Top Artists – Frank Zappa

Letter of the Week – Waka/Jawaka and Hot Rats

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom,  

I received your “Hot Stamper” rated version of Frank Zappa’s Waka Jawaka Hot Rats yesterday and was able to listen to it last night. I’m not sure if you know what the initials WTF stand for. So with apologies, I will spell it out.What the #$%@ did you guys do to make the record sound so good? Did you really just listen to record after record until you came across this one? Are there tricks? Did you spray some magic fairy dust on it? Is it gonna wear off?  

I’ve been listening to my personal copy intently for the last few days and I really doubted if your copy could sound very much better than mine. Because my copy sounds damn good. But the copy you sent me rated “Hot Stamper” was off the charts. it wasn’t just in the clarity of the detail of the instruments and the soundstage. It’s so wonderful to listen to. What a treat! Is it worth 10X more than a decent copy of it commonly available? Yes. Absolutely. At least to me. In the same way that my Clear Audio turntable is worth the 10X times more than it cost me for the Rega Planar 2 I bought used 20 years ago. The listening experience is transformed into something much more realistic than ever before. I’m sure this record will be one of my very favorites to listen to for the next 20 years! (more…)

Frank Zappa – Waka/Jawaka – 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 Waka/Jawaka.

Problems? 

Not long ago we discovered the secret to separating the men from the boys on side one: TRANSPARENCY.

On the lively, punchy, dynamic copies — which are of course the best ones — you can follow the drumming at the beginning of ‘Big Swifty’ note for note: every beat, every kick of the kick drum, every fill, every roll. (more…)

Letter of the Week – Ziggy Stardust and Freak Out

One of our good customers had this to say about some Hot Stampers he purchased recently:

Hey Tom, 

Picked up your SHS of “Ziggy” last week–my daughter is 13 and starting to get into Mick Ronson, and I got this to show her what I think is his best work, not just on guitar, but in essentially creating the overall sound for the “Ziggy Stardust” album. What I didn’t expect was how fantastic this album sounds. I’ve had other copies and they sound like I’m wearing a blanket over my head. Alongside my HS copy of “Freak Out” (first record I ever bought from you guys, I think), this has to be the most dramatic improvement over a typical recording I’ve ever heard! Records like this justify Better Records in spades–wow!!

Stephen F.
Fortville, IN

Ziggy Stardust

Freak Out

Frank Zappa – Apostrophe (‘)

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  • An outstanding copy, earning seriously good grades of Double Plus (A++) or BETTER on both sides – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • The sound is super big and full-bodied with super present vocals, a big bottom end, and lots of energy/li>
  • Guaranteed to beat your old copy and the recent reissue or your money back (of course)
  • 4 1/2 stars on Allmusic and Zappa’s only album to crack the Top Ten

An excellent copy of Zappa’s legendary Apostrophe, one of his most commercially successful albums and, more importantly to folks like us, one of his best sounding. We’ve been picking up this album for years in the hope that we could find one with the kind of sound we’ve been hearing on the best copies of Waka/Jawaka and Hot Rats, but it took us until 2015 to get one up on the site.

Why is that? Well for starters, this is the only Zappa album to ever hit the Top Ten. More copies pressed equals more mediocre copies pressed, and most of them we’ve picked up over the years certainly have qualified for that designation.

The best copies really delivered, with superb clarity and transparency that were missing from most of the pressings we’ve played. The sound is bigger, richer and smoother than we’ve come to expect for this album. The bottom end is strong and there’s lots of space and separation between the various parts.

One of Zappa’s last good studio albums in our opinion, with great songs like Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow, Uncle Remus and the title track. (more…)

Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats – Another Missed Opportunity from Classic Records

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP debunked.

As for the Classic here, we have only one question: This is analog? You could’ve fooled me. And somebody’s been messing around with the sound of the drums on the new version — a certain Mr. Frank Zappa no doubt. He really did the album a disservice.

Check out our Heavy Vinyl Scorecard to read all about the latest winners and losers.

Classic Meddling

Bernie’s version for Classic beats a lot of copies out there — the later Reprise pressings are never any good — but it can’t hold a candle to a good one. What’s wrong with the Classic? Well, to my ears it just doesn’t sound natural or all that musical. Sure, it’s a nice trick to beef up those drums and give them some real punch, but does it sound right? The other quality that the best copies have going for them and the Classic has none of is Tubey Magic. The Classic is clean, and at first that’s a neat trick since the originals tend to be a bit murky and congested. But it’s clean like a CD is clean, in all the wrong ways. This is analog? Coulda fooled me.  (more…)

Frank Zappa’s The Grand Wazoo Is Crazy Tubey Magical

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish: Triple Plus on side two, nearly that good (A++ to A+++) on side one 
  • DEMO DISC QUALITY – full-bodied, rich, spacious, BIG and PRESENT, with practically zero smear on the horns (nice!
  • The Tubey Magical keyboards found on the title cut are really something to hear, especially on this copy
  • The Grand Wazoo now gets my vote as the best sounding record Zappa ever made (along with Absolutely Free)

Wow – big, present and clear, with lots of lovely studio space, yet full-bodied. These sides about as right as any we’ve ever heard.

As noted above, the Tubey Magical keyboards at the start of The Grand Wazoo are amazing sounding here. How Zappa ever decided to go digital when he managed to record so well in analog (from time to time, let’s be honest) is beyond me. (more…)

Frank Zappa – Cruising With Ruben & The Jets

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  • An excellent copy with both sides rating a solid Double Plus (A++) or better
  • Both sides here are killing it — big, full and solid with a big bottom end and tons of energy 
  • It’s a classic of twisted Doo-Wop that belongs in your collection. At least we think you should give it a chance anyway; hearing it sound this good might just make a believer out of you
  • The new CD – with its modernized sound and wrong-headed re-recorded rhythm tracks – is a bad joke next to the top early pressings

Is the thought bubble on the cover the real story behind the album?

Is this the Mothers of Invention recording under a different name in a last ditch attempt to get their cruddy music on the radio?

This was one of the best copies we heard in our most recent shootout, our first since 2013! At this rate you should expect the next top copies to show up on the site sometime in 2021, a thought that should give everyone (including us) pause to say the least. (more…)

The Grand Wazoo and Its Prodigious Amounts of Tubey Magic

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More The Grand Wazoo

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  • KILLER sound from start to finish: Triple Plus on side two, nearly that good (A++ to A+++) on side one 
  • DEMO DISC QUALITY – full-bodied, rich, spacious, BIG and PRESENT, with practically zero smear on the horns (nice!
  • The Tubey Magical keyboards found on the title cut are really something to hear, especially on this copy
  • The Grand Wazoo now gets my vote as the best sounding record Zappa ever made (along with Absolutely Free)

Wow – big, present and clear, with lots of lovely studio space, yet full-bodied. These sides about as right as any we’ve ever heard.

As noted above, the Tubey Magical keyboards at the start of The Grand Wazoo are amazing sounding here. How Zappa ever decided to go digital when he managed to record so well in analog (from time to time, let’s be honest) is beyond me. (more…)

A Question for Classic Records – What Did You Do to My Beloved Hot Rats?

zappahotra_400

This Is Analog?

You could’ve fooled me. And somebody’s been messing around with the sound of the drums on the new version — a certain Mr. Frank Zappa no doubt. He really did the album a disservice.

Classic Meddling

Bernie’s version for Classic beats a lot of copies out there — the later Reprise pressings are never any good — but it can’t hold a candle to a good one. What’s wrong with the Classic? Well, to my ears it just doesn’t sound natural or all that musical. Sure, it’s a nice trick to beef up those drums and give them some real punch, but does it sound right? The other quality that the best copies have going for them and the Classic has none of is Tubey Magic. The Classic is clean, and at first that’s a neat trick since the originals tend to be a bit murky and congested. But it’s clean like a CD is clean, in all the wrong ways. This is analog? Coulda fooled me.
(more…)

Listening in Depth to Frank’s Hot Rats

Hot Stamper Pressings in Stock

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Presenting another entry in our extensive Listening in Depth series., now 85 strong!

Side One

Peaches En Regalia

This track tends to be a bit dull and could use a little sweetening on the top end on almost any copy you find. 1 or 2 dB at 10k might just be what the doctor ordered.

Willie the Pimp (more…)