Top Arrangers – Marty Paich

Toto – Self-Titled

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Reviews and Commentaries for the Music of Toto

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  • This copy of Toto’s debut boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it from the first note to the last
  • Toto’s albums have the kind of analog sound we love here at Better Records – they’re rich, huge and present, with tons of Tubey Magic and wall to wall spaciousness
  • Lukather’s overdriven guitar adds so much power to the music – the perfect combo of Grungy guitars and Rock Star vocals makes Hold the Line a staple of rock radio to this day
  • 4 stars: “Toto’s rock-studio chops allowed them to play any current pop style at the drop of a hi-hat: one minute prog rock, the next hard rock, the next funky R&B. Singles like “I’ll Supply the Love” made the charts, and “Hold the Line” hit the Top Ten.”

This is analog, make no mistake about it. Those smooth sweet vocals, open top and rich full bottom are a dead giveaway that you are playing a record and not a CD. (I understand the CD for this title is awful; bright, thin and downright painful. This is the problem with the CD: if they do a bad job making it, and you no longer own a turntable, what are your options? Squat, pretty much.)

Pop production techniques were very advanced by 1978, providing plenty of natural sounding roomy reverb around the vocals and guitars. Lukather’s overdriven, distorted guitar has near-perfect tonality; it adds so much power to the music.

Just like the Hot Stampers for Aqualung, when the guitar sounds this good, it really makes you sit up and take notice of the guy’s playing. When the sound works the music works, our definition of a Hot Stamper in seven words or less.

Turn up the volume? You better believe it!

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Carly Simon / Torch – Surprisingly Rich, Natural Analog Sound for the Eighties

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  • This outstanding pressing boasts solid Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Surprisingly rich, natural and analog considering the recording date – very little sound of the sound of the day — the kind that ruined most of what was made in the ’80s — is on display here, and thank god for that
  • “Carly Simon’s Torch is a gorgeous throwback to the Fifties and early Sixties… By blending old and new material, and by incorporating a hint of jazz-fusion music into a studio-orchestra sound, Simon and her producer, Mike Mainieri, begin to suggest a continuity between Fifties torch and Eighties pop.”

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Seals & Crofts – Summer Breeze

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  • This superb pressing of Summer Breeze (the first to hit the site in years!) boasts Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it throughout, and vinyl that plays as quiet as we can find it
  • With tons of Tubey Magical richness in the midrange – the kind that was still abundant on analog tape in 1972 – this is a wonderful sounding album of folk pop
  • It has taken us years to find the right stampers for this album, and now here they are on the Green Label original in all their glory
  • 4 1/2 stars: “Summer Breeze offered an unusually ambitious array of music within a soft rock context — most artists tried to avoid weighty subjects in such surroundings… the most highly regarded of all of Seals & Crofts’ albums.” (more…)

Ella Fitzgerald – Whisper Not

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  • A superb pressing of Ella’s wonderful 1967 release with nearly Triple Plus (A++ to A+++) sound from start to finish – just shy of our Shootout Winner
  • This one is doing everything right– it’s bigger, bolder, richer and more clean, clear and open than nearly almost everything else we played
  • Superb engineering from the man behind so many great sounding Verve records, Val Valentin
  • 4 stars: “Whoever decided to put pianist Marty Paich and Ella Fitzgerald together in the studio in 1966 deserves a bit of credit for the great music on Whisper Not. Together, Fitzgerald and Paich deliver a dozen beautifully sung, carefully arranged standards.”

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Frank Sinatra – Softly, As I Leave You

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  • With two insanely good sides, each with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound or very close to it, this early stereo pressing was one of the best copies we played in our shootout
  • Big, rich and natural, the newer material for this album was recorded in 1964, with Sinatra’s voice in very fine form
  • This is one of the few Sinatra records where the second label pressings can still sound quite good – that is rare in our experience
  • “The highlight of the record was the hit title song, which featured a subdued but forceful and steady backbeat. The rhythm itself was indicative of Sinatra’s effort to accept the new popular music.”

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Ella Fitzgerald – Ella Swings Lightly

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  • With two outstanding Double Plus (A++) sides, this original Bow Tie Verve Stereo pressing is going to be very hard to beat – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Lovely All Tube sound from 1958, with a huge, rich orchestra conducted by one of our favorite arrangers, Marty Paich 
  • Grammy Award for Best Improvised Jazz Solo – these were the days when Ella was on top of the world
  • “The bright, sunny optimism of Fitzgerald’s style comes through in several tracks, including ‘If I Were a Bell’ (which also includes several remarkable variations on the melody), and ‘Teardrops From My Eyes’ (which alternates between rock and jazz beats—not a big leap back then!)”

When you are lucky enough to find an album chock full of standards from the Great American Songbook, you cannot help but recognize that this era for Ella will never be equaled, by her or anyone else.

The recording is excellent, with space and midrange richness that might just take your breath away. (more…)

Spirit / Self-Titled on Sundazed Heavy Vinyl in Mono Reviewed

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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Sonic Grade: D

Another Sundazed record reviewed and found wanting.

As usual, the Sundazed only hints at the real sound of the recording. We recommended it back at the day; it’s tonally correct, so for fifteen bucks you are getting your fifteen bucks worth and probably not a dime’s more. We just cannot take this kind of sound seriously these days. Once you’ve heard the real thing, this pressing just won’t do.

This is the band’s Masterpiece as well as a Desert Island Disc for yours truly.

What qualifies a record to be a Masterpiece needs no explanation. We will make every effort to limit the list to one entry per artist or group, although some exceptions have already occurred to me, so that rule will no doubt be broken from time to time. As Ralph Waldo Emerson so memorably wrote, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…”

For a record to come to my Desert Island Disc, such a record: 1) must have at some time during my fifty years as a music lover and audio enthusiast been played enthusiastically, fanatically even, causing me to feel what Leonard Bernstein called “the joy of music”; 2) my sixty year old self must currently respect the album, and; 3) I must think I will want to listen to the music fairly often and well into the future (not knowing how long I may be stranded there).

How many records meet the Desert Island Disc criteria? Certainly many more than you can see when you click on the link, but new titles will be added as time permits. (more…)

Neil Diamond – Stones

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  • A Shootout Winner – Triple Plus (A+++) on the second side, Double Plus (A++) on the first – this is the way to hear Neil Diamond!
  • Armin Steiner engineered the album, and it’s Neil’s best recorded release (that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers)
  • Stones and I Am… I Said are killer on the A+++ side one, but both sides have outstanding sonics
  • 4 Stars: “Stones is a stronger album than most of Neil Diamond’s late-’60s records. An engaging collection of mainstream pop.”

I can’t say for sure that this is the best sounding Neil Diamond album, we haven’t been through all of them yet, but it’s certainly the best sounding album of his that we’ve critically auditioned in large numbers. Good luck finding another copy of Stones out in the bins that deliver top quality sonics the likes of these — we went through a TON of copies and only a small number held our interest. (more…)

Astrud Gilberto – The Astrud Gilberto Album

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  • With seriously good Double Plus (A++) sides or close to them, this Van Gelder mastered copy was one of the best we played in our shootout (but the vinyl is iffy at best)
  • The sound here has real texture to the strings and breath to the vocals, key elements if this music is going to work
  • 4 1/2 stars: “The Astrud Gilberto Album was at least as good as Getz/Gilberto (despite what jazz fans say), for several reasons. Gilberto sounded beautiful on a range of material, from the sentimental “Dindi” to the playful “Agua de Beber,” and as long as intelligent musicians were playing to her strengths (as they do here), the results were splendid.”

If you can tolerate the slightly noisier surfaces of this pressing you are in for some amazing 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.


This is an early stereo LP – the monos may be five times more common, but every last one we played was awful!

Check out this list of top jazz players:

Astrud Gilberto – vocals
Antônio Carlos Jobim – vocals, guitar (track 2)
João Gilberto – guitar
Joe Mondragon – bass
Bud Shank – alto sax, flute
João Donato – piano
Stu Williamson – trumpet
Milt Bernhart – trombone
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Art Pepper + Eleven – Modern Jazz Classics

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  • A big, bold, lively stereo copy of this exceptional Art Pepper release from 1960 – Triple Plus (A+++) on side one and Double Plus (A++) on two – reasonably quiet vinyl too
  • If you buy only one Large Group Hot Stamper jazz record from us, make it this one – the music is swingin’ fun and the sound is going to be very impressive, especially if you own any modern reissue
  • Rich, warm and full-bodied, the brass is phenomenal on this pressing – here is the Tubey Magic of the originals without the problems that cause many originals to be opaque and uninvolving
  • A personal favorite – 5 stars: “This is a true classic. Essential music for all serious jazz collections.”

This Contemporary stereo LP has got that Modern Jazz Classics Magic. On a great copy such as this one you can really pick out each of the musicians and follow them throughout the course of the track. When you’re able to appreciate everyone’s contributions you really get a sense of how much work went into the making of this album. It’s nothing short of epic.

This is one DYNAMIC jazz record — drop the needle on any track and prepare yourself to be very impressed. The sound is full-bodied and energetic with tight bass, breathy brass, and lots of ambience. (more…)