Records that Sound Best on the Right Import Pressing

The Clash – Combat Rock

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  • An insanely good sounding copy with Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both the two big jammers are on this killer side one: Should I Stay or Should I Go and Rock the Casbah – you’ve never heard them sound like this!
  • Glyn Johns produced and mixed Combat Rock, so its sonic credentials are certainly in order
  • If you’re a fan of meaty bass, grungy guitars and punchy drums, this is the copy for you
  • …its finest moments — “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” “Rock the Casbah,” “Straight to Hell” — illustrate why the Clash were able to reach a larger audience than ever before with the record.”

NOTE: There is a mark on track two that looks serious but in actuality can only be heard a few times very lightly during the second half of the track. For the most part it is completely obscured by the music.

If you can tolerate this one mark you are in for some amazing Clash 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.

Full and natural, energetic and high-res, no other copy came close. A stunning copy, absolutely as good as it gets for this punk classic.

Most of the other copies we played failed in one of two ways: if they weren’t too bright, they were dead as a doornail. But this copy knocked them all out with correct tonal balance and tons of energy. (more…)

David Bowie – Heroes

Dear Reader,

We have just recently moved our record business to our new Shopify store. None of the links to the old site will work anymore. We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to be able to rectify the situation soon. For now please check out Better Records, Mach II, home of the ultimate vinyl pressing, the White Hot Stamper.

Tom Port – Better Records

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  • An outstanding copy of Heroes with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • This import is ALIVE with musical energy and Tubey Magical Analog sound the likes of which you may never have experienced
  • Until we discovered these amazing British reissues, we had no idea the album could sound as good as it does here
  • 5 stars: “Repeating the formula of Low’s half-vocal/half-instrumental structure, Heroes develops and strengthens the sonic innovations David Bowie and Brian Eno explored on their first collaboration. The vocal songs are fuller, boasting harder rhythms and deeper layers of sound.”

It has taken us years to get this shootout going. The reason for the long delay is simple. The domestic pressings we had on hand to play were not exactly thrilling us and even the best of them are no better than acceptable, and not likely to win a shootout.

Even worse, our intuition that the British originals would sound the best also turned out to be incorrect. (In the audiophile record collecting world intuitions have a bad track record, but more than a few audiophiles — many of whom seem to be addicted to sharing their “record knowledge” on audiophile forums — seem to be unaware of this unassailably true fact.) The original UK Orange Label pressings did not sound especially good to us, so we kept looking.

Over the course of the last few years, during which time we investigated every different pressing we could get our hands on, finally some good sounding copies of the album came our way. And they were not originals. The lucky owner of this copy will be one of the few to know what label the record is on, and in what country it was pressed.

OK, I suppose we can afford to be a bit more charitable than that. Here goes: the one thing we’re pretty clear on from our efforts to date is that our best Hot Stamper offerings are sure to be pressed in the UK.

If you have a copy of this groundbreaking album and were never impressed with the sound of it, we have a potential solution to your predicament — depending on our inventory — a Hot Stamper pressing. It will show you the kind of sound you never knew could exist on Heroes. (more…)

Pretenders – Pretenders II

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  • Off the charts “Triple Triple” (A+++) sound for The Pretenders’ second album – both sides earned our top grade of A+++
  • With loads of solid, punchy bass and the richest, smoothest vocal reproduction, this pressing simply could not be beat
  • This original British pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records cannot even BEGIN to reproduce
  • “What’s more the unique American voice of Hynde matched with the tribal beat of Martin Chambers and spangly guitar of Honeyman-Scott was as close to perfect as a band could get in the late 70s.”

If any of this commentary looks familiar there’s a simple explanation for that fact; it’s lifted practically wholesale from our listings for the first Pretenders album.

The two albums are twins, with the same engineer, the same producer, even the same band members, something that was regrettably and tragically to change soon enough. (more…)

Al Stewart – Orange

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  • Stewart’s fourth studio album makes its Hot Stamper debut here with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two, mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • At the right levels on the right system, this early import pressing will present you with a living, breathing Al Stewart standing right between your speakers
  • This is the more folky side of Al Stewart – it also features none other than a Mr. Rick Wakeman on piano and organ
  • 4 stars: “… the first signs of the mix of acoustic and electric guitar sounds that he would perfect on his next album, Past, Present and Future, two years later… gets something of the beat and the sound that Stewart would refine in achieving his subsequent success”

(more…)

Be-Bop Deluxe – Futurama

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  • The band’s sophomore release, Futurama, makes its Hot Stamper debut with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Balanced, musical, present and full-bodied throughout – this early UK pressing was a big step up from every other copy we played
  • “… where other bands lose their musical impetus in fussy artsiness, Be-Bop Deluxe is redeemed by the brilliance of its playing, and particularly Mr. Nelson’s guitar playing. Mr. Nelson’s music and his guitar playing lift Be-Bop Deluxe out of the ordinary. The music sounds something like the febrile eclecticism of Roxy Music and Queen and Mr. Nelson admits the kinship.” — The New York Times

(more…)

Squeeze – A Critic’s Band that Deserves More Respect from Audiophiles, At Least Musically

If you’re a fan of Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Nick Lowe, Joe Jackson and even quite a few other lesser-knowns from this era, Squeeze is the band for you. I put them right up there with Elvis Costello and Peter Gabriel in the pantheon of Best British Pop Music of All Time.

If you think you might enjoy the mashup of Pub Rock and New Wave that this group unleashed on the pop music scene of the ’70s and ’80s I could not recommend any album of theirs more highly than Argybargy. It’s a MASTERPIECE.

Squeeze’s prime period with Jools Holland on keyboards encompasses four albums, any of which is worth owning. The band really gets going with their second album, Cool for Cats (1979), then pulls it all together and takes it to another level for their breakthrough third, Argybargy (1980).

The band then produces two more of high quality, East Side Story (1981, produced mostly by Elvis Costello) and the darker but equally brilliant Sweets from a Stranger (1982).

I’m a huge fan of all four, as well as two from their later days, the amazing-to-this-day Cosi Fan Tutti Frutti (1985) and the weaker but still enjoyable Babylon and On (1987).

I play all of them on a regular basis and enjoy the hell out of them every time. (more…)

Sinead O’Connor – The Lion and the Cobra – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

Big and lively on both sides, and that’s the sound you want. All her early records are hard to find in clean condition these days. 

Side Two

A++, big, open and clear, with breathy vocals. So spacious! A little more weight would have earned this one a White Hot Stamper grade!

Side One

A+ to A++, big and lively, but a bit of smear and congestion compared to side two. (more…)

Cream – Disraeli Gears

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  • A KILLER UK stereo copy of Cream’s second studio album with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout
  • You aren’t going to believe how hard this pressing rocks, with all the WHOMP and ENERGY you never knew was there
  • Surprisingly good sound for classics like Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…the imagination of the arrangements, the strength of the compositions, and especially the force of the musicianship make this album transcend its time.”

This amazing copy has the kind of smooth, analog sound you need for this music — warm, rich, smooth, and pretty much free of the nasty grain that gets in the way on most pressings. There’s good extension up top, and the bottom end is meaty and well-defined.

The lesson we’ve learned over the years is that when the extremes are properly transferred to the vinyl, the middle will take care of itself. Since the extremes seem to be the hardest thing to get right, at least on this record, that might explain why so many copies don’t really sound the way they should. (more…)

Elton John – Honky Chateau

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  • An insanely good QUADRUPLE PLUS (A++++) side two backed with a stunning Triple Plus (A+++) side one for this Elton John classic – this pressing takes side two to another level (hence the four plus grade) 
  • Reasonably quiet for the most part on both sides – it’s not easy finding British pressings with the right stampers that play as well as this one does
  • Honky Chateau contains some of the most Tubey Magical High-Production-Value rock music ever recorded – thanks Ken Scott!
  • 5 stars: “The most focused and accomplished set of songs Elton John and Bernie Taupin ever wrote … It’s one of the finest collections of mainstream singer/songwriter pop of the early ’70s.”

NOTE: *On the last track on the second side, there is a mark that plays for four or five seconds at the very end of the record.

We award the Four Plus A++++ grade so rarely that we don’t have a graphic for it in our system to use in the grading scale shown above. So the side two here shows up on the chart as A+++, but when you hear this copy you will know why we gave it a fourth plus.

When I hear a record with a side this phenomenally good, with the stereo tuned-up and tweaked within an inch of its life to reproduce the album at the highest level I can manage, I will sometimes sit my wife down and play her a track or two. I did it for a Four Plus Deja Vu earlier this year as a matter of fact, playing Country Girl: Whiskey Boot Hill on side two, with that crazy HUGE organ blasting out of the right speaker — what a thrill!)

For this record I played her Salvation, with one huge chorus following another, like powerful waves crashing on the shore, until Elton takes a deep breath and belts out the last, biggest chorus, hitting his peak an octave higher and taking the song to a level neither one of us had ever experienced. We followed it up with the lovely Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters, and that was about as much Elton John live in my listening room at practically concert hall levels we could take in one sitting.

Hearing Elton with such energy, standing right in front of use, with instruments and singers encircling him from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, was so powerful and immersive it left us both with tears in our eyes.

That’s what gets you a Fourth Plus around these parts. (more…)

Elton John – Caribou

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Not the most consistent of Elton’s albums in the ’70s, but the best tracks — Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me and The Bitch Is Back spring to mind — are killer, right up there with the best work the man was doing at the time.  

This Super Hot Stamper original British DJM pressing has some of the best sound we have ever heard on Caribou. There’s a good reason you’ve practically never seen this album for sale on our site. In fact there are quite a number of good reasons.

The first one is bad vinyl — most DJM pressings of Caribou are just too noisy to sell. They can look perfectly mint and play noisy as hell; it’s not abuse, it’s bad vinyl. (Empty Sky is the same way; out and out bad vinyl, full of noise, grit and grain.) (more…)