Records We Don’t Like for Their Music

The L.A. 4 / Going Home

  • A vintage East Wind 33 RPM Japanese import pressing with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades or close to them from start to finish
  • A top album in both rarity and demand – you’d be hard pressed to find another copy with this kind of transparency, clarity, presence, and sound (assuming you could find one)
  • This is one of the best sounding copies with all 7 tracks we have ever played
  • Lee Herschberg recorded these sessions direct to disc – he’s the guy behind the most amazing piano trio recording I have ever heard, a little album called The Three
  • The star of this record is Shelly Manne, who really plays up a storm
  • This 33 RPM version features all seven of the original tracks – “Greensleeves” and “Django” were omitted from the shorter 45 RPM pressing

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Peter Frampton – Somethin’s Happening (and It’s Not Very Good)

This is Frampton’s third album, released in 1974. A year later he would put out the wonderful Frampton album, tour it, and record the tour, which became Frampton Comes Alive. Finally the world would hear what a talented songwriter, singer, guitarist and all around performer the man had always been, starting with Humble Pie and reaching his zenith with his first solo album, Wind of Change, his Magnum Opus and a Desert Island Disc for your truly.

All the songs from this album that he played live are dramatically better in live performance than they are in the studio on this album.

Frampton produced Somethin’s Happening and unfortunately for all concerned the production is piss-poor, as is the sound.

I’ve never heard this record sound better than passable, whether on domestic or British vinyl. I gave up finding something better decades ago. The album is just not worth it.

As far as Peter Frampton’s body of work through the ’70s is concerned, it is clearly his worst sounding album

The records he released in the ’80s are even worse — no surprise there — and the music is every bit as bad.

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Joni Mitchell – Hejira

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Joni Mitchell

  • This original Asylum pressing was doing just about everything right, earning excellent Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides
  • Most copies we played were too compressed or veiled to involve you in the music, but this one has the big, rich, clear sound of analog at its best that Joni’s spacey “beatnik jazz” needs to work its magic
  • Problems in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these vintage LPs – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • “Joni Mitchell’s Hejira is the last in an astonishingly long run of top-notch studio albums dating back to her debut… Performances are excellent, with special kudos reserved for Jaco Pastorius’ melodic bass playing… This excellent album is a rewarding listen.”

We played a ton of copies and heard a lot to dislike. Many copies have a tendency to sound phony, a case of heavy-handed EQ in the mastering perhaps. When a copy sounds glossy, it loses its natural warmth and starts to sound like any old audiophile LP. We’re ideally looking for something akin to Blue here, and not the sound you find on Patricia Barber LPs. (Gratuitous maybe, but it feels like it’s been too long since we took a swipe at that junk. But I digress…)

Plenty of copies had natural sound but no real life or presence to speak of. It’s a sound you could live with until you heard a good one, but there’s no going back once you’ve heard what the album’s really capable of. A copy like this one gives you lots of richness and warmth without sacrificing the texture to the instruments or the breath to Joni’s voice. The percussion really comes through, the bass has more weight and the immediacy of the vocals put Joni front and center, just where she should be.

If you aren’t familiar with this album, it’s a few more steps down the path she started taking on Court and Spark. The musicians include Larry Carlton and Jaco Pastorius, so that should give you an idea about the jazz-fusion direction of the arrangements. It was a fun album to get to know and on a copy like this one, it really rewards multiple listens.

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Kansas – Leftoverture

  • This early Kirshner pressing was doing just about everything right, with both sides earning seriously good Double Plus (A++) grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • One of the better copies from our most recent shootout – the sound is big, full and lively with real Prog Rock Energy and a huge, punchy bottom end
  • Kansas’s most consistent and engaging album, their true masterpiece by our lights – a copy as good as this will show you the awesome ENERGY the band brought to their music
  • “Undoubtedly their finest album, Leftoverture warrants Kansas a spot right alongside Boston and Styx as one of the fresh new American bands who combine hard-driving group instrumentation with short, tight melody lines…” – Rolling Stone

On the hottest of our Hot Stampers the recording is a glorious example of the Big Rock Sound we love here at Better Records. Wall to wall and floor to ceiling barely begins to do it justice. Like so many of the great rock recordings we offer, when you play one of our Hot Stampers, the sound commands your attention.

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Stevie Wonder – The Secret Life of Plants

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More Soul, Blues and R&B Albums

  • A superb copy of Wonder’s wonderful documentary soundtrack from 1979 with Double Plus (A++) grades on all FOUR sides
  • The sound here is bigger and livelier than on most other copies we played – above all it’s balanced, avoiding the tonality issues we heard on so many other pressings
  • “… there is beauty here. Stevie’s unquenchable desire for experimentation and love for melody are in full effect, and some of the magic and mystery of the botanic planet is evoked.”

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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young / 4 Way Street

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  • An outstanding pressing with Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on all FOUR sides – hard to find this one quiet nowadays, so fans should take note than not many unscratched copies are going to make it to the site
  • This live album gives you the “naked” sound of the real thing – the real voices and the real guitars and the real everything else, in a way that would never happen again
  • Bill Halverson worked his magic, but only the best pressings let his genius shine the way it does here
  • 4 1/2 stars: “4 Way Street, released in April of 1971: a live double-LP set, chock-full of superb music distilled down from a bunch of nights on that tour that more than fulfilled the promise of the group.”
  • Rolling Stone raves that “Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young are all performers of unquestionable talent, and mostly because they stay out of each others’ way, 4 Way Street must surely be their best album to date.”

If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this copy will let you do it. It’s not easy to find good sound on even one side of this album, let alone all four! (more…)

New York Dolls – Too Much Too Soon

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More 5 Star Albums

  • The New York Dolls ROCK onto the site for the first time with KILLER Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound throughout, just shy of our Shootout Winner – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • These sides have plenty going on down low, real meat on the bones, and tons of life and energy in the grooves – pretty much everything that the average copy was missing to some degree
  • Marks in the vinyl are sometimes the nature of the beast with these early pressings – there simply is no way around them if the superior sound of vintage analog is important to you
  • 5 stars: “After the clatter of their first album failed to bring them a wide audience, the New York Dolls hired producer Shadow Morton to work on the follow-up, Too Much Too Soon. The differences are apparent right from the start of the ferocious opener, “Babylon.” Not only are the guitars cleaner, but the mix is dominated by waves of studio sound effects and female backing vocals. Ironically, instead of making the Dolls sound safer, all the added frills emphasize their gleeful sleaziness and reckless sound.”

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The Stills-Young Band – Long May You Run

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More Neil Young

  • An early Reprise pressing that boasts incredible Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) grades throughout – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Both of these sides are richer and smoother than practically all of what we played, with lovely studio space for the band to stretch out into
  • This copy is big and clear in a way so few are, which means it’s getting the sound right in the most important areas
  • The wonderfully present and breathy vocals are a clear indication that there is simply more information on these sides than almost all the others we played in our shootout
  • If you’re a fan of these two gentleman, this title from 1976 is surely of interest (more…)

The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Tuff Enuff

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More Electric Blues

  • The band’s 1986 release makes its Hot Stamper debut here with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Rich, full and balanced with Blues-Rock energy to spare, this is a killer copy of a fun album
  • “Their breakthrough success. The title track and soul covers point the band in a new, more mainstream direction.”

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Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna

Albums with Stevie Nicks Performing

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  • Both sides of this Hot Stamper pressing 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.”
  • If you’re a Stevie Nicks or post-1974 Fleetwood Mac fan, this title from 1981 is surely a Must Own
  • We think this is the Stevie’s best sounding album. Roughly 150 other listings for the Best Sounding Album by an Artist or Group can be found here.

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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