Shootout Winners – 2017

Julie London – Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 2

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Julie London – Julie Is Her Name, Vol. 2

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

The notes I took during this shootout lay out just how impressed I was with the sound of this remarkable copy:

Wide stereo. Big Bass. Swingin’. Just the right amount of reverb. Tonal perfection. The stereo kills the mono (on this album, on the copies we played anyway).

More Julie London

On side one listen to how rich the bottom end is. The Tubey Magic on this side is off the charts. Some copies — or, to be more precise, some sides of some copies can be dry — but that is clearly not a problem on this one. The naturalness of the presentation puts this album right at the top of best sounding female vocal albums of all time.

To take nothing away from her performance, which got better with every copy we played.

If only Ella Fitzgerald on Clap Hands got this kind of sound! As good as the best copies of that album are, this record — like the first volume, the 1955 mono recording — takes the concept of intimate female vocals to an entirely new level. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – The Shadow Of Your Smile

Some sections on our site are hard to find. Here’s one with lots of cool records in it:

Forgotten Vocal Classics

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Astrud Gilberto – The Shadow Of Your Smile

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

The space is HUGE and the sound so rich. The vocals have dramatically less hardness and the orchestra sounds right for once. Prodigious amounts of Tubey Magic as well, which is key to the best sounding copies. The sound needs weight, warmth and tubes or you might as well be playing a CD.

More Astrud Gilberto

If you don’t like at least some reverb on your vocals, this album is probably not for you. The standard recording approach for Male and Female Vocals in the ’50s and ’60s was to add reverb to them. Sometimes it sounds right and sometimes it’s too much. For “too much” play some of Nat King Cole’s records from the era to hear what I mean. (Try “Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer” from 1963 if you want a good place to start.)

Like any processing of the sound in the studio — compression, limiting, reverb, EQ, etc. — it can be used with taste and discretion and make the recording better, or it can be overdone and ruin everything. For our part we think Astrud Gilberto’s recordings use reverb more or less tastefully. And of course there sure aren’t going to be any versions of this music coming along any time soon without the added echo. Getting the reverb to sound right is one of the things a good Hot Stamper has to do on a record like this. (more…)

Julie London Is a Knockout on Lonely Girl


More accurately, here is

Julie London on a Knockout Pressing of Lonely Girl

 

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  • A killer recording of female vocal with guitar: Triple Plus (A+++) on the first side, seriously good Double Plus (A++) on the second
  • Julie is in the room with you – intimate, breathy and Tubey Magical like practically nothing you’ve ever heard
  • For late night listening this is surely one of the best Sultry Female Vocal recordings ever made – you won’t believe how real the sound is
  • “Lone guitarist Al Viola plays gentle Spanish-tinged acoustic behind the hushed vocalist, and it suits London perfectly. While the singer was often chided for her beauty and lack of range, she deftly navigates these ballads without any rhythmic underpinnings to fall back on. London’s intense focus on phrasing and lyrics recalls Chet Baker’s equally telescopic approach.”

More Julie London

After hearing this amazing copy in our shootout we felt that it might be a bit too noisy to list, but another scrub cleaned it up nicely and now it’s about typical for an exceptionally clean copy of the album. No marks play — the noise one hears is mostly just the vinyl of the day.

I bought this very record in 1998. It took me close to twenty years to be able to clean it and play it right!

Side One

This side had breathy resolution that was hard to believe, along with size and immediacy that no other side of any copy could touch. It’s much richer and tubier than any other we played. Phenomenal.

Side Two

Not quite the equal of side one. Take some time to listen for the differences between the two sides and we’re sure you’ll hear what we heard. It is however exceptionally dynamic, always a nice quality to have. (more…)

Great in Stereo, Bad in Mono. What Else Is New?

More of The In Crowd

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Skip the Mono

This album is more common in mono than stereo, but we found the sound of the mono pressing we played unsatisfying. Where is the wall to wall space of the live club? It has been drastically shrunken into the area between the speakers. Much of the ambience disappeared with it, destroying the illusion the album was trying to create, that you are there.

In mono, you really aren’t.

Here are some other records that we don’t think sound very good in MONO.

Here are some we think can sound amazing in MONO.

OUR HOT STEREO COPY

  • An excellent copy with both sides rating a Double Plus (A++) or better
  • It’s taken us years, but Lewis’s breakout bestselling album The In Crowd finally makes its debut at Better Records
  • If you want to know what jazz at an intimate nightclub would have sounded like in 1965, play this record – this is that sound
  • AMG raves “…this is the moment where Lewis shined the brightest, the “in crowd” at the club was verbally into it, and the time for this music was right.”

 

See all of our Ramsey Lewis Trio albums in stock

This original Argo Blue Label Stereo 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 a real jazz club, this is the record for you. It’s what Vintage Records are known for — this sound. (more…)

Today’s Cool Record Find from 1966 – Luiz Bonfa’s Softly…

Our White Hot Shootout Winner

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  • This original Epic pressing has superb Shootout Winning sound, earning a Triple Plus (A+++) grade on side two and close to it on side one
  • If you’re looking to demonstrate just how good 1966 All Tube Analog sound can be, this copy is just the record that can do it
  • The soundstage, depth and height of this spacious recording are as huge and three-dimensional as any you’ve heard
  • “One of the better early bossa albums by Bonfa, and one that doesn’t have the sleepy quality that you find on some of his other records. Luiz’ guitar is backed by a nice little combo, and the tracks have a lively rhythm, with occasional vocals, and some nice flute solos from time to time.”

See more recordings with especially Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars

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This is a simply wonderful Brazilian jazz guitar record, as well as what appears to be a mostly undiscovered gem. As an exceptional recording of excellent Brazilian guitar music from 1966, it is being offered to you by the music loving audiophiles at Better Records, folks who like to think they know a good sounding record when they hear one. (more…)

The Stones Jazz with Joe Pass and Bruce Botnick

Our Shootout Winner

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With two Triple Plus (A+++) shootout winning sides, this original stereo World Pacific copy simply could not be beat

  • Huge and rich, here is the kind of Tubey Magical presentation that lets this big group of musicians (four trombones!) come alive
  • The engineering by none other than Bruce Botnick is brilliant in all respects, as good as his work with The Doors
  • This is FUN West Coast Pop Jazz built around the superb arrangements of Bob Florence and the great songs of the Stones
  • We’re so sure you’ll like this music that if for any reason you are unhappy the domestic return shipping is on us!

Another undiscovered gem, brought to you by the folks at Better Records who know a good sounding record when they hear one. And the music is interesting and fun from first song to last. With Joe Pass on guitar how could it not be – the guy’s a genius.

This copy is spacious, sweet and positively dripping with ambience. Talk about Tubey Magic, the liquidity of the sound here is positively uncanny. This is vintage analog at its best, so full-bodied and relaxed you’ll wonder how it ever came to be that anyone seriously contemplated trying to improve it.

This is the sound of Tubey Magic. No recordings will ever be made like this again, and no CD will ever capture what is in the grooves of this record. Someday there may well be a CD of this album, but those of us in possession of a working turntable could care less.

Engineering by Bruce Botnick

Botnick is of course the man behind the superb recordings of The Doors, Love and others too numerous to mention.

More recordings by Bruce Botnick

(more…)

The Debut of Pretenders II

Our White Hot Shootout Winner

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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.

Tubey Magic Is Key

This original British 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.

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.

Forget the dubby domestic vinyl, these Brit pressings are the only way to go. (more…)

A Killer Hard Day’s Night

This 2017 copy

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Play it against your MoFi or Heavy Vinyl pressing and you will quickly see why those LPs bore us to tears. Who in his right mind would want to suffer through a boring Beatles record?

Drop the needle on any song on the first side to see why we went crazy over this one. The emotional quality of the boys’ performances really comes through on this copy. They aren’t just singing — they’re really BELTIN’ it out. Can you imagine what that sounds like on the title track? We didn’t have to imagine it, WE HEARD IT!

It’s (Almost) All About The Midrange

There are two important traits that all the best copies have in common. Tonally they aren’t bright and aggressive (which eliminates 80 percent of the AHDN pressings you find), and they have a wonderful midrange warmth and sweetness that brings out the unique quality of the Beatles’ individual voices and harmonies.

When comparing pressings of this record, the copies that get their voices to sound present, while at the same time warm, smooth, and sweet, especially during the harmonies and in the loudest choruses are always the best. All the other instruments seem to fall in line when the vocals are correct. This is an old truism — it’s all about the midrange — but in this case it really is true.

This music has a HUGE amount of upper midrange and high frequency information. (Just note how present the tambourines are in the mixes.) If the record isn’t cut properly, or pressed properly for that matter, the sound can be quite unpleasant. (One of our good customers made an astute comment in an email to us — the typical copy of this album makes you want to turn DOWN the volume.)

The Old CD – You Know, the Original Mono One that Everybody Used to Like…

On another note, I have the early generation mono CD of this album. Although my car has a very good stereo system, you would never know there was any magic to the sound of these recordings by playing that CD. The whole thing is hopelessly flat and gray. (more…)

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 4 Way Street

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Our Latest Shootout Winner

  • An honest to goodness Top Copy, with two Triple Plus (A+++) sides and two Double Plus sides – this is about as good as it gets, folks
  • If you want to hear Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young rock out live in your listening room, this is the pressing that can do it
  • Bill Halverson did a great job but you have to work your tail off to find a copy that does his brilliant engineering justice. Sad, isn’t it?
  • 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!

And these shootout winning Triple Plus sides are going to blow your mind – you have never heard this album sound remotely as good as it does on these sides, guaranteed or your money back.

What to Listen for

Our best copies are big, clear, present, and dynamic. They show you what few copies can: how well-recorded the album is. Bill Halverson did a great job but you have to work your tail off to find a copy that does his brilliant engineering justice. Sad, isn’t it? (more…)

John Sebastian Songbook, Vol. 1

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Our Killer Shootout Winner for 2017

Great sound for some the biggest hits of The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band I wouldn’t have expected to hear sound good on vinyl if I lived to be a hundred, and yet, here it is. This is one of the rare cases where, in our experience, the hits compilation sounds BETTER than the original records. Why? Who knows? We don’t pretend to have all the answers. What we do have (that no one else has, if that’s not too obvious) are the records that back up the claims we make for them.

How they came to be that way is anyone’s guess. All we know for sure is that, judging by the best copies of this album, somebody got hold of some awfully good tapes and somebody mastered them with uncanny skill to what sounds to these ears like near perfection. (more…)