Records We Don’t Like for Their Music

Van Halen – What to Listen For

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Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on What to Listen For (WTLF) as you critically evaluate your copy of Van Halen’s debut album.

Most copies just do not have the kind of weight to the bottom and lower mids that this music needs to work. Put simply, if your Van Halen LP doesn’t rock, then what exactly is the point of playing it?

The other qualities to look for on the best pressings are, firstly, space — the best pressings are huge and three-dimensional, with large, lively, exceptionally dynamic choruses.

The copies with the most resolving power are easy to spot — they display plenty of lovely analog reverb trailing the guitars and vocals.

And lastly (although we could go on for days with this kind of stuff), listen for spit on the vocals. Even the best copies have some sibilance, but the bad copies have much too much and make the sibilance gritty to boot.

A “Modern” Classic

Go ahead and turn up your nose if you like, but this music is widely considered classic rock by now. I’m not going to pretend it’s on a level with After The Gold Rush or Zep II, but this album does exactly what it’s trying to do — it really ROCKS.

At least it does when you have a pressing as good as this one. The All Music Guide gives the album 5 Big Stars, and I’m sure that more than a few of you out there think it deserves every last one of them.

Donn Landee

Credit DONN LANDEE (and Ted Templeman too) with the rich, smooth, oh-so-analog sound of the best copies. He’s recorded many of our favorite albums here at Better Records. Most of the better Doobies Brothers albums are his; more by Van Halen of course; Lowell George’s wonderful Thanks I’ll Eat It Here; Little Feat’s Time Loves a Hero (not their best music but some of their best sound); Carly Simon’s Another Passenger (my favorite of all her albums); and his Masterpiece (in my humble opinion), Captain Beefheart’s mindblowing Clear Spot.

The DCC

As I recall it wasn’t very good — thick and dull and closed-in; in other words, boring — but it was quite a while ago that I played it. If your copy sounds better, more power to you, but I bet it doesn’t. Any copy we sell is guaranteed to blow the doors off of it — as well as any other pressing you own — or your money back.

In Defense of Simply Vinyl – Are Their LPs Really Worse Than Anybody Else’s?

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Making Movies on Simply Vinyl had been out of print for quite a while, so when it was repressed recently [in the mid-2000s I would guess] we took the opportunity to give it a fresh spin and were SHOCKED — that’s right, SHOCKED — to hear how good it sounded, every bit as good as we remember it from years ago.

It sounded like a good British import, not some 180 gram remastered wannabe. Most 180 gram records don’t do anything for us these days [circa 2008] — they leave a lot to be desired as we point out left and right in our commentaries — but here’s a wonderful exception to the dismal heavy vinyl rule.

But it is a good British (or Dutch, same thing) import, because Simply Vinyl is not in the remastering business.

Addedum 2012 

We played another copy on SV a year or so later, 2009 or 2010 as I recall, and it did not sound nearly as good as the one we describe above, for what that’s worth.

Also SV has “newer” masterings of many of their records which in our experience are uniformly inferior to the earlier ones. I would not buy any SV if I were you unless I heard it first or could return it.

 

Chicago and The Hottest Stampers – Are You a Thrillseeker Too?

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When it comes to sound, I’m a Thrillseeker. I want to hear it LOUDER and BETTER, with more ENERGY and EXCITEMENT, and the reason I spent so many hundreds, even thousands, of hours working on my stereo is that that kind of sound doesn’t happen by accident. You have to work your ass off to get it. And spend a lot of money. And dig through a lot of dusty record bins buying LPs until you find one that sounds the way you want it to.

I don’t play records to drink wine and smoke cigars. I play records to ROCK. Whether the music is rock, jazz or classical, I want to feel the power of the music just as you would feel it at the live event. To me that means big speakers and loud levels. We played Chicago VII as loud as we could… (more…)

Chicago V – What to Listen For

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  • An incredible Triple Plus (A+++) side one backed with an excellent Double Plus (A++) side two – quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is especially rich, full and warm, with big bass, lively brass and multi-tracked vocals that are breathy and clear
  • 4 stars on Allmusic and one of their best sounding albums, the last to be recorded at Columbia’s famed 30th Street studios
  • Their first Number One, and The Biggest Selling Album of 1972 (!), spending nine weeks at the top of the charts

Most pressings don’t reproduce the percussion harmonics, the leading edge transients of the horns, or the big, open space around Peter Cetera’s vocals that we know is there, but a Hot Stamper copy such as this brings out all those qualities and more.

The presence here puts the vocalists right in the room with you, and when the band kicks in, the sound really starts jumping out of the speakers.

The Brass Is Key

The brass on any Chicago album has to have just the right amount of transient bite yet still be full-bodied and never blary. In addition, on the best of the best pressings you can really hear the air moving through the horns. (more…)

Lee Ritenour – Rit – on Disastrous Discovery Heavy Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame Pressing and another Heavy Vinyl Rock or Jazz LP debunked.

We played our very good sounding Nautilus pressing against the 180g Discovery reissue that Doug Sax remastered and it SMOKED it. What a muddy piece of trash that Discovery pressing is. 

AMG Review

Lee Ritenour has long been the perfect studio musician, one who can melt into the background without making any impact. While he possesses impressive technique, Ritenour has mostly played instrumental pop throughout his career, sometimes with a Brazilian flavor. His few jazz efforts have found him essentially imitating Wes Montgomery, but despite that he has been consistently popular since the mid-’70s. After touring with Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’77 in 1973, Ritenour became a very busy studio guitarist in Los Angeles, taking time off for occasional tours with his groups and in the mid-’90s with Bob James in Fourplay. He also recorded many albums as a leader.

 

Deep Purple – Machine Head on Rhino 180 Gram Vinyl

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Sonic Grade: F

Hall of Shame pressing. 

I’m guessing that very few people have ever heard this record sound good. The average copy is nothing special, but this one is a boring, lifeless mess so save your money.

Rhino Records has really made a mockery of the analog medium. Rhino touts their releases as being pressed on “180 gram High Performance Vinyl.” However, if they are using performance to refer to sound quality, we have found the performance of their vinyl to be quite low, lower than the average copy one might stumble upon in the used record bins.

 

 

Emerson, Lake and Palmer – Tarkus – The Brits Really Rock

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  • Triple Triple (A+++) – this shockingly good copy had Shootout Winning sound on BOTH SIDES and plays as quietly as any copy ever will
  • Our monster Tarkus shootout produced exactly one amazing sounding British pressing of this quality, this one, guaranteed to rock your world
  • Eddie Offord’s trademark Tubey Magic, energy, resolution, whomp factor and dynamics are all over this phenomenal recording
  • “More accomplished than the trio’s first album, but not quite as polished as Brain Salad Surgery, Tarkus is nevertheless a must-have.” 

This killer copy features some of the more intense prog rock sound to hit our table in quite some time. This is a true Demo Disc LP, one of the most dynamic and powerful rock recordings ever made.

The organ captured here by Eddie Offord (of Yes engineering fame, we’re his biggest fans) and then transferred so well onto our Hot Stamper pressings will rattle the foundation of your house if you’re not careful. This music really needs that kind of megawatt reproduction to make sense. It’s big Bombastic Prog that wants desperately to rock your world. At moderate levels it just sounds overblown and silly. At loud levels it actually does rock your world. (more…)

Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2017

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  • An incredible Shootout Winning pressing with Triple Plus (A+++) sound on both side – this is absolutely As Good As It Gets
  • Like the recordings of Floyd, the sound is BIG, with lots of energy, excellent presence and real weight down low
  • The first copy to hit the site in years, this is a tough one to come by and few indeed sound the way this one does
  • “The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking continues to showcase Waters’ unprecedented knack of addressing his darkest thoughts and conceptions in a most extraordinary fashion. ” – Allmusic, 4 stars

See all of our Pink Floyd albums in stock

Let me tell you, it is no walk in the park to find a copy of The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking that sounds as good as this one and plays as quietly. Those of you who like Floyd’s The Final Cut will probably get a lot out of the album. (more…)

ELP – Pictures At An Exhibition and its Gigantic Organ Sound


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • An incredible copy of this ELP classic with both sides earing a Triple Plus (A+++)
  • Both sides here are super big and full with a massive bottom end and huge amounts of energy
  • Quiet vinyl for this title — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus throughout
  • “A sufficiently bold use of Mussorgsky’s original to stimulate hours of delightful listening.” — Allmusic

See all of our Emerson Lake and Palmer albums in stock

This Island British Import LP has amazing sound! It’s super full-bodied with excellent clarity and transparency. The low end has real weight and heft, so when Emerson really lays into the organ it’ll rattle your walls! (more…)

Tim Buckley – Goodbye And Hello – Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018


Our White Hot Shootout Winner for 2018

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  • An insanely good sounding Gold Label original with Triple Plus (A+++) sound or close to it on both sides
  • The overall sound here is super big, full and dynamic with excellent bass and a nice extended top end
  • Fairly quiet vinyl throughout — Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus
  • 4 1/2 Stars on All Music: “Often cited as the ultimate Tim Buckley statement, Goodbye and Hello is indeed a fabulous album…”  

See all of our Tim Buckley albums in stock (more…)