of the recorded legacy of the last 60+ years. That’s the positive thought for the day. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just another step on your journey through the world of music.

One further note. Records like this only get better over time. There are no shortcomings in this recording to be revealed by better equipment, in painfully stark contrast to the vast majority of audiophile pressings and remasterings that reveal their phony, lifeless and often just plain weird sound as your stereo and critical listening skills improve. In other words, if you make a change to your stereo and this record starts to sound better, you did the right thing. (more…)