The Year in Music

1970 – It Was a Very Good Year – Especially for Dave Mason

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Before I get too far into the story of the sound, I want to say that this album appears to be criminally underrated as music nowadays, having fallen from favor with the passage of time.

It is a surely a MASTERPIECE that belongs in any Rock Collection worthy of the name. Every track is good, and most are amazingly good. There’s not a scrap of filler here. The recording by Bruce Botnick is hard to fault as well.

1970 was a great time in music. Tea for the Tillerman, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Moondance, Sweet Baby James, Tumbleweed Connection, After the Goldrush, The Yes Album, McCartney, Elton John, His Band And Street Choir, Deja Vu, Workingman’s Dead, Tarkio, Stillness, Let It Be — need I go on?

Even in such illustrious company — I defy anyone to name ten albums of comparable quality to come out in any year — Alone Together ranks as one of the best releases of 1970.

The Sound

We struggled for years with the bad vinyl and the murky sound of this album. Finally, with dozens of advances in playback quality and dramatically better cleaning techniques, we have now managed to overcome the problems which we assumed were baked into the recording. I haven’t heard the master tape, but I have heard scores of pressings made from it over the years. I confess I actually used to like and recommend the Heavy Vinyl MCA pressing. Rest assured that is no longer the case. Nowadays it sounds as opaque, ambience-challenged, lifeless and pointless as the rest of its 180 gram brethren.

Albums from 1970 in stock

All albums from 1970

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Good Sound As Late As 1979?!

Albums from 1979 in stock

All albums from 1979

 

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Who knew that good sounding records were still being recorded in 1979?

Candy-O comes to mind, but the B-52s’ first album has virtually none of the grit and Roy Thomas Baker heavy-processing of that one, and a lot more Tubey Magic to boot — when you get a pressing like this of course.

Both of these sides are superb, with the kind of huge, spacious soundstage and amazingly rich, full-bodied tonality that earned this recording its place in our Top 100. Talk about jumpin’ out of the speakers! Every instrument is clear and present, laid out right there in the listening room.

The Best of ’79

This recording reminded me of a really good Don Landee / Ted Templeman production, the kind you hear on JT or Simple Dreams or the better Doobie Brothers albums. Everything is laid out clearly: there’s a space created for every part of the frequency spectrum from the lowest lows to the highest highs, with nothing crowding or interfering with anything else. The production is professional, clean, clear and REAL sounding everywhere you look. (more…)

1958 – A Great Year for Recorded Music (Especially for Nat “King” Cole)

 

  • This early pressing on the rainbow label earned excellent Double Plus (A++) grades for its wonderful sound
  • Both sides here are BIG, rich and Tubey Magical, yet clear and not the least bit thick or opaque
  • Turn down the lights and drop the needle to hear a living breathing Nat King Cole singing right in your very own listening room
  • “Highlights include “The Very Thought of You,” “But Beautiful,” “This Is All I Ask,” “For All We Know,” and “The More I See You”.

See all of our Nat King Cole albums in stock

We are HUGE fans of the album at Better Records, but it’s taken us a long time to pull together enough clean copies to make the shootout happen. Boy, was it worth all the trouble.

The presence and immediacy here of Nat King Cole’s vocals are ’50s Capitol Recording Magic at its best. Set the volume right and Nat is right between your speakers, putting on the performance of a lifetime. The selection of material and the contributions of all involved are hard to fault.

The sound is big, open, rich and full, with loads of Tubey Magic. The highs are extended and silky sweet. The bass is tight and punchy.

Midrange Magic to Die For

This Rainbow Label Capitol LP also has the MIDRANGE MAGIC that’s missing from the DCC reissue (and no doubt any others that will be coming down the pike). As good as some think that pressing is, this one is dramatically more REAL sounding. (more…)

To Swing Or Not To Swing in 1955

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This Early Contemporary Yellow Label Mono LP sure has AMAZING SOUND! (more…)

1979 – Candy-O and the Year in Music

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We’re big fans of this album, and a Shootout Winning Hot Stamper copy like this one will show you exactly why. It’s a favorite recording of ours here at Better Records for one very simple reason: Candy-O has got The BIG ROCK SOUND we love!

Drop the needle on Let’s Go and check out the sound of the big floor tom. When the drummer bangs on that thing, you FEEL it! It’s similar to the effect of being in the room with live musicians — it’s the difference between hearing the music and feeling the music. That difference is what you get from our best Hot Stamper copies when you turn them up good and loud and let them ROCK your world.

A New Wave Classic

What other New Wave band ever recorded an album with this kind of demonstration quality sound? The sound of the best copies positively JUMPS out of the speakers. No album by Blondie, Television, The Pretenders or any of their contemporaries can begin to compete with this kind of huge, lively, powerful sound, with the possible exception of the Talking Heads’ Little Creatures. (more…)

1986 – Not a great year for recording quality!

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This original domestic pressing offers two superb sides for Crowded House’s wonderful debut.

Note that this copy won our shootout on side one, and since side one has the best batch of songs here, that works out well for everyone who loves great sounding sophisticated pop music, a group that includes us to be sure.

MORE CROWDED HOUSE

Sonically Speaking

1986 – Not a great year for recording quality!

Exhibit A: Paul Simon’s Graceland. Exhibit B: Peter Gabriel’s So.

I rest my case. Fortunately for us audiophiles, Crowded House’s debut here is big, rich, smooth, natural and, above all, ANALOG. (I really don’t know if it is actually is analog or not, but it sounds like analog, and that’s really all that matters.)

Musically Speaking

Musically side one is absolutely brilliant from first note to last. Crowded House may have wanted to be the New Beatles, but those are some pretty big shoes to fill. They fell a bit short — who can compete with The Beatles? — but in their heyday, 1985-1993, they were better at making intelligent, original, melody-driven pop than practically any other group I was listening to at the time.

(We love Squeeze’s albums from this period as well but the ’80s sound is just too processed and artificial on even the best pressings to be enjoyed on modern high-resolution audiophile equipment.)

When people ask me what kind of music I like, a common question from non-audiophiles seeing a house full of records and a custom sound room stuffed with equipment and room treatments, Crowded House is one band I’m happy to namecheck (10cc and Roxy Music and Little Feat being a bit too obscure for most people by now).

Sophisticated Pop Albums with Audiophile Quality Sound make up a large part of my record collection, with Crowded House taking its place up near the top, not on the same plane as The Beatles, say, but not that far below either. (Woodface is an album that I have played many hundreds of times over the course of the last twenty years and have yet to tire of.)

The first Crowded House album is a record that belongs no less in your collection than it does in mine. Their songs still get played on the radio and to these ears they’re holding up just fine.

What to Listen for (WTLF)

Number one: Too many instruments jammed into too little space in the upper midrange. When the tonality is shifted-up, even slightly, or there is too much compression, there will be too many elements — voices, guitars, drums — vying for space in the upper area of the midrange, causing congestion and a loss of clarity. This is especially noticeable on the second track of side one, Now We’re Getting Somewhere.

With the more solid sounding copies, the lower mids are full and rich; above them, the next “level up” so to speak, there’s plenty of space to fit all the instruments in comfortably, not piled one on top of another as is so often the case; consequently, the upper midrange area does not get stuffed and overwhelmed with musical information.

Number Two: edgy vocals, which relates to Number One above. Almost all copies have some edge to the vocals — the band seems to want to really belt it out in the choruses — but the best copies keep the edge under control, without sounding compressed, dark, dull or smeary.

Import Vs. Domestic

We had good and bad copies of both. Interestingly, although the band is from New Zealand, the album was recorded right here in Los Angeles, so there’s no reason to assume that the source tape used to make the domestic pressings was not the real master two-track. The British copies tended to be a bit smoother, the domestic pressings somewhat livelier. As a rule we tend to like livelier.

 

1962 – A Great Year for Recorded Music

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Classic albums on the site as I write this:

Vince Guaraldi
Jazz Impressions of Black Orpheus

Ella Fitzgerald
Sings the Harold Arlen Song Book #2

Tony Bennett
I Left My Heart In San Francisco

Gerry Mulligan
Jeru

Shorty Rogers Big Band
Jazz Waltz

John Coltrane
Standard Coltrane

Cannonball Adderley – Bill Evans
Know What I Mean?

Click HERE to see the records we currently have on the site that were (mostly) recorded in 1962.

Click HERE to see the records from 1962 that we’ve done Hot Stamper shootouts for (a substantially larger group as you can imagine).

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