Records We Don’t Like for Their Music

John McLaughlin / Extrapolation – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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INCREDIBLY POWERFUL AND DYNAMIC DEMO QUALITY SOUND THROUGHOUT! If you’re looking for a jazz-fusion guitar album that will wake your system up (and show off its best qualities to boot), this is the hot ticket right here. We had been slowly compiling various pressings for a big shootout for ages, and we finally let it rip recently. This was one of the most impressive pressings, earning an A++ on side one and an A+++ on side two. If you’re a fan of ’70s Miles Davis or the Birds Of Fire album, you probably already know that you need this in your collection!  (more…)

Supertramp – Supertramp

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  • Supertramp’s self-titled debut finally arrives on the site with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it throughout
  • It’s even more Tubey Magical than an album like ’Crime Of The Century,’ which is more about slam and presence than a record like this, which has amazingly sweet, natural sounding acoustic guitars
  • Condition was the problem with these original British pressings – none of the best sounding copies did not have issues, hence the exceptionally low price for our Shootout Winner here
  • “Harmonious in themes but varied in tones, alternating short and lengthy pieces with a sophisticated sound and classy arrangement, it features all the distinctive elements of prog rock. And as with any prog album, it only makes full sense when listened to in its entirety.”

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King Crimson – Larks’ Tongues In Aspic

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  • The band’s superb 1973 release makes its modern Hot Stamper debut here with KILLER Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish
  • Bass and body are key to the best pressings, along with Prog Rock energy, and here you will find plenty of all three
  • A powerful, dynamic recording, yet the Island Tubey Magical Richness and Smoothness are always there to keep the proceedings from getting out of hand.
  • 4 1/2 stars: “… this lineup quickly established itself as a powerful performing unit, working in a more purely experimental, less jazz-oriented vein than its immediate predecessor.”

NOTE: This copy has a label misprint – Side 1 has a Roxy Music Avalon label even though it’s a King Crimson Record, while Side 2 has the correct label.

*CONDITION NOTES:

  • On side one, the first half-inch of Track 1, Larks’ Tongues In Aspic, Part One, is moderately ticky.

Sometimes the copy with the best sound is not the copy with the quietest vinyl. The best sounding copy is always going to win the shootout, the condition of its vinyl notwithstanding. If you can tolerate the problems on this pressing you are in for some amazing King Crimson music and sound. If for any reason you are not happy with the sound or condition of the album we are of course happy to take it back for a full refund, including the domestic return postage.


Like any KC record, this album alternates its soft parts and its heavy parts. The soft parts sound oh so sweet and delicate, each intricacy revealed to perfection by the out-of-this-world recording quality, while the heavy parts sound big and bold, augmented by Fripp’s meaty, fuzzed-out guitar and Bill Bruford’s savage percussion.

What’s uncanny about this pressing is how the softness and heaviness play off each other, transitioning into one another, WITHOUT LOSING A THING. With most prog rock records, once the bombast starts kicking in, all the intricacies of the midrange and top end get washed out. But when this pressing’s rockin’, the subtle contribution of the mellotron in the background can still clearly be recognized, floating above the clouds, tying everything together, with all of Bill Bruford’s intricate percussion effects along for the ride. (more…)

Supertramp – Paris

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  • A Killer Copy: Triple Plus (A+++) on side two, nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) on side one, and Double Plus (A++) on the rest
  • This British original pressing may have been mastered in America but it sure sounded better than most of the domestic vinyl we played
  • Key elements in the sound of the best pressings were size, richness, Tubey Magic and energy, and these sides have a sizable helping of all four
  • Amazon reviewers love the album – 86% of them as of this writing have given it Five Stars

Listen to side two of this copy to hear exactly what the best sounding copies can do! (more…)

Sting – The Dream Of The Blue Turtles

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Sting surrounded himself with legitimate jazz musicians and together they created an album that incorporates the loose, relaxed feel of jazz into Sting’s distinct pop sensibility
  • Exceptionally big, full-bodied and musical, with exceptional presence for the most important element of the recording, Sting’s voice
  • 4 stars: “Sting incorporated heavy elements of jazz, classical, and worldbeat into his music, writing lyrics that were literate and self-consciously meaningful… he proves that he’s subtler and craftier than his peers.”

This album has long been a favorite among audiophiles and it’s pretty easy to see why. What Sting does here with jazz music is very similar to what Paul Simon later did with African music on Graceland. Sting surrounded himself with legitimate jazz musicians and together they’ve created an album that gives you the loose, relaxed feel of jazz mixed with Sting’s distinct pop sensibility. There are elements of worldbeat, reggae, and soul here as well, but the album never feels disjointed; Sting managed to pull it all together to create a sound that is somehow unique and familiar at the same time. (more…)

Miles Davis – Miles In The Sky

Hot Stamper Pressings of Miles’ Albums Available Now

More Columbia 30th Street Studio Recordings

Reviews of Recordings Made at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio

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  • This outstanding Columbia pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) or close to it from first note to last
  • Excellent sound courtesy of Arthur Kendy’s and Frank Laico’s engineering at the famed Columbia Studio B in NYC
  • Miles here is backed by his classic ’60s All Star crew – Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter & Tony Williams
  • “…Miles Davis explicitly pushed his second great quintet away from conventional jazz, pushing them toward the jazz-rock hybrid that would later become known as fusion… intriguing music…”

*NOTE: On side one, a mark makes 5 light ticks at the beginning of Track 2, Paraphernalia.

We just finished a big shootout for this superb Miles Davis album and this copy was dramatically better sounding than many. Both sides have excellent bass, correct sounding brass, wonderful transparency and loads of Tubey Magic.

Many copies didn’t have the kind of transparency or openness that we heard here, which made it harder to appreciate the contributions of the different players. This one puts plenty of separation between the various instruments, so you can make sense of what each of these heavy-hitters adds to the mix. You will have a very hard time finding a copy out in the bins that sounds as good as this one!

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds. (more…)

Genesis – Foxtrot

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  • An outstanding copy of this early Peter-Gabriel-led Genesis album from 1972 with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • One of the tougher Genesis albums to find with good sound – this British Charisma LP is much more impressive than most of what we’ve played over the years, and is guaranteed to trounce any domestic or Heavy Vinyl pressing you may have heard
  • 5 stars: “Foxtrot is where Genesis began to pull all of its varied inspirations into a cohesive sound — which doesn’t necessarily mean that the album is streamlined, for this is a group that always was grandiose even when they were cohesive, or even when they rocked, which they truly do for the first time here. This is the rare art-rock album that excels at both the art and the rock, and it’s a pinnacle of the genre because of it.”

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Toto – Self-Titled

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  • This copy of Toto’s debut boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Toto’s albums have the kind of analog sound we love here at Better Records – they’re rich, huge and present, with tons of Tubey Magic and wall to wall spaciousness
  • Lukather’s overdriven guitar adds so much power to the music – the perfect combo of Grungy guitars and Rock Star vocals makes Hold the Line a staple of rock radio to this day
  • 4 stars: “Toto’s rock-studio chops allowed them to play any current pop style at the drop of a hi-hat: one minute prog rock, the next hard rock, the next funky R&B. Singles like “I’ll Supply the Love” made the charts, and “Hold the Line” hit the Top Ten.”

This is analog, make no mistake about it. Those smooth sweet vocals, open top and rich full bottom are a dead giveaway that you are playing a record and not a CD. (I understand the CD for this title is awful; bright, thin and downright painful. This is the problem with the CD: if they do a bad job making it, and you no longer own a turntable, what are your options? Squat, pretty much.)

Pop production techniques were very advanced by 1978, providing plenty of natural sounding roomy reverb around the vocals and guitars. Lukather’s overdriven, distorted guitar has near-perfect tonality; it adds so much power to the music.

Just like the Hot Stampers for Aqualung, when the guitar sounds this good, it really makes you sit up and take notice of the guy’s playing. When the sound works the music works, our definition of a Hot Stamper in seven words or less.

Turn up the volume? You better believe it!

Our Recent Shootout

This shootout got off to a very rocky start; we were on the verge of giving up after playing two very bad, sub-generation side ones, cut at The Mastering Lab just like all the rest, but so bad even the CD might be better. If you have an awful copy, we feel your pain.

But Copy Number Three showed us the real Toto sound: the kind of sweetness and warmth we had been hoping to hear and fearing might not exist. Sure, Toto IV has killer sound, but that’s no guarantee that the first album would be recorded (or mastered or pressed) as well. In the world of audio — vinyl, equipment, what have you — there are no guarantees. The average 180 gram remastered audiophile pressing should be all the proof you need. Good intentions don’t count for much in this business or anywhere else for that matter.

Enough about bad audiophile records. Copy number three also had jump-out-of-the-speakers presence without being aggressive, gritty or strident, no mean feat for a pop record from this era. Like all the best rock records, the good ones make you want to turn up the volume; the louder they get the better they sound. Yes, some copies of Toto IV are so rich and sweet you would think they were recorded ten years earlier. (The clarity and tremendous dynamics seem a tad more modern, which is a good thing, right?)

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John Cougar Mellencamp – Scarecrow

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  • Scarecrow finally makes its Hot Stamper debut here with superb Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This copy rocks like crazy with serious weight down low, huge size and space, and plenty of driving energy
  • Featured on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s, boasting “Scarecrow consolidated the band’s rugged, roots-rock thrash and the ongoing maturation of Mellencamp’s lyrics.”
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A loose concept album about lost innocence and the crumbling of small-town America, Scarecrow says as much with its tough rock and gentle folk-rock as it does with its lyrics… [Mellencamp’s] writing has never been more powerful…”

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Styx – The Grand Illusion

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  • This phenomenal pressing of The Grand Illusion boasts Nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • Both sides are big, full, punchy, energetic, spacious, and they even have a healthy amount of Tubey Magic (which came as quite a surprise)
  • 4 stars: “Other than being their first platinum-selling album, The Grand Illusion led Styx steadfastly into the domain of AOR rock. Built on the strengths of Come Sail Away’s ballad-to-rock metamorphosis, which gained them their second Top Ten hit, and on the high harmonies of newcomer Tommy Shaw throughout Fooling Yourself, The Grand Illusion introduced Styx to the gates of commercial stardom.”

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