Records that Sound Best on the Original

The Yes Album – What a Recording!

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  • An outstanding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides – the sound is huge and powerful
  • Plenty of Prog Rock Power is on display here – Eddie Offord’s engineering is Hard To Fault throughout 
  • A Top 100 Album and the band’s best sounding record – quiet too, Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “It was the addition of Steve Howe’s guitar pyrotechnics that finally allowed Yes to find their true identity. The Yes Album is a giant leap forward.” 

At its best, this album is a Big Speaker Prog-Rock opus with tremendous power and dynamic range, but it takes a special pressing like this one to really bring it to life. 

These guys — and by that I mean this particular iteration of the band, the actual players that were involved in the making of this album — came together for the first time and created the sound of Yes on this very album, rather aptly titled when you think about it.

With the amazing EDDIE OFFORD at the board, as well as the best batch of songs ever to appear on a single Yes album, they produced both their sonic and musical masterpiece — good news for audiophiles with Big Speakers! (more…)

Nat King Cole Sings / George Shearing Plays

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  • You’ll find outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades or BETTER on both sides of this wonderful collaboration from 1962 
  • Two masters come together here to create a compilation of timeless arrangements still appreciated by both music lovers and audiophiles to this day
  • It’s tough to find top quality sound for Nat King Cole – here’s your chance to hear just how good he sounded on this All Tube Recording from the early ’60s
  • “Cole is in prime form on such songs as “September Song,” “Pick Yourself Up,” and “Serenata.” Shearing’s accompaniment is tasteful and lightly swinging, and the string arrangements help to accentuate the romantic moods.”

The better pressings of this unique collaboration between Nat King Cole and George Shearing put Cole’s voice right up front with lovely breath and natural texture. On the better copies such as this one, the Nat’s vocals are full-bodied, the piano has real weight, and the soundfield is open and transparent. If you want a great sounding male vocal LP in your collection, this one will do the trick nicely. (more…)

Peter, Paul & Mary – See What Tomorrow Brings

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  • This incredible copy boasts killer Triple Plus (A+++) sound on side two and an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Wonderfully rich, sweet vocals – it’s hard to imagine this trio sounding much better than they do on this very copy
  • Very quiet for a WB Gold label original — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • “See What Tomorrow Brings is a strong album that plays to the strengths of Peter, Paul, & Mary. There is a good variety of material within their folk format, and a nice esprit de corps that pervades the recording. All members sing lead, which brings a good balance to the proceedings.”

Peter, Paul & Mary records live and die by the quality of their midrange reproduction. These are not big-budget, high-concept mulit-track recordings. They’re simple, innocent folk songs featuring exquisite vocal harmonies, backed by straightforward guitar accompaniment. If the voices aren’t silky sweet and delicate, while at the same time full-bodied and present, let’s face it — you might as well be listening to something else. (As we say below, the average copy will have you looking for another record to put on.)

The Breath Of Life

Steve Hoffman’s famous phrase is key here: we want to hear The Breath Of Life. If P, P & M don’t sound like living breathing human beings standing right between your speakers, toss yours and buy this copy, because that’s exactly what they sound like here. The TUBEY MAGIC of the MIDRANGE is practically off the scale. Until you hear it like this you almost can’t really even imagine it. It’s a bit disconcerting to hear each and every nuance of their singing reproduced so faithfully. (more…)

Eagles – Desperado

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  • Wonderfully rich and smooth throughout – both sides earned Double Plus (A++) grades for their crazy good Tubey Magical sound
  • Clean, clear and dynamic, this copy has huge amounts of bass and tremendous space around the guitars and voices
  • Play this pressing against the average copy for a good laugh – the differences will be anything but subtle 
  • An outstanding Glyn Johns recording (with TAS List credentials) that is nothing less than jaw-dropping on a copy as good as this one

This early pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound. (more…)

Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here

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Wish You Were Here

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  • An excellent sounding copy with solid Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides and vinyl that is as quiet as any vintage copy out there 
  • Demo Disc Quality Floyd Magic — big and present with life, clarity and richness like you have never heard for WYWH before
  • 5 stars on Allmusic, Top 100 and RIDICULOUSLY tough to find with the right sound and surfaces
  • “Showcasing the group’s interplay and David Gilmour’s solos in particular… the long, winding soundscapes are constantly enthralling.”

*The intro to Wish You Were Here is always going to be a little noisier than the overall play grade you see above. (more…)

Marty Robbins – Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs

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  • With Double Plus (A++) grades on both sides, this Six-Eye Columbia pressing was one of the better sounding from our most recent shootout
  • This copy is amazingly clear and open, superior to most in that regard, with fairly smooth and rich vocals to boot 
  • Is the original Six Eye stereo the only way to go on this record? We discuss the subject in detail below
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The single most influential album of Western songs in post-World War II American music. The longevity of the album’s appeal is a result of Marty Robbins’ love of the repertory at hand and the mix of his youthful dynamism and prodigious talent…”

Two excellent Double Plus (A++) sides, with the kind of ’50’s Tubey Magical Analog Sound that’s been lost to the world of recorded music for decades — decades I tell you! Nobody can manage to get a recording to sound like this anymore and it seems clear to us that no one can remaster a recording like this nowadays, if our direct experience with more than hundred such albums counts as evidence.

Albums such as this live and die by the quality of their vocal reproduction. On this record Mr. Marty Robbins himself will appear to be standing right in your listening room, along with the other other musicians on the sessions of course.

Transparency and Tubey Magic are critical to the sound of the arrangements and you will find both in abundance on these sides.

Each of the huge studios the music was recorded in are captured faithfully here. The height, width and depth of the staging are extraordinary. We are not big soundstage guys here at Better Records, but we can’t deny the appeal of the three-dimensional space to be found on a recording as good as this.

This LP has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern pressings cannot BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing any sign of coming back.

Having done this for so long, we understand and appreciate that rich, full, solid, Tubey Magical sound is key to the presentation of this primarily vocal music. We rate these qualities higher than others we might be listening for (e.g., bass definition, soundstage, depth, etc.). The music is not so much about the details in the recording, but rather in trying to recreate a solid, palpable, real person singing live in your listening room. The best copies have an uncanny way of doing just that.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of older recordings (this one is now 58 years old), 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 less than one out of 100 new records do, if our experience with the hundreds we’ve played can serve as a guide.

What to Listen For (WTLF)

Copies with rich lower mids did the best in our shootout, assuming they weren’t veiled or smeary of course. So many things can go wrong on a record! We know, we’ve heard them all.

Top end extension is critical to the sound of the best copies. Lots of old records (and new ones) have no real top end; consequently the studio or stage will be missing much of its natural ambience and space, and instruments will lack their full complement of harmonic information.

Tube smear is common to pressings from and any era and this is no exception. The copies that tend to do the best in a shootout will have the least (or none), yet are full-bodied, tubey and rich.

One of the qualities that we don’t talk about on the site nearly enough is the SIZE of the record’s presentation. Some copies of the album just sound small — they don’t extend all the way to the outside edges of the speakers, and they don’t seem to take up all the space from the floor to the ceiling. In addition, the sound can often be recessed, with a lack of presence and immediacy in the center.

Other copies — my notes for these copies often read “BIG and BOLD” — create a huge soundfield, with the music positively jumping out of the speakers. They’re not brighter, they’re not more aggressive, they’re not hyped-up in any way, they’re just bigger and clearer.

We often have to go back and downgrade the copies that we were initially impressed with in light of such a standout pressing. Who knew the recording could be that huge, spacious and three dimensional? We sure didn’t, not until we played the copy that had those qualities, and that copy might have been number 8 or 9 in the rotation. Think about it: if you had only seven copies, you might not have ever gotten to hear a copy that sounded so open and clear. And how many even dedicated audiophiles would have more than one or two clean original copies with which to do a shootout?

One further point needs to be made: most of the time these very special pressings just plain rock harder. When you hear a copy do what this copy can, it’s an entirely different – and dare I say unforgettable — listening experience.

A Shocking Finding

It turns out that some copies of Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs on the later red label can actually sound surprisingly Tubey Magical, especially on side two. In fact we heard a red label side two that was even more rich than the best 360s (but not the best Six Eye pressings; those kill).

Since the person listening to the record has no idea what the actual label is of the record being evaluated — which is about as close an approximation of the Scientific Method as we can manage around here — it was very surprising to hear such glorious Tubey Magical Richness and Sweetness come from such an unexpected source.

A good reason not to avoid later pressings and reissues absent plenty of evidence of their inferiority.

And a good reason to judge your records by playing them whenever possible.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Big Iron Cool Water 
Billy the Kid 
A Hundred and Sixty Acres 
They’re Hanging Me Tonight 
The Strawberry Roan

Side Two

El Paso 
In the Valley 
The Master’s Call 
Running Gun 
Little Green Valley 
Utah Carol

AMG Review

The single most influential album of Western songs in post-World War II American music, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs touched a whole range of unexpected bases in its own time and has endured extraordinarily well across the ensuing four decades.

The longevity of the album’s appeal is a result of Marty Robbins’ love of the repertory at hand and the mix of his youthful dynamism and prodigious talent that he brought to the recordings, and the use of the best music production techniques of the era.

Add to that the presence of a pair of killer original songs that were ready-made singles, “El Paso” and “Big Iron,” and a third, “The Master’s Call,” that was startlingly personal, and the results are well-nigh irresistible.

The Faces – Long Player

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  • A killer copy with a stunning Triple Plus (A+++) side two and an excellent Double Plus (A++) side one
  • Amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time
  • 5 stars in Allmusic and probably the Faces’ Best Album, for sound and music – Maybe I’m Amazed? Hell yeah!
  • “…a ferocious rock & roll band who, on their best day, could wrestle the title of greatest rock & roll band away from the Stones.”

We knew this album could sound good, but back in the day we sure didn’t know it could sound like this. The best pressings of this album have amazing live-in-the-studio sound that conveys completely the raw power of one of the hardest rockin’ bands of all time. (more…)

Robin Trower – Bridge of Sighs on Awesome UK Vinyl

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  • Two outstanding sides rating Double to Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) for sound, coming in just behind our shootout winner – quiet vinyl too
  • This glorious early UK pressing is huge, rich and punchy, with guitar solos that soar like few others you’ve heard
  • Brilliant engineering by Geoff Emerick at George Martin’s AIR studios – maybe the best sounding album Emerick ever made
  • Top 100 (soon), AMG: “Guitarist Robin Trower’s watershed sophomore solo disc remains his most stunning, representative, and consistent collection of tunes. Mixing obvious Hendrix influences with blues and psychedelia, then adding the immensely soulful vocals of James Dewar, Trower pushed the often limited boundaries of the power trio concept into refreshing new waters…”

We’ve been wandering around in the dark for more than a decade with Bridge of Sighs — that is, until we found a clean early UK Chrysalis pressing. Now we know just how good this album can sound, and that means astonishingly good. The three-dimensional space is really something else on the better UK copies. (more…)

Sonny Rollins – What’s New? from 1962

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  • Two insanely good sounding sides with each rating a shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++)
  • The sound here is vintage 1962 Living Stereo at its best – big, rich, relaxed, tonally correct and full of Tubey Magic
  • This copy is unusually quiet for a Black Label stereo original – it’s Mint Minus Minus with no audible marks of any kind 
  • 4 1/2 Stars: “Rollins’ characteristically huge tone, relentless harmonic and rhythmic inventiveness, and fierce solos were consistently impressive. Not only did he state the melody clearly and superbly, but his ideas and pacing were remarkable; no solo rambled and his phrases were lean, thick and furious.”

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1962 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)

Kenny Burrell with Gil Evans – Digging Creed Taylor

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  • A superb sounding original stereo pressing with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • Gil Evans wrote the superb orchestral arrangements and Rudy Van Gelder captured them on lovely analog tape – what’s not to like? 
  • We’ve really been digging these Creed Taylor productions for years now – it may not be serious jazz, but it’s no less interesting and captivating for it
  • “His landmark 1965 collaboration with Gil Evans, Guitar Forms rivals anything the arranger did with Miles Davis. Indeed, the track “Lotus Land” has a bolero form very reminiscent of Sketches of Spain. Throughout, Burrell takes thoughtful, concise, and utterly musical solos, and even switches to acoustic classical guitar on “Prelude #2” and “Loie.””

For us audiophiles both the sound and the music here are wonderful. If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1965 All Tube Analog sound can be, this killer copy will do the trick. (more…)